HC Deb 16 October 1902 vol 113 cc99-109

LORDs' Amendments to Commons, Amendments considered.

LORDs' Amendment to Commons, Amendments, Clause 4B, Section 2, at commencement of section, insert (" Subject to the foregoing provisions of this section") the first Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

*(9.0.) MR. CLAUDE HAY (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

opposed the Amendment on the ground that its acceptance would amount to setting the public law at nought by means of a private Bill. He had objected to the Bill before the Recess, because it interfered with the legal rights of parties in a pending action. The case was now much stronger, because on 8th August the Milton Creek Conservators obtained an injunction in the High Court compelling the Railway Company to keep open the bridge for any vessel navigating the Swale, and not having masts capable of being lowered. But the effect of the Lords' Amendments, which were inserted at the instance of the First Lord of the Admiralty, would be to render the injunction nugatory, and to deprive the traders of the district of the existing facilities for navigating the waterway. The Company had closed the bridge without asking leave of anybody: hence the action of the Milton Creek Conservators under their Statutory Powers conferred on them in 1899. Last year the Company promoted a Bill which would have enabled them to erect a fixed bridge, instead of one which could be opened, but the Admiralty and the Conservators successfully opposed that. Then came the Bill of the present year, and it was only when the measure reached the House of Lords in the dog days that the First Lord of the Admiralty, in an empty House and without discussion, introduced a clause which rendered nugatory the recent decision of the High Courts. It was remarkable that though the First Lord of the Admiralty had given notice of such a Clause in the Commons, the Department failed to move it in the House or before the Commons Committee. An opening bridge was necessary in the interests of the trade of the district. Although since 1899 the Companies had alleged that they had no power to deal with this matter except by fresh authority from Parliament, within a very recent period indeed they pretended they had discovered that Section 16 of the Railway Clauses Act gave them power to build a new bridge, and they had deprived the industry of the district of privileges it ought to enjoy by keeping the bridge closed for three years. The action of the Admiralty had not been all that could be desired, The parties interested in safe-guarding the shipping interests had approached the Admiralty with a view of securing its assistance, but instead of obtaining it the authorities decided at the last moment to assist the railway company in setting aside the decision of the High Court. There were important questions of public policy involved in this matter, and he submitted that it was not proper that the legal rights of interested parties—particularly Statutory bodies called into existence to protect the trade of a district—should be taken from them in this manner by a clause in a private Bill.


said his hon. friend was hardly justified in saying that the Admiralty were setting aside public law by a private Act, because the injunction which had been obtained in regard to the Swale bridge was founded on a private Act passed in 1861. The Admiralty had no desire or intention to prevent the opening of this bridge for vessels navigating the Swale. But it was the duty of the Admiralty in the first place to protect a much greater interest than that of the trade under the Swale bridge—namely, the national interest of Sheerness Dockyard. That dockyard was on an island, and this bridge was the only means of communication between the dockyard and the mainland. While the bridge had been closed there had been a very large increase of tonnage under it and this traffic, although inconvenienced at present. would probably not have increased very much more had the bridge been open. The Admiralty had nothing to do with the repair of the bridge. Unfortunately the railway company had allowed the bridge to fall into disrepair, and that it might be repaired it was necessary that it should be either open or closed for a certain length of time. Of the two alternatives it was best, in the interests of the dockyard that it should be closed, so that traffic might go over it, especially the traffic of naval ratings to and from the gunnery school and other establishments.


Can my hon. friend give me figures as to that?


I do not know if there are any such figures available, but there is constant traffic over the bridge, and it would be most detrimental to naval interests to close it. The interest of the Admiralty in the bridge was recognised to be paramount from its inception by the Act of 1856, to which the Act of 1861 was only a rider. The Act of 1856 gave the Admiralty power to make rules and regulations respecting the opening of the swing bridge.


Has the Admiralty ever issued any such regulations?


said he had not stated that it had; he had only called attention to the fact that it had power to make regulations as to the opening and closing of the bridge.


Were any ever made?


said none had been made, but it was clear that the interests of the Admiralty in regard to this bridge had been recognised and power had been given to regulate the working of it, if it were considered that such a step were necessary in the national interest. If the power that the bridge should not be permanently closed, or closed for any length of time against the public interest, were given they could rely upon it that that power would be carefully exercised, and he assured the House that everything would be done not to prevent, but to assist and encourage, the immediate repair of the bridge so that it might be open to traffic under as well as over it. The consent of the Admiralty had already been accorded to the alterations referred to in the statement issued to hon. Members by the Conservators. There was no intention, on the part of the Admiralty to exercise any such powers as those which had there been referred to. On behalf of the Admiralty he submitted that the Amendments inserted by the Lords were the minimum necessity in the public interest, and the powers which were thereby sought to be exercised by the Admiralty would cause no injury either to the Conservators or to the interests they represented. He had not received the letter which the hon. Member referred to, and it was hardly necessary for him to say that had he received that letter it would have received an immediate reply. The course taken by the Admiralty was perfectly clear, and in. the absence of any further information to the contrary his hon. friend might have safely assumed, and evidently did assume, that the Amendments inserted by the Lords would be persisted in. Careful consideration had been necessary, and it was only that afternoon that a final decision had been come to by the law officers of the Crown. Therefore he asked the House not to agree with his hon. friend's proposal.

(9.35.) MR. TATTON EGERTON (Cheshire, Knutsford)

said that as the Chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill he thought it was his duty to inform the House of the reasons why he objected to the Lords' Amendments. The first and second clauses were prepared with very great care, and were submitted to the Admiralty, and they fully protected all the Admiralty interests. At the time of the recommittal of the Bill they had the advantage of the presence of an official of the Admiralty.


Does my hon. friend say that the first and second sub-sections were submitted to the Admiralty?




said his hon. friend would remember that the first subsection only was submitted to the Admiralty, and when it went to the Committee the Admiralty did not know that the second sub-section would be added.


agreed that the sub-section for the protection of the Conservancy Board was added, but they were both submitted to the Admiralty before.


said the whole of the first sub-section was submitted and agreed to, but the second sub-section was not known to the Admiralty, and was first seen by them after it had been inserted in Committee.


thought the two paragraphs agreed to were quite sufficient for the protection of the Admiralty, and when the witness from the Admiralty was asked if he had any clauses to submit, he replied that he had not, and therefore the Committee considered that they had the option of proposing whatever clauses they chose for the protection of the Admiralty. The Admiralty was not the only party to be protected. Evidence came before the Committee in regard to the previous history of this railway company with reference to this bridge, and that evidence did not give the Committee any confidence as to the action of the company in the future. The railway company got rid of the portion of the Bill referring to the bridge, and there was no obligation upon them either to build a new bridge, or do anything to get a permanently fixed bridge, and what the Committee did was in the interests of the Conservators, who were the only protectors of the traders in that district. There was slipped into the Bill of 1861 a clause by which seventh-eighths of the value of the first Bill as regarded interference with the rights of the public were rendered ineffective. When companies came forward for new powers it was usual that the whole question should be reconsidered, and the Committee had so little confidence that this company would do their duty to the public that they felt bound to put in these particular clauses. By this proposal they made the powers of the Conservators subsidiary to the Admiralty, and they took away the public rights which the Conservators had of protecting the traders. He asked the House seriously to consider these points before agreeing to the Lords' Amendments.

MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said he thought there was some misunderstanding in regard to these private Bills. If none of these Bills had been passed there would have been a public right of way which this Bill would have infringed. The Lords' Amendments, went between the arrangement of the Committee of this House for the protection of the public and the Admiralty. The railway company objected to make a new bridge, and so the Admiralty proposed these Amendments, which were not made before in Committee. These alterations had been brought in without a word of discussion, and the Secretary to the Admiralty was one of the very few people who took any interest in them. Therefore these Amendments were passed and brought down to this House without having been discussed at all. The changes proposed reversed the decision of the Committee that the private rights involved should be protected and the rights of private citizens were to be multiplied by a clause giving the Admiralty full control. In the Bill of 1856 the Admiralty were given an absolute right to make rules, but they never made any, and they allowed the bridge to be closed up, and the public rights were put aside altogether. He thought they ought to stick to the clause inserted by the Committee, and not allow private rights to be overridden by an Amendment inserted at the instigation of the railway company in order to save them the expense of building a new bridge. He trusted the House would not agree to these Amendments, for this appeared to him to be a case of the Admiralty legislating for the country instead of the Houses of Parliament.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

said that as far as the company were concerned, every pledge they had given had been absolutely kept. The hon. Member opposite seemed to have got a little mixed upon this question, for he asserted that the company wanted to avoid making a new bridge. He held in his hand a letter showing that in June last the company sent a special agent over to America in reference to the building of a new bridge, and steps had already been taken for the carrying out of this work. A new bridge would be built over the old one, and its construction would be carried out without obstructing the traffic for more than two days. The Amendments moved by the Admiralty had been intended to secure the traffic to the Sheerness Dockyard. When they heard of this new bridge it was not unnatural that they should wish to secure the traffic, and the companies had no objection to these Amendments if the Government thought they ought to be inserted in order to secure absolutely the traffic during the reconstruction of the bridge. Personally, he thought the House ought to loyally support the Admiralty in this matter.

(9.50.) THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir ROBERT FINLAY, Inverness Burghs)

said he desired to say a word or two upon this question, because he was afraid the issue was not quite clearly before the House. Certain disputes had been introduced between the railway company and the Conservators, but with those disputes the Admiralty had absolutely nothing to do. All the Admiralty had to do was to safeguard the public interests committed to their care. The traffic was chiefly barge traffic, but there was a still more important matter, and that was the maintaining without any interruption of communication between the mainland and Sheerness. It was necessary to secure that there should not be any interruption of an important public service for which this bridge was absolutely necessary. For this purpose a clause was inserted providing that the closing of the bridge for the purpose of repairs should be subject to the consent of the Admiralty. That seemed to him to be a very harmless provision. The idea that the Admiralty were going to exercise that power in a vexatious way, so as to interfere with the traffic and the proper navigation of the river, was absolutely chimerical. He was quite sure that those who objected to these Amendments could not seriously entertain any doubt as to the perfect competence of the Admiralty to deal with such matters. The whole question was how were those two interests to be reconciled? As the Bill now stood, it provided that nothing in the section was to interfere with the rights of the Conservators or other, persons to free navigation of the river, subject to the provision that the closing of the bridge for the purpose of necessary repairs might take place under the control of the Admiralty. The Chairman of the Committee seemed to think that these Amendments were not properly, considered. If there was any want of consideration it was in inserting the second sub-section without fully appreciating its effect upon the first. The hon. Member said that the first sub-section submitted to the Admiralty was adequate for the protection of the public interests. He thought his hon. friend the Chairman, of the Committee failed properly, if he might say so with very great deference, to appreciate that point, and all that the Lords had done was what the Chairman of the Committee had intended to do. The Amendment safeguarded the rights of the Conservators. That was the whole matter, and it was an extremely simple one. He thought the ground on which his hon. friend opposed the Amendment was entirely an imaginary one. It would be found that there would not be the slightest difficulty in the matter. Ha asked the House not to interfere with the Admiralty in a matter which they thought important.


said it appeared to him that the words did interfere with certain vested interests contained in the Acts mentioned.


said they did not destroy the rights, but qualified their exercise so that they should not interfere with the public service.

Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.) MacIver, David (Liverpool)
Anson, Sir William Reynell Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)
Arkwright, John Stanhope Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r M'Calmont Col. H. L. B. (Cambs.
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst M'Iver, Sir Lewis(EdinburghW
Arrol, Sir William Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Fisher, William Hayes Majendie, James A. H.
Bailey, James (Walworth) Fison, Frederick William Milvain, Thomas
Balcarres, Lord FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J.(Manch'r Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds Flower, Ernest. Morrell, George Herbert
Banbury, Frederick George Forster, Henry William Morton, Arthur H. A.
Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor) Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute
Bartley, George C. T. Gardner, Ernest Nicholson, William Graham
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Gordon, J. (Londonderry, South Parker, Sir Gilbert
Bignold, Arthur Goulding, Edward Alfred Paulton, James Mellor
Bigwood, James Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Pemberton, John S. G.
Bill, Charles Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Percy, Earl
Blundell, Colonel Henry Grenfell, William Henry Perks, Robert William
Bond, Edward Gretton, John Plummer, Walter R.
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Groves, James Grimble Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G.(Midd'x Pretyman, Ernest George
Brookfield, Colonel Montagu Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Purvis, Robert
Brown, Alexander H.(Shropsh.) Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford Randles, John S.
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Haslam, Sir Alfred, S. Rankin, Sir James
Bull, William James Hatch, Ernest Frederick, Geo. Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Caldwell, James Heath, Arthur Howard(Hanley Remnant, James Farquharson
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Heath, James (Staffords., N.W.) Renwick, George.
Cautley, Henry Strother Henderson, Sir Alexander Richards, Henry Charles
Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire Hickman, Sir Alfred Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Higginbottom, S. W. Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r Hoare, Sir Samuel Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Charrington, Spencer Hogg, Lindsay Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Churchill, Winston Spencer Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside Ropner, Colonel Robert
Clare, Octavius Leigh Hornby, Sir William Henry Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter
Clive, Captain Percy A. Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred. Round, Rt. Hon. James
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton Royds, Clement, Molyneux
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Kemp, George Rutherford, John
Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Kenyon Slaney, Col. W. (Salop. Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Compton, Lord Alwyne Keswick, William Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) King, Sir Henry Seymour Seton-Karr, Henry
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Kitson, Sir James Sharpe, William Edward T.
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Langley, Batty Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Cranborne, Viscount Law, Andrew Bonar, (Glasgow Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Crossley, Sir Saville Lawson, John Grant Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Cubitt, Hon. Henry Layland Barratt, Francis Smith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)
Denny, Colonel Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)
Dickinson, Robert Edmond Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie Spear, John Ward
Dickson, Charles Scott Llewellyn, Evan Henry Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Dickson Poynder, Sir John P. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Stewart, Sir Mark, J. M Taggart
Dorington Rt. Hon. Sir John E. Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham Stone, Sir Benjamin
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S. Stroyan, John
Duke, Henry Edward Lowther, Rt Hn JW (Cum. Penr. Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Loyd, Archie Kirkman Tollemache, Henry James
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.
Ellis, John Edward Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth Tritton, Charles, Ernest
Emmott, Alfred Macdona, John Cumming Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward

It appears to me that the words might be interpreted as relieving the companies.

(9.56.) Question put.

The House divided: Ayes 191; Noe 62. (Division List No. 389.)

Valentia, Viscount Webb, Colonel William George Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Vincent, Col. Sir C. E H (Sheffield Welby, Lt-Col. A.C.E. (Taunton Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong
Walker, Col. William Hall Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset) Younger, William
Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir William H. Willough by de Eresby, Lord
Wanklyn, James Leslie Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Warde, Colonel C. E. Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.) Sir Alexander Acland-
Warr, Augustus Frederick Wrightson, Sir Thomas Hood and Mr. Anstruther.
Allan, Sir William (Gateshead) Grant, Corrie Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud Harmsworth, R. Leicester Spencer, Rt. Hn. C.R (Northants
Barran, Rowland Hirst Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Strachey, Sir Edward
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Healy, Timothy Michael Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Helme, Norval Watson Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr)
Brigg, John Holland, Sir William Henry Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)
Burns, John Horniman, Frederick John Tomkinson, James
Buxton, Sydney Charles Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley) Toulmin, George
Cameron, Robert Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Cawley, Frederick Kinloch, Sir John George Smyth Wallace, Robert
Craig, Robert Hunter Leese, Sir, Joseph F.(Accrington Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Cremer, William Randal Leigh, Sir Joseph White, George (Norfolk)
Crombie, John William Levy, Maurice White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) M'Kenna, Reginald Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary N.) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Edwards, Frank Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)
Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton Philipps, John Wynford Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Fenwick, Charles Pickard, Benjamin Yoxall, James Henry
Foster, Philip S. (Warwick. S.W. Price, Robert John
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Rea, Russell TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Goddard, Daniel Ford Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Mr. Claude Hay and Mr.
Gordon, Maj Evans-(T'rH'mlets Shipman. Dr. John G. Mansfield.

Subsequent Lords' Amendments to Commons Amendments agreed to.