§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon, &c.)
The motion which stands in my name has reference to the Provisional Order which was discussed a few days ago. The Secretary to the Local Government Board seemed rather to challenge the opponents of the Order to appear before the Committee and oppose it. There is a strong opinion in Rhyl that it ought to be fought, but, unfortunately, there seems some doubt as to their locus standi. I have con- consulted sonic authorities on the point, and find that the residents of Rhyl cannot appeal to oppose a Provisional Order unless their property is affected. That is why I make this motion, because there are other things besides property to be considered—there is freedom of speech; and I do not think it is too much to ask the House of Commons to give to this Council, which represents the Nonconformists of the town and the Evangelical party of Rhyl, an opportunity to appear before the Committee to prove their case. Of course a local inquiry was held first of all, but it was conducted by a Commisioner of the Local Government Board, and he came to a conclusion which was adverse to the Council; but this, after all, is the highest tribunal, and when there is a suggestion that there is a Provisional Order passing this House which restricts the liberty of the subject, I think every opportunity ought to be afforded to those interested to present their case to the House. I am afraid if the Bill is sent back to the Committee the progress of 415 the Provisional Order will be delayed, and it will not be able to pass the House of Lords this session. It is obviously impossible for this Bill to go to the House of Lords on Tuesday next, for the simple reason that we must challenge it if it goes through in its present form, for I must move the insertion of the compromise which was arrived at between the parties, and which was afterwards repudiated by the Rural Council. Therefore it is obvious that it is impossible this Bill can go through, and consequently it cannot be a question of time. The House of Lords is constantly asked to suspend its Standing Orders in order to allow Bills which arrive there late to pass through during the session. There is nothing at all difficult about it, and I am sure that my hon. friend will see that my request is a perfectly fair one. We are simply asking for an opportunity for these gentlemen to appear before a Committee of the House of Commons to present their case. If there be no case, the Committee can pass the Bill and leave the expenses to be paid by the opponents. May I put it to the House in this way—that we are simply asking the same freedom for the Free Church at Rhyl as is already accorded at Brighton and elsewhere. What is good enough for Brighton should be good enough nor the Urban District Council at Rhyl. At Brighton meetings are held in the evening on the foreshore. The hon. Member has suggested that there would be no opposition to these meetings being held away from the foreshore, but it is absurd to make suggestions of that kind. There are portions of the foreshore where, if these meetings were relegated to those parts, they might as well not be held at all. At Brighton these meetings are held right in the thick of the crowd. In Hyde Park the meetings are held just at the spot where the crowd is passing backwards and forwards. The question of the meetings in Hyde Park has been discussed in the House time after time. What I am objecting to is that this authority desire to be relieved from any Parliamentary control, and simply wish to frame these bye-laws without any opportunity for discussing them in Parliament at all. The bye - laws are made by the authorities connected with Hyde Park, and if they relegate these meetings in Hyde Park to some spot where the crowd do not congregate 416 we can discuss it on the Estimate; but if this is done at Rhyl there is no remedy, and that is why I am bringing up this matter and appealing to the House of Commons. This is the only chance which the ratepayers of Rhyl have of presenting their case to the House. At Rhyl the foreshore is their Hyde Park, and it is the only open space where these meetings can be held, and these bye-laws are being framed so as practically to prohibit these meetings. That is the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Ham—and it is rather significant that the supporters of this proposal have had to go outside Wales in order to get an advocate for their scheme. If these meetings are held outside the purview of the crowd in any particular district, the result will be that all these temperance and evangelical meetings might as well not be held at all. The hon. Gentleman has given no indication of what his view is with regard to these bye-laws. If it is intended that the meetings are to be held on the western side of the pier, they might as well be prohibited altogether. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because the crowd does not pass that way. I know that in the opinion of my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn these people should be sent somewhere in the wilderness to preach; but, fortunately, that is not the principle which has been adopted in this country. In England hitherto we have gone upon the principle of allowing everybody to blow off steam. Why not let them address the crowd if they like? If people do not wish to listen to these orators, they need not go there. There is a very wide stretch of sand—there are miles of it—and if the Ritualists do not wish to listen to the Evangelical clergymen advancing their doctrines, there is no reason why they should. It is suggested that the meetings should not be held within 30 feet of the esplanade, but they hold these meetings at Brighton right on the esplanade, and I have never heard any complaints by the Brighton Council that anybody's ears have been offended by anything which has been said there. All we want is the same freedom in Rhyl as has been accorded in London, in Blackpool, in Brighton, and, I believe, in Ramsgate. I think the request I make is a perfectly reasonable one, anal it is that an opportunity should be given to the Rhyl Free Church Council to hold these meetings.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. T. W. RUSSELL,) Tyrone, S.
The Free Church Council do not represent the town of Rhyl.
§ MR. LLOYD - GEORGE
I do not claim that the Free Church Council does represent Rhyl. My hon. friend practically argues that simply because they are in a minority they ought to be "gagged." He came down to a meeting in my constituency where his views were in a minority, but we did not attempt to "gag" him; and I want him to give the same freedom to the minority in Rhyl as was accorded to him when he came to Wales. I want an opportunity for the minority in the town of Rhyl to present their views before the House of Commons.
MR. J. H. ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
I beg leave to second this motion. I think it is a very reasonable request to make, that the representatives of the Rhyl Free Church Council should have an opportunity of laying their views before a Committee of this House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Local Government Provisional Orders (No. 14) Bill is committed, to take the evidence tendered by or on behalf of residents in the district of Rhyl upon the question of the powers proposed by the Bill to be given to the Rhyl District Council to make bye-laws in respect of the foreshore and sands."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I venture to submit that this proposal is not a departure which the House ought to make, for by a majority of close upon 100 the House has already decided that this Provisional Order Bill should take the usual course, and that it should not go to the Police and Sanitary Committee. That was decided by a majority of close upon 100. Now, what does my hon. friend ask us to do? He asks the House to adopt a Resolution which is wrong as a matter of form, because the Committee to which this Bill must go is the Unopposed Bill Committee, and before that Committee not a single witness can be heard. That is an absolute fact, and so far as the form of the Resolution goes, I say that not one single witness can be examined, because it is a Committee for Unopposed Bills.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I beg the hon. Member's pardon, but that cannot be the 418 case, because in this Resolution I propose to petition against the Bill.
§ * MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The motion says:That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Local Government Provisional Orders (No. 14) Bill is committed to take the evidence tendered by or on behalf of residents in the district of Rhyl.Now, the Committee to which this Bill must be committed is the Unopposed Bill Committee, and before that Committee no evidence can be taken. Let us see what has taken place. My hon. friend has admitted that there has been a local inquiry at Rhyl, where all parties were fairly and fully heard. He does not cast any imputation upon the inquiry which was held at Rhyl. It was a free and full inquiry, and the Free Church Council was heard at length before the Inspector to the Local Government Board. His report was carefully considered, and the result of it is this Provisional Order Bill. I particularly desire to call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that this Bill was read a first time on the 19th of May, and if any person in Rhyl desired to oppose it in the meantime they had their opportunity. It is a fact that no ratepayer in Rhyl can oppose it, because they are bound by the seal of the District Council. In case duly qualified persons desired to oppose they had a right to petition, but they have now lost their opportunity. This Bill has to go to the other House, and there all the rights of opposing it are intact. They can be heard before a Committee of the other House, and I understand that the procedure of the other House is a little more elastic than the procedure in this House. Whatever rights they have they have allowed to go by default here, and they must now go to the other House. Just consider what will happen if my hon. friend succeeds. He is a pretty fair tactician: that I admit. He knows perfectly well what will occur if he carries his motion. This Bill should be in the House of Lords on Tuesday next. He says the House of Lords may suspend their Standing Orders; but I may tell the House, in regard to these Provisional Order Bills, that the House of Lords has absolutely refused to suspend Standing Orders unless the Local Government Board certifies that a question of public health is involved. In a matter of this kind I am certain the Bill runs very great risk in- 419 deed. This is not a Bill containing one Order alone—it not merely affects Rhyl, but it also affects Ramsgate and Reading; and are their interests to be imperilled because of the dispute between the Free Church Council and the Rhyl Urban District Council? I am not going here to argue the question of the foreshore. Nobody desires to prohibit free speech there or anywhere else. All that the Provisional Order does is to confer power on the Rhyl Council—a body largely composed of Nonconformists—to regulate speaking on the sands and foreshore. The Council wrote to the Local Government Board as late as the 15th of this month, begging us to push this Bill through so that they may be authorised by bye-law, not to prohibit free speech, but to regulate the speaking on the foreshore. There is no want of sympathy on the part of the Local Government Board. But other people have rights as well as those who desire to speak on the sands. The people of Rhyl have rights, and they have determined to ask for these bye-laws. I do not think the House ought to refuse them. After all, those who oppose the Bill have their rights intact in the other House, and I therefore hold that we should allow the Bill to go to the Lords' Committee, there to be dealt with in the ordinary way.
§ * MR. McKENNA (Monmouth, N.)
The hon. Gentleman, no doubt unwittingly, has misquoted the facts of this case. His argument was directed to the general law of the country, enabling local authorities to make bye-laws. But what is suggested in this particular place is that that there should be an alteration of the general law, and I have to submit to the House considerations for not allowing it, unless special circumstances are shown to exist. My hon. friend has not been discussing the merits of the general law; he asks that a Committee of this House should be informed what are the special circumstances in Rhyl which justify giving these strong and exceptional powers to its Council. If the hon. Gentleman's argument has any force, why does he not introduce a Bill giving these powers to all councils? No doubt to a majority of the hon. Members present public speaking in the streets or on the sea shore is very disagreeable; no doubt speeches on philosophical and religious topics, delivered in raucous tones, interfere with the 420 cultivated leisure of the upper classes; but that is no reason why we should put a stop to the cheap amusement of the lower classes. I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House to allow this question to be judged on its merits, and not by a hasty vote deprive the poorer classes of the visitors to Rhyl of their one inexpensive amusement. I am quite sure that if a Committee of this House hears the evidence, it will come to the same conclusion as the Police and Sanitary Committee have done in similar cases during the last three or four years. They will act as the Local Government Board and the Home Secretary have advised in numerous other cases, and allow reasonable freedom of speech on the sands; and if the urban authority is allowed any liberty to make bye-laws it will be strictly on the evidence, and the power will be confined to particular parts of the sea shore, so as not to deprive those in the lower ranks of life of the liberty which they now enjoy.
* MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
The hon. member who brought forward this motion is, I believe, in favour of Home Rule for Wales, and in fact I imagine of Home Rule all round, but would it not be a setting our faces entirely against the most elementary principles of local self-government if we deny to the elected representatives of a locality a right which has been conceded to almost every applicant who has come to Parliament? When the Parks Regulation Bill was introduced in this House in the Parliament of 1868, I, as a member of the Select Committee, moved the insertion of the words:That no person shall deliver, or invite any person to deliver, any public address in a park, except in accordance with the rules of park.That clause, although at first opposed, was eventually embodied in the Bill and unanimously adopted by the House. The hon. Member has told us we have the power to raise this question on the Estimates every year; but I would point out that, although hon. Members are often hard set to find topics for discussion on the Estimates, this subject has never once been mentioned. In many of the Royal parks speaking is absolutely forbidden, while in others it is subject to regulations, and it must be remembered that the 421 London County Council exercises its powers in this respect with very great rigour, and quite rightly so, in the open spaces under their control, and I, for one, cannot see why a freely elected representative body such as the Rhyl Urban District Council should not have power to make bye-laws regulating the proceedings on the foreshore. This House cannot undertake any inquiry into the circumstances of each particular locality. London already possesses the rights which are claimed under this Bill, and I certainly think that Rhyl, in common with other towns in the United Kingdom, should be granted the right to make reasonable regulations for the control of open spaces.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I am afraid we are in some danger of coming to a hasty decision on this matter. The question we have to consider is whether it shall be open to certain persons who object to the Order drawn up to go before a Committee of the House and oppose its terms, either in toto, or have it amended so that the powers conferred on the Rhyl Council shall be subject to some restrictions; that is the question, and not whether the Rhyl Council shall have a voice in regulating the sands there. My right hon. friend says that if we do that we shall strike at the very root of self-government; but my right hon. friend will remember that what is proposed is in absolute accordance with the principle of Parliament, which provided that power was to be given to freely elected representatives to lay down regulations such as are now obtained by a Provisional Order; but Parliament found it necessary to interfere with the power so given, and it was taken away. Let us have no venom against irregular religious exercises. They, no doubt, influence vast multitudes of our countrymen, and we should not lay down the principle that Members of this House are not to be allowed to consideration what terms they should be regulated. I appeal to the House to let this matter go to a Committee of four. We have been engaged this session in legislation affecting Scottish Private Bill legislation, and under the scheme of that Bill, as it now stands, we are to have local inquiries, it possible an inquiry by Members of Parliament; but it has been carefully preserved that if the result of that inquiry does not give satis- 422 faction, it can be reconsidered in the House. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board says what is now asked for cannot be done, that we have lost our opportunity, that we cannot reopen an Unopposed Bill, and all that kind of thing. But if this House passes a Resolution admitting petitioners it becomes an Opposed Bill, and the Committee of Selection will have no kind of right to consider it as an Unopposed Bill. The whole question is, Shall four Members, in whom we place confidence, decide these questions, which involve matters of such interest and importance; and I appeal to the House, and to my right hon. friend the Chairman of Ways and Means, to allow this matter to go forward, as it can go forward, and not to allow any prejudice against preaching to interfere with it.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I desire to associate myself with the appeal which my right hon. friend has just made to the House, that it should accede to this most reasonable request. He has discussed—and discussed with an authority second to none in this House—the technical objection raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, that the House has in some way or other lost control over this Bill. I do not think that objection is worth a Moment's consideration. How do we stand in reference to this matter? We have two circumstances which differentiate it from ordinary cases. First of all, it is admitted that the power proposed by this Provisional Order is exceptional and unusual, and one which, if my information is correct, is hardly ever given by the Police and Sanitary Committee where the procedure is by Private Bill, and from my own experience at the Home Office it is a power which I should be very sorry to see conferred. When it is given it is not used, and if it were we would have in large towns what we had a few years ago at Eastbourne—a state of things almost bordering on civil war, which continued until this House interfered, and took away from the Corporation its powers in that respect. It is now proposed by this Provisional Order to confer powers which the larger municipal corporations do not possess. The other circumstance which differentiates it from ordinary cases is that there is a body of local opinion—I do not know whether it is large or small, but, at 423 any rate, it is entitled to be heard—which is strongly opposed to this exceptional procedure, and does not wish to see the local authority invested with these powers. It has not been given a local opportunity of making itself heard in the ordinary way, and the Provisional Order has not been considered by a Private Bill Committee, which could consider arguments and local arrangements, and come to a deliberate conclusion. This is not a Party question in any sense, and obvious considerations of common-sense and justice are quite sufficient to enable the House to accede to this motion.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. CHAPLIN,) Lincolnshire, Sleaford
I entirely agree that this is in no way whatever a Party question, and ought not to be decided on that ground. If I may express my own individual opinion, it is more a question of procedure in this House than anything else. My right hon. friend the Member for Bodmin made an appeal to the House on the ground that he was afraid we should come to a hasty decision on this matter, and that we would arrive at that decision mainly by prejudice. What are the facts of the case? The motion of the right hon. Gentleman is simply a repetition of a motion which has been made on two or three previous occasions with regard to this very question.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
That is not so. The present motion is for locus standi, the other was for a reference to the Police and Sanitary Committee.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The purport and purpose of this motion is that the matter should go before a Committee, and that evidence should be taken, and therefore I am literally accurate in saying that the motion of the hon. Member is practically the same as has been already discussed on three similar occasions. What, then, becomes of the ground on which my right hon. friend appealed that it was likely we should be led into a hasty discussion? What are the arguments which have been adduced in order to persuade the House to accept the motion of the hon. Gentleman? I am bound to say, 424 with all respect to the ingenuity which the hon. Member has often displayed, that I do not think he has made out a reasonable case. He says he wishes to give an opportunity to the minority. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that there is a body of local opinion against the Bill, but neither he nor anyone else appears to know what it is composed of. On the other hand, we have the opinion of the representative body at Rhyl conveyed to Parliament in the clearest and most distinct manner, first by an appeal to the Local Government Board, and then by a total absence of opposition. Supposing there was this large body of local opinion, it had an opportunity of opposing this Bill by lodging a petition. If there were any doubt as to whether it had locus standi or not, that would be a matter which could and would have been decided by the Court of Referees in the usual manner, Hon. Members seeking to carry this Motion now say, "Let that body of opinion get an opportunity of making this an opposed Bill, in order that its views may be thrashed out and discussed"; but if this large body of opinion exists, will the hon. Gentleman explain why, when it had the opportunity, it did not come forward.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
No, but the urban district council which they elect has, and it is through that that the ratepayers express their opinion. My hon. friend also pointed out that this Provisional Order affects other interests in addition to those of Rhyl. If this motion were to be carried now it would render the passing of this Bill during the present session impossible, and not only the interests of Rhyl, but the interests of two other places—Reading and Ramsgate—would also be affected in a very important way. That is the simple issue before the House. The opponents of the Provisional Order had every opportunity of petitioning against the Bill, and they chose not to do it. So far as my experience goes, a motion of this kind is most unusual; and certainly a very serious departure from the ordinary recognised practice of the proceedings of the House of Commons in regard to these matters; and I therefore 425 urge the desirability of opposing the motion of the hon. Member.
§ * MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, S.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman, with his long experience of this House, must have listened to plenty of discussions where people have sought by this machinery a general locus. That is the sole object of our discussion; if these objectors had had the ordinary locus as landowners or in some other capacity, they need never have come here——
§ * MR. PERKS
The right hon. Gentleman was not listening to what I said. I said that if these people had been landowners they would have had an ordinary locus, but here were large bodies of ratepayers and residents who do not happen to be in the position of landowners, and who have no means of putting their views before the House upon the questions raised by these Provisional Orders, unless the House thinks proper to give them a general locus. I know that the Secretary to the Local Government Board said the other day that these people could have petitioned if they liked. I think when the hon. Gentleman said so he must have known that they had no claim to be heard unless the House gave them an opportunity by this machinery. And therefore it comes to this, that whenever a Provisional Order under the Local Government Board or the Board of Trade is promoted by some local authority, and the Provisional Order does not provide for taking land, or giving outside people the right of being heard before the proposed Committee, the local authority can work in collusion with the Departmental office, and they can prevent any inquiry being made at all into the proposal, except the inquiry made in their Department. Well, the Secretary said in an earlier part of this discussion that this motion cannot be carried out because the subject cannot be dealt with by an Unopposed Committee. But that hallucination has been absolutely disposed of by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, who pointed out that the effect of giving a general locus to the people of Rhyl would be to take the Bill away from the Unopposed Committee and put it before an Opposed Committee, 426 selected in the ordinary way. That Committee would take the part of the Bill relating to Ramsgate and Reading, and treat it as absolutely unopposed; and then they would consider the views put forward by a very considerable number of ratepayers and residents in the town of Rhyl, treating the Rhyl Provisional Order as an opposed one. This is a subject which ought not to be settled in this family way, between the local authorities and the Board. The questions between the Local Government Board and the Council of Rhyl ought to be threshed out in the light of day by a Committee, where the voice of this very important minority in the community can be thoroughly considered. I am afraid that the Under Secretary to the Local Government Board, since he has been in office, has shown very little sympathy or consideration for the wishes of the Dissenting communities of this country. Liberty seems to be almost a forgotten word in his Department.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The hon. Member has no right to make any such observation. Since I have been at the Local Government Board I have endeavoured to do my duty impartially.
§ * MR. PERKS
In tins particular issue we have no practical illustration of the sympathy which the hon. Gentleman professes for these very large sections of the community. It is idle to say that this is an unimportant subject. It is a subject of the utmost importance—namely, the question of liberty of speech, and I trust that the House will see their way to allow this matter to be dealt with as suggested in the motion.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
I do not think anyone would suspect me of being prejudiced in favour of hon. Gentlemen opposite on a matter of this kind. I do not know what these people of Rhyl may be, or whom they represent; but I confess that I think the House should approach this subject from a more serious point of view than was contemplated by the speech of my right hon. friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board. The House of Commons has always been extremely careful in dealing with religious susceptibilities, and for my part I think there is no policy more ill-judged than that which would give to 427 the public the impression that this House is not anxious that everybody should have a voice on all religious issues as freely as possible, and with as much liberty as can be afforded. Moreover, there is no time when such a policy could be more ill-judged than at the present time. I think it would be a very wise course for the House to decide, not the issue, but whether the issue has been tried by an impartial Committee of the House of Commons. Now, my right hon. friend will forgive me if I do not pay much attention to the technicalities which have been put forward. He says that the people can speak only through their elected representatives. That is all very well, but I do not think I have ever paid much attention to a technical point of that kind. The question is whether there is, or whether there is not, a certain body of men who desire to be heard upon their rights on the foreshore of Rhyl, and which they believe they are not to be allowed to exercise. To tell me that they might have spoken through the District Council may be a very good official argument, but——
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
My contention is that these people could had got a locus three or four weeks ago, when a motion could have been made.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
The motion might have been made, but it would have been equally rejected by the right hon. Gentleman. My argument was not directed to the point of time. My hon. friend used a phrase in his speech very likely to mislead the House. He spoke of the foreshore being the property of the Urban District Council of Rhyl. It is not the property of the Council, it is the property of the public; and the public have a right to it, not merely the majority, but the minority, which this House, above all other assemblies in the world, is bound to protect and say they shall be heard. We are not capable of hearing evidence in this House, but we have the power of appointing a Committee, and the power of allowing these gentlemen to appear before the Committee, and I think that would be the wise course to adopt. It has been said that what these gentlemen demand might be given under regulation. Of course; but the regulations might be of such a kind as to amount to prohibition, and this is just 428 one of the questions that ought to be tried by an impartial body. My right hon. friend encouraged me to speak because he told us that this was not a Party question. Her Majesty's Government were perfectly right in putting forward the official views of the Local Government Board, but this is a matter on which the feeling of the House of Commons ought to be heard. Having in view that you are dealing with matters of religion, about which people's susceptibilities are acute, and legitimately acute, I think the very greatest care should be taken. When I hear hon. Members say in this House that all these matters are vanity, and the fads of peculiar people, and other things of that kind, that language offends me; for I know that these things depend upon ideas and thoughts which move the opinion of the people most deeply. By all means let us treat them with the greatest care and consideration, and I, for one, will not be a party to abuse these people here.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I would recall the House to previous experience of matters of this description. This is not the first time that such a question has arisen. Hon. Members who were here from 1886 to 1892 will recollect a very crucial case which arose out of hasty legislation of this kind in reference to Eastbourne. My hon. and gallant friend the Member for Eastbourne on that occasion championed the cause of the local authority, the Eastbourne Corporation, which claimed to represent the people of Eastbourne. Parliament, however, decided that they did not represent the people of Eastbourne, and reversed their action. The Committee upstairs, without having heard the people who, as the noble Lord so wisely said, ought to have been heard on this question, by a majority of one imposed restrictions against which public opinion was roused. The peace of Eastbourne was broken: rioting resulted; and the state of affairs became so great a public scandal that the matter was brought before this House. My hon. and gallant friend will remember that that was the only occasion during that Parliament in which the Government, as a Government, was defeated in this House. The House took the matter into its own hands, and would not allow a question affecting the religious liberty of the people to be made a Party question. 429 The Conservative Party, which was then in a large majority, defeated the Government on that question. The result was that a Special Committee had to be appointed, and the whole case had to be reheard. Eventually an Act was passed by mutual arrangement, specially with the great assistance of the Duke of Devonshire, who was largely interested in Eastbourne, and Eastbourne has never been disturbed from that day to this, and the religious opinions of the Salvation Army have never been offended. I most respectfully urge the House not to forget that precedent, and that we should not be bound by a rigid adherence to red tape regulations. The Bill would not be imperilled by the acceptance of this motion; and I am sure the House would act wisely, if it is only in the interest of public peace and of civil and religious liberty, if they allow these people to be heard before a Committee of this House. The Committee will protect, on the one hand, the rights of the Urban District Council and those of its members who wish to maintain order, and, on the other hand, it will protect those who believe that their rights are being infringed.
MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)
I rise to support the motion made by my hon. friend. The clause objected to has been inserted, I will not say by oversight, but without an appreciation of the gravity of the case. It is a clause that usually comes before the Police and Sanitary Committee, and which is only granted after special evidence has been given, and with certain restrictions to well-defined areas. I do not wish to argue that the Bill should be referred to the Police and Sanitary Committee, but only to point out that it has been the custom to limit these powers very strictly to certain areas. I think the House should retain in its own hands the power of making restrictions of this kind, and that that power should not be handed over to an inspector of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
No one who has listened to the Debate can but come to the conclusion that the arguments have been all on one side. It is very seldom that we have a situation in this House where every speaker outside the front bench is in favour of a particular proposal. Every Member has 430 supported the motion except the hon. Gentleman opposite, who, in this matter, represents Ramsgate. I would call the attention of the House to the fact that the motion is supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, whose high authority no one can dispute; by the noble Lord the Member for Rochester, who certainly is not prejudiced in favour of the mover of the motion; and by several independent Members. No case has been made against the proposal. It has been said we cannot do it from the point of view of procedure. But there is a precedent for it. Hon. Members will remember that, by order of this House, on a London and North-Western Railway Bill, permission was given for ratepayers to be represented before a Committee on that Bill, who would not otherwise have been represented. Then as to the wisdom of this policy. The hon. Member the Secretary to the Local Government Board said that if there is a local council we are bound to respect the views of that council. But I appeal to the hon. Gentleman that, if a county council were in favour of a certain railway scheme, would this House deny the right of individual ratepayers to oppose that scheme? That is the position we are in now. We contend that an inspector of the Local Government Board ought not to be supreme over this House, but subordinate to it; and if the inspector takes evidence this House should review it and decide upon it. Public feeling in Rhyl is very strong on this matter, and if this motion is not adopted there is an immense danger that we shall have similar scenes to those which occurred in Eastbourne a few years ago. In view of all these facts, I would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board whether, even at this late hour, he should not reconsider the position he has taken up, and whether, after consultation with my hon. friend, a course might not be found which would meet the views of my hon. friend, and at the same time not sacrifice the dignity of the Council and of the Department. Perhaps the Debate might be adjourned to admit of consultation.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I have already pointed out that in the opinion of the Department it is very important that the interests of the other two places which are affected by this Provisional Orders 431 Bill should not be sacrificed by the loss of the whole Bill. I believe I am right in saying that if the course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite were adopted by the House it would be fatal to the Bill as a whole for the present year. As, however, there appears to be a very strong feeling on the part of a very considerable body of people at Rhyl, and as I apprehend there will be some feeling on the subject otherwise, I will endeavour to get over the difficulty by moving, myself, an Instruction to the Committee, of which I shall have to give notice, which will have the effect of dividing the Bill into two parts. This will allow the part affecting Reading and Ramsgate to go forward without further delay, leaving the question of Rhyl to be further considered. Then, I will accept the Resolution with regard to Rhyl, which will have the effect of giving the people at Rhyl the necessary locus standi.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I would ask whether, if I withdraw my motion now, it would be competent for me to move it, with reference to Rhyl, afterwards?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member withdraws the Instruction, and has the assent of the House, he can set it down again, but he will have to give notice of it.
§ SIR H. H. FOWLER
The understanding is that in the Instruction which the right hon. Gentleman will move for the division of the Bill into two Bills, he will also give the necessary authority for a locus standi being granted to the people of Rhyl on the Rhyl Bill.