HC Deb 27 May 1903 vol 123 cc31-2

Lords Message (19th May) relative to the Port of London Bill considered.


moved the committal of the Port of London Bill to a Select Committee of five members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection to be joined with a Committee of Lords.

MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)

expressed his regret at the absence of the President of the Board of Trade and the cause of it. This Committee, he pointed out, was to have a very important Bill referred to it, and he was glad it was to be a Joint Committee, because that, he believed, would facilitate the progress of the measure. He was pleased, also, that the nominations of members were to be made by the Committee of Selection. He was not a member of that Committee, but he looked on its nominations with great confidence. One advantage of that system of nomination was that it was entirely free from the usual machinery of a Party character. He held that Committees which dealt with such Bills as these should partake of a judicial rather than Party character. This particular Bill needed and would of course receive most earnest attention. He did not apprehend that the inquiry would be of a prolonged character, but this Bill did not stand on the same footing as an ordinary private Bill. It was introduced by the Government and it came before the House as embodying practically all the recommendations of the unanimous Report of the Royal Commission which sat on the subject. Its Second Reading was unanimously agreed to, and there was universal assent to the proposal that some new Port authority should be created. That was the backbone of the Bill. There was one point of procedure in connection with these joint Committees to which he would like to refer, and they had an illustration of it in connection with the Joint Committee on the Water Bill last year. There was a precedent—he did not think it was universal—that the Chairman should be a Member of the other House. There were instances to the contrary, and he was one of those who thought that the Chairman of the Joint Committee should be selected indifferently from whichever House he came, and that he should be the man most fitted to occupy the Chair. He was sorry to say that in the case of the Water Bill there was what he held to be a very grave irregularity, viz., the Chairman took upon himself to put a question in a way to secure a result known to himself beforehand. One could hardly contemplate such a thing being done by Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees; as to put a question deliberately in the way to secure a certain result. He thought such conduct amounted to a very high kind of Parliamentary misdemeanour, and he hoped nothing of the kind would occur on this Joint Committee. He trusted too that the Committee would be able to report at an early date.

Ordered, That the Port of London Bill be committed to a Select Committee of five Members to be nominated by the Committee of Selection to be joined with a Committee of Lords.

Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

Ordered, That all Petitions against the Bill presented on or before the 11th day of June, 1903, be referred to the Committee; that the Petitioners praying to be heard by themselves, their Counsel, Agents, or Witnesses be heard against the Bill, and Counsel heard in support of the Bill.

Ordered, That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Ordered, That Three be the Quorum.—(Mr. Bonar Law.)