HC Deb 15 June 1904 vol 136 cc211-23

Motion to refer to Joint Committee.

MR. KERR (Preston)

formally moved under Section 9 of the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act, 1899, that the Leith Corporation Tramways Order Confirmation Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons.

SIR LEWIS McIVER (Edinburgh, W.)

said as his hon. friend who had moved this Motion, being pecuniarily interested in this matter, could neither speak nor take part in the division upon this Question, the duty of explaining the reason for this Motion being made devolved upon him. The simplest course would perhaps be to state the facts upon which the Motion was made. The system of tramways running between Edinburgh and Leith had been worked for some time by the Edinburgh Tramways Company, who leased the lines from the Edinburgh Corporation. The Tramways Company were under a Parliamentary obligation to run an omnibus in connection with their tramway between two points, a point in Edinburgh to a point in Leith. The Leith Corporation had recently embarked on a system of electric trams, and the Order was now before the House for confirmation. When the local inquiry was held the Edinburgh Tramways Company applied to be heard on the ground that they thought they would be damnified by certain provisions of the Bill, one of their greatest objections being that the new tramways would compete with the line of omnibuses which they were compelled to run under the statute. Being compelled to run these omnibuses by Parliament, they thought they ought to be protected against unfair competition. The speed at which the electric trams would run would be twice that which the omnibuses could attain, and the journey would be made in half the time, and the result, in the opinion of the Edinburgh Tramways Company, would be that the already bad business done by the omnibuses would be rendered far worse. The Edinburgh Tramways Company were not anxious in any way to oppose the preamble of this Bill. They merely wished to be heard, in order that they might be released from their Parliamentary obligations to run these omnibuses, which, in the face of electric tramways, had become obsolete. They contended that the Parliamentary agreement under which they ran this line entitled them to a hearing, but being refused a locus by the Commissioners this application was made to this House. That was the real ground for this Motion. In the House of Commons the question of locus was officially disposed of by the Court of Referees; in the House of Lords it was disposed of by five members of the Committee, but in all cases it was treated as a formal question and adjudicated on. In this case the Chairman of the Commission merely said he did not think they were entitled to a locus. The only possible objection to granting this Motion was that it might inaugurate a system of appeals from the Scottish local tribunal. If he thought such a thing was ever likely to be the case he should have hesitated to have supported this Petition, but so far from that being the case no appeal could arise on the facts. He could not conceive a clearer case of where persons had a right to be heard and he submitted that as Parliament compelled them to run these omnibuses they had a primâ facie case for a locus standi. That was the sole reason why this Petition had been brought. There was no other procedure of which he was aware which would have enabled them to obtain an authoritative decision on the question, and therefore they were compelled to come to the House in this way. He begged to second.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Leith Corporation Tramways Order Confirmation Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons."—(Mr. Kerr.)


said this petition raised a point which was quite new in respect to the Act, and of considerable importance. He would venture to submit four reasons against this Motion. First, the Motion was against the letter and spirit of the 1899 Act; secondly, it threatened public rights under the Act by elimination, an essential provision, by encouraging appeals; thirdly, it was wholly unnecessary as regarded Leith; and fourthly, it would impose on Parliament a burden which the Act of 1899 sought to remove, and it would lower the status of local inquiries if appeals were allowed as regarded locus standi. The question of general interest under this Bill was a national question. The Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act of 1899 was not a very ambitious Act, but it did impose on the Commissioners holding local inquiries the duty of determining a locus. The Act said that the Commissioners should hear and determine any question of locus standi, and in this case the question of the locus standi was heard at considerable length, and it was stated that all the formalities were not gone through, at all events, the Chairman expressed the opinion that he did not see the lessees had any locus standi because of the omnibuses. If the city of Edinburgh, the lessors, were satisfied their lessees should be satisfied also. It certainly seemed rather hard that because a decision was given in a way which did not commend itself to everybody that the Corporation of Leith should be put to the expense and Parliament to the trouble of having another inquiry here. The Petition on which this Amendment was based demanded an amendment of the Act of 1899, because if such a plea as was in contemplation under this Petition was successful it would set a precedent, and there would be any number of appeals. It was difficult enough now to get Members to attend these local inquiries owing to the procedure adopted, but it would be infinitely more difficult to get Members to attend them in the future if they knew that appeals would be allowed on such matters as locus standi. The object of the original Act was to promote efficiency and economy and to relieve Parliament of a burden. All those objects would be largely defeated if this Motion were to be adopted by the House. The local question, which had been resurrected from the local inquiry, had been very well described by the hon. Baronet opposite, and he need not deal with that. The Corporation of Edinburgh, from whom the company leased those tramways, were quite content, and if the company thought they had a grievance that was a matter entirely between them and their lessor, the corporation. What Leith complained of was that by a side issue this tramway company had tried to get rid of their obligation to run these omnibuses without attempting to come to a fair agreement with the corporation. The cost of meeting this Petition alone was considerable, but he thought it would be well spent if it hindered the creation of, in his opinion, an exceedingly vicious precedent.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)

felt that it would not be out of place if those who represented the Court of Referees interested in Scotch Bills said a word upon this question. He approached its consideration from a point of view entirely independent of any local circumstance. The principle of this Petition was to admit the principle of a rehearing before this House. The scheme of the Legislation Procedure Act of 1899 was in the first place to have a hearing in Scotland. But it was not the intention of the Act to be finally satisfied with that hearing. The hon. Gentleman had complained of the evil effect that would be produced from a double hearing, but, after all, if there was a double hearing it only put them in the position under which they were before the Act of 1899 was passed. The position taken up by hon. Members on the occasion of a Bill coming up on its merits was that, as a matter of right, a petitioner had the same right to be heard before a Joint Committee as he had to be heard before the House. The House did not take that view, but expressed the opinion that a case ought to be made on the merits before application to be heard in this House was granted. But it would be going a step beyond anything that had even been done if the House were to decide in a case, not where a man had been heard, and his Petition rejected, upon the merits but where the Petition had been set aside altogether and denied a locus, that he should be denied the opportunity of coming and asking this House for a locus. It was perfectly well known that the House of Commons did consider competition an adequate ground for giving a locus. They had cases before them continually, some where the competition was so small that the question was whether the competition was sufficient to give a petitioner a locus, and others in which people petitioned on the ground of competition, and the competition was so strong that their Petition was not contested. In all these cases they had to consider how serious the competition was, and if the competition was of a mere imaginary or trifling nature then the hearing was not granted. So far as he could judge from the facts brought before the House, there was a substantial case of competition, and one which would justify the petitioners in coming to this House for a locus. It would be a very unsatisfactory result if this Petition was rejected, as a feeling would get abroad that people did not get a fair hearing even before this tribunal. The House should be very careful that those who had rights which they could maintain against anything but an Act of Parliament, should be heard when anything took place which affected those rights. He thought the weight of probable advantage would be most distinctly in favour of allowing the petitioners an opportunity of being heard.

SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)

did not consider that the case was of such a character as to justify a rehearing. He thought the sense of the House would be to refuse a rehearing except in very exceptional cases. The question they had now to consider was whether this was an exceptional case. Was it so exceptional that they ought to interfere? The proposal was that when a tramway Bill was being authorised which everybody desired, the matter should be reheard simply because somebody wished to get rid of a contractual obligation to the Leith Corporation. The Leith Corporation itself did not want to get rid of this obligation. Because the locus standi had been adjudged against the tramways the House was being asked that every one of these concerns, for which he cared nothing, should be allowed a rehearing because somebody wanted to get rid of their obligation to run an omnibus service after having failed to get rid of that obligation with the persons with whom they were bound to run that service. He gave the Government every credit for having passed the Bill dealing with private Bill legislation in Scotland, and he hoped they would not allow the main object of that Bill to be frustrated by permitting a rehearing in a case of this kind.

MR. WORSLEY-TAYLOR (Lancashire, Blackpool)

thought there was a prima facie claim to a locus standi, though he did not suggest that the petitioners, if allowed to be heard, would persuade the Committee that their case was right. The 9th Section of the Scotch Act provided that a Motion might be made that a Bill might be referred to a Joint Committee which might determine any question of locus standi. If that Committee decided that they were entitled to locus, then they would be heard; but if they came to an opposite decision then the petitioners would not be heard. The hon. Member for Leith had put this matter upon the broad ground that there ought to be no appeals in cases of this kind, otherwise they would not be able to get Members to serve in Scotland.


explained that what he said was that it would aggravate the difficulty of getting Members to serve if their authority was diminished, because their authority under the Act of 1899 in regard to local inquiries enabled them to decide the point of locus standi.


said tint under Section 9 a Motion might be made to refer to a Joint Committee, who also were to decide questions of locus standi and he failed to see how that authority would be diminished. How could the authority of a Committee of this House be diminished by the fact that there was a right of appeal to a Committee of the other House? They did not find hon. Members objecting because their decisions upon various questions were subject to review in another place. He thought this was one of those cases which showed very strongly that the provision that there should only be a right of appeal by leave of the House was a very unfortunate one. For many years the House had relegated these questions of locus standi to the Court of Referees. Now the House was forced to discuss a question which in an ordinary Bill would be taken away and would be decided by the Court of Referees, which afforded every opportunity for the discussion of details and the studying of the maps which were so essential in matters of this kind, and with every possibility of dealing with them in a satisfactory way. Under the present procedure, they were obliged to decide this matter in the House without any of those facilities. It had been suggested that in this case there were no prima facie grounds of locus, but according to the practice of that Court he thought this was such a case as would give the petitioners a right to be heard. Briefly the circumstances were these: The petitioners were bound to run a certain omnibus service upon a definite route settled by Act of Parliament. So long as matters continued as at present they had no ground of complaint. But this Bill sought to introduce a new set of circumstances, and the question now arose whether they should or should not now be allowed to state their case. They contended that they were now running that service at a loss. One provision of this Bill was that the Corporation of Leith with the rates at their back might run omnibus services. That meant that the corporation might run, with the aid of the rates, another omnibus service in competition with these people, who were under a statutory obligation to continue to run a service upon which they were now losing money. Now if the corporation elected to run a service in competition it was perfectly clear that they were in a position to practically ruin them. Under this Bill the corporation might build new tramways, which he was told were to be run in competition with the new service- If that were so, then what would happen would be that the Corporation of Leith, with the rates at their back, might put down trams also in direct competition with them.


The hon. Member is quite misinformed upon that point.


said this Bill practically meant that the corporation could run any service they liked for the limitation in the Bill did not seem a very real one. They might run an electric service, and although that service might not run along the same streets as this omnibus service, it might still be a very effective form of competition, because it might be quicker though more circuitous, and, as they would have the rates at their back they might charge half the fares charged by the petitioners. He agreed that the petition was not altogether an artistic one, and did not state in terms the word "competition," but competition was at the root of this Petition, and was a necessary implication from its statements, and the result of his experience was that if this were a matter for decision by the Court of Referees he ventured to say that the application for locus ought to be granted. He hoped, therefore, that the Petitioners would be allowed to state their case again for a hearing.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

, said there was one thing which had been made quite clear by this Motion, and that was that the question raised by it was a much broader one than appeared on the face of it. When the Private Procedure Bill for Scotland was passed the main idea before the House was that only on very rare occasions would there-be an appeal to the House of Commons. There was no doubt that if they were to reconsider the decisions of the Commissioners in Scotland in the House of Commons with regard to locus standi the Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman dealing with this kind of legislation would no longer serve its purpose. They had a peculiar set of circumstances to consider in regard to this Bill. The Motion was moved by the hon. Member opposite, who was one of the principal parties concerned in this particular matter, and who was one of the principal shareholders in the tramways they were now considering. He doubted the wisdom of the hon. Member opposite, who was a member of the Court of Referees, coming before the House of Commons and stating what that Court would do under certain circumstances. He did not think that it was any part of the House of Commons to sit in judgment upon decisions which had been arrived at in Scotland. The House had not the maps before it, nor had hon. Members the advantage of hearing counsel on both sides, and that was the whole point. The Commissioners in Scotland had had the evidence before them and they had carefully weighed that evidence. They had carefully considered whether a case had been made out for a locus standi and they had come to the conclusion that a case had not been made out. It seemed to him that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, and unless some stronger reasons were given, he had no alternative but to support the action of the Commissioners upon this question. Edinburgh was not opposed to the Bill, and therefore they had to look at the merits of the measure itself and the precedent that would be set up if they took the course which had been suggested by the hon. Member opposite. There were many persons in Scotland who regretted that the Private Procedure Bill was passed, and once the House of Commons sanctioned an appeal on such a small matter as this they would have a large number of applications for a similar privilege, and the whole machinery of the Private Bill Procedure Act would be useless, for they would be discussing over again in the House the very questions which that Bill was passed to avoid. He did not think that a case had been made out for passing a vote of censure on the action of the Commissioners in Scotland in regard to this matter. The Act stated that the Commissioners could decide the question of locus standi. [An HON. MEMBER: Subject to rehearing.] But that provision was contained in another part of the Bill. It was very doubtful whether it was ever contemplated that there should be an appeal upon a question of locus standi. By passing this Bill they would be simply censuring their own representatives in Scotland, and the effect would be that they would not be able to get men to go to Edinburgh to give evidence and consider these questions, if their decisions were going to be reconsidered, and probably reversed, in the House of Commons. By such a course the Commissioners would lose their dignity, for they would be threatened all the time they were considering these cases with appeals from their decisions. He submitted that a case had not been made out for this Motion.


said that he was rather unwilling to take part in this debate, but in his position as the Minister responsible for these Orders he did not think it would be right if he did not tell the House how this matter struck him. He could not say that the case was an easy one to decide, and certainly he should not attempt to direct the House in the matter. He did not

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Denny, Colonel
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Brassey, Albert Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.
Anson, Sir William Reynell Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Dickson, Charles Scott
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Blundell, Colonel Henry Dalkeith, Earl of Hay, Hon. Claude George

wish to dogmatise in this matter, but, on the other hand, it would not be fair to all the parties concerned if he did not state his views. He did not think it was necessary for him to go into the history of this clause or to discuss how it came to be inserted in the Bill. The original Bill gave a right of appeal. The clause in the Act stated that— If before the expiration of seven days a Petition be presented it shall be lawful for any Member to give notice that he intends to move, and if such Motion is carried, then the question shall be referred to the Joint Committee to hear and determine any question of locus standi."

The House would see that there was an appeal provided for in certain cases, but the Act did not give an indication as to what those cases were. He thought the view of the House was that unless a clear case was made out—something equivalent to a perversion of justice—the House w s not anxious to rehear a case. He was bound to say that he thought the locus standi in this case was wrongly refused. In view of all the circumstances of the case, in his judgment the preferable course would be to give the party who had been refused a locus an opportunity of showing before a Joint Committee that it had been wrongly refused. If he had no locus, he would be turned out at once. If, on the other hand, he had a locus, it was obvious that he would have suffered an injustice if he had not had an opportunity of putting his case before the Commission. In his opinion, it was not a case for the Government to interfere, but as an individual he should support the rehearing of a case for locus standi.

Question put.

The House divided:—Aves, 103; Noes, 83. (Division List No. 155.)

Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.)
Henderson, Sir A.(Stafford,W.) Maxwell, W.J.H (Dumfriesshire Spear, John Ward
Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Middlemore, John Throgmorton Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk
Hope, J.F. (Sheffield, Brightside Milvain, Thomas Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)
Hope, John Deans (Fife, West) Morgan, David J. (Walthamstow Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.
Hunt, Rowland Mount, William Arthur Strovan, John
Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.) Murray, Rt Hn. A. Graham(Bute Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Myers, William Henry Thorburn, Sir Walter
Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop. Percy, Earl Tollemache, Henry James
King, Sir Henry Seymour Plummer, Walter R. Tuke, Sir John Batty
Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Valentia, Viscount
Lawson, JohnGrant (Yorks, N.R Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward Walrond, Rt. Hn. SirWilliam H
Lee, ArthurH. (Hants., Fareham Randles, John S. Warde, Colonel C. E.
Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S. Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine Webb, Colonel William George
Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Renwick, George Welby, Lt.-Col. A.C.E. (Taunton
Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield) Wilson-Todd, SirW.H. (Yorks.)
Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol,S) Russell, T. W.
Lowther, Rt Hn. JW (Cum. Penr. Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Loyd, Archie Kirkman Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland) Sir Lewis M'Iver and Mr. Worsley-Taylor.
Macdona, John Cumming Skewes-Cox, Thomas
M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Smith, HC. (North'mb.Tyneside
Asher, Alexander Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Partington, Oswald
Barlow, John Emmott Hammond, John Pirie, Duncan V.
Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire) Harmsworth, R. Leicester Power, Patrick Joseph
Bell, Richard Hayden, John Patrick Reddy, M.
Black, Alexander William Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Redmond, John E. (Waterford
Boland, John Horniman, Frederick John Reid, SirR. Threshie (Dumfries
Brown, George M.(Edinburgh) Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred. Rigg, Richard
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Jones, William (Carnarvonshire Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Burt, Thomas Joyce, Michael Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Caldwell, James Kilbride, Denis Seely, Maj. J.E.B. (Isle of Wight
Cameron, Robert Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal,W.) Sheehy, David
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Layland-Barratt, Francis Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Condon, Thomas Joseph Leamy, Edmund Slack, John Bamford
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark) Leese, Sir JosephF. (Accrington Spencer, Rt. Hn. C.R. (Northants
Cremer, William Randal Leigh, Sir Joseph Sullivan, Donal
Crombie, John William Leng, Sir John Tennant, Harold John
Cullinan, J. Lundon, W. Thomas, DavidAlfred (Merthyr)
Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Delany, William MacVeagh, Jeremiah Wason, JohnCathcart (Orkney)
Devlin, Charles Ramsay (Galway M'Crae, George Weir, James Galloway
Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.) M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Dobbie, Joseph Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen Wilson, Henry J. (York. W.R.)
Donelan, Captain A. Morley, Rt.Hon. John(Montrose Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Doogan, P. C. Murnaghan, George Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Edwards, Frank Murphy, John Woodhouse, SirJ.T. (Hudd'rsf'd
Eve, Harry Trelawney Nannetti, Joseph P. Young, Samuel
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Fenwick, Charles O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.) Mr. Munro Ferguson and Mr. Dalziel.
Gilhooly, James O'Malley, William
Goddard, Daniel Ford O'Shee, James John

Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Lords to communicate this Resolution, And desire their concurrence.