HC Deb 15 March 1900 vol 80 cc900-2

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Committee of Selection do appoint a Committee, not exceeding Seven Members, to whom shall be committed the following Private Bills by which it is proposed to supply electric power:—

(read a second time on Thursday, 1st March)."—(Lord Balcarres.)

MR. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S.W.)

said the effect of the Amendment which he proposed to move, if carried, would be that the Bill would be referred to an ordinary Select Committee of fifteen members, nominated by the House of Commons, on which both the promoters and the opponents to the Bill would be represented. Whereas the result of the motion made by the noble Lord would be that the Bill would go before a Committee supposed to be impartial but on which neither side would be able to rely. He was rather surprised at the course taken by the noble Lord having regard to the facts that after the Second Reading of the Bill the President of the Board of Trade said he would not have the Bill referred to the Private Bill Committee but to what might be called a Consultation Committee. He did not know what might be meant by that, but no consultation had taken place so far as he could see, and the great object of his Amendment would be the appointment of a Committee in which both those who were opposed and those who were favourable to the Bill would have entire confidence.

*SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

in seconding the Amendment expressed surprised at the inaction of the Board of Trade upon the subject. The hon. right Gentleman the President when the Bill was before the House had made a suggestion, which was the basis of what subsequently occurred, that there should be a Hybrid Committee. The one thing in favour of that was that it would be composed of experts, which was very necessary in such a matter as was now before the House. He hoped that what- ever might be done a Committee would be found which would give an impartial and export consideration to the subject, which was of most vital importance to both the municipalities and the public.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the words 'the Committee of Selection do appoint a Committee, not exceeding seven members,' in order to insert the words 'a Select Committee be appointed 'instead thereof."—(Mr. Galloway.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

supported the motion, and could not conceive a better tribunal to send a Bill to than a Committee of the character suggested by the noble Lord. Such a Committee was not subject to the loose and slippery attendance which characterised the other Committees of the House.

MR. MONK (Gloucester)

hoped that the House would adopt the motion and reject the Amendment. The members of such a Committee were compelled to attend and hear evidence before they came to a decision, and if hon. Members did not attend they were reported to the House.

*SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

believed that this was a matter deeply affecting the welfare of the people, and that the House ought to appoint a strong Committee to deal with it. It appeared to him essential that the Committee should partake of a judicial character, and the proper way to deal with the matter was to send it to the Committee of Selection, who had always performed their duty with great success. He deprecated altogether the appointment of a Committee by the ordinary procedure, under which the members of a Select Committee were appointed. One advantage of such a Committee as was proposed was the certainty of attendance. In the Police and Sanitary Committee important issues might be decided by gentlemen who had not heard the evidence, but who picked up what information they could in a hurried manner before giving their votes. This was not merely a local, it was a national question, affecting the commerce, health and welfare of the people of the country; and the strongest possible Committee should be appointed to consider it. The only way of avoiding the difficulty of deciding questions by gentlemen who had not heard the evidence was to insist upon a full attendance of the members serving on the Committee. Perhaps attendance could not be made compulsory without notice, but at any rate the House could insist upon a full quorum of seven. He might mention that his own constituents were greatly interested in this matter, as they were proposing to spend £90,000 upon electric power undertakings.


thought the matter was of such great importance, that it was advisable the President of the Board of Trade should have an opportunity of expressing his views. He therefore moved the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned till to-morrow.