§ Order read for consideration of Bill under Section 7, Sub-section (2) of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY () Louth, N.
said he wished to raise a matter of very considerable importance with regard to this Bill. The reason they had to watch matters of this kind with some jealousy was that there was a prospect that later on the private Bill procedure now obtaining in Scotland would be extended to Ireland. This Bill passed the Scotch Committee unopposed, but the proposal now was—with, he believed, the consent of the promoters—to put in a new clause dealing with the price of water. This, however, was being done under pressure from the Treasury. Section 7, Sub-section 2 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act provided that where there was no opposition to an order, or where the opposition had been withdrawn before the inquiry had been held, the Secretary for Scotland might forthwith make the order as proposed, or with such modifications as might appear to be necessary, having regard to the recommendations of the Chairman of Committees or the Treasury or such other department as might be prescribed. Now, this clause was based on a Treasury recommendation, and he submitted that that recommendation should have been made before the local Committee.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member cannot deal with that question now. He had better wait till the new clause is proposed.
§ Bill considered.
§ A Clause (water supply to public offices).—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ Brought up, and read the first time.1102
§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That the clause be read a second time."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
submitted that a very grave step had been taken by the Government in assenting to the introduction of such a clause at this stage of the Bill. The intention of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act was, he took it, that all questions should be dealt with locally in Scotland, and that when the Bill came before the House small or pettifogging clauses should not be introduced, and certainly not "after-thought" clauses. If this practice were tolerated the result would be to deprive the Scotch people of all the advantages which the Act was supposed to confer on them by giving them local tribunals. What made this matter far worse was that it was a Treasury clause. They had experience of the Treasury when the Dublin Water Bill was before the House, and when the Treasury, under a threat of stopping the Bill altogether, insisted on the promoters inserting a clause by which water was to be supplied to the troops in Dublin at a cheaper rate than to private consumers. Now the township of Hamilton was being treated in the same way. His point was that the clause should have been laid before the local committee, when every ratepayer would have been in a position to object if he so desired. But instead of that the Treasury waited until the Bill reached the House, and suddenly, at its final stage, forced the township to give Government troops water on cheaper and better terms than the rest of the citizens were to be entitled to. The clause, too, placed the township in the ridiculous position of having it suggested that it was not willing to supply water to a Government Department on as fair terms as to the rest of His Majesty's subjects. He could not understand why the Scotch Office or the Chairman of Committees had consented to action of this nature. The Irish Members would never forget the insolence with which the Treasury treated the Dublin Corporation in a similar matter, threatening to stop their Bill unless a like clause was inserted. He could only say, in conclusion, that if 1103 this conduct was to be allowed it might, when the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act was extended to Ireland, place them in a very disadvantageous position, by enabling objectionable clauses to be inserted behind their backs. They would, in fact, never know where they were.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. J. W. LOWTHER,) Cumberland, Penrith
said he was rather taken by surprise by the hon. Member's objection, and he was sure, too, that the Lord Advocate had not expected this question to be raised, or he would have attended to explain why the clause was prepared to be inserted. He quite agreed that as this was an entirely new procedure it ought to be watched very carefully, especially as it might become a precedent if the procedure were extended to Ireland. Personally he had never been consulted, and he could say nothing on the matter. He moved that the debate should be adjourned.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said he was quite satisfied with that, for he was sure their interests were perfectly safe in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Debate adjourned till Monday, 10th June.