§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made and question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ *MAJOR RENTON (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
said that in rising to move that this Bill be read a second time upon that day three months he did not wish to address the House on the merits of the Bill as it affected the Humber. The whole question which he wished to present turned upon the way in which the Bill dealt with the River Trent. They had made every effort to meet j objections which were made to their proposals, but they had been met each time with a non possumus, and that was why they were compelled to oppose the Bill on this occasion. He occupied, probably, for the first and last time, the unique position of representing every solitary member of his constituency, no matter to what shade of politics he might happen to belong. This Bill, in his opinion, sought to introduce an exceedingly vicious system into our Private Bill legislation. He would not trouble the House with the various enactments concerning the Humber they had had in the last fifty years, but the House would remember that in 1905 a Bill was passed in which it was set out that within six months it was obligatory that a Committee of the Board of Trade should be appointed to inquire into the conservancy of the Humber. That Committee was appointed by Lord Salisbury, the then President of the Board of Trade, 606 and he would ask the House to remember that in his Minute appointing the Committee there was not one word about the River Trent, and it was owing to the fact that the River Trent was introduced into this Bill that their whole opposition was aroused. The Minute on which they based their opposition was dated the 9th of November, 1905, and it authorised an inf quiry as to the constitution of the Commissioners of the Humber and the powers and jurisdiction vested in them. It was alleged that the present Bill was founded on the Report of that Committee, but that was, he ventured to say, an utter fallacy, and something entirely fantastic, because the River Trent qua the River Trent was never mentioned before the Committee from the beginning to the end of the inquiry, and the Committee themselves in their report said that they had no power to recommend anything in regard to the River Trent. To say, therefore, that the Bill as regarded the Trent was founded on the Report of the Board of Trade Committee was to allege something which could not be substantiated by anything whatsoever. In the advertisement of the inquiry to be held by the Committee the Trent was never referred to and the matter never came to the cognisance of the Lindsey or Nottinghamshire County Councils at all, and they consequently never appeared before the Committee. It was true that the council of the town of Nottingham appeared before the Committee, but that had nothing to do with the case at all, because they only appeared in regard to certain ancient rights which they had had over the Humber dating back for many years. In some respects the Bill was founded on the Report of the Committee, because they recommended that a board should be appointed consisting of thirty-six members. The promoters of this Bill said now that the Board of Trade Committee having appointed those thirty-six members, if they added one to the board they would upset the whole arrangement made by the Committee. He would 607 point out that other tribunals more august than Committees of the Board of Trade were liable to have their decisions reversed, and that there was nothing in the number thirty-six which was so mystic or so cryptic that it could not be altered. Surely it was not beyond the wit of man to devise a board which should consist of a different number of men. The provisions of the Bill were entirely without precedent, and if it was passed the River Trent would be the only river in England which would have no representation on the Conservancy authority having control over it. Not a single representative from the districts through which the Trent passed was to be granted, and the county councils were not allowed to have any members on the board. There were two reasons why it was inopportune to include the Trent in the scope of this Bill. The Trent Navigation Committee obtained an Act last session, to enable them to make and improve the navigation. In the second place a Royal Commission was now sitting to inquire into canals and waterways. That Commission would no doubt have some very important recommendations to make concerning the River Trent, which was a very important river. The Trent was the third largest watershed in the United Kingdom; yet under this Bill no power was given to make necessary works. But it was said that there were occasional wrecks in the Trent, which made navigation dangerous; but those who stated that failed to produce any proof of such wrecks before the House of Lords Committee. There might be wrecks, but all he could say was that if there were, those who navigated that river year by year and month by month had no cognisance of them. The promoters of the Bill tried to prove there were many wrecks on the Trent. One of their witnesses was forced to admit that he had not been on that river for forty years. Then it was also alleged that there were no lights on the Trent, but in regard to that Hull Trinity House had had powers for many years to light the Trent if necessary, and the mere fact that they had not carried out this work proved conclusively that lights were not necessary on the Trent. Those whose business took them up and down that river said 608 that lights were not necessary, and that if the Trent were lighted it would only tend to confuse them. He thought it would be a great mistake to hand over the Trent to this foreign body. To start with, Hull was situated a very long way away from Gainsborough. Gainsborough was one of the principal towns on the Trent. It was a day's journey from Gainsborough to Hull, and he did not think that Hull would study the interests of the Trent or Gainsborough in any degree. It would not be to their interest that the Trent should become a great trading highway, and he would ask the House to remember that there were great possibilities for the Trent in the future. Those living in the district would not object, but would welcome a board being formed to undertake the management of the river, but such a Conservancy Board ought to manage the whole river, and any body which had the control of the river ought to have its offices on the banks of the river itself and not miles away in a town which it was a day's journey to reach. The competition between the Humber and the Trent was very real indeed and would be much more acute in the future. He did not think it would be either fair or just to hand over the river to the proposed board. He thought he had shown that it was not in the interests of the Trent itself that it should be handed over to the Humber Conservancy, and he had shown on the other hand that it was entirely unnecessary. If the Hull people were to have jurisdiction right up to Gainsborough, why should they not have jurisdiction up to Nottingham? Why stop at Gainsborough? The Trent was navigable up to Nottingham, and surely in the name of common sense they should take the whole and not a part, so that in the future there should be no divided jurisdiction in regard to this important river. If it was necessary to take the river over, he submitted it was necessary that the riparian county councils interested should each have a member on the proposed body. The recent Commission on the Thames Conservancy reported that every county council through whose district the Thames passed had a representative on the Conservancy Board. Then why should the Trent be put into the unique position of being the, only river in England which had no 609 representative of its own on the body having jurisdiction over the river? All they asked for was that the Trent should be treated in the same way as the Thames and other rivers of the country. There was a special reason why some representative of the county council should be behind the scenes and see what was going on. The land through which this river ran was below the river level, and if there was a flood by any chance coming clown the river which, owing to dredging operations having taken place, burst the banks, it would have a most disastrous effect on the low-lying country around and a most injurious effect on the rateable value of property. The primary function of the Trent was to drain the land through which it passed, and it would be most dangerous to hand over the river to a body far away without any representative upon it of those most concerned in its efficient government. He had put the facts as briefly as he could before the House. He could only say in conclusion that those who lived in the districts of Gainsborough and Nottingham viewed this matter very seriously indeed, and he hoped the House would hesitate and ponder carefully before it handed over to a foreign body the control of this river.
§ MR. NEWNES, (Nottinghamshire, Bassetlaw)
in seconding the Amendment, supported his hon. friend in the line he had taken. The hon. Member for Gainsborough represented a Lincolnshire division and he represented a Nottingham division, and the interests of the county councils of the two counties were exactly the same. They desired to work in this matter on similar lines. They had no desire to interfere in the coordination of the authorities on the River Humber, or with the management of their affairs. But they desired to interfere in the matter because a clause in the Bill now before the House gave to the Humber Board control over the Trent. The hon. Member for Gainsborough had dealt with the history of the matter, and therefore there was no need for him to deal with it. As the House was aware. this Bill was brought forward on the question of the co-ordination of the different authorities on 610 the Humber. The Report of the Committee recommended the formation of a board, with thirty-six-representatives of different towns and dock companies and other interests on the Humber, who were to have representation in proportion to their interests. Although twenty-five miles of the Trent had been handed over to the control of this body no representation had been given to the county councils on either side of that river. It was said that the county councils, and the Nottinghamshire County Council for whom he spoke more particularly, should have appeared before the Commission when they were taking evidence on the question. They did not do so because they were not aware at the time that there was any intention or desire to include the River Trent under this new authority, the Humber Conservancy Board. Had they been aware of it they would have taken proper steps to appear before the Commission. They did not know the Trent would be included until the Bill was published, and then they took the necessary steps to oppose the Bill at every stage, and they had passed resolutions at their own meetings in the country against the Bill, on the ground that it did not give representation to them. It was quite true that the Corporation of Nottingham appeared before the Commission, but as his hon. friend had said, they appeared because they had certain existing rights. They did not know at the time they gave their evidence that there was any intention whatever to include the Trent and bring it under the control of this body, and they did not give evidence before the Commission on that point. They desired to be associated with the Nottinghamshire County Council in this matter and were prepared to regard whatever representation was given to Nottinghamshire as representing themselves as well. The question of the Trent never properly came before the Commission. It was mentioned only incidentally. The River Trent was not a small tributary of the Humber. It was, on the contrary, a large and important river and one of the chief waterways from the Midlands to the eastern counties. A Royal Commission was now sitting to inquire into the whole question of waterways, and it was felt that no proper 611 scheme for the regulation of the water-ways could be made in which the River Trent would not occupy a great position. It would be a very dangerous thing to hand over twenty-five miles of this river nearest the mouth to another body. It could not be said that the interests of the Humber and the Trent were identical, or that a board which was formed for controlling the Humber would necessarily be a board which should control the Trent. Since the matter had been before Parliament he had taken the opportunity of speaking to people living on the banks of the Trent—manufacturers and others—upon the matter, and their interest in it was very great. It was felt that the interests of the Trent were being handed over to a board whose interests were practically in another river. It was also felt that on that board a large representation was given to the railway companies, whose interests would not be the same as those of the Trent. Many of the railway companies of the district were to have not only direct representation but also representation in connection with their interests in dock and other companies, and the whole body was looked upon in Nottingham as a railway board. The people engaged in trade on the Trent-had used that river as a means of transporting their goods to and from their warehouses and factories, and if anything were done in the way of neglecting the Trent and preventing its being useful for navigation it was felt that that would be done to throw the trade more and more into the hands of the railway companies. They only asked that the riparian county councils should be represented on the board—not that they should be in a majority, but that they should, at all events, have a right to speak in the interests of the people living in their districts. It was said, he believed, by their opponents that that could not be done, because the Conservancy Board of thirty-six members had been so formed that all the different interests on the Humber were properly represented, there being not one with a preponderating influence, and that if representation were given to those for whom he spoke the balance of power would be altered. If the interests of these different bodies on the Humber were so conflicting that the 612 slightest alteration would upset the working of the board, he was afraid that the prospects of its successful working were not very rosy. But they hardly thought that such could be the case, and they really felt that representation ought to be given to counties like Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, having regard to the large number of interests they had in the river. The promoters had so far not been able to meet them in the matter, and that was why they were taking the course they were now adopting. He, therefore, had great pleasure in seconding the rejection of this Bill.
To leave out the word 'now' and at the-end of the Question to add the words, 'this day three months.' "—(Major Renton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word' now' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)
said that from the observations which had been made it was obvious that the questions raised were more-questions for consideration in a Committee room upstairs than for discussion on the Second Reading. One question was whether a little more or a little less representation ought to be given to the interests which the hon. Members represented. He thought that the House was entitled to hear a little more on that question than had been vouchsafed by the opponents of the Bill. They had talked of the River Trent, which they had likened to the Thames, as though it was a river of vast and potential character with large steamers going to and from Hon. Members had come before the House asking, if he might venture to say so, to be put on an equality with representatives of the Humber, though they were people who for the last thirty years had decidedly neglected their duty. They had twenty-five miles of the Trent, and in 1885 he found that a Report was made by Captain Jarrard to Sir Hickman Bacon on the very question of the twenty-five miles of the Humber with which they were now dealing. The twenty-five miles in question was not the upper part of the Humber but the lower part of the Trent from the 613 Trent Falls to Gainsborough Bridge. In the Report made in 1885, the following statement occurred. Captain Jarrard said first of all that he had paid the greatest attention to the River Trent, and that at low water ships drawing. 2 feet 6 inches of water went ashore. There was their River Thames! Two feet inches of water was enough to accommodate the riparian constituencies which these hon. Members represented. Captain Jarrard, writing from Gainsborough in 1885, in the month of June, spoke of the flagrant neglect which permitted a railway bridge to cross the river at a most obviously obstructive place, and he said—Viewing the river in its present most unsatisfactory state, the necessity for placing it under proper control, and of providing for its conservancy is at once apparent, and cannot be too strongly urged as a matter of vital importance to all owners of land bordering on the Trent as well ns those interested in the river traffic.By the way, in regard to the land, he noticed it was stated that the land was lower than the river itself, which would be a curious circumstance if it were correct, but as a matter of fact the land was two feet above the river. For two and twenty years this twenty-five miles of liver had been derelict. It had been under the Trinity House jurisdiction only so far as pilotage was concerned; but as regarded the moving of wrecks, of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gainsborough had spoken specially, the Board of Trade, who he thought knew as much as the hon. Member for Gainsborough, said in a Report, dated 1895—On this portion of the river Trent—over twenty miles in length—lying between the jurisdiction of the Trent Navigation Company and the Humber Conservancy Commissioners, there is at present no body entrusted with the conservancy of the navigation. The need for such an authority which would have power to deal with sunken wrecks and other obstructions to navigation, has been experienced on several occasions, and the Board of Trade consider that the establishment of a navigation authority for this portion of the tidal river would be for the public benefit.Repeated representations had been made to the Humber Conservancy and to the Hull Trinity House to remove the wrecks, but on each of these occasions they had had to say that they would be delighted to remove the wrecks if they had any jurisdiction whatever. They 614 had no jurisdiction. Twenty-two years had passed; these gentlemen had a depth of 2 feet 6 inches at low water, and they had left the river alone. Nearly all the traffic originated in the lower river Humber and went up the Trent. It originated at Goole, Grimsby and Hull, and nearly the whole of that traffic went up the river as far as Nottingham; and it was because the Humber Conservancy had no statutory powers or orders imposed upon them by Parliament that they now came to the House to ask to be enabled to carry out the findings of the Commission of the Board of Trade. Because they did this, suddenly the Lindsey Division of Nottinghamshire and the County Council sprang up with delight and said: "Oh, there is something worth having; let us have a finger in the pie." What were they contributing to the great cost incurred by the Conservancy? It was calculated that if the Conservancy buoyed and lighted the river up to Gainsborough Bridge, and the sea-going vessels went up there, they might impose 3d. per ton on those sea going-vessels, of which led. per ton would be for the Trent navigation. The total of the traffic on the Trent would mean about £150 a year. It was ludicrous to come down to the House and suggest that they should block a Bill of this importance on the Second Reading without giving it the chance of being sent upstairs to be heard by a Committee before whom they could obtain a locus standi. The town of Hull, which he represented, had a serious grievance against the Bill of the Humber Conservancy; they did not consider that they had sufficient representation, and there were many reasons on which they were opposing this Bill; but they had written to him to say that though there were these many serious questions at issue, they desired that the Bill should go before a Committee. He thought it only right to say to the House that, after all, the town of Hull had the most substantial interests affected by this Bill, and their grievance was not merely with regard to representation; they had also a very large income which they derived by Royal Charter, and which they had had for six or seven hundred years. That was to be taken away from them; but though they had these 615 serious questions at issue, yet the people of Hull were anxious that the Bill should be read a second time, and that it should go to a Committee upstairs. Let them look for a moment at the position in which they found themselves. The Humber Conservancy in 1905 came to the House and asked for certain facilities and certain rights. They were granted, on certain specific statutory conditions. They were told: "Very well, you shall have what you ask, but only on condition that the Board of Trade shall inquire into the various needs of the Humber and its immediate tributaries, and that you shall within six months of the findings of the Committee bring a Bill into the House of Commons to carry out the findings." The Humber Conservancy were now before the House in obedience to the will of the House, to carry out the statutory obligations laid upon them. It had been said that there was nothing in the Report of that Commission referring to the River Trent. They had only to look and see. They said that it was quite true that in their reference the River Trent was not expressly mentioned, but they added—We probably have no jurisdiction to recommend (in the sense that the Humber Conservancy Commissioners are bound to curry out such a recommendation) any transfer of the pilotage authority of the Hull Trinity House except so far as that is exercised in the Humber properly so called. But we see no reason why we should not point out that if the pilotage authority on the river Humber is to be vested in the Conservancy, it will be desirable to transfer to the same authority the whole of the pilotage jurisdiction now exercised by the Hull Trinity House in the Trent.At this very moment the Hull Trinity House exercised pilotage authority on the Trent. Then as to the buoying and lighting of the Trent, the Commission said—We are of opinion that the powers of the Hull Trinity House ns the authority for buoying, beaconing and lighting the river Humber should be transferred to the new conservancy authority. We think that it is expedient that any power and authority which the Trinity House may possess of a similar kind in respect of the Trent should also be transferred to the new conservancy authority.
§ MR. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
Will the hon. Gentleman kindly refer to the page from which he is quoting?
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING
It is p. 89;. and again at p. 202—We have also suggested certain extensions of powers as regards jurisdiction outside the Humber, especially over the Trent, which we consider will have to be transferred to the Commissioners as the logical consequences of the change we propose.That was their recommendation, and the Bill itself had received the strong endorsement of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade Report, of which he had already read a portion, said that the wrecks question, which the hon. Member had minimised so much, possibly because he had never been inconvenienced by them, ought to be entrusted to this one authority. It was absurd to think of cutting up authorities. The Hull Trinity House at this moment was the pilotage authority from the Trent Falls to Gainsborough Bridge. If they prevented this arrangement, the Hull trinity House would still remain the pilotage authority for that district, without a separate Act of Parliament being brought in. Then they would have the extraordinary thing of charging every quay up the. Humber 5s. per annum as a licence to trade in the upper reaches of the Humber. and as soon as they got up to the River Trent there would be no one to look after their interests to buoy, beacon; and light the river. Of all the grotesque suggestions they had ever heard that was the worst. Anyone who had anything to do with the navigating of rivers and the management of ships, regarded it as the most extraordinary proposition ever heard—that there should be no lighting or buoying of this portion of the Trent.
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING
said that, they all knew what class of evidence was brought forward on the part of one side or the other. It was expert evidence which was always drawn to the direction of the side which had called it. He was speaking as a man of considerable knowledge of rivers, estuaries, and seas. and he would not suggest for one moment that, a river was better without being buoyed, beaconed, and lighted, for to 617 say such a thing was to say what any capable navigator knew not to be correct. The fact was that the Trent was not the only river which joined it, because the Ouse came in, and there were many much more important places concerned than Nottingham and Gainsborough, such as York, Leeds, Bradford, and other places, all of which claimed representation. The East and West Riding both claimed representation, as well as the Coalowners' Association. If they once opened the sluice gates of representation there was no limit which they could fix, and he could not imagine where it would stop. The Commission worked out most carefully a representation, and for anybody to say that it was only a representation of railroads could only be the result of not having carefully studied the representation as it would exist under the new board. Under the old board he agreed that the railway companies and the dock companies had too much representation. Under the old board the municipalities of Hull and Grimsby had five representatives, Hull four and Grimby one. The railway companies and navigation authority had twelve representatives; Trinity House, Hull, four; the shipowners, seven; and the Board of Trade could nominate four. Under the new Board, the municipalities of Hull, Grimsby, and Goole would each have one representative; the railway companies would get five; Trinity House, six; the shipowners, who were mostly interested, thirteen; the traders appointed by the Chambers of Commerce representing Hull, Grimsby, and Goole six; and the Board of Trade three. It would be seen that this was an attempt to accomplish the delicate task of balancing the representaion between the Upper and the Lower Humber, and if they gave any advantage to either one or the other by interfering with a scheme of representation which was the result of delicate negotiations and careful inquiry by impartial authorities appointed by the Board of Trade, during which the whole matter had been fought out between the various conflicting interests, they would at once set chaos loose, and this Bill, which was of the utmost consequence to the Humber, and to all who used the Humber, must go to the wall. 618 It was impossible for the Humber Conservancy Board to assent to the propositions put forward to add this or that. If they allowed one in from Lindsey, or one from Gainsborough, they would have all the other small towns claiming that they had as much interest in the matter as Gainsborough. As for Lindsey, that place never took any interest in the matter until it was stirred up to do so. The truth was that the opposition all came from Nottingham. It was quite a peaceable, harmonious entertainment until the Nottingham lambs had come in to break up the harmony. There was not the slightest desire to do anything but good to the Trent, and they were not placing any further tax upon the traffic using the Trent They wanted to rescue this derelict and make it useful. The only way of reaching Gainsborough was by a railway, and it was almost pitiful to read the account, of the River Trent traffic in 1865, and it had not improved since. It spoke of drunken pilots upon excursion boats with hundreds of passengers running ashore and apparently enjoying it because they were too drunk to appreciate the danger. The same account spoke of passenger steamers just missing by an inch the railway bridge which, had it been struck, would have turned over at once That was the state in which those places on both sides of the river allowed this precious river, equal to the Thames and quite as important to the districts it flowed through, to remain in until Hull, Grimsby, and Goole took the matter in hand and tried to do a little good for them. He hoped the House would give a Second Reading to the Bill, and whatever objections hon. Members might have to its details could be dealt with upstairs. If their claims were not then satisfied they could renew the discussion on the next stage, and by that time the House would be more fully informed as to the reasons why the Bill was recommended to the House.
§ *MR. COMPTON RICKETT (Yorkshire, W.R., Osgoldcross)
said that unfortunately the Trent brought down a great deal more than the limited traffic that trickled down its course to the Humber. There was a very large amount of mud 619 deposited where the Ouse and the Trent joined, and there was a most serious obstruction to traffic, caused largely by the accumulation of the mud brought down by the river Trent. All that the Conservancy Board proposed to do was to extend their authority for twenty-five miles upon a section of the Trent, not so much for the sake of controlling the Trent as to be masters of the navigation on the Ouse. Perhaps the House was not aware that there was an increasing traffic on the Ouse, and consequently traffic on the Upper Humber concentrated itself at Goole where the canal and the river Don united with the Ouse itself, and where the docks were being enlarged and railway accommodation was developing. At this point the coal traffic alone had gone up by leaps and bounds, and at the present moment it was about 2,000,000 tons a year. Consequently the interests of Goole were threatened through the blocking of the Humber at the entrance where the Trent and the Ouse united. Very frequently, on account of the accumulation of mud there, the steamers coming down from Goole lost the tide. The tendency at the present time was to increase the size of steamers for economy of working, and consequently the draught of these larger vessels demanded a clearer channel. As regarded the question of representation, surely the town of York had a great deal more interest in the matter than Nottingham or Gainsborough, and although York had applied for representation, that claim had been dropped. Leeds and Bradford were also interested in the waterways that lead down into Goole, and if representation was extended to the places along the feeders of the Trent they might also take in a great part of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire as well as Nottinghamshire. In fact it would in this way reduce the representation on the Conservancy to a farce. If there was any ease to be made out for the claims which had been put forward in this debate, they might safely be left for argument upstairs. He hoped the difficulties which at present were experienced and which were affecting the trade of Yorkshire would not be suffered to continue for another year, as would be the case if this Bill was 620 lost. Therefore, he trusted the House would pass the Second Reading.
§ *MR. ADKINS (Lancashire, Middleton)
said he wished to address the House from a slightly different point of view. He had been asked by the County Councils Association to represent their view on j the question. It was not necessary I for him, from the point of view taken by the body representing the county councils of England, to break any lance with the hon. Member opposite, who imported so much vivacity into his speech, nor was it necessary for him to say anything in depreciation of the traffic on the Ouse, nor in regard to the desire of the most important in-interests on the Humber to have adequate representation. There were, however, in this Bill two or three matters which very much impressed the County Councils Association. There was to be brought within the scope of the Bill twenty-five miles of the river Trent, and there was not in the Bill as it stood any representation whatever in respect of that waterway or of the local authorities on its borders or of the neighbouring country. Whilst the remainder of the waterway within the scope of the Bill had its representatives on the board, consisting not only of the traders and other important interests but also of local authorities, it appeared to him that it would not be at all unreasonable that there should be some representation of some of the local authorities in connection with this twenty-five miles of the Trent. The County Councils Association were exceedingly anxious that where a river either passed through the area of a county, or intersected the areas of two counties, the governing body of those counties should be represented on the board which had control over the waterway. One might imagine from some of the remarks made in the debate that the county councils of Lindsey and Nottingham were seeking to dominate the Humber Conservancy Board, but nothing could be more inaccurate or misleading. They only asked for representation. They were not there to explain or apologise for or even to minimise the sins and-defects of those who had gone before them. It might be quite true that this important waterway 621 had been derelict, but it flowed between two large areas, and surely it was important in the interests or those areas that they should have some representative on the governing body. That would facilitate and make more harmonious the action of the Conservancy Board, instead of being a hindrance to it. He would give the House just one illustration. Most properly, one of the powers given to the Conservancy Board was that of dredging, and it was provided that that power was not to be exercised to the full without a Board of Trade inquiry. He would ask hon. Members who were familiar with the details of local government whether the carrying out of such work as dredging would not be made easier if there were representatives of the local authorities from the districts through which the river flowed, sitting on the Conservancy Board to discuss the best method of carrying out such dredging at the earliest stage. Would it not be bettor that they should have a direct voice in this way from the begining, instead of having to appeal before a public inquiry in an attitude; of apparent hostility? Therefore, on behalf of the County Councils Association, he asked the House to consider with, favour and sympathy the position of those gentlemen Who, in local government, formed the body to which Parliament, had given general administrative powers over counties, the body which was representative in character, and which was best fitted to voice the needs and requirements of the people who lived along be banks of the river and who might be affected by the work of the board. That authority should have some representation on the board. He asked the House in the next place to say, if that general principle was sound, that this Bill should provide for that representation. The Bill dealt with a long stretch of waterway between the two counties—a stretch of waterway now brought into the scope of this conservancy for the first time, which alone had no representation, and which ought to have some representation. When the hon. Baronet opposite said that this was a matter solely for the Committee upstairs, he answered himself by the skilful and careful phrases in which he described the evidence which was given 622 upstairs—evidence which seemed to the hon. Baronet to be affected, he would not say tainted, by the point of view of the eminent men who gave it. If that was so, it was surely desirable that there should be a preliminary discussion in that House, and a statement of the view a of those who might not be eminent, but who were not under the influence and the bias to which the hon. Baronet pointedly alluded. He hoped it would not be said that he and his friends were wasting the time of Parliament when they took this opportunity of making a firm and respectful protest in favour of some voice being given to a representative authority which could have no interest except the welfare of that district of the country which was committed to its charge by Parliament.
§ *THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. KEARLEY, Devonport)
said it was unnecessary for him to go into the history of this Bill in any great detail, but he was bound to point out to the House that it originated through the intervention of the Board of Trade in 1905, when the Humber Conservancy Board, as it then was, came to the House for certain powers. The Board of Trade was well aware for many years that there were numerous bodies exercising jurisdiction over the Humber, and that their jurisdiction or responsibility overlapped in many particulars. They were also aware that tin particular piece of river which had given rise to the debate that night was under no conservancy at all; that it was, as the hon. Member for Hull had explained, derelict; and that it was in a, very dangerous—he might even use a stronger word, and say, disgraceful—condition. What was the obligation which the Board of Trade imposed on the Humber Conservancy when they came to Parliament in 1905? It imposed on them the obligation to have an inquiry, and the Board of Trade undertook to appoint a Commission. The Board of Trade did appoint a Commission, the head of which was Sir Kenelm Digby, who was formerly Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, and it included an engineer of great distinction, Sir Colin Scott Moncrieff, and a member of 623 the Bar, Mr. Sheldon, who was selected because he had considerable experience in questions of this description. The second obligation imposed on the Humber Commissioners was that, whatever the recommendations of the Commission should be, they were to be embodied in a Bill to be presented to Parliament, and that was where they stood that night in regard to the Bill. He repeated once more that the Board of Trade brought about this situation, and it was not fair to suggest that the Humber Conservancy had tried to take an advantage over anybody else. They had undertaken an obligation to do what was proposed by the Bill under discussion that night. He had hoped that none of his hon. friends would raise the question whether the Trent should be included or not, there being such an overwhelming case for inclusion. He did not think that they strengthened their case for representation, or that their case would have been weakened in any way, if they had left out altogether the question whether the Trent should be included. Nobody could deny that the Trent could not continue to be derelict. That was not open to argument at all. There were twenty-five miles of most important waterway between the Humber and the upper reaches of the Trent with no conservancy authority at all. It was twenty-two years since a Board of Trade inspector reported that this particular part of the Trent had gone from bad to worse. That was the condition of affairs in 1886. It was clear that the Board of Trade was well advised in taking steps to have this state of matters inquired into. Now he came to what was the real matter before the House. It was purely a question of representation. He was perfectly certain that the hon. Member for Gainsborough had really no interest that this part of the river should not be taken over. He wanted representation for the county council of Lindsey, and other hon. Members wanted representation for the county of Nottingham and the borough of Nottingham. His hon. friend the Member for Hull wanted increased representation for Hull, although he was glad to say the hon. Member had put his case in a very moderate way. He thought the im- 624 portance of the other interests so great that he preferred to leave the question of representation over until the Bill went upstairs before a Committee. He would content himself with dealing purely with the question of representation. To take the county council claim: they said that the reference did not cover the Trent, but when the inquiry was held it was after it had been extensively advertised in the Nottingham, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire papers. He denied altogether that this part of the Trent was outside the reference. The Commission was empowered to inquire as to what modification or extension, if any, of the jurisdiction exercised by the Humber Commissioners should be given. It was an extension of the jurisdiction that was proposed in the Bill. The jurisdiction was extended to Gainsborough Bridge. The county council said they had no idea that the Trent was in contemplation of being inquired into. They did not attend the inquiry and they said that no Trent interest was represented at the inquiry. It was quite true they were net represented. That was a dereliction of duty on their part for which the Commission was not responsible, because the advertisements went sufficiently far and wide to give them every opportunity of attending. But certain Trent interests did attend the inquiry. For example Nottingham, who had nothing but Trent interests, attended the inquiry and were represented by counsel and claimed direct representation on the body. The Amalgamated Guild of Rivermen, representing tugsmen, lightermen, and watermen of the Trent, attended the inquiry and were strong supporters of having this part of the liver included in the jurisdiction of the Humber Conservancy. Mr. Rayner, the engineer to the Trent Navigation from Gainsborough Bridge to Nottingham, attended and gave evidence, and he raised no objection to the inclusion of this particular piece of waterway. So that it could not be successfully contended by the county councils that Trent interests were not represented on the inquiry. The next point was this: that if dredging took place in the Trent it would result in damage to the banks. His reply was this. In the first place 625 the Trent was sufficiently wide to enable dredging to be carried out in a deep-water channel at a sufficient distance from the banks to occasion no damage. But what was far more important was that no dredging could take place in the Trent without the assent of the Board of Trade, who were the owners of the soil of the bed of the river, and consequently no body, even though it had jurisdiction over the waterway, was entitled to touch the bed of the soil without the consent of the Board of Trade. It was most important that no dredging of the Trent could take place without the assent of the Board of Trade. Supposing extensive draining were required to be carried out, and local landowners considered it might be dangerous to their land, they would make representations to the Board of Trade, who would not give consent until a public inquiry had been held. Therefore, in that particular connection, the county councils had nothing to fear. The next point that had been made was that all Conservancy Hoards had county-council representatives. Well, he was surprised to hear that. Those who supported that argument had drawn an analogy between their own case and that of the River Thames; but as a matter of fact there was no real analogy between the two cases at all. The Humber Conservancy was solely concerned with navigation, whereas the Thames Conservancy was concerned not only with navigation but with sanitation. The watershed of the Thames extended over four thousand miles, and from it 65 to 70 per cent. of the water-supply of London was drawn. There was nothing like this in the case of the Trent, which was a tidal river pure and simple. With regard to the representation of Nottingham they stated their case and it was negatived. It was not the only borough council represented at the inquiry. There were the borough councils of York. Bradford, and Leeds. Their cases were heard, but a decision was come to against them. In face of this they had retired from the contest, and did not come again time after time, like Nottingham. If the door were once opened to Nottingham all these other towns would have a distinct grievance. It was per- 626 fectly impossible to reopen the case as regarded Nottingham. The county councils must see that it would be impossible for him to attempt to recast this Commission on the floor of the House of Commons. It was appointed by the Board of Trade, and that gave him no option but to support the findings of the Commission. When the question went upstairs there would be full licence for the Committee there to do what it chose, and the Board of Trade would use no influence in any way to prejudge the matter. The county councils would go there, and if they convinced the Committee so much the better for those councils. As far as the Board of Trade was concerned that Department would remain perfectly neutral and allow the county councils to do the best they could for themselves. The Board of Trade would have three nominations to dispose of, but it would endeavour not to give them on the side of the big battalions. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed further; every opportunity would be given upstairs to consider all complaints, but for himself it was impossible to take any other course than hat which he had laid before them that evening.
§ *MR. ELLIS
said the Secretary to the Board of Trade when he sat down was. if he might say so, better than when he began. He finished by saving that the Board of Trade on this vital question of representation were perfectly neutral. That was a very proper attitude for a Government Department to take, but he listened with some regret to certain observations in which the case seemed almost to be prejudged. The Secretary to the Board of Trade had used arguments which if put before the Committee might have very serious results. The question, although in one sense a local one, was a very important and vital question of principle. As one of the members for Nottinghamshire which was so much concerned in the matter, he contended that it was unprecedented to give to a body like the Humber Conservancy large powers over a district, without giving the inhabitants of that district any representation whatever on the Board. That was the point at issue. Much had been said of the Board of Trade Commission, and of the 627 obligation on the Conservancy to bring forward this Bill. He agreed that it was essential that something should be done, and he was entirely in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill, but he was justified in making the protest he had done, and he hoped it would reach the Committee. They, however, reserved their rights on the Third Reading. They were simply making a protest in favour of some representation for the districts they represented. The clause in the Bill went even beyond this suggestion, not recommendation, of the Commission referred to. When he looked at the report of the Commission, he was bound to say it had acted in a somewhat peculiar manner. It made no recommendations on the navigation of the Trent, but only certain suggestions, and said—We consider it doubtful whether we have in strictness any power formally to recommend the adoption of these suggestions.They knew they were on uncertain ground and for two reasons. In the first place the Trent was not within the terms of reference, and secondly, the evidence as to that river was not fully gone into. The Borough of Nottingham was certainly represented there, but only because they had certain old rights. They did not put forward their whole case, but left it entirely in the hands of the really before the Commission, no evidence was given, and the suggestions made were in the nature of obiter dicta and ultra vires. However, the clauses in the Bill went even further than the suggestions of the Commission. He did not oppose the Bill, but he asked most distinctly and most strongly that there should be a full inquiry before the Committee, and that if the Committee passed the Bill, including the Trent, they should give full representation on the Humber Conservancy Board to the County Councils of Nottingham and Lindsey.
§ MR. CHARLES WILSON (Hull, W.)
said he wished to associate himself with the statement that the Humber Conservancy only brought forward this Bill for the benefit of the river as a whole, and not for the benefit of any particular section of the river. It had been stated that the case for Nottingham had not been properly heard by the 628 Commission; but the Trent Navigation Company, and many other companies in his own town who had the voting power, acknowledged that it would be in their own interest, as well as in that of the city of Nottingham that justice should be done to the Trent river. He was as much interested in the Trent as any hon. Gentleman who had spoken, and he only wished to do the best he could for the Trent. As a member of the Humber Conservancy Commissioners, he was one of a special committee that had to do with the raising of wrecks in the Humber, and they had a number of appeals asking them to remove wrecks in the Humber and Trent, and if they had had power to do so in the Trent they would have been only too glad to have done it. They proposed to put no expense upon Nottingham or Gainsborough in doing that. The cost would be raised by dues.
§ MAJOR RENTON
said that after the explanation given by the hon. Member and the statement on behalf of the Board of Trade he asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR GEORGE DOUGHTY (Great Grimsby).
as the Parliamentary representative for many years on the Humber Conservancy, supported what the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Trade had said, and thanked Major Renton for withdrawing his Amendment. The Conservancy had no interests but the public interests, and he was perfectly certain that the findings of the Commissioners, embodied in this Act of Parliament, would be not only in the interests of the locality, but of the public generally. He hoped the matter would be dealt with by the Parliamentary Committee upstairs. He was in favour of representation of local interests, but he was bound to say that at present those who represented the Trent in the lower reaches had done nothing to improve the navigation, and had often placed them in a very difficult position, because wrecks in the Trent had been most dangerous to the Humber. They wanted some jurisdiction in the lower reaches of the Trent, so that that 629 river might be made useful and effective in the public interest generally.