§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. EMMOTT (Oldham) in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ * MR. BONAR LAW (Camberwell, Dulwich)
In the absence of my hon. friend the Member for the Holborn division, I desire to move the Amendment that stands in his name. I think this Amendment is one of the most important that could be put down for discussion at this stage of the Bill. The Amendment alters the conditions under which the new Port of London authority is to be elected. The Government themselves, in adopting the proposal contained in the Bill, have avowed that the principle which should animate them in the creation of this new body is to have every industry connected with the port represented in the most favourable manner possible. I know that on a question of this, kind in regard to practical proposals which have been put forward by the Board of Trade, with all the means of knowledge at their disposal, and which had been accepted by a Committee specially appointed to consider the subject, the House is almost bound, or at all events, is very apt to come to the conclusion that that is a subject with respect to which they ought 322 to take the conclusion arrived at by the Board of Trade without further discussion. I think as a rule that is a good principle, but I am bound to say that so far as the constitution of this new authority is concerned this rule ought not to apply. Five years ago when a similar Bill was introduced by the late Government the Board of Trade took the view represented in the Amendment before the Committee. At that time also the Committee appointed to consider the question agreed with the proposal of the Board of Trade. They took the view that some kind of sectional representation was necessary for the separate industries so to be represented. Thus we have the Board of Trade and a strong Committee taking one view, and the late Committee taking another view. I think we may take it that this is not a subject to be settled by authority, but that it is something which the House ought to decide on its own merits. I venture to say that the arguments used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Second Reading of the Bill took place, when the same objection was raised which I am raising now, were arguments which, though they then convinced the House largely, were not really sound or quite applicable to the situation. His two arguments—I am speaking from memory—were these: He said it is a far simpler thing to have one register, and that it would make the Bill far simpler. The right hon. Gentleman said also that the principle of one register has been working successfully in Liverpool and Glasgow, and has had good results, and that we could not but anticipate the same results connected with the Port of London. I am sure that no one who is acquainted with the Mersey or the Clyde would say that I the conditions in these ports are in the least the same as in London. So far as both of these ports are concerned all the traders are on precisely the same footing. They all pay their dues to one authority in proportion to the amount of business given, but in the Port of London the reverse of that is the case. A large part of the trade in the Port of London will be conducted under conditions entirely different from those under which the rest is conducted, and it is obvious that what may be a good system on the Clyde 323 or the Mersey may turn out to be a very bad system so far as the Port of London is concerned, and here again we have different experiences. The conditions on the Tyne resemble those in the Port of London much more than those in Liverpool or Glasgow, and on the Tyne there is the kind of sectional representation proposed in the Amendment. Here again, therefore, we may say that so far as authority is concerned, there is as much to be said in favour of the one proposal as of the other. The other argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that we desired to get the best possible men on this new authority. Well, undoubtedly that is the main thing. If you can do that you will go a long way to make the Bill a success, and if the Bill is to have that effect I would say that that is a reason in favour of it. He said that if sections elected representatives, they would not be so likely to get the higher type of business men as if the members were all elected on one register by everybody voting at the same time. That might have something in it if it were the case that all sections would have a chance of electing those representatives. But what becomes of the argument if it I can be shown, as I believe it can be, that the effect of the arrangement as it stands in the Bill will be that the Port authority will still be sectionally elected, but that unfortunately it will be entirely elected by one section. I think that is the statement that can be proved with really mathematical certainty. As the Government have framed the measure, everybody who pays dues is to vote, and they are all to be on one register, with the exception of the wharfingers, who are to vote differently. There are four different categories under which dues are to be paid; (1) payers of dock dues on ships; (2) payers of dock dues on goods; (3) payers of river dues on ships; and (4) payers of river dues on goods. I want the Committee to remember that the first two categories represent one interest. The different interests in this new Port authority will be clearly and sharply defined. They will represent in most clear and marked fashion two distinct interests. On the one hand there will be the interest of those, whether ship- 324 owners or traders, who use the docks; and on the other hand will be those interests, whether ship-owners or traders, who do their business in the river. Not only are those interests clearly defined, but it is obvious that they can become directly hostile to each other. That will be admitted by the Board of Trade. At this moment a charge is made that the expense of the docks is one of the great drawbacks to the Port of London. It would be perfectly possible, and in a sense perfectly right, for the new authority to say that these expenses in the docks ought to be reduced and this reduction can be made in one of two ways. It can be done by increasing the volume of trade, but there is another method by which it can be effected, and that is by increasing the expense to the trade done outside. I cannot help thinking that anyone acquainted with the conditions and willing to look fairly at this subject will see that nothing could be more unfair than that one interest—that of the docks—should have complete control of the port, and that it is they, and they only, who are to decide the way in which the expense in the docks should be reduced at the expense possibly of the trade done in the river. That is precisely the position which is left by this Bill. The figures I am about to quote were given in evidence. The payers of the dock charges and of dues on goods pay £2,100,000, and the payers of port charges on shipping and dues on goods, which are the only things in which people interested in the river as distinct from the docks have any say on the new authority, pay £140,000. But only half of that belongs to those trading in the river, and therefore their interest in it is £70,000. The dues on goods amount to £180,000, and again something like a half is represented by those trading in the river. Therefore I ask those who are interested in the subject to take these figures into consideration.
§ * MR. BONAR LAW
It is the estimate made by the Board of Trade before the hon. Member's Committee. This 325 great interest which does its business in the river pays in dues and has, therefore, voting power of £160,000, while the interest which does its business in the docks pays £2,260,000. That is to say you have one register only, and if all classes vote on that register, the chance of outside trade being represented on the new authority is as £160,000 is to £2,260,000. It is perfectly obvious that under such circumstances the new Port authority, so far as elected, will consist entirely of those who represent trade in the docks. If they put up seventeen candidates to be elected, there is not the slightest chance in the world of any other interest having any elected member whatever. I do not say that that is merely a danger that may arise; I think it is a certainty. This new authority so far as elected will consist entirely of those who trade in the docks, and the other interests will be left altogether unrepresented. That is my belief, and I think it is borne out by the figures I have given. I dare say that the right hon. Gentleman will say that I have left out of account altogether the modifications introduced by the President of the Board of Trade. In the first place, the President of the Board of Trade has the right to decide what class of payments to the dock authority shall be considered as dues from the point of view of having a Tight to vote. It is quite possible, and I think it is probable, that the Board of Trade may say that warehouse charges should be left out, but even if they take that course, the preponderance is still so enormous on the side of the docks that it will not make any difference to that part of the trade of the river which represents in volume half the total trade of the Port of London, and whose interest in the Port of London is every bit as great as those who do their trade entirely in the docks. The next modification introduced into the Bill during its passage through Committee is a clause by which the Board of Trade is to make half of the elected members shipowners, and the other half merchants. I do not see how they are going to do that. It is an attempt at proportional representation, and I do not see how it can work. But even if it does work, that modification is based entirely on 326 ignorance of what the real facts are in London. In other ports, the Mersey and the Tyne, if there is any difference between the various classes of payers of dues, it is the difference between those who pay dues on ships and those who pay dues on goods. But in London that is not the dividing line. It is between those who trade in the docks and those who trade in the river. If you are to have half the new authority to be represented by those who pay dues on goods, and the other half by those who pay dues on ships, you will not touch the central injustice of this proposal; and that is, that this great river interest, which represents in bulk half of the total trade of London, will be absolutely unrepresented on the new authority. The last modification made by the Board of Trade is that they reserve power, after the first election, if they find that this system is not working well, to alter the whole system on which the voting is done. Obviously that provision is for an emergency and put in to meet a difficulty if a difficulty arises, and it does make the position much less serious than if it were permanent. The figures I have given to the Committee show that you cannot possibly have a worse system from the point of view of dealing fairly with the existing interest than the system represented in this Bill, and it is surely of the greatest importance that at the outset the different interests should be fairly represented. There is another body which deserves special consideration from the Government. I mean the manufacturers on the waterside. I think they should have at least one representative specially put on the authority as constituted. Let me point out how important that is. It is a fact, I believe, that London is the greatest manufacturing city in the kingdom; but everyone knows that these manufactures are carried on under very great difficulties and disadvantages; so much so, that many industries which used to flourish here have been carried to other parts of the country. The sole advantage of manufacturers in London is the cheap method of receiving the raw materials and of sending away the finished goods. I believe this Bill will do good to London, as a whole, but I do not see how it is 327 going to benefit the manufacturers of London. They will be placed at a disadvantage if dues are imposed on the goods used in their manufactures, and if they are made liable for dues on the export of their goods. I say that this body should have their representatives on the Port authority. The importance of that was felt so strongly that in the Bill of the late Government, though no representation was given to the manufacturers in the original Bill, Lord Cross's Committee gave them two representatives. I think in the interest of the Port authority itself, it would be a great advantage that there should be at least one man to represent those interests and to point out what would be the effect on the manufacturing industries of putting dues on the different kinds of material they use, and on their manufactures. I can quite believe that the constitution of the authority will not work out so badly as the figures I have given show; and that whatever body is appointed they will try to be moderately fair. That is true, but docks have their own interests to protect, and the river trade has its interest, and it is the interest of the dock to keep the charges on the dock down. Surely it is not right that the decision of this question should be left entirely to those who have a direct interest in deciding it in one way. I do not know whether it is too late to appeal to the Board of Trade to reconsider their decision, but I am afraid they have made up their minds about it, and that there is not much chance of carrying conviction to them. But I am certain the system is wrong, and that the Government are making a mistake in persisting in it, and I hope they will reconsider it.
In page 1, line 22, to leave out from the word 'eighteen,' to end of subsection, and to insert the words 'nineteen. By payers of dues on ships trading to the docks, four; by payers of dues on ships trading to the river, three; by traders, five; by waterside manufacturers, two; by wharfingers, three; by owners of river craft, two.'"—(Mr. Bonar Law.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause."328
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. CHURCHILL,) Dundee
The hon. Gentleman has addressed the Houses at some length, but although he has given us a great many statements and arguments upon the general subject of the method of selecting a Port authority, he has devoted hardly any observations to advocating the Amendment which he has thought proper to move. The hon. Gentleman has found fault with the Government's idea of a Port authority. I wish he had shown some reason why he does not think it good; but in support of his Amendment he has moved I have not heard a single argument in favour of the particular form in which he would propose to amend and reform the constitution of the Port authority. I was not surprised at this. The hon. Gentleman has always shown some temerity in committing himself to the principle of sectional representation on these boards, as against the principle of general representation. For what is the issue before the Committee? Surely it is an exceedingly simple one. Are the members of this new Port authority to go to its meetings with the desire of representing the interests of the Port of London as a whole, or are they to go there merely to-consider what would conduce to the prosperity of part of our system; are they to be merely the delegates of special sections of the community, each of whom do not consider the general interest, but the interest of the special groupings which they represent. Which of these two methods which are now before the Committee seems the most in accordance with the public interest? I submit that there can really be no doubt in anyone's mind. There was no doubt in the minds of the Committee. The traders applied to the Committee to determine this matter; they heard all the arguments which were advanced by the different sections, and they felt, having regard to the multiplicity of traders that there are in London, that the only chance of getting a really clear and powerful policy from the Port authority is to avoid sectional representation altogether. The hardship which the hon. Gentleman has dwelt upon, of particular sections possibly not finding their representation, is not so great as is commonly supposed, because 329 as a matter of fact all traders, shipowners, and wharfingers in the river have interests which are largely interdependent and will prosper as the prosperity of the port advances and will suffer in proportion as that prosperity is impaired. This Amendment which we see upon the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Holborn, even this would not be representative of all sections, and if it be an attempt to give sectional representation of all classes it is a conspicuous failure. From that point of view I shall, therefore, ask the Committee not to assent to this proposal. It has been from the first the guiding principle of my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to prefer the general interests to the sectional interests, and that is one of the issues of principle which we submit to the House at the very outset of these discussions. Once you begin to give sectional representation where are you to stop? Every single locality considers it is affected; every single trade—corn and timber—has come forward asking for sectional representation, and it is against all these disconnected individuals and separate interests that we are asking the Committee to prefer the large and general interests of the Port of London. In choosing this course we have the respectable precedent of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board, where a general method of election prevails, and the new development of the dock system which has been lately brought into force upon the Clyde. Therefore, I must ask the Committee not to accept this Amendment, and I should like to say, so far as the other parts of the hon. Gentleman's speech were concerned, in which he attacked the general methods and principles by which we propose to give effect to the principle of a general Port authority, that those points will arise very suitably in regard to the numerous Amendments which have been put upon the Paper affecting that particular machinery.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I do not profess to have a very intimate knowledge of the subject, although it is one in which my constituents have very great interests, but I think the right hon. Gentleman has not very 330 successfully answered my hon. friend. I quite agree that the question is one of great difficulty, but in the first place the right hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that my hon. friend near me had approached this question in a controversial spirit. No one who heard his speech could say so. He did not attack the Government, and I am rather surprised at the tone which the right hon. Gentleman adopted. My hon. friend's contention really was a very simple one, and it has not been disposed of by the argument of the President of the Board of Trade, though there may be other arguments, and if so, they ought to be made to the Committee. I quite admit that the hon. Gentleman opposite, and the Joint Committee over which he presided, pronounced in favour of the scheme of the Government, but I believe the Bill of the late Government was based on the Report of the Royal Commission, which did admirable work—work upon which the whole of this legislation is founded—and Lord Cross' Committee which investigated the question, and which came to an opposite conclusion—indeed, to the conclusion which my hon. friend has embodied in his Amendment. That, at all events, shows that perfectly impartial authorities are divided on this question. What was the solitary argument of the President of the Board of Trade? He said—"We are in favour of appointing a body which is to deal in a broad spirit with the interests of the Port. We do not want to have sectional representation, under which the various members of the Port authority shall come forward, not to deal with the interests of the Port as a whole, but to deal with them in a fragmentary fashion, each of the representatives dealing only efficiently with that part of the scheme for a Port authority which affects his particular constituency." I would, of course, rather have a general representation than a sectional one, if you are going to get it by the Government Bill; but the whole of my hon. friend's point is this, that though in terms and on paper you are going to get a broad representation by the scheme of the Government, you will, in fact, get a sectional representation, with this great disadvantage, that only one section will be represented, viz., the section which 331 deals with the docks, and not with those great interests which are involved in the use of the river outside the docks. Everybody knows that the whole difficulty, or one of the great difficulties of dealing with the Port of London, is this division of interests be ween those who use the river and those who use the docks. That is the fundamental and essential difficulty, and it is a very great difficulty, and I do not think you will get out of it by running a scheme of representation in which only the docks or mainly the docks will be able to have it all their own way, no matter what anybody else says, thinks, or does, and then salve your conscience by saying: "Well, we have only one register, and we have only one scheme of representation, and therefore we represent all the interests of the docks," when, in reality, the effective electors who will have it in their power to control the management of the whole Port of London will be the owners of the docks, and the owners of the docks alone. That really is the scheme of the Government. It may be one or the best solution of the almost overwhelming complexity of this problem, but I am bound to say that I do not think the President of the Board of Trade has proved that it is the best and only plan, and highly as I rate the authority of the Committee of which the two hon. Gentlemen whom I see opposite were members, who considered this question in an impartial spirit, they will forgive me if I say that I think that this all important point ought to be dealt with in a somewhat broader spirit than that exhibited by the President of the Board of Trade, and some attempt should be made to deal with the crucial difficulty laid before the Committee by my hon. friend, namely, that if you have one register, and if you confine yourself to the register in the scheme of the Bill, the result will inevitably be that interests which have to deal with half or more than half in volume of the trade of the whole Port of London may be and probably will be outvoted by those who represent a very important, but still only sectional, interest connected with the Port. It is in the interest not of a section, but of the whole Port of London that I plead for a 332 rather more impartial consideration of my hon. friend's Amendment than the right hon. Gentleman has given it, and I trust that the hon. Gentleman who presided over that Committee or the Chancellor of the Exchequer will submit what is the policy of the Government, and give us in more detail the reasons which induced them to leave the precedent set by the Commission and Lord Cross' Committee and adopt a wholly new method. I am sure the Government will accept the assurance that neither I nor my hon. friend approach this question in a partisan spirit. I am only too anxious to see a settlement, and I recognise the tremendous difficulties which any Government would have to deal with, when they have to consider the many interests which by long practice in the Port of London have been allowed to grow up.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE,) Carnarvon Boroughs
I fully accept the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that he does not approach this question in a party spirit and I extend the same observation to the hon. Member for Dulwich, because I remember very well the way in which when I had charge of this project, the hon. Member assisted me in the matter, and I may say that he approached the problem in a spirit of helpfulness as far as I was personally concerned when I was at the Board of Trade. I accept his assurance of the sincere spirit in which he acted, and that his observations were not directed in any partisan spirit against the action of the Government. And after all it is a difficult question, a very difficult question, to decide. I am sure that for some time I hesitated a good deal myself as to whether I should follow the precedent set by my predecessor and adhere to a sectional representation, or whether I should rather follow the precedent of the Mersey Dock and Harbour Board. All I can say is that after considering the thing very carefully, I came to the conclusion, very, very slowly, that, on the whole, the Mersey precedent was the better precedent, and I still hold that opinion. I agree that the hon. Member is perfectly right and can demonstrate 333 from the figures the possibility of getting representation almost exclusively into the hands of one group. I do not think it is likely to operate in that way, and I think there is a good deal in what my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade said about it—that the men who largely trade in the docks have also an interest elsewhere. It is not as if trade had purely a dock interest; here there is a river interest, and here they are interdependent, and people who do business in the docks do business in the river as well, and I am very doubtful if you can group them into the docks on the one hand and the river on the other. The Government are very anxious to avoid a mere sectional representation where you get men returned in the purest sectional interest, and I think that is a very important consideration for the first few years when the whole policy of development of the Port will have to be decided. I do not want to criticise severely the interests of the Port of London, but it seems to me that there is a greater danger in the Port of London than in almost any other port of the whole thing in the end falling into the hands of a section. In Liverpool and Glasgow you have a civic spirit, they are Glasgow men and Liverpool men, but I found when I came to deal with the Port of London that they were the wharfingers, or the Baltic, or any of the different trades, such as the corn trade, or they were great liners or short sea traders, or they were interested in barges. They fought very fiercely for the sectional interests, and I think that on the whole there is more of that spirit in the Port of London than you would be likely to meet in either Glasgow or Liverpool or on the Tyne. Therefore I think it would be very important, at any rate for the first few years, when you have to decide very important questions of policy, in fact gigantic questions of policy, such as the development of the river, whether you are going in for wharves and quays, whether you are going to extend the barrage—they are all problems of enormous importance and questions of policy to be referred practically to the first body to be elected—I think it is very important that you should get not merely men who represent the best 334 spokesmen for the wharfingers or for the docks or on behalf of the barges, but really the most prominent men connected with the trade and the Port of London. I think by this treatment you would get the very best men. There are many prominent and suitable persons, men who command general confidence and whose interest in this matter would be a general one. By this means we shall at all events have established the status of the Port authority. After all, the success of this scheme will not be dependent on the ingenuity of the scheme itself, but entirely upon the class of men attracted to it. My own opinion is that you are likely to get better men by appealing to a larger constituency. For instance, if you say: "We want three wharfingers," the wharfingers will choose three men who will fight best for that particular interest. In fact, it is almost an appeal to them to do so, and I know how keenly they contest every small point in connection with their trade and very often subject the general interests of the whole to their own particular interest. Therefore I think it is of paramount importance that you should have some scheme which will attract the really big men who are connected with the trade of London and induce them to go upon this board—men who are known not merely in their trades but to everybody. I think it will be to the interests of men of the particular trades to put forward their big men and get them to serve on the board, and thus establish the status of the Port authority for all time. If we get small men, each representing his own particular trade on to this board, it will be hopelessly damned for ever. The board wall be an inferior board, and that is not what we wish to have. The need of getting the very best men is shown in the case of Liverpool. One particular interest in Liverpool is so dominant that it could easily capture the majority of the port authority of Liverpool, but what happens is this, that the various interests electing the port authority meet together beforehand and arrange these matters. The members of the port authority are drawn from each section, but are responsible to the whole. Not only are they responsible to the whole, but they are men known to 335 everybody both inside and outside their business. They are the big men of the trades. They are not the most clamorous or the most noisy, but they are really the best men in the trades and men who commend themselves not only to their own section but to people outside. It is most important that we should begin at any rate by getting the very best men in London for this Port authority. Supposing it turns out that our anticipation is not realised and that the prediction of the hon. Member turns out to be true, and that, after all, the whole representation gets into the hands of one group, we have not only a remedy but a warning. These men who endeavour to get the whole of the board under the control of any particular trade will know perfectly well that the Board of Trade would have to revise their rules at the next election, and with that warning before them—and even without it—I do not think business men will act in that way. For that reason I am glad that my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade has decided to stand by this clause and not to accept the Amendment.
§ * MR. STEADMAN (Finsbury, Central)
said he was not at all surprised at the speech which had just been delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman had a theory in favour of this Bill, and when he heard that at last the Bill had been drafted by the Board of Trade to satisfy all parties concerned he wondered by what magic wand the right hon. Gentleman had been able to accomplish it. When the Bill was before the House on a former occasion no opportunity was offered to hon. Members for honest criticism. The whole thing was rushed through. But since that time they had been able to study the Bill both inside and outside the House, and there was now as much opposition outside the House by persons interested in the Port of London as there was before. The Amendment he rose to support did not give him the opportunity at that juncture to say to what, in his opinion, was due the success of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in reference to this Bill. But he claimed to have as good a knowledge of the river as any Member of the House. He went as an apprentice to a barge-builder in 1866 and 336 from that period down to the present time he had seen all the attempts that the dock company had made to grapple with this problem. Moreover he was for twelve years one of the London County Council representatives on the Thames Conservancy Board. The right hon. Gentleman had made an elaborate attempt to try and avoid what would practically be the repetition of the personnel of the old Thames Conservancy Board, but he had not, in his judgment, made out his case. The Board of Trade seemed to be bossing the whole show so far as the Port of London was concerned. He wanted to ask the President of the Board of Trade what he could tell him about this river; what his nominee on the present Board knew about it, what the Admiralty knew about it, and what Trinity House knew about it except that they had a depot at Black-wall. He had always regarded these men as a drag on the wheel so far as getting practical work was concerned for the Port of London. It should be governed by a trust composed of the very men on the river whose action the right hon. Gentleman had condemned. He was taken on one occasion by the Mersey Harbour Board up and down the Mersey, and the success of the Mersey, he found, was due to the fact that the Harbour Board was composed of practical men. That was what was wanted here. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the barge-owners would select men to look after their own interests, and that the shipbuilders would do the same, as would also the wharfingers. But they would select the best men that they could get, for, the Committee might depend upon it, their living depended upon the Port of London. If the trade of the Port fell off it would not be one but all who would suffer, and that was why they would work amicably together. He was glad the right hon. Member for the City of London was not going to make this a party question. They made too many things party questions, and had lost a great deal by so doing. He was not there to champion the cause of the barge-owners, wharfingers, and shipbuilders; they were able to take care of themselves; but they brought the trade to the Port of London, and 337 there were hundreds and thousands of working men whose living and whose wives and families' living depended on the success of the river. It was in their interest that he said what he had to say. On this Bill the Government ought to give the House a free hand and let every Member vote according to his conscience. Nobody was more anxious to see this problem solved than himself.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I must really ask the hon. Member to speak to the Amendment, and not to travel so widely from it as he is doing.
§ * MR. STEADMAN
said he had not much more to say except that he hoped the Amendment of the hon. Member for Holborn would be accepted, because in that way they would get a better board than that which the Government proposed.
§ * MR. WHITEHEAD (Essex, S. E.)
desired, as representing a constituency which was very much interested in this river, to say a few words. He understood the objection put forward by the Government to this Amendment was that it involved sectional representation. That was their only argument, and he did not think in a practical matter of this kind, involving very great issues and the future prosperity of this Port, the House of Commons would consent to be put off with a fine phrase like that. They must regard the facts and look at the Bill as it was presented to them at this stage. The Government proposal was itself a proposal for sectional representation. Only one class in the Port would get representation under it. If the Committee took the figures in the Schedule what did they see? The facts were very simple. On the voting register as it appeared in the Schedule, those who paid dock charges on ships and on goods would on the present basis become responsible for £2,100,000, while those persons interested in the Port of London who paid port charges and port dues would be responsible for the sum of about £320,000. Those who were interested in the docks, and not in the river at all, would thus have seven-eighths of the voting power on the register. What 338 did that mean? It could only mean that the big shipowners using the docks would get the majority of the voting power. Therefore not only did this proposal of the Government involve sectional representation, but it was also very unfair to those merchants and shipowners who had provided at their own expense, by a great capital expenditure, what might be described as their own dock accommodation. The dues paid by the vessels which came into the docks paid in a sense rent for the use of the docks, but those who traded on the river at wharves had paid their own rent. Therefore the proposal was unfair inasmuch as it excluded two important interest, the shipowners in the river, and the waterside manufacturers. The Government ignored the fact that this was a matter which concerned London as a manufacturing centre. Many persons regarded it as if the question only affected the docks. In London they had a large manufacturing interest; they had private firms and public companies who had come to the shores of the Thames for the purposes of manufacture, because of the facilities of water carriage which they obtained at the present time at a very cheap rate. This Bill, if passed in its present form, would enable the big shop-owners to place a tax on the manufacturers of London. The cry of the shipowners had been that they desired a reduction of the dues of the docks. They wanted to make London more available for ships. If they reduced the dues of the docks, on whom were they going to throw the burden—revenue was admittedly required for the new dock undertaking. If the dues were lowered in the they could only get the revenue out of the trade on the river and on the riverside. If so, the Committee was placing in the hands of the big shipowners and the State a power which involved the power of imposing a tax on the raw materials of industry that came to this port. That was a very grave consideration, and one which ought to weigh with the Committee when it voted upon this Amendment. Even the Board of Trade had recently recognised that this had created a very unfair situation. They quite recently gave to the waterside manufacturers a promise that when 339 making the first appointments for the Port authority a representative of their interest should be placed upon it. If the Board of Trade saw its way to make such an appointment today and admitted its justice to-pay, surely it was a principle which was good for all time. The principle having teen already admitted by the Board of Trade that the manufacturers' interest as well as the shipowners' interest should be represented, it was only fair and just to give dock representation to the ships trading on the river.
§ MR. REMNANT (Finsbury, Holborn)
apologised for not being present when his Amendment was called on. He regarded this matter very seriously, and hoped the Government would assist the Committee to make good this defect in the Bill. He cordially agreed with the President of the Board of 'Trade and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this should not be dealt with as a party question, but that they should deal with it in the interest of the Port of London. He was struck both by the speech of the President of the Board of Trade and by that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The President of the Board of Trade said he did not see his way to accept this Amendment and put representatives of sectional interests on the Port authority, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the desire of the Government was to attract the very best possible men they could get on to the board. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the P. and O. Company, but, after all, the P. and O. Company came under the category of those who used the docks. The objection, that had been urged and which lay at the bottom of this Amendment was that no sufficient protection was afforded to those who used the river as distinct from those who used the docks; that the preponderating influence the latter would have would quite overshadow the representation of those who used the river. He always thought that the object of this Bill was a general change; that the dock, harbour, and port dues of London were so excessive as to cripple trade. If that was so, then the desire of those who managed the docks, and who had this preponderating influence, would be to 340 reduce the charges. The Bill made the authority the administrative authority for the whole Port. As to the docks, it became a trade corporation, and he was afraid the tendency would be that the dock charges would be reduced at the expense of the other interests. It was in the hope that that might be overcome that he had put this Amendment down on the Paper, and he hoped the Government would see its way to give better representation to the river interest as apart from the dock interest and would agree to the Amendment.
§ * MR. RUSSELL REA
said that perhaps he was more closely identified with sectional representation than even the hon. Member for Dulwich. In the hon. Member's Bill there was no sectional representation. In the Bill for which he was so largely responsible in 1903 there was no sectional representation of the kind that he now advanced. The distinction as he said now was not between ships and dues, but between docks and river. In the hon. Member's Bill the whole distinction was between ships and dues, and what sectional representation was introduced into that Bill he was in part responsible for, as being a member of the Joint Committee which inserted it. Notwithstanding his sectional record, he was a supporter of the general register which was embodied in this Bill, and which was approved by the Committee. He was in favour of it on the general grounds so well stated by his right hon. friend. It would probably introduce better men—it would introduce a better spirit—but it was a very difficult question he admitted. If there were to be sectional representation, it might be necessary in the future, and, if it should prove necessary, it would come—but it was impossible to impose sectional representation logically now. It was impossible to make a scheme for sectional representation which could be defended, and which would last, and they would very probably, in making a sectional scale now, be creating vested interests which it would be very difficult to deal with later on. If they were to make a sectional Schedule it would be sure to be wrong now, because they 341 had not the means of coming to a right conclusion. They were going to create an absolutely new constituency and they did not know what it might be. The payers of dues on goods would be a mass of unknown people, and what would be their relative weight in the now scheme? What about the revenue they would contribute? They did not know, and what their numbers would be they did not know. For instance, on the Schedule as it stood, supposing £100,000 was contributed to the revenue of the State by dues on goods, it might be contributed by one contributor such as the P. and O. Company, who would get fifty votes, or it might conceivably be contributed by 10,000 ratepayers who paid on dues who would have 10,000 votes. He stated all these things to show that the whole of the suggestions in Schedule 1 were tentative. It appeared to him that they were reserving power to adapt these things to the circumstances better by adopting the general register now. For instance, the whole thing was "subject to the provisions of this Schedule," and the provisions of the Schedule were such as this, that the Board of Trade might make new regulations as to voting power and might revise their rates if they found that one interest predominated or was over-represented. Then, of course, for the first elections they held in their hands the definition of what dues should count, and such a preponderance as the hon. Member for Dulwich suggested would certainly not be permitted. Then after the first election the whole thing might be varied, and it could not be varied altogether at the pleasure of the Board of Trade, but must be varied by Provisional Order, and would undoubtedly come to the House again. There was another security for the oppressed waterside manufacturer, or wharfinger, or other classes who were alarmed for their interests. There were in this body a very large number of appointed members, much larger than in the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and these men might be considered guardians for the general interest. They would be men selected by great Departments, chiefly by the Board of Trade, and also by the Admiralty, and they would uudoubtedly 342 consider the general and not the sectional interests. Eventually, he admitted, it was possible that they might have to give sectional representation, and if they did the means were provided. But at the present juncture it was impossible to institute a logical scheme of sectional representation, and he hoped and was confident that the general register would prove to be practicable and just.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD (Liverpool, West Derby)
thought every member of the Committee would agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that the sole object which Parliament ought to have in laying down the principles under which the members of this new board were to be constituted ought to be to secure a body of men of the highest possible class who would not be actuated by mere selfish interests, but who would have at heart the rights and privileges of all and would be prepared to do their best in the interests of all. Of course, there was not the slightest doubt that if they could secure such a result as that everybody would be satisfied; and the only question, as he understood it, before the Committee was really this, that some Members, including those who were responsible for this Amendment, very respectfully were suggesting that perhaps these objects would not be attained quite as well under the Government scheme as under the Amendment which they proposed. Considerable reference had been made to the happy state of affairs and the great successes which they had had in connection with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. It was undoubtedly a matter of common knowledge that at present, and also for many years past, they had enjoyed in the constitution of that body the advantage of the presence, administrative ability, and help of a number of men of the highest possible class and of the greatest respectability and position in every respect. There was no doubt that that had been a very great thing for the Port of Liverpool, and it had been a magnificent thing for the general administration of such a concern as the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. When any Government ventured, to tackle a difficult problem like that of the Port of London— 343 the most difficult problem of this nature in the world—it was inevitable that they should turn to the constitution of a body like the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and say that if that constitution had given such success, and had resulted in such excellent and worthy and able men being elected as members of the Board, they could not go very far wrong in adopting in outline, at all events, the general principles which obtained there. But although the whole of the elected members of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board were elected by the general body of payers of dues, irrespective of any such distinctions as were suggested in this Amendment, yet it would be acknowledged, he thought, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the elected members of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, of whom he saw one honoured member sitting on the benches opposite, were, in fact, nominees of and did represent different trades. For instance, the corn trade had their representative on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, not legally but because it had been found in practice that the corn trade ought to be represented, and although the constitution did not provide for the corn trade making any such election, yet as a matter of fact it was found that, the best, wisest, and justest, thing to do, and that was the way it was done. Things were so arranged in Liverpool that they had probably the very best man in the city representing any particular trade on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. He knew comparatively little about the geography of the Thames from actual personal acquaintance, but he thought there was one very great essential difference between the conditions that obtained on the Mersey and on the Thames which seemed to him to go to the root of the whole matter. That difference was that on the Mersey practically the whole trading front on both sides of the river belonged to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and there were very few private wharves. He knew they had the docks belonging to the London & North-Western Railway, and there was also the Manchester Ship Canal, which had the use of the river, but his point was that in Liverpool all the dock front on the Liverpool side and all the front 344 available for trade purposes for goods on both sides of the river belonged to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and was managed by that Board. In London they had an entirely different state of affairs. In London they had a few docks which were a comparatively small proportion to the general bulk of the trade. People owned their own wharves and had spent very large sums of money indeed upon making those facilities which up to the present no public authority had ventured to undertake. It was not proposed by the Bill to give the new authority either the power or the right to take over the whole of these trading facilities.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Sir H. KEARLEY,) Devonport
But we have power in this Bill to take over the riverside premises.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said he did not think that even the wildest dream of anybody associated with the Board of Trade ever suggested that this new board when it was constituted would undertake such an enormous task, within at all events any reasonable period. He thought the hon. Gentleman would admit that it was not seriously proposed in practice by this, Bill that this newly-elected body should begin its operations by absorbing either the greater portion or really any serious portion of all those private wharves or other trading facilities on both sides of the Thames. Therefore, they were faced with the difficulty that in London they had a number of small private interests who had got quite as great an interest, if not a greater taken collectively, in the welfare and management of the Port of London as this new body would have which would only own a comparatively small portion of the trading front of the river on both sides. The problem was rendered much more difficult by that fact. In conclusion, he was bound to say that, although he listened to the arguments of the hon. Members who supported this Amendment, and although he was impressed with the difficulties, he was afraid that other interests had been overlooked which were paramount interests. One could not get away from the conviction 345 that the majority of the elected members ought to be elected by the payers of dues promiscuously, irrespective altogether of any particular class of voters. If the majority were elected from the register made up of the payers of dues then there would be quite enough room in a minority of the total body to give every other section some reasonable representation. He thought if that could be carried out it would at all events meet his own personal views more nearly than either the proposal of the Government or the Amendment now before the Committee.
§ * MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
thought the people ought to be much better represented on this Board than was proposed. It had been said that the Government claimed that their's was not a sectional proposal. If it was not then he should like to know what it was. He knew they were in a difficulty in discussing this matter at the present moment, but that was not their fault. As a matter of fact, this was the first opportunity they had had to discuss the matter at all, and if a question like this was brought forward at the fag end of an Autumn Session it was not his fault and it was not fair to the House. The voters who were to elect these eighteen members were to be the payers of dues. The payers of dues were not the consumers, and it was the people who actually paid the money. The payers of dues might be called the pocket through which the money passed. What he would like to have seen on this and every other Board was that those who had to find the money should have the majority of the representatives on the Board. Unless they adopted that principle they did not get the consumers who had to find the money properly represented. He had found from experience that those sectional gentlemen generally went to represent their own selfish objects—he meant their own trades and businesses—and practically only attended when they wanted to do something for themselves in any particular direction; otherwise they left the business to those who represent the people. He did not say this offensively; it was only human, nature after all. They had heard that this new body might have to consider the barrage system, but his impression was 346 that they would have no money to spend and they would not be able to consider anything, after they had spent all their money in the purchase of docks. If they had a proper opportunity of sending representatives there with the object of preventing the waste of public money he could see some reason for this Amendment. He was told that they wanted to get representatives of the P. and O. Company on this Board. [An HON. MEMBER: They do not control the docks.] He knew they were supposed to be represented in the future by the payers of dues. He could give the Committee a striking illustration of how this special selfish interest asserted itself, and he thought it would prove up to the hilt that these people did represent their own selfish interests and their particular business interests. In the Report of the Joint Select Committee on the Port of London Bill which sat in 1908 there appeared the following record. He was giving this quotation because it proved up to the hilt that these specially selected gentlemen could not be depended upon to look after the public interest. Before this Joint Committee there came a question brought forward by the promoter of the Bill in the following direction—In page 13, line 30, after the word 'circumstances' to insert the words 'provided a provisional order under this section shall provide for exempting from such rates goods imported for transhipment, etc.He need not trouble the House with the whole extract. All he needed to mention was that it was a proposal to exempt some of those interests from the charge of rates and dues in the Port of London. They were told that the Committee deliberated on that. He was further told that it was moved by Mr. Russell Rea to insert after the words "goods" in the second line the words "including coal for bunkering steamers proceeding beyond the limits of the port." They deliberated on that, and, upon a vote being taken the contents were two (Sir William Bull and Mr. Russell Rea), and the non-contents were six (including Viscount Milner, Lord Dawnay, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, Lord Ritchie and Sir Albert Spicer.) He was glad to notice that the Members of the House of Lords voted in the right direction, and he was glad to have an opportunity of acknowledging it. He looked to see 347 who the gentleman was who moved this exemption in the selfish interest of the bunkering industry, and he found under the heading "Our Shipping Headlights—Russell Rea, Esq., M.P. The subject of this sketch though not a shipowner, as the term is generally understood, is yet prominently identified with one important branch of the shipping business—the bunkering industry."
§ * MR. MORTON
said he was going to prove that when a case arose of looking after their own selfish interests it was not always noticed, and he was trying to prove by an actual illustration how little they could depend upon them. It was his own personal experience that they could never depend upon that class of men to look after the interests of the people generally. Something had been said about the difference between the Mersey and the Port of London. That was a different case altogether. Practically they might say the business of the Port of London was done nearly all outside the docks, and therefore the outside authorities ought to be better represented. This was a democratic discussion as to democratic representation upon what was going to be a very important body which would have the right to tax the food of the people and make them pay unfair charges. Consequently he should be glad to see this new body made as representative as possible to prevent this tax being put upon the food of the people, and he was very sorry indeed that such a proposal was being put forward by a free trade Liberal Government.
§ * MR. RUSSELL REA
said he wished to make a personal explanation. The hon. Member for Sutherland had accused him of making proposals to serve his own personal interest. He wished to say that he had no interest in the Port of London. He had no business in the Port of London; his ships never came into that port, and never could come into it. He made the proposal to which the hon. Member had referred in the interests of those who might be con- 348 sidered his trade rivals, and he did it in order to put those in the Port of London in the same position as he found himself in in the Ports of Liverpool and Southampton.
§ SIR WILLIAM BULL (Hammersmith)
deplored the fact that this very important Bill had come forward so late in the session. An immense amount of time had been given to it. He had sat on the Committee for six weeks and had listened patiently to the whole of the proceedings, and without prejudices on one side or the other he came to the conclusion that sectional representation was practically impossible. The Committee came to that conclusion from the mass of evidence that was placed before them. He thought it would be agreed that the Committee listened very patiently to the evidence and they failed to arrive at any other conclusion. He knew that some were very much enamoured of sectional representation. They felt that certain great interests should be represented upon this body, and they leaned in that direction, but the interests of the Port of London were so numerous and there were such an enormous number of trades to be considered, many of which hon. Members of the House had not even heard of, that they came to the conclusion that nothing but a general register would deal fairly between them all. It was not only a question of tonnage but a question also of value. There was the case of diamonds that came up to the Port which were very small in bulk but represented a tremendous amount of money. He might give to the Committee one explanation of the reason why they came to the conclusion that sectional representation would not be the best. Some hon. Members had suggested that they should go back and have sectional representation, but how were they going to do that? Hon. Members who knew the way in which business was conducted knew that this Bill had either to be dropped or the Resolutions of the Committee accepted. There was no time left now to bring in 349 the question of sectional representation, and if they admitted one particular party they were bound to admit them all. They were bound to reconsider the whole case and the moment they once more raised the question all those bodies would come up and point to the particular interest they had to represent. For that reason he intended to support the Government in this matter. It was not a party question in any way. They were all patriots and they wished to see the Port of London removed from party politics and put in a position which would make it important and useful in a way which hitherto it had never been. If they could start afresh, and have the river clear of any docks at all, the question would be an entirely different one, but that was not the position in which they were placed. They were bound to deal with the question as they found it at the present time. They had had docks since 1759. They were started at London Bridge and they had gradually gone down the river, and those docks, with their privileges and obligations, were bound to be considered as they were dealing with this question. The whole question was an immensely thorny one, and only those who had studied the matter and looked into the details could realise the immense difficulties of the case. There was the question of free water in regard to which the dock companies were bound to allow lighters to enter their docks day and night. They were bound to open their docks and allow them to go alongside of ships in the docks so as to unload their cargoes into the ships and to allow ships to unload their cargoes into the lighters. There were the interests also of two classes of wharfingers to be considered, namely, the wharfingers who owned wharfs and houses to receive other persons' goods, and those who owned wharfs and houses for their own use. Therefore it appeared to him that a general register where those different interests were intermixed was the most satisfactory. They had considered various other suggestions, but he had come to the conclusion, with a long knowledge of the river, that a general register was the only practical solution if this Bill was to go through in 1908.
§ * SIR A. SPICER (Hackney, Central)
said he only desired to put one point before the Committee which had not been made hitherto. The Committee should remember that the first Port authority was to be appointed by the Board of Trade. It would have been impossible to have formed a register sufficiently accurate to enable the new authority to be elected on that register, and therefore the Bill provided that the Board of Trade should nominate the first Port authority. Of course, on this appointment, speaking broadly, almost the future Port of London depended. It would be much more satisfactory to leave the Board of Trade a free hand in the choice of the members for the first Port authority than to bind them by saying that certain sections were to be represented in a certain way.
§ MR. BARNARD (Kidderminster)
said the Government proposals were far and away the best. It appeared to him that the principle which dominated the Mersey Board and the Boards of the Tyne and the Clyde, namely, that those who paid the money were to be in the majority, was the right principle and the one which ought to be accepted. If that was so, the question was how the best eighteen were to be selected. They had had four or five members of the Thames Conservancy speaking there today. He took a totally different view from the hon. Member for Finsbury. It appeared to him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wrapped it up in extremely pleasant terms when he said that the experience of sectional representation had been by no means a happy or successful one. He happened to be the only member of the Thames Conservancy who did not represent any of those sectional interests, because he was there to deal with the purity of water alone, and therefore he had been able to watch and see what had been going on, and his observations brought him to the conclusion that the present deadlock, which he hoped this Bill would get rid of quickly, had largely arisen from members of the Conservancy perfectly openly and frankly, and from their point of view perfectly properly, advancing and always pushing forward 351 the sectional interests they were sent there to represent. He was certain that it had not been a success, and he believed that the future of the Port depended largely, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, on being able to induce the best and most distinguished men to join the new body. If they could do that they would have men who would be trusted, and he therefore welcomed the proposals of the Board of Trade because he assumed that they would pick the men who believed in what the Bill sought to put into effect. If they did that they would get over the difficulty, and perhaps make the Port of London what it ought to have been before this time.
Perhaps as I moved the Amendment I may be allowed to say a few words. I am obliged to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his reference to my attitude on this matter, which is not a party one. I am sure that my hon. friend did not imply that I was acting in that spirit. I am glad that my hon. friend has taken a different line from mine because it shows that we are not taking a party line. I would like to refer to the argument, used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in favour of this proposal as it stands in the Bill. In doing so, I admit that if the premise on which the right hon. Gentleman starts is correct, that his proposal is going to get the best men for the purpose, there is nothing more to be said. That is the object we all have in view. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—it was my experience when Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade—that there is not the same civic spirit in London as in Liverpool and Glasgow, but that is owing to the size of London more than anything else. People do not know each other in the same way as in other towns, and when he says that there are outstanding men in the different trades, all I can say is that that is directly contrary to what I was told by London business men. They all said that it was extraordinary how little men knew of each other.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
What I said was that all those men trading in the river were known to each other.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
There may be one or two interests in which that is true, but the same thing does not apply all round. You will not get in London as in Liverpool or Glasgow seventeen or eighteen gentlemen who will be so outstanding as to be known to the people who would give their votes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, after pointing out how sectional London was, said that the whole authority should be composed of one section. The whole question in dispute between the right hon. Gentleman and myself is whether or not by the Government arrangement the authority was not made as sectional as in my Amendment, with the exception that the whole power was left in one section instead of being spread over the others.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
In Part IV., at page 52, of the Bill it is provided that—The regulations may provide that (subject to duly qualified candidates presenting themselves) the elected members shall include as nearly as may be an equal number of persons whose principal business is or has been mainly connected with vessels and persons whose principal business is or has been mainly connected with goods.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
I was going to refer to that as showing that the principle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had broken down. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that this was the principle on which he framed the Bill. There was only to be one register because in that way you would get the best men. Since the right hon. Gentleman left the Board of Trade that principle has been abandoned absolutely. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; it has. The Bill as framed says that they are not to be chosen from the best men, but half of them are to consist of shipowners. Probably the right hon. Gentleman is not aware that that is in the Bill.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
If the right hon. Gentleman will read the evidence given before the Committee he will find a distinct undertaking that that is going to be done. I only refer to that 353 because I say it proves that the principle of the right hon. Gentleman has broken down. You cannot hope to get one register which will fairly represent all trades. I would like to refer to what I think was a mistake made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech. He said that the two questions of a general register and of sectional representation had not been considered. But the hon. Gentleman who was a member of both Committees had pointed out that was entirely wrong. It was not paternal partiality that made him prefer sectional representation. As a matter of fact, the late Government had very little of this sectional representation, but Lord Cross's Committee recommended sectional representation, and the arguments were so powerful that they convinced the Board of Trade at that time, and I remain convinced that it is the only fair way of dealing with this question. I am not going to take up the time of the Committee any longer. I admit that it is a question on which there is room for great difference of opinion, but my whole case is that I think the question is very important, and one on which the Members of the Committee should judge for themselves and not treat it as a party question at all. The question really is—Can you possibly hope to get a fair authority on the principle which gives absolute power, in any way you like to arrange the votes, to one section of trade in London although that section in bulk does not represent much more than one trade? Should you not make sure at the outset that other interests will be represented?
§ SIR H. KEARLEY
The hon. Gentleman will remember that the previous Government in their Bill accorded representation to all sections of trade in the Port of London, and I think we might almost say that that acted as a considerable warning to us. What happened to the Bill? It went into Committee with a small sectional representation in it; it emerged from Committee with sectional representation written large all over it. That is the reason which induced us to keep clear of sectional representation, because once you admit it, it becomes divided and sub-divided again and again, and a number of 354 separate traders make claims for special representation. Therefore we have thought in the best interests of the Bill that the best method to adopt in order to get the best men is to disregard sectional representation altogether. The question is an extremely complex one, as is admitted on all sides, and one on which views may change from time to time. The views of the late Government changed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dulwich admitted that he was a strong convert at one time to our point of view. He has changed again, and nobody can object to that. My hon. friend who was Chairman of the Committee upstairs pleaded guilty that it was mainly through his instrumentality that sectional representation was provided in 1903; and now he and other Members of the Committee have become converts to our view after having heard the whole of the evidence. The object we have in view is that of everybody interested in the Port of London, viz., to induce a far better class of men to join the Port authority—men more representative of London than of sectional interests. The hon. Gentleman, following the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, regretted that civic patriotism was not more strongly developed in London. I am certain that you cannot adopt a worse method of securing for the new Port authority the most desirable class of men than that of sectional representation. It would not be in the general interest of the Port as a whole, because the men would be there as mere delegates of sectional trades. It is because the Government hold that view that we adhere to the proposal that sectional representation should not obtain in the Bill. We say frankly that we have been very much influenced in the course we have taken by the example of Liverpool. Although the hon. Member for Liverpool says that there is an adjustment of the proportion of the representation of the various trades on the Mersey, still it is well-known in Liverpool that if a man comes on to that Board nominated by the corn trade and during his term of office shows his influence is exclusively exercised on behalf of the corn trade, when he comes up for reelection as a member of the Board the public spirit in Liverpool is so strong that 355 he never gets re-elected. So that, although it is perfectly easy to argue that sectional representation obtains in Liverpool, it is free from the conditions to which we object, and acts in the general interests of the port, and not in the interests of a particular trade. As there are other important matters to be considered I appeal to the House to come to a decision on this question so as to proceed to other parts of the Bill.
§ MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)
said he was sorry he could not accede to the desire of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, because he, like others, had to discuss this question on the only opportunity given to those who represented the river. He had listened to the whole of the debate and was very much interested in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and his strong expression of opinion as compared with that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to sectional representation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that this was a very open question and that there was a good deal to be said on both sides, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade talked of sectional representation as being a pernicious principle. He (Mr. Rowlands) said distinctly that he thought the Amendment would give them the best representation on the Port authority—much better than that in the Bill. So far as the Bill itself was concerned it was in his opinion based on sectional representation, and that being conceded some concession ought to be made to the various interests involved in the river. They had been told about Liverpool by those who knew it and their arguments had not been answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. If they gave sectional representation to one interest they should have sectional representation of all the industries. There were two great industries represented on the Mersey Board—the cotton trade and the corn trade.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
Although these members represent particular interests they are not responsible to a particular sectional constituency, but are responsible to the whole general body.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
said he admitted that. There was nothing in the constitution of the Mersey Board giving representative powers to these particular interests, but the authority of the port had to go outside the constitution and accept sectional representation and concede it to the two great interests on the river. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade had said that if these gentlemen were so exclusively exercised with their own affairs they were thrown out at the next election. He agreed, but supposing they were able to get the whole of the interests, including the manufacturers on the Thames, on the new Port authority, it would not happen that these representatives would be only present at the meetings of the authority when some interest of their own was to be debated. Hon. Members talked about great men of genius coming forward from the shipping interest, but there were great manufacturing interests on the Thames. He held in his hand a list of the manufacturing firms on the river, including some of the biggest and best known firms in the country. Take the Wall Papers Association, which spent hundreds of thousands of pounds every year in wages, and employed thousands of hands. Were their interests sectional? If they selected a representative would he not be a gentleman of equal capacity with the representative of the shipping interest? He maintained that these big manufacturing interests could not afford to send a man on to the Port authority who was not expert, intelligent, and could not grasp the whole affairs of the Port. He held that this question was one that could be best met by having all the interests represented on the Port authority. He joined in the view that this was not a party question, because they all spoke in the interest of the well-being of the huge population that depended on the Port authority.
§ MR. REMNANT
asked how the President of the Board of Trade could reconcile his statement that this was not a sectional representation when on page 52 of the Bill there was a provision as to the election of representative members which distinctly said that—The Board of Trade shall have regard to the desirability of elections being so conducted 357 as to secure that so far as possible the several interests concerned shall be adequately represented on the Port Authority.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The authority of the Board of Trade shall only be used to prevent exceptional representation or an undue balance or disproportion of interests being represented. There is no analogy between that and the proposal of the hon. Gentleman to construct a series of sectional constituencies.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
said he only quoted the Wall Papers Association as one of the biggest industries established on the river.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I think it is quite clear that there would be no objection to the authority, when constituted, having something like the natural evolution that followed in Liverpool. It would make sectional representation, but without the members who represented the sectional interests losing their responsibility to the general body.
§ * MR. SEAVERNS (Lambeth, Brixton)
said he was sorry to detain the House, but there was one point and a most important point which arose out of this controversy, which had not been covered in the debate. As he understood the proposal of the hon. Member for Dulwich, it was that because the river trade constituted one-half of the total trade of London, that trade should be entitled to representation on the Port authority to the extent of something like 50 per cent. As far as he could analyse the figures of the Amendment, that would be the effect of it. Might he also point out that if the figures of the hon. Member for Essex were agreed to, they would then have this state of affairs prevailing, that those in London who were the users of the docks were to provide an estimated revenue of £2,100,000 to the new Port authority and docks, and would be receiving the same voting powers as those other individuals representing the river trade who only provided £300,000. He would like to say, thus early in the Committee stage of the Bill, that if the Government were for one moment to adopt an attitude of that kind it would meet with the most strenuous opposition from those who 358 were prepared, at that moment, subject to reasonable Amendments, to accept the Bill. They felt that the burden put upon the commercial interests of London, the traders of London, was already sufficiently heavy, and that there was a very large element of risk of enormous damage being done to the interests of the port if the burden proved greater than was estimated. The payers of the new dues were in a somewhat perilous position, owing to possible extravagance and waste of money by the new Port authority, and they felt that their only safeguard from such a state of things was the possession of the franchise on a satisfactory basis. If, therefore, the Government were to adopt this Amendment or any other Amendment by which the franchise given to those who had to provide the money was illusory or fictitious rather than genuine and actual, he and others now supporting the Bill would strenuously oppose it. He was glad that the Government had taken this stand and he hoped they would not depart from it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ * COLONEL WARDE (Kent, Medway)
, in moving to substitute "eleven" for "ten," said he had put down the Amendment in the interests of the County of Kent, and he could assure the President of the Board of Trade that there was nothing sectional in the proposal to give the Kent County Council one member on the Port authority. On the contrary he quite agreed, if he might be permitted to say so, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the constituencies from which the representatives of the Port authority were elected should be very wide ones; he contended that the County of Kent would be a very wide constituency indeed, and he hoped the President of the Board of Trade would allow that there were very urgent reasons why the board should be enlarged as he proposed. The County of Kent included nearly 1,000,000 inhabitants, and its chief centres of industry were located on the river littoral within the seaward boundaries of the Port authority. The towns of Erith, Dartford, and Gravesend 359 alone included nearly 80,000 inhabitants, I most of whom got their living either as owners of, or workers in, wharves and works connected with the county, and yet, notwithstanding the vital importance the river was to the county, it was, according to the Bill as it at present stood, to have no representation on the board. He might remind the right hon. Gentleman that under the Thames Conservancy Act of 1894 the Kent County Council had representation on that body, and indeed that the Royal Commission of 1900 appointed to inquire into the administration of the Port of London recommended that the Kent County Council should have representation on the new port authority. Under the Bill the boundaries of the Port of London were extended much lower down the river; therefore, seeing it was considered just that the county should have representation when a much smaller portion of its river littoral was affected, it was much more necessary now that the representation should be continued if not increased. It was all very well to say that the general body of the Port authority would naturally safeguard the interests of the county, but those interests might sometimes clash, and he need only refer to the question of sewage disposal to demonstrate that contention. The North river boundary of Kent included fisheries, oyster-beds, and places of pleasure resort. Any outfall that might be quite sufficient for the purposes of London might be wholly insufficient to protect either the health or the attractiveness of those places. Indeed, the lower part of the river had already been much polluted. Unless the pleasure resorts of the county were to run the risk of being much damaged their interests could assuredly only be properly safeguarded by local representation. But there was another consideration of much more far-reaching importance than even the health of the river littoral. He alluded to the safety of the river banks, and it seemed to him an extraordinary omission that when a Bill of this vast importance was being prepared no more efficient powers of control over the river walls were asked for than those which at present obtained. At present, so far as he could ascertain, there was no central authority 360 responsible for the safety of the river walls. They were maintained partly by specially appointed Commissioners and partly by private owners. The dredging operations might seriously affect the safety of the foundations of these walls. Possibly not many members of the Committee could remember the disastrous explosion that occurred at Erith some forty years ago, which caused such a rent in the river wall that, had it not been for the prompt and courageous action of the military authorities at Woolwich, it was represented by the engineers on the spot that the whole country from Erith up to Camberwell might have been inundated and many thousands of lives lost in addition to the then new outfall sewers being all blown up. It might be argued that this danger, being a general one and not of local concern only, the board as a body might be interested in the question; but as Kent would primarily suffer it would be of vital consequence to the locality that, local representatives should be held responsible for this important local consideration. It might be said that these questions were dealt with by the Joint Committee upstairs; but so far as the interests of Kent were concerned, he was informed that the county council went to considerable expense in retaining counsel and collecting evidence in order to be heard before the Committee with a view of enlarging the port authority as he suggested, but the Committee ruthlessly put aside its claim, and its application to be heard was refused. He therefore pressed their claim on this occasion, and begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
In page 2, line 2, to leave out the word 'ten,' and insert the word 'eleven,'"—(Colonel Warde.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'ten' stand part of the clause."
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
, on a point of order, asked if the Chairman would make it clear that other Amendments would be permitted. There were several Amendments, and some of them were not interested in this particular Amendment, but they might be in 361 those which increased the number to twelve or fourteen. Or, perhaps, the whole subject might be discussed and the debate not confined to this particular proposal.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said he could not save Amendments but what could be done, and this was what the right hon. Gentleman wanted, was that the whole subject could be discussed. Other Members might desire to leave out "ten" for different reasons but there might be a combination of interests in favour of leaving out "ten" in order that some other figure might be inserted. Therefore the whole question could be discussed.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
This is the first of a series of Amendments proposing to give representation to various counties and cities which are, of course, affected by the operation or possible operation of the new Port authority, and I am quite sure that many will feel that the hon. and gallant Gentleman made out a very good case for the representation of the County of Kent. The difficulty the Government is in is that, no doubt, an equally good case can be made out by Members representing Essex, Middlesex, Surrey, and West Ham. Here already are a long series of Amendments, each of which would add a local representative to the Port authority. The case presented in every one of these cases is good if one had to consider only the one isolated case, but if you are to place five or six local members on the port authority to represent particular districts affected by its operation you will impair and paralyze to a very large extent the work of that authority. You will make its numbers larger than would be consistent with the swift discharge of public business and destroy the whole compact and manageable nature of the Board which it is now proposed to create. Therefore I ask hon. Members to exercise a self-denying ordinance in respect of what they might reasonably ask in the share of the representation. All these things were brought forward before the Joint Committee and urged with very great force, but the Committee was opposed to adding representatives for Kent, Essex, and 362 West Ham, as they thought that it would be impracticable to do that and retain the compact and manageable character of the Board. In fact the Committee went so far as to say that the number appointed under the Bill was rather excessive than otherwise, that there were ten appointed members and eighteen elective members, and that that was as high as we ought to go. There can be no just ground for picking and choosing between the counties asking for representation. What is good for one is good for all, and I can only add that if representatives were appointed for each of these counties, I am sure the efficiency of the Port authority would be prejudicially affected. It would be unwieldy and have upon it an unduly large element not directly concerned with the work of making the Port of London a first class port. I therefore most strongly urge the Committee to support the proposal in the form in which it has been put before them, and to keep the Committee small. The duties which will be put upon the Port authority will be various and important, and some will be of the most supreme importance. We are going to set up a public, or quasi - public, authority which is to succeed private bodies and come forward in the general interests. Let it have a chance. Let it be a thoroughly workable and manageable body, so that this great step forward may meet with the success that it deserves.
§ * MR. CAVE (Surrey, Kingston)
said that as the representative of one of the counties alluded to by the President of the Board of Trade, he wished to point out to him that what he had said was not consistent with what he had done in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman gave direct representation to the London County Council. He gave the London County Council four members on the Port authority. Why did he do that, and give no representation to other county authorities interested?
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The London County Council have no sectional interests to protect; that is the reason why.
§ * MR. CAVE
protested very strongly against the view that any of these counties had any sectional interests to 363 protect. He felt more and more, so far as these counties are concerned, that the Government was not treating them fairly in this matter, and especially the President of the Board of Trade. In the Electricity Bill, a few days ago, the right hon. Gentleman put the London County Council forward not only as the representative of London, but of the whole of the home counties; and a similar course was being followed in this Bill. These counties had a large frontage to the river, all of them had docks or wharves, and all of them had banks which would be affected by the dredging which was to be done by this Port authority. He thought, therefore, that the public bodies representing these large areas ought to have representatives on this Port authority, not to bring forward sectional views, but to bring forward matters affecting public interest. Surrey had a frontage of eight miles to the river. It had wharves and banks and was affected by dredging. More than that, it had the Richmond lock, which was actually within the area of the Port of London, and which required special working. Why in the name of all that was fair and just should not that county have one member on the board? He thought anybody appointed from one of these county authorities would think not of his own county alone but of other counties also. He could not see why these bodies having a direct interest in the matters in question should be excluded from representation on the authority of the Port of London. They were not heard by the Committee.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I think it is important that a Committee of the Whole House should not criticise other Committees, although, of course, arguments affecting onr action may be founded upon what has taken place in other Committees. Still less should the hon. Member criticise a Joint Committee.
§ * MR. CAVE
said he would of course follow the ruling of the Chairman and endeavour to suppress his feelings with regard to what took place in the Committee. When the Thames Conservancy was formed in 1874, these counties bordering on the Thames had representation 364 given to them in the manner now suggested, viz., by putting members of the county authorities on the Board of the Conservancy. What was just then was just now. He was now dealing with that part of Surrey which came below Teddington lock, and which was brought within the area of the Port of London. That being so, Surrey ought to have representation on the Port authority. It seemed to him a matter of simple justice that all these counties should have a representative. An addition of four or five members to the board would not make much difference. There were twenty-eight members now, there would be thirty-two members then. Twenty-eight was somewhat too large a number to conduct business without delegating some of the work to committees. Thirty-two members would not be very much greater, and he could not understand why if twenty-eight members formed a workable board a board of thirty-two members would be so objectionable. There were many members who felt very strongly on this matter, and he hoped the Government would give way and would drop their number of ten, in order that representatives of these counties might be added in their place.
§ * MR. RUSSELL REA
was glad to have this opportunity of hearing the accusation made that the Committee did not hear the case of the counties.
* THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member cannot go into that matter now. I have already said that it is not desirable for this Committee to criticise other Committees.
§ * MR. RUSSELL REA
In obeying your ruling, Sir, I suppose it will not be forbidden to me to defend the action taken by the Joint Committee.
* THE CHAIRMAN
It is not our business to criticise another Committee, and therefore it is not necessary to defend the action of any other Committee.
§ * MR. RUSSELL REA
said it appeared to him, and it appeared to the Committee, after studying the petitions of the counties, 365 after hearing all the cross-examination of the Board of Trade witnesses, that the admission of representatives of individual counties, in addition to the appointed members under the Bill, would be to encourage sectional representation of the very worst kind. The worst kind of sectional representation was geographical sectional representation, and he did not think there could be a better illustration of that than the two speeches to which the Committee had just listened from the hon. Members for Mid-Kent and Kingston. They both disclaimed any idea of sectional treatment, but their arguments were based on their sectional claims and the local interests that might be endangered or promoted in their particular localities. That was an argument against their being on the Port authority and not in favour of their being represented. They wished to safeguard against damage to or to promote local interests so far as they as local representatives could do. If they wished to safeguard local interests their proper way to do so was by the way of saving clauses. All proper saving clauses which were put before the Committee were admitted. What was wanted on the Port of London authority were members who were anxious to promote the commerce of the country and the interests of the Port of London as a whole. It further appeared to him and to the Committee that the proportion of appointed members was quite large enough, in fact, too large. The Committee, however, kept to the number of appointed members and did not decrease it, but they did increase the number of the elective members from fourteen to eighteen. It was said that the constitution of the Port authority was not entirely satisfactory. The democratic principle was that taxation and representation should go together, and that those who had to maintain and support the great properties which would be entrusted to this authority should constitute the governing body. As it was, they had a majority, though not an excessive majority. After reading the petitions very carefully, and after hearing all the cross-examination by the counsel for those counties, thus gathering entirely what the case for those counties was, the Committee came to the conclusion, as he 366 had come to the conclusion, that if the county representatives were to be admitted to the Port authority, they should prefer that they had the county of Merioneth rather than the county of Middlesex, simply because it had less local, sectional, and geographical interests. It was complained that the London County Council was over-represented. He was not there to defend the extent of that representation, but it might be observed that they had a sort of historic claim from their connection with this question, which originated with them, and from the various generous offers they had made in former times to contribute millions of money out of their own pocket and to guarantee the debt of the authority. All that had gone, but the position of the County Council was to some extent maintained, and in the opinion of the Board of Trade and of the Government, having regard to the sectional interests of the ratepayers of the Port and seeing that a large number of appointed members appeared to be necessary—it was probably better to follow the example given in previous Bills and accept the London County Council as in a general way representative of municipal and outside local opinion. Of course, the representation of the City of London was on an absolutely different footing. The City of London had no geographical interest to safeguard, and had no undeveloped property on the river frontage; it had no manufactures there, and its interest was entirely the whole interest of the Port and of the commercial community. Therefore, they came to the conclusion, first, that they would not on any account increase the number of appointed members, but they did increase by one the representation of the City of London, and they did it at the expense of the London County Council.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said he was unable to follow the hon. Member in his argument defending the London County Council. The hon. Member had just said that the London County Council was representative of interests inside and outside of London. He presumed he meant that it covered the interests of Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Middlesex. He could imagine those counties listening to that statement.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
That the hon. Member did not make that statement is correct, but if the hon. Member's statement did not mean that then I am unable to understand what it did mean. The hon. Member said the London County Council represented vast outside interests.
§ * MR. RUSSELL REA
No, I did not say that. I said that the County Council, seeing that so many appointed members appeared to be necessary, might be taken as representative of municipal and local feeling generally.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
Municipal and local feeling generally. Did the hon. Member mean municipal and local opinion in Kent, Surrey, Essex, and Middlesex? That was exactly what he meant, and what he understood from the speech of the hon. Gentleman. But surely the hon. Member's argument would not hold water for one minute. Let him suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that he would meet a very just claim and appeal by cutting down the representation of the London County Council. The London County Council had no more direct interest in the welfare of the Port of London than Kent, Surrey, Middlesex or Essex.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he could not quite see that. But oven if the London County Council had a greater interest than any of those counties, it was still not a sufficient reason for refusing the application and appeal of those counties. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised if he dropped this provision. He must agree with him in saying, however, that they ought not to have a body which was too unwieldy. He thought that twenty-eight was a very considerable number, but as his hon. and learned friend had observed, the difference between twenty-eight and thirty-two was not great, when it represented the removal of injustice. He believed it was an unjust thing not to give those four 368 counties bordering on the river, and having great interests, due and proper representation. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman. He believed the whole sense of the House and of the country would be with them in this appeal to lower the representation of the London County Council, and give those four counties the representation which the London County Council had. He would make the representation of the London County Council consist of one selected by them inside the body, and one selected outside the body. That, he thought, would be very just. Why they should exalt the London County Council and represent its interest to be so much greater than the interests of the counties of Surrey, Kent, Essex and Middlesex [...] could not understand. Why should they absolutely ignore the interests of those counties? It had been said by the hon. Member opposite that theirs was a purely sectional interest. He thought on second thoughts he would reverse his opinion. If he asked, as representing the Borough of Gravesend, for representation on the Board, then they might accuse him of asking for section representation. If the Member for Rotherhithe were to ask for a representative of that constituency, then he could be accused of asking for sectional representation. But, as his hon. friend pointed out, they had, in Kent alone, a population of over 1,000,000; they had vast interests which could not be considered as local interests, or as sectional. It was suggested that great counties representing vast geographical areas, in asking for moderate representation by the appointment of three or four members to this Board were asking for the representation of sectional interests. That was not in accordance with the facts. The hon. Member had talked about the historic claim of the London County Council, but that body was an exceedingly modern institution, and to talk of it as one of the hoary institutions of the country, having established a record for great efforts on behalf of the community and receiving the general appreciation of the public on that ground, he ventured to say was quite unreasonable. There was no historic claim on the part of the London County Council. If they were going to have historic claims, then surely the 369 counties of Kent and Surrey could put forward an historic claim. [An HON. MEMBER: Essex.] He did not exclude Essex. He hoped the hon. Member would establish the claim of Essex in the speech which he trusted he would deliver to the Committee. When the right hon. Gentleman suggested that Sectional representation was behind this appeal on behalf of the counties, he had not even been true to the principles laid down in his own Bill. Let the Committee look at subsection (7), where a representative of Labour was deliberately to be chosen by the Board of Trade. Surely that was sectional. He did not object to it at all, but he did object to the right hon. Gentleman talking about sectional representation when the Board of Trade deliberately said—"We are going to give to Labour, a section of the community, a representative, on this Board." He did not think that the arguments which had been adduced were satisfactory, and while he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the authority ought to be limited in number, and ought to be kept down if possible to at most thirty, he submitted that that result could be achieved by taking two or three from the London County Council and giving them to the other counties.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB (Rochester)
was glad to have an opportunity of emphasising the non-party aspect of this question, and, therefore, he supported his hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Medway division and the hon. Member for Gravesend. The President of the Board of Trade had emphasised the fact that the Port authority was in a sense already too large. But he would point out that as it was so large already, and the delegation of work was necessitated by the present number, the addition of two members, one representing one section, and another for Kent, would not add to his difficulties in that respect. Then the right hon. Gentleman made reference to the number discussed in Committee, but might he remind him that since the time to which he referred the number has been increased from fourteen to eighteen, What they were asking was that the number of appointed members should now be increased. Counsel were engaged at very great expense 370 on this very point, but they were not heard, and, therefore, it was scarcely open to the President of the Board of Trade to say that upstairs they had every opportunity of being heard.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I did not say that I said that the Committee had given full consideration to the matter, and they declined to give the representation asked for.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
did not think the right hon. Gentleman had gainsaid his statement, but he must not be drawn into criticism of the action of the Joint Committee. He wished, however, to refer to some of the objections raised in Committee to the Amendment moved by his hon. and gallant friend. First of all, they were told by one of the speakers against the Amendment—he thought it was the Chairman of the Joint Committee—that they ought if they had some representation also to have some financial responsibility. He would point out to him that this very argument would apply with equal strength against the London County Council and the City Corporation. They had representation and no financial responsibility. He was not arguing that the City Corporation should lose one of its representatives, but what was fair for them was equally or still more fair for Kent and for Essex. When they remembered that both Kent and Essex had nearly 1,000,000 acres and almost 1,000,000 inhabitants, surely they had some right with their great river frontage to some representation on the Port authority. Then he wanted to emphasise the fact that under the Thames Conservancy Act of 1894, both counties actually had representatives, and also that the Royal Commission, appointed in 1900, reported in favour of both Kent and Essex having representation. Under this Bill the extension of the limits of the Port took in a far greater frontage of both the counties. Then again, the question of dredging had been emphasised. A very large portion of both counties lay below the level of the Thames, and the Royal Commission reported very strongly upon this point. In Section 5 of the Report they said—A full description of the estuary of the Thames from the Nore to Gravesend is given in 371 the Report of the Lower Thames Navigation Commission, and it is, therefore, unnecessary for us to deal with this part of the subject.Again, in Section 56 they said—We desire to call special attention to the expression of the views of the Lower Thames Navigation Commission in certain paragraphs of their Report.The paragraph they referred to was this—Above Gravesend there may possibly be some complications affecting the feasibility of any serious deepening of the river by reason of valuable properties in places bordering on its banks, and there may be questions as to the stability of the embankments which protect low-lying lands from being overflowed. These matters would require careful examination.The Royal Commission, in reporting, emphasised that broad fact which had been found by the previous Commission, and was more accentuated to-day than ever. They had had a somewhat recent experience. They knew what happened for six months—the direct railway service between London and Tilbury was interrupted. He knew he would be met by the right hon. Gentleman when he said Section 42 deprived the Port authority of the protection they would otherwise have by acting upon statutory powers in the event of actions against them for special damage by dredging. That might safeguard the interests of a great railway company like the London and Tilbury, but it would be very difficult for the owner or occupier of a small cottage or other small property to make good his claim for compensation without the assistance of of local representation, and that was another argument in favour of their contention that they should have, direct representation of both the Kent and Essex County Councils. Then the county council in each case were the health authority for their respective counties. He should be bound to vote against the Government. He desired that ten should be deleted in order that twelve might be inserted, because he felt that if the case was considered impartially, as they were unable to have it considered before the Joint Committee, Members must feel that they had made out a case, and he, therefore, asked the right hon. Gentleman to listen to their appeal and settle this very vexed question.
§ MR. NIELD (Middlesex, Ealing)
said that perhaps most of them were, as regarded 372 the Government aspect of the matter, belligerent; one would like to hear a little more said for the measure. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. He could assure him one could be sufficiently belligerent, but the Chairman's ruling had relieved him, he was glad to say, of an unpleasant task. But there was one statement which the hon. Member for Gloucester made to which he was sure the Chairman would allow him to reply, and that was that he had heard cross-examination by opposing counsel. He had extracts from the minutes of the proceedings, and the county which he represented was deliberately stopped in the cross-examination of witnesses. He was sure the hon. Member, when he refreshed his memory, would agree with him that he was mistaken when he made that statement. It was curious that the Chairman of the Committee should have used the name of his county when he said if they were to have this, which he regarded as the worst of all sectional representation—representation by county—he would rather it was the county of Merioneth than Middlesex. The case of Middlesex was an overwhelming case. In no sense of the word could it be regarded as sectional representation. These large outlying counties were just as much the county of London as any other part of the country. Middlesex now had a population of 1,060,000, the bulk of whom went into London and contributed to the wealth of inner London. Surely they should be represented, and unless they got this representation by county they would be wholly shut out. Even the industrial classes, by means of locomotion., were now going out afield, instead of stopping in these areas, and the result was that they were giving to a very limited electorate an opportunity for representation which they were denying to the day population of those areas which lived in Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent. There was a very strong additional reason why Middlesex should have representation. It was given power by Parliament ten years ago to be the river pollution authority for the county, and the rivers of Middlesex flowed into the Thames. Not only was the population vast, but the rateable value also was a matter of concern, because it showed the immense financial interests 373 at stake. He was sure, under these circumstances, it was not fair to say that the London County Council were representative in the least degree of these great interests which were only in a secondary degree, and in a transitory way, attachable to the County of London. The right hon. Gentleman would not say that the increase in the number of the Port authority from twenty-eight to thirty-eight, or thirty-two, would appreciably affect its working. He did not know that the right hon. Gentleman had ever given a portion of his time to the service of municipal or county authorities, but he was sure he would take it from those who had given their time and labour to the less illustrious and, perhaps, less rewarded service of municipal authorities that the difference could not be appreciable. He asked the Government to abandon that non possumus attitude which they appeared to have pursued all the way through, and to concede to these outlying districts, which were now a vital part of London, the representation which was asked.
§ * MR. NAPIER (Kent, Faversham)
said he rose to join the chorus of geographical sections pressing upon the President of the Board of Trade the amendment which had been moved. He noticed that the President, in his reply to the mover of the Amendment, began by recognising the prima facie justice of the demand, and to anyone who for a moment realised the facts the admission of the President became self-evident. Here they had two counties through which the river flowed. The limits of the ports extended for something like forty miles down the river from London, but there were only eight or ten miles of London in it, and they gave practically the whole of the Board to this little area of eight or ten miles. He admitted that it was the wealthiest and most important part, but they neglected the whole of the other Counties extending fifty miles on each side of the river. Of course, the President was acutely dialectical as always in the way he met the Amendment. He said that if he yielded to Kent he would have to yield to four or five other people who were pressing him. He did not altogether agree with that answer to the Amendment. It depended not upon the number of the 374 demands but upon the justice and the character of each demand whether they ought to yield to it or not, and he did not admit for a moment that Kent and Essex were to be placed upon the same level as Middlesex and Surrey. Let them consider for a moment. They had six or seven miles of Surrey and Middlesex apart from London in the port area. They had thirty or forty miles of the Kent and Essex portion of the river, which included manufactories and wharves of an infinitely greater size, and where he ventured to say there was from fifty to 100 times as much business done as in the Surrey and Middlesex part. Therefore, he suggested, to the President of the Board of Trade that if he applied his mind to the demands of particular counties he would come to the conclusion that the demand of Surrey and Middlesex might be fairly met by giving them a member between them. He might remind the Committee that the Metropolitan Water Bill contained provisions whereby several local authorities united to elect a member, and he submitted it would be perfectly easy to apply that principle to the present Bill. The President of the Board of Trade went on to say that if they had these four or five members the body would become too large. If they were going to have a small body for the purpose of doing the work it must practically be a committee. Substantially, there was no difference between a body which had over fifteen or sixteen members and one which had between thirty and forty members. The moment they exceeded fifteen or sixteen for the purposes of committee deliberations they might as well go up to thirty or forty members. That was so in this particular case, and it was absurd to pretend that the increase in the number of the members of this Board from twenty-eight to thirty-two or thirty-three could really make any difference at all in the deliberative character of the Board. The President of the Board of Trade went on to tell them that the addition of these three or four members would hamper and paralyse the work of the Board. He thought that language was somewhat exaggerated. Why should the addition of four members elected by county councils who were presumably men of knowledge, who wished well to the 375 Port of London, and who wanted the Port of London to be a great port, be any obstacle to the success of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill? Why on earth they should hamper and paralyse the action of the Board passed his comprehension. They would be there to guard particular interests, and subject to that they would give their very best attention to the work of the Board and devote their best services to bringing about the objects which the right hon. Gentleman had in view in his Bill. The Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Gloucester, had told them that the representation of Kent and Essex would be a geographical representation, and that that was sectional representation of the worst kind. The hon. Member, however, did not bring a single argument forward to prove his bare statement. In almost all ports in the Kingdom they proceeded upon the basis of geographical representation. That was a principle almost without exception, and to come to the House of Commons at the present day with a grave face and tell them that geographical representation was the worst kind of representation seemed to him to be one of the worst kinds of argument which he had heard for a long time. There was a very great deal to be said for the argument of the Secretary to the Board of Trade that when dealing with the trade of London as a whole, when they did not know what really were the diverse interests in trade and when they could not apportion representation fairly and equally amongst all the interests concerned, they had better elect the Board en bloc and trust to the best men being elected. That did not interfere with the argument he was urging. He was taking the House away from the mass of the trade of London and directing its attention to those outlying parts of other counties which were necessarily involved in the creation of a great port for London. They were not introducing sectional interests into the administration of the Port, but they were asking to have introduced into the governing body the representation of interests which sometimes might be adverse to the whole interest of London, but which still were interests which were definite and which were not likely seriously 376 to conflict with the rest of London. Illustrations had been given in the way of the walls of the river. It had been pointed out how an alteration in the channel brought about through dredging, which would be a perfectly legitimate operation for the benefit of London, might yet do very serious injury to the wharves on the river. There was another point which especially concerned the constituency which he represented. The Medway and the Swale were exempt from the operation of the Bill; the dredging of the Thames, however, might affect the channel of the Medway and the Swale, and, therefore, in any plan for the dredging, of the channel it was only reasonable that the representative of Kent should have an opportunity of making his voice heard. It might be said by the right hon. Gentleman that if any damage was done to Kent or Essex, they would have their remedy under the Bill. He knew that under certain sections they might bring an action for damages against the Port authority. He did not think that they were sufficiently protected in that way. No doubt a really wrongful act done by the new Port authority might be actionable. If they negligently broke any sea wall, they would be liable, but if they did damage by an alteration of the channel, and it could be proved that their action was necessary for the development in the best possible way of the Port of London, they would have no remedy at all. The commonsense of the House did not approve of a position of that kind. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman on the front bench that they ought to ask for no representation in the Bill which would injure the constitution of the Board as a whole. They wanted the Board to represent the trade of London, and he agreed that there ought not to be such a number of external elements as would imperil the efficiency of the Board as a whole. He submitted there was a clear case here in which they had three or four counties who might be vitally interested in what was done by this Port authority who were not likely, if they had the privilege of electing members, to send gentlemen who would either hamper or harass its work. These counties had enormous interests which might be effected by the Bill, and it was only in accordance with precedent 377 and with Acts relating to local government and local boards that a member each should be accorded to those counties.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON (Elgin and Nairn)
said that as a member of the Joint Committee he would like to say a few words upon this question. The different counties whose representatives had spoken had made out a strong case from the point of view of their particular counties as compared with other counties. But the Committee, after reading all the petitions from the different counties and hearing their lawyers cross-examine the promoters of the Bill, deprecated the nominated element on the proposed body. They deprecated that that element should be increased, in fact they regretted that it existed at all or to such a large extent as it did already in the Bill. That being so, the frame of mind of the Committee was not to increase the number of nominated representatives of certain sections. The instances of the London County Council and the Corporation of the City of London were looked upon as exceptional cases. The position of the London County Council was indeed altered by the Committee, because instead of having a number of representatives from their own body they were reduced to four, two of whom they must elect from outside. The County Council's exceptional position was based upon the fact that it represented a great body of the consumers of London and the general public who were not payers of dues. It might be said that there were others in Middlesex and Kent and elsewhere in the same position, but after careful consideration the Committee concluded, he thought rightly, to accept this principle so far, regretting that they had to accept it at all, and they looked upon the County Council representation as an exceptional case which might cover that interest altogether. Then there was the case of the Corporation, and that was an entirely exceptional case also. There again they had to elect a representative who was not one of their own body as well as one who was. Let them look at other ports. What was done on the Mersey? They had the city of Liverpool on the one side and Birkenhead on the other. There was the county of Lancashire on one 378 side and Cheshire on the other, but there were no representatives on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board of either Lancashire, Cheshire, or Birkenhead. Those different geographical places were not represented on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board as geographical areas, and yet the interests of those counties with regard to what was done on the Mersey were not very different from the interests of the counties of Kent and Essex in what might be done in the case of the River Thames. In coming to the decision which they did he thought the Committee came to a right decision after carefully considering the petitions of the various parties. The members who were to be elected by the London County Council would belong only partly to that council and would partly represent interests outside the council, and he thought they would represent the interests of the consumers and the small traders outside the city.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said the Question before the Committee was an exceedingly interesting one. It was to his mind really a question as to what was right and what ought to be done. It had been discussed in Committee from several points of view as a mere question of expediency. He thought that the proposal of the Government was open to serious objection on the ground that it was not consistent. The speech of the President of the Board of Trade was exceedingly convincing. It was, in fact, incapable really of being answered. What he claimed was that the gentlemen constituting the Board should be a body of business men, and that they should really be elected ad hoc very largely, or as far as possible, by the actual people who paid the dues. From the democratic point of view there was no answer to that proposition. This Board ought to be elected as far as it possibly could be, consistently with preserving the legitimate rights of other people, exclusively by the people who paid the money. Representation in this case, as in all others, should follow taxation. If the matter had rested as stated in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, there would have been an end of it, but it was only 379 when they looked at the Bill they found that the real difficulty arose, because they then found that there were a number of nominated members of exactly the class which the President of the Board of Trade said ought not to be on the body. There were to be two from the London County Council who were members of that body and two more who were not members of it—four in all—from the London County Council. There were to be two from the City of London, and one from Trinity House. What on earth Trinity House wanted with a representative on the Port of London Authority which was to be a business body, he could not conceive. It would be quite right that the Admiralty should have one and that the Board of Trade should have two, especially for the purpose of nominating as one of those men, a leading Labour man. But when they found that the whole of the arguments of the Government, and the whole of the arguments of the President of the Board of Trade, were given away by the Bill, and that there were those nominated members to represent geographical areas, then they were face to face in this particular Amendment with the question. Why should not Kent have one? If they conceded that the London County Council should have four, and that the City of London should have two, there was no answer to the claim of Kent for one. Some observations had been made with reference to Essex. He heard an hon. Member rather belittle Essex as if Essex ought not to have a member. If he knew anything of the limits of the Port of London he would have thought that a large part of the practical work of the docks was done in Essex. Why should not Essex have a representative if any county was to be represented at all on this body? The real truth of the matter was this. The proposal of the Government was wrong because it was not consistent, because it had picked out one body and given it an overwhelming representation to the exclusion of other bodies which had as great, if not a greater, right to be represented. He asked himself how it was that the County Council had slipped in for four members, and the City of London for two. He thought the 380 provisions of the previous Bill cast a little light on that, tinder the previous Bill the body proposed to be set up was to be largely dependent for its finance on the City of London, and in that case it was right that it should have considerable representation in respect of its pecuniary relations to the body. But when they read this Bill through, they found that there was not a pennyworth of pecuniary responsibility cast upon the City of London one way or the other, and, therefore, on these grounds they had no right to have any representation at all. The real justice of the position demanded that all these County Council representatives should go, and if the President of the Board of Trade were present—he saw that the right hon Gentleman was ably represented—and if he were willing to strike out the London County Council altogether, one of the two members for the City of London, and the Trinity House man—it was a ridiculous suggestion that Trinity House should have a representative—if the right hon Gentleman would say that he would not have any of these people, the position of the Government would be consistent and logical; on all sides of the House there would be hardly any question that it was just and right, and they would be prepared to leave the question of the administration of the Port of London to this newly constituted body consisting almost entirely of bona fide elected members representing the people who paid the money and those two or three nominated members to whom he had referred, such as the representatives of the Admiralty and the Board of Trade. He stood up to advocate the principle which he believed was the democratic solution of this matter namely, to leave the whole of these men out, but if the Government and the President of the Board of Trade insisted on keeping the four County Council representatives, the two from the City of London, and one from Trinity House, it seemed to him that it was not logical that the legitimate claim of Kent, Essex, Surrey, and Middlesex to be represented should be refused. As for the statement of the Chairman of the Joint Committee, that he would prefer the county of Merioneth to be inserted he 381 would say that it was a paradox, because it really did mean something. It puzzled him for some time, but he thought the hon. Member really meant that it was very objectionable from his point of view to have on the Port authority half a dozen members representing isolated interests and who practically came there as respectable leading men in the County Council and elsewhere, though they were not in the front rank as active business men of the day. The hon. Member meant that it was objectionable to have them on the Board, and that he would prefer that they should come from Merioneth where he would get men who would not understand the English language, and therefore, would not be able to take a lengthy part in the debates. He fancied that was the idea he had in his mind, if there was any idea at all in the observation he made. He thought that was as near the sense of it as they could get. He appealed to the President of the Board of Trade to knock out all these nominated geographical members. If he did so they would all be pleased, but if he insisted on keeping them in, the other areas had an equal right to representation.
§ MR. ROWLANDS
said he had listened with very great interest to the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn and the hon. Member for Gloucester, and he must say that when he heard the reasons why they arrived at a certain conclusion he was somewhat astounded at the frame of mind they must have been in. They had both spoken against the Amendment proposed by his hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Med-way Division, and they had told the Committee that if they had had their way they would have taken out the whole of the nominated members from the Bill. Had they recommended that course to the Board of Trade, possibly the Board would have listened to their wisdom, and, as had just been said, they would all have been satisfied that the Port authority was to be elected by the people who had to find the means whereby the expenditure in connection with this new body was to be carried on. But under existing circumstances he could not for the life of him see how 382 they had arrived at the conclusion to oppose the whole series of Amendments that dealt with the extension of the representation on the authority. They had heard over and over again from those Gentlemen, and also from the President of the Board of Trade, that the one thing they did not want was sectional representation. He thought they had got that word "sectional" into their minds until it had become so absorbing to them that it had excluded all other thoughts. How could it be sectional representation if the nominee represented the whole of a great county with all its varied interests? Indeed, in the case of Essex and Kent, when the river was under the control of the Thames Conservancy, these two great counties had representation on that body. [An HON. MEMBER: They were the best working members of it.] He thought what the hon Member had stated had also been the experience of those who knew the working of the Board. The calibre of the men who were to be put on the new authority had been very much discussed. They had had experience in Kent of the class of gentlemen nominated by that county to look after the interests and the well-being of the river, and he ventured to say that those sent to the Thames Conservancy Board were men of the class who would be sent by the County Council of Kent, and they would be quite equal to any representatives elected in any other way. The position so far as the Government were concerned was absolutely illogical, for having said that they wanted a body representative of the interests of the people who found the money, they conceded that nominated members should be on the body. When they looked at the varied interests all round the coast which have to be considered it was most surprising to him that the hon. Members who had taken part in the debate seemed to have the notion that somewhere outside the boundaries of London there were some wilds and marshes called the counties of Kent and Essex. That was amusing to those who knew the river. He remembered that on the Second Reading debate the President of the Board of Trade, talking about cheap land, said there were wilds that might be bought near the river. He asked him to go to Kent or Essex, outside of London, and he 383 would find that, instead of having to deal with some wilds which were derelict, from the moment he crossed Abbey Wood into Kent, or the river Darenth into the Erith district, he was face to face with a population which at the time of the last census was 25,000. They had in that district alone industries of the largest magnitude—firms whose names were historic, whether it was in connection with armaments, engineering, cables, coal, or other industries. He had lists of them, and he could show that millions of money were involved in those industries. That was only taking the boundary of the river, but if they went further they came to the town of Gravesend. They went beyond that, and had the biggest cement industry in the world; and then they went on to the other divisions until they got to the docks. What was the case so far as Kent was concerned? In this Bill it had been thought judicious—he was not criticising that — to remove the old boundaries of the Thames Conservancy, and to go further into the sea. They had travelled down the whole coast of Kent and Essex, and they had taken the whole of the interest there into their keeping. When the interests involved were of such magnitude, he could not understand, for the life of him, how a business-like body such as the Board of Trade, having conceded nominee members on the Port authority, could ignore the vast industries on the lower reaches of the river. They had adopted the attitude of the Medes and Persians, and they would not give way. But what justification could they have for their conduct? None whatever. They had all an interest in looking after the well-being of the river. The question of dredging had been put forward. They had, in his own constituency, two important creeks where dredging had taken place; but they might be affected by the general dredging of the river, and what representation could they have on the Thames Conservancy? One of the creeks was two miles long, and there were busy industries on that portion of the river. It might be said that the other representatives on the authority would represent their interests, but neither the London County Council nor the City Corporation were interested in their 384 welfare. They had their own interests to look after, and were not concerned with theirs. And therefore some indiscretion might arise, with the best intention, affecting detrimentally the whole of the trade of that part of Kent, and incidentally affecting a large portion of the labour engaged in it. He had put the case of the dredging already before the Board of Trade, and had pointed out where the dredging of the river had affected business-places on shore. A great point, so far as Kent and Essex were concerned, was that every single scheme of any magnitude that was talked about for the improvement of the Port of London was not within the boundaries of London, but on portions of the river outside London, and within the range of Kent and Essex, whether it were the projected barrage or the sea-wall, and yet no representation was given to these counties. It was not that they had not a good case. It was admitted that they had a good case, but the argument was: "We do not want to extend the numbers of the Port authority." He could have understood that if the Port authority had been constituted of a dozen persons who could have managed the whole thing without cutting up the body into committees. That was a matter for consideration. But they had extended the members to twenty-eight, and that was a body which could not discuss all the details. One of the first things the new Port authority would have to do was to subdivide itself into committees, and all they said was that having created a body of that size, and having admitted the fact that there were all these industries to be considered in Kent and Essex, they ought to concede some representation on that great body to these counties, because their interests were the same as those of the rest of the Port of London. But it was said that this would be something in the way of sectional representation. It was ridiculous to talk of sectional representation coming from a county like Kent, with its varied interests, on a public body that was to control the whole of the river. He maintained that they might have a representative from the County of Kent capable of 385 looking after the well-being of the Port of London as a whole and all those things that were for the well-being of the country at large. They were told about the consumers and that London was getting representation on account of the consumers; but when he spoke of these counties of Kent and Essex he spoke for over a million of consumers. Therefore they had a right to plead with the Board of Trade to give them that representation which would not overweight the Port authority.
§ * MR. W. THORNE (West Ham, S.)
said he could not altogether subscribe to the doctrine preached by the hon. Member on the opposite benches and by the Chairman of the Committee who sat on this Bill because they said that taxation and representation ought to go together. He agreed to a large extent with that principle, but he could not subscribe to it in regard to this particular question, for if only the gentlemen who paid the dues were to be represented on the Port authority, he was afraid that there would be a quarrel between the section which represented the docks and the section which represented the river, and the result would be that those who represented the docks would be trying to shift the responsibility from their own shoulders on to the shoulders of those who represented the river. And that would not work. He did not altogether agree with the argument of his friend when he said that the Government ought to knock out the representatives of the London County Council and of the City Corporation. He had no objection to the power given to the London County Council and the City Corporation, for there was no doubt that the gentlemen selected from these bodies would do their best to increase the trade of the Port. But it did not altogether follow that the London County Council in selecting two from within and two from without their number, and the City Corporation in selecting one from within and one from without would get the best representatives. They might select from without the biggest duffers. Then there was another danger, because every three years they had a County Council election, and there might be a com- 386 plete change in the composition of the County Council, and if the representatives of the County Council lost their seats on the County Council there would have to be a fresh change of the men interested in the business of the river. The representative of the Board of Trade had said that a case had been made out by some of the previous speakers, and he took it that he should have to make out a case for West Ham, South. He did not think he would have very much trouble in doing that. He thought that the President of the Board of Trade was somewhat mistaken in regard to the particular Amendment before the House, because he said that if that Amendment were carried it would mean that the whole of the counties would call for representation on the Port authority. He did not read the Amendment in that direction. He took it that, if it were carried, instead of there being ten representatives there would be eleven; and if that were so it would then devolve on the Board of Trade to choose another representative for the counties of Kent, Essex, and Middlesex. He agreed that it would be much better, and more satisfactory to all concerned, if these representatives were appointed for Kent, Essex and the borough of West Ham. It appeared to him that the Government were responsible for the lengthy debate because it would have been curtailed had there been a chance on the Second Reading of the Bill to thrash out all these matters they were now discussing. So far as West Ham was concerned, they had a great interest at stake. They had two miles of river frontage leading to the Thames, and had the whole of the Victoria Dock in the centre of the borough, and also part of the Albert Dock, and a rental value of £75,000. In the face of these facts he thought the Government ought to agree to give them a representation on the Port authority. When the Thames Conservancy Act was passed in 1904 the information given to the Committee was of such importance that they agreed to give the borough of West Ham one representative; but where this new authority was to be established they would not only be deprived of their representation, but other districts would also lose their representation. He could not see why 387 the Government should have given four representatives to the London County Council and two to the City Corporation. He took it that they would not alter that representation, but in the face of the tremendous amount of business to be brought before the new authority, and the great stake they in West Ham had in the matter, he appealed most earnestly to the Government to make the small concession to West Ham which had been asked for by all sides of the House. He had been in the House for some three years and had listened to many discussions with regard to various Bills, but he had never found such earnest appeals made from all quarters of the House to the Government to change the position that they had already taken up. He, therefore, endorsed the appeal to the President of the Local Government Board to make this small concession so that they could get on to the other clauses.
§ * SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)
said he did not look with any enthusiasm upon the measure, and the condition of th3 House suggested that he was not alone in the attitude he took up with regard to it as a London Member. He found some difficulty, rather, because of the authority which was to be set up, in warmly supporting the Board of Trade and thanking them for the Bill. Personally, he regretted that this was a case in which London was to have another ad hoc authority set up. He had hoped that the case might be dealt with in the large measure of London reform which the Government was considering for next year, and he thought the matter might have waited till then. They heard that those who paid the dues were the persons who ought to be represented on the authority, and they also heard that those who paid the dues indirectly were the consumers, and it was consumers who ought to be largely represented on such a body as this. Indeed, the justification for the representation of the London County Council and the City Corporation was said by the hon. Member for Elgin and Nairn to be that they largely represented the consumers, and that that was the justification for the representation. He thought that the argument ought not to have stopped there. He considered that this was 388 largely a consumers' question and that the question of the reform of the Port of London ought to be, if it was not, one of the primary municipal concerns of London. They had been told from the other side that they lacked civic enthusiasm and enterprise in London, but the Government were not likely to encourage that enthusiasm or enterprise by giving such a small share to London's municipalities in such a scheme as this. He could have wished that the model of Bristol had been taken rather than that of Liverpool. He had visited Bristol and had seen the civic enthusiasm there. On the Continent they might search in vain for any such authority in any port as that set up by this Bill. He regretted that the majority was given to the so-called elected element. He would have increased the appointed members over the elected members, and have begged for a larger representation for the London County Council and the Corporation. He regretted that the London County Council had not seen its way to assume any financial liability in the matter, but he hoped and trusted a future council might take a different view in regard to that. He deeply regretted that London was to be fobbed off with, and have foisted on it another ad hoc authority, and that the municipal representation upon the new authority was to be so small. This great question of the Port of London, which ought to occupy the interest and excite the enthusiasm of the citizens of London, was not likely to achieve that end while the authority had such small municipal representation. He wished the Continental system had been accepted here. The port of the capital of the Empire ought to be regarded as a matter of Imperial concern, or at least as a matter of municipal concern, and he urged that the municipal representation ought to be far larger than it was in the Bill put before them.
§ * MR. WHITEHEAD
regretted very much that sitting on that side of the House he was unable to accept the suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade that they should not press this matter. Speaking on behalf of the County of Essex he felt bound to urge their very important interests 389 affecting the Port of London. The fact was that on the Second Reading the Government, he thought, injudiciously insisted upon closuring the debate and not allowing these matters to be discussed. That, he thought, would have been the right opportunity to have cleared the air with regard to these matters which appeared upon the Order Paper. At that time he gave notice to move an Instruction to the Committee dealing with this very matter but Mr. Speaker intimated to him that it would not be in order. He was afraid if he were to state to the Committee the reasons Mr. Speaker gave he would seem to be trespassing beyond the limits of the ruling given that evening by the Chairman's predecessor in the Chair when he said they were not to criticise the action of the Committee upstairs. But on the Second Reading no opportunity was given for considering this matter. The debate had covered a very large number of points, and he hoped to confine himself within the strictest limits, but he could not help thinking after listening to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, which he did most carefully, that the right hon. gentleman had sympathy with the views he was expressing, and that in his heart he thought they were right. But he had used one or two phrases of a rather rhetorical character about pampering and paralysing the action of the Port authority. He would put it before the Committee, that this was a serious business question, and the use of fine phrases on one side or the other did not afford any guidance to the Committee, They had heard strange contributions from the members of the Joint Committee who had taken part in the debate. One of them ventured to put forward the suggestion—the farcical suggestion, if he might say so—that the County of Merioneth was as much and more entitled to representation than the counties of Essex and Kent, and that the London County Council had some great historical claim to be represented. These considerations had been dealt with by previous speakers, but he could only say that, representing one of the divisions of Essex which, was interested in the port, they entirely repudiated the suggestion 390 that the London County Council in any way represented their interests or could represent them. The interests of the London County Council were entirely in conflict with those of Essex in many important particulars, and it seemed very hard that the London County Council should be represented in so large a degree whereas Essex interests were entirely disregarded. It was not as if Essex had not a historic claim. It had, it was not a very ancient one, but at all events since 1894 they had had a representative on the Thames Conservancy who had looked after their local and business interests affecting Essex along the Essex shore. What the Government were doing was absolutely to disfranchise the County of Essex in respect of this question. It was a very strong action on their part, and he submitted that to do this simultaneously with giving a large representation to the County Council of London was a very unusual and a very unwise step to take. He submitted a short time ago to the House when they were considering the Electricity Bill, that the Board of Trade, in the outlook which they had with respect to such questions were guided by rather narrow considerations. They looked only at the existing facts, whereas he submitted to-day as he submitted a fortnight ago, that the Board of Trade, being a great public Department, ought seriously to look at the trend of events. When they were dealing with the River Thames, no man who was aware of the state of things existing to-day could shut his eyes to the fact that the great manufacturing and shipping business of the Port of London was drifting away from the centre of London itself and going outside the boundaries of the London County Council and settling along the shores of the river on both sides. That being so, and although the County of Essex had only the interests of consumers approximating to 1,000,000 persons, there could be little doubt that as years passed on its interest, even from the consuming point of view, would be actually greater and relatively far larger compared with London than it was to-day, and he could not help submitting that the interests of people carrying on their life's work on the Thames between 391 Barking and the sea were as much at stake and they had as much right to representation on this authority as the inhabitants of Shepherd's Bush or round the Crystal Palace who were not dependent upon the Port of London, and whose livelihood did not depend upon it. He was bound to say that the County of Essex with its large shipping interests was more entitled to representation than the London County Council itself. Then it had been pointed out that the proposal contained in the Amendment was in no way in conflict with the principles of the Bill. In fact it was in accordance with the principle accepted by the Government themselves. He knew that the London County Council represented a more populous area at this moment, but he did not think that really affected the principle for which areas outside London were contending. It had been suggested that the Committee had in their mind the Liverpool example. The hon. Member for Nairn held that up as worthy of their adoption, and said that the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire on each side of the Mersey were fairly comparable with the counties of Essex and Kent on each side of the Thames. He had practical and personal knowledge not only of the River Thames but also of the River Mersey, and he ventured to say that if the hon. Member for Nairn would come down the river Thames with him he could convince him in a very short time that the view he took was entirely contrary to the facts and that they had on the shores of the Thames great manufacturing as well as shipping interests, wharves and other things, which entirely differentiated it from the state of things which existed along the Mersey. He could not help submitting to the President of the Board of Trade a point which had been made, and a very practical business point it was. It was that they already had an authority so large that its business could only be carried on by committees. That being so he believed it would actually add to the efficiency of the body, and enable them to carry out their work in different directions better, if they had an addition to their members and, therefore, had more men able to do committee work. The hon. Member for Nairn told them that Liverpool alone was represented on the 392 Mersey Dock and Harbour Board; but there was a more modern precedent. It was only two or three years ago that a Bill was before the House dealing with a river much more analogous to the River Thames, viz., the River Clyde. When that Bill was before the House direct representation was given to all the authorities along the shore in order that they might have the opportunity of making their claims known. He thought it would be a very great advantage to the administration to have from the county of Essex, men who were living on the spot, and who were acquainted with the needs of the trades carried on on the shores of the Thames, and who were in constant touch with them. They would be of real practical value in the discussions of the authority; he believed equally, if not more, valuable than City men and representatives of great shipping companies who were to be the only persons to be allowed to be on the Port authority. Something had been said with regard to the interest of these counties in connection with sea walls. The President of the Board of Trade had suggested that in regard to sea walls there was some provision in the Bill which gave adequate protection in the case of damage. That was an entirely misleading suggestion. The clause the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind simply prevented a statutory defence being set up under this Act, in respect of any damage that might arise in consequence of dredging. But the point was this. Along the shores of the Thames there was a large population resident below high water mark, a population mostly consisting of men of small means, and if the walls were let down in consequence of dredging, and the property of these people was damaged, they really would have no remedy. They were poor men and could not afford the legal costs and the expense of getting the evidence of experts which it was so necessary to have when fighting a great corporation who could afford the very best counsel. So that the damage caused by the letting down of the sea wall was only provided against in theory. In actual fact it would give no protection at all. The only way these people could really be protected would be by having somebody on the authority who would 393 see as far as it was possible that this important matter was not overlooked. He thought the claim of Essex was greater at this period of the evening than it was a few hours ago. The Government had rejected the claim for representation by the riverside manufacturers and the ships which used the river. Those two classes formed a very important element of the counties of Kent and Essex and if the President of the Board of Trade would only grant this concession asked for now he would go far to mitigate the hostility of the people in those parts to the Bill. There was a population of 500,000 resident in the districts on the river front, and the health of that population was a very important matter. Although the Essex county authority was the authority for health, the London County Council could and did discharge the effluent from their sewers into the water there, and whilst London would have several members on the authority to safeguard London's interests in this matter, no representative would be there from Essex to prevent an improper exercise of the London County Council powers. He was a strong supporter of the Government, and he wished to see this Bill passed; still he was constrained to ask the right hon. Gentleman now to consider the strong claim that is made on behalf of these counties.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
I am sorry to break up the harmony of the Opposition in this matter, but I must say in this, I take the view of the Government. I say that in my personal capacity, however, and do not wish in any way to influence hon. Members behind me. The hon. Member who spoke last made what to me was a surprising statement which was that on the Clyde Board these outside bodies were represented. I think he will find that that is not the case.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
In that case I am wrong. I only spoke from memory. The hon. Gentleman who represents West Ham made the remark that in all his Parliamentary experience he had never seen such unanimity. I have had a little 394 longer experience, and I have seen similar unanimity under similar circumstances. I have seen it between the Irish Unionist and Nationalist Parties when they all wanted the same thing. Every Member in this case wants representation for his own district. It is quite natural that they should, but that is no reason why the House should give it. It seems to me that the only valid argument put forward was that of the hon. Member for Kingston who said that as representation was given to the London County Council it ought to be given to other county councils. But there is this difference between the London County Council and the other county authorities, that if by any chance the port authority should not pay its way the interest of London in having a good port is so essential that the London County Council would have to step in and aid the port, and assist it in its finances. I do not think that is a contingency which is very likely to happen, but the London County Council are bound to take that step if it does, and I do not think any of the other authorities are in the same position. I do not think there is any magic in the number the Government has set up, and I am not sure that the addition of one or two more would not be an improvement, but I personally think the members of the Port authority should be drawn from the class that pays the dues, that the people who pay the expense should call the tune, and that the vote which is claimed by the hon. Member for Essex should come not through the county authorities but through the people who do the business. I therefore desire now to support the Government. We had the same difficulty before us some time ago, and we then came to the conclusion that it would not be to the interest of the Port authority to have the Board extended in the way that is suggested.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
This discussion has now gone on for a considerable time, and those who have been in the Chamber during its progress will be able to judge of its merits. I do not quarrel with any of the speeches which have been made, or make any animadversion on the objects which those who made them have pursued. But are not the Committee fully convinced by the debate that all these 395 proposals put forward, excellent as each may be in itself, are mutually destructive? If we are to safeguard the Port authority from being hampered and encumbered by a great number of localised representatives we must, even at the risk of appearing sullen and obdurate and grossly disobliging, stand firm, and keep the numbers of the authority to reasonably manageable proportions. I may point out this. The hon. Gentleman has just referred to the London County Council. It is quite true that the London County Council has been given representation and that the county authorities have not. But quite apart from the vital difference the hon. Member for Dulwich has pointed out, the London County Council is in quite a different position, is of quite a different character, and on a far different scale from these smaller authorities. The London County Council has a general and not a sectional interest in the Port authority. It will not be concerned in things in which a particular district or town has a particular interest. Its interest is a general interest. Its interest in the Port of London is not sectional in any degree. The same may be said of the Corporation which is in a different position also from these county authorities. The hon. Gentleman who represents Gravesend tells us we have also been inconsistent in giving a representative to Labour, whilst we oppose sectional interests. The use of the words "sectional interest" as applied to labour is subject to some reserve. When you consider the many thousands of men who are engaged under hard and sometimes evil conditions of casual labour, who are earning their daily bread at the docks, I do not think it can be said that they are a sectional interest in the same way that every class of trader is sectionally interested. Although I am quite ready to admit that the representation of Labour on a port authority is introduced into this Bill for the first time, I am perfectly certain it is defensible, because, although it is an interest of a particular class, that class is so large and its interests are so interwoven that it cannot be dismissed as wholly sectional; it is a human, moral, and national interest of a large and responsible character. That is the answer I 396 would venture to make to the hon. Gentleman who made a most moderate and closely reasoned contribution to the debate—I mean the hon. Member for West Ham. If the claim of West Ham is put forward as geographical, it must take its chance with all the other geographical claims, and he knows perfectly well that the excellent arguments brought forward to show there was special reason to give a special member to West Ham were matched by excellent reasons brought forward by hon. Gentlemen opposite for giving a special member to Middlesex or Kent. If I rightly interpret the mood and intention of the hon. Gentleman, it is twofold. He wishes, no doubt, if he can, to secure a member for West Ham, but he is also concerned that the Labour interest of which his constituency is largely composed, shall be adequately represented on the Port authority. I agree. The Board of Trade have already pledged themselves that one of their representatives shall be appointed after proper consultation with the established representatives of Labour opinion, which I think is the most convenient method. I see an Amendment on the Paper standing in the name of the hon. Member for Rotherhithe proposing that one of the members nominated by the London County Council should be similarly appointed after consultation with or from the recognised Labour organisations. The Government will be sympathetic in their attitude towards that Amendment when it is brought on; and, if the House and the Government were to take the course advocated by the hon. Member for Rotherhithe, I should like to point out that that would to some extent give effect to the views we have heard so often expressed during the discussion, that the County Council representation is excessive—a view I do not share. Still I am not at all disposed to think the County Council would be hampered in its influence upon the authority if it were to look towards the representatives of Labour in that respect. May I now respectfully ask the Committee whether we cannot come to a conclusion on the general question of the size of the authority? Everyone who has spoken has had a plan by which that authority mighty be extended and improved. Our proposal is bluntly and clearly to remain at ten appointed 397 members. We think to increase that would be to make the authority more cumbersome and less adapted for its purpose. We think that to admit the claim of one local authority and deny it to others, would be to increase the injustice to the others without substantially introducing greater modification or indulgence into the Bill. Finally, we venture strongly to urge upon the House the undesirability of increasing the proportion of appointed members beyond the limit which has already been fixed to elected members and which the Committee which examined it considered to be excessive even as it stands.
§ * MR. MORTON
said he quite agreed with his hon. friend who represented a portion of the County of Essex. It would have been much better if the Second Reading had not been closured and they had had an opportunity of discussing the question generally. Knowing something about the working of the river, he sympathised very much with the hon. Gentleman who wished to get more representatives of the consumers and not of the mere payer of dues. It was found that the smallness of the old Metropolitan Board practically rained it. Having, as a member of the Thames Conservancy, carefully watched and viewed the river from the Nore to Cricklade, he was bound to say that those hon. Gentlemen who represented the towns and county councils on the present Conservancy Board were among the best members they had. They had first to be elected to their own town or county council and then afterwards they were selected, apparently on acount of their knowledge of matters connected with the Port of London. That being his opinion, he strongly sympathised with those hon. Gentlemen who wished to see Kent, Essex, or any other district bounding on the river represented. He quite agreed that the London County Council ought to be strongly represented on a body of this sort. He wished to say that openly and honestly. No doubt the old Corporation ought to be represented too. The people of London owned the freehold of the Thames from Staines down to Southend; they had a big money interest in it, and it was only fair to say they ought to be represented. 398 He was glad that had been recognised, but he still thought that those who were going to pay the money should have more representatives on the Board.
§ * MR. RADFORD (Islington, E.)
said there was something pathetic in listening to one Member after another claiming representation for his own constituency as if he were claiming something important or useful for London. Experience showed that this kind of representation was altogether illusory and completely futile. There was no doubt that experience with the Thames Conservancy and Metropolitan Water Board showed that a man nominated on a great body of this kind in the manner proposed to be done under this Bill did not go there to do any work or for any useful purpose at all. The office was conferred as a kind of honour upon an elderly gentleman.
§ MR. RADFORD
said he made no aspersion on his hon. friend the Member for Sutherland. He was perpetually young. That was what happened. The man went on to the Board not to do any work. He regarded the proceedings with a languid interest and went back home to his friends in his own suburban district, and said he was a member of the Port authority of London.
§ * MR. MORTON
As the hon. Member has referred to me, I should like to say that the corporation put me on the Thames Conservancy as an active member on purpose to look after them.
§ * MR. RADFORD
said his hon. friend was an exception to all rules. It was proposed to have representatives of the London County Council, the Corporation of the City, the Admiralty, and the Board of Trade. Why on earth some of those bodies were introduced he could not for the life of him imagine. It was of no use to the Port of London and would not contribute to the efficiency or usefulness of the body they were setting up. He found himself in this matter in a position to support the Government, and he hoped they would consider whether they could 399 not usefully reduce the number of appointed members on the Port authority and pay no attention to the arguments addressed to them. When the appointed members had been largely reduced in number and the constitution of the elected members had been vastly im-
§ proved, then, and not until then, might this be a useful measure.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 176; Noes, 46. (Division List No. 373.)
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Jowett, F. W.||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Balcarres, Lord||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Rowlands, J.|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H. (Essex, Romf'rd||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cave, George||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Snowden, P.|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Steadman, W. C.|
|Clynes, J. R.||Myer, Horatio||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Napier, T. B.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Nield, Herbert||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Fletcher, J. S.||O'Grady, J.||Walsh, Stephen|
|Gill, A. H.||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Glover, Thomas||Parker, James (Halifax)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gretton, John||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington|
|Guiness, W. E. (Bury S. Edm.)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Colonel Warde and Mr. Whitehead.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Renwick, George|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n|
|Hudson, Walter||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
§ MR. HOLT (Northumberland, Hexham) moved to leave out the word "two," the number of the nominees of the Board of Trade, in order to insert the word "three." The Amendment was not moved in order to increase the number of ten, but as consequential on an Amendment to leave out the representative of Trinity House. He failed to see on what grounds it was proposed that Trinity House should have a representative on the Port authority. The functions of Trinity House would not be interfered with. It was a body which no one knew very much about, and which was certainly not representative, and he could not see in what way it could claim to have a statutory right to appoint a representative on the port authority of London. If the Amendment were accepted it would be perfectly open to the Board of Trade to do with its nominee anything that it was possible for Trinity House to do. It was quite possible, for instance, if the Board of Trade came to the conclusion that there ought to be a gentleman possessing the special knowledge which Trinity House would have, to sub-let one of its nominations. That was the way in which Manchester had obtained a representative on the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. It might be said that Trinity House ought to have a representative because they conducted the lighting and piloting of London, but it did not seem to him that that was a sound argument at all. The argument was the opposite way. If there was any connection between the Port authority and Trinity House on account of lighting and pilotage it was not for Trinity House to be represented, but that the Port 402 authority ought to help Trinity House. That seemed to be the logical conclusion. If the special knowledge possessed by Trinity House was not required there was in the hands of the Board of Trade another nomination which it would be possible to put at the disposal of any body which was not represented.
In page 2, line 4, to leave out the word 'two,' and to insert the word 'three.'"—(Mr. Holt.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'two' stand part of the clause."
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I was not under any illusion as to the purpose of my hon. friend's Amendment. I did not think it was intended to be a compliment to the Board of Trade. Had it presented itself in that light I should have been very much tempted to accept it. But I recognised very early in the day that my hon. friend had an ulterior design in moving the Amendment, and that it was part of the general proposal which has been placed by various Members on the Paper to remove the Trinity House altogether from any connection with the Port authority, if not indeed to abolish that institution. I trust the Committee will not attempt to put an end to the existence of Trinity House at present. Trinity House was not heard in evidence on the subject of the Bill, and I think it would be exceedingly unfair to strike at it as the result of any of these Amendments cursorily introduced into the Bill. Trinity House will have the conduct and the lighting of the Port of 403 London in the Bill as we contemplated, and that being so, it is most extraordinary that it should not have a representative on the Port authority. It is essential that it should have a representative on the Port authority. All the Commissions recommended it, and all the previous Bills, I understand, accorded it, and I am bound to say that I do not think any serious injury can result from the authority which is specially charged with the duty of lighting the whole, not only of the Port of London, but the general approaches of the river, having a right to appoint a member. We can quote in support of this arrangement not only the opinion of the Joint Committee, but the recommendation of almost all previous bodies who have approached the consideration of this subject. Therefore the Board of Trade feel at the present juncture that two members are sufficient for them, that they will resist, partly from prudence and partly from modesty, the gift, however complimentary, which the hon. Gentleman desires to bestow upon them.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
supported the President of the Board of Trade in his contention and opposed the Amendment of the hon. Member. The President of the Board of Trade and the Government had been quite clear regarding one thing. They had said: "We want to give all the interests representation, but we do not wish to give them sectional representation. We want the manufacturers and the wharfingers and every class of people interested in the Thames to be represented, but we do not wish to give sectional representation." There was one class of men who were entirely left out of any representation at all, even by this wide clause, and in the Schedule which the right hon. Gentleman had added to the Bill. They proposed arrangements by which in regard to voting for election to the Port authority, the voter would be allowed to vote for a number of candidates in order of preference or otherwise, in order to secure that so far as possible the several interests concerned should be adequately represented. The Government contended, of course, that that covered the ground of the general interest, and that their aim was to give all the interests repre- 404 sentation. But Trinity House represented not only a very large number of pilots, but also a large class of men who would become pilots eventually, and by no means would these men be represented except through Trinity House. The Port authority would require its special and technical knowledge, and its position ought to be preserved upon the authority, not alone because of its technical knowledge, but because it represented a body of men who had no other means of expressing their interests under the Bill. Therefore, he gave his unhesitating support to the President of the Board of Trade, and his opposition to the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
said that in order to secure a fair share of representation on this body for Kent, he desired to move to leave out the words "Trinity House," in order to insert, "the Kent County Council."
§ * MR. STEADMAN
asked if his Amendment (to substitute "six" for "two" as the number of representatives to be appointed by the London County Council from outside its own body) was out of order, and, if not, whether it should not take priority over this Amendment.
The hon. Member's Amendment is not in order because he does not move to omit any other four nominees, and if his Amendment were carried it would exceed the number of ten which the Committee has already agreed to.
§ * MR. STEADMAN
pointed out that one hon. Member had already been allowed to move an Amendment to delete "two," and insert "three."
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
, resuming, said the President of the Board of Trade finished his speech by saying that the policy of the Government, bluntly and squarely, was to have ten appointed members, and ten only. As that was the position, they must, of course, bow to the inevitable, but he wanted the Committee to consider who should have this last representative among the appointed members. The Corporation of Trinity House seemed to have some enchantment for the Committee, but he would like to remind the Committee of the composition of that body. Leaving out the members of the Royal Family, of whom there were three, there was first of all the name of Lord Rosebery. He thought His Majesty's Government would agree with him that the noble Earl had quite sufficient scope for his energy in dealing with matters in another place, without having his time taken up with the appointment of one of the members of this new authority. Another member of the Trinity House Corporation was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, whose absence from the House of Commons they all greatly deplored. Another member was the Leader of the Opposition, and the list also included Lord Selborne, Lord George Hamilton, who at one time was an excellent Member of the House representing Ealing; Prince Louis of Battenberg, and others he need not mention. All he wished to emphasise was the fact that the Trinity House Corporation was composed of such men as these, and he wished to know whether His Majesty's Government, speaking through the President of the Board of Trade, were serious in asserting that these gentlemen were more entitled to representation than the county of Kent, which embraced nearly a million acres, and contained a population of over one million. The county of Kent was likely to be very seriously affected by the dredging operations which might be carried on by the new Port authority. He noticed that the hon. Member for the Kirkdale division had an Amendment in Clause 11, to insert—As from the appointed day there shall be vested in the Port authority the management and control of buoying, beaconing, and lighting of the Port of London and estuary of the Thames.406 He did not know whether the President of the Board of Trade was going to accept that Amendment or not?
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
said that, having got that assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, he would not press his Amendment.
§ *MR. CARR-GOMM (Southwark, Rotherhithe) moved to insert the words "and one of the members of the Port authority appointed by the London County Council shall be appointed by the Council after consultation with such organisations representative of labour as the Council think best qualified to advise them in the matter." He wished to thank the President of the Board of Trade for the kindly reference he made to his Amendment and he would not detain the Committee for many minutes. He wished, however, to point out that the object of the Amendment was to strengthen the Port authority and make it one which would have the thorough support and confidence of the workers all over the Port of London. This was very important, because under Clause 27 the Port of London had some special functions to perform. He might be told that the new body would be a business organisation consisting of business men. In reply to that he wished to point put that the tendency in modern industrial undertakings was to associate labour with the control of the business. This was especially important in the case of this new authority for the Port of London. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, impressed upon the House the importance of having any labour question that might arise threshed out in the board room to begin with before it arose in the nature of a big complication and heated quarrel outside, and if labour had two or three representatives on the Port authority, any trouble of that kind would be brought before it first of all by the labour representative. He thought it was most important that this Port authority should be able to carry out the work in a harmonious manner, and his object 407 in bringing forward this Amendment was to strengthen the Port authority. He begged to move.
In page 2, line 19, at the end, to insert the words 'and one of the members of the port authority appointed by the London County Council shall be appointed by the Council after consultation with such organisations representative of labour as the Council think best qualified to advise them in the matter.'"—(Mr. Carr-Gomm.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
After the observations which I ventured to address to the Committee earlier in the debate, I do not think it will be expected that I should reply at any length to this Amendment. I am bound to say that I do not believe that the arguments are by any means all on one side in this matter. There are no labour representatives on any other Port authority in the United Kingdom. When the case of the County Council came to be considered the Committee took away one of their members and transferred it to another quarter. I confess to having some slight misgivings as to the transference we are now asked to make, but on the other hand I feel strongly that the labour interests which are associated with the working of this great port, including the great question of casual labour and all the extraordinary difficulties associated with that question, which up to the present have baffled all social experiments and organisation, and the question also of the possibility of labour disputes and the importance of strengthening sympathetic relations between the two great parties to production—all those considerations in the case of London, in my opinion, justify a case for some extension of the principle of representation to the class of manual labourers. I think there is a case for that, although there are disadvantages which I do not underrate a bit. I believe I shall be interpreting the general wish of the Committee if, on behalf of the Government, I accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman, leaving it possible for reconsideration on Report—though this is a matter which I only 408 state with some hesitancy—whether the extra member who will go to represent the labour interest should necessarily be drawn from this particular source. That we may think over when we are going over the Bill a second time on Report, but for the present I accept the Amendment.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said he did not rise in any way to make a violent speech, or indeed a partisan speech against the Amendment which had from many points of view the sympathy of everybody in the House, but he confessed that he really regretted the precipitancy with which the Government had accepted it. After all, let them carefully consider what they were constituting. They were going to constitute a body for the management of one of the greatest industrial undertakings in the whole country, and the Government had occupied the first hour of the proceedings in saying that they wished to secure the best possible heads in London to manage that great undertaking. They addressed a very-successful appeal to the Committee not in any way to hamper the choice of the very best people. He did not at all deny that it might turn out that the London County Council would desire to select a labour man as one of their representatives, but ought they not to leave the thing quite free? Why should they fetter the discretion and the choice of the London County Council in this matter any more than in any other? The President of the Board of Trade said that the interests of labour were so great in this matter that they ought to have a representative. Surely that was not the point. That was not the real way of looking at it. The labour interest in this as in everything was the same as everybody else's interest. There was no real distinction between the two. It might be short-sighted of employers to lose sight of this obvious truth; but everyone who considered it must see that the interests of labour and the interests of employers were identical, for the prosperity of an undertaking depended upon both sides. Therefore, he distrusted this kind of suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade that there were interests of labour 409 which were antagonistic to or not identical with—
§ MR. CHURCHILL
That is really not my suggestion. What I said was that there are problems of labour to the solution of which even on a body like the new Port of London authority a representative of labour would be able to bring special knowledge.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said that if the only object was to have someone there to inform the governing authority what was desirable from the point of view of labour, then he must point out that the Bill now provided for one representative of labour. The President of the Board of Trade had justly said that it was a great experiment. It was a novel idea, and he thought it was right that it should be tried. He was glad to see it in the Bill. The question was whether it was desirable that it should be carried out in the way proposed.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
You must also remember that my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer held out an expectation. He did not mention any figure definitely, but his expression has been interpreted as meaning that labour will at least have two representatives.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said that that was a different point and he did not pretend to carry in his mind all the pledges which the Government had given on this and other subjects. It seemed to him that they were already bound to do this, and there was an unnecessary display of impartiality on the part of the President of the Board of Trade when he said the Government would accept the Amendment. Having said that, the Tight hon. Gentleman said he was not quite sure whether the Government would be able to accept it in this form or not. The Committee had nothing at all to do with the pledges of the Government. He asked the Committee to consider rather carefully whether, when trying an experiment, it was not better to try it on a modest scale at first. If the experiment succeeded there would be no difficulty in 410 extending it. It would be extended naturally and automatically because the County Council, which was a popularly-elected body dealing essentially with the interests of the pulic, would be the first people anxious and willing to extend it and to select one of their number. If the experiment failed, and if they imposed two members of an inefficient character on the Port authority, so far from doing any good to labour they would be really doing it harm. There was another argument to which he wished to refer. The right hon. Gentleman said it might be desirable to have labour thoroughly well represented on the Port authority because in the case of any labour dispute the labour representative might be helpful. He entirely concurred with that as a general principle. The right hon. Gentleman must recollect that both the Board of Trade and the County Council representatives would not be elected by the working classes. There had been many successful experiments tried in industrial undertakings where the working classes had been enabled to elect directors of these undertakings. But in those cases the working-men chose their representatives and they were the representative mouthpieces of the working men. If they selected labour representatives through the London County Council or the Board of Trade the position was a very different one, and not nearly so favourable to the success of the experiment. He did not wish to oppose the Amendment, but he confessed he would have been better pleased if the Government had said that they would consider the matter carefully and had not acted so precipitately as they had done in accepting an Amendment so far-reaching in its character.
§ * MR. STEADMAN
said he knew that one had to be thankful for small mercies, and he was thankful to the noble Lord for the half-hearted manner in which he had supported the Amendment. He could assure the noble Lord that hundreds of thousands of working men were anxiously looking forward to the passing of this Bill. Men of his class were always mistrusted. They could afford to ignore that. It was like pouring water on a duck's back. Working men had their co-operative societies, friendly 411 societies, benefit societies, and trade unions in this country as living monuments of the administrative ability of the industrial classes. The River Thames was the staple industry of this vast metropolis. It was not only the workmen in the docks and on the riverside who were interested in the administration of the Port of London, but the proposals now before the Committee involved the bread and butter of thousands of workmen spread over the whole of London whose industries depended on the success or failure of the Port. They had a dock strike some years ago, of which the President of the Local Government Board could tell them something. He was sure the noble Lord did not wish to see a repetition of that. What was the Government doing? He admitted that they were setting up a principle for the first time, but it was a principle which they could defend inside and outside. It was a principle that would inspire confidence among the thousands of workmen who were employed in the docks. Quite likely—more likely than not—it would mean the prevention of many a trade dispute which would otherwise occur. That was his experience in connection with the London County Council, and they were the largest employers of labour, with the exception of the Government, in the country. He had faith in the London County Council when he was a member. If this Amendment was accepted, the County Council would be bound to put one labour representative on the Port of London authority. He said in all sincerity that he shared the views of the late President of the Board of Trade and the present President in their anxiety to secure the best representative men available for this board. He could select six men—they might call them agitators; he did not care what they called them—secretaries of trade unions, whose members were working on the River Thames, who knew ten times more about the river than the men the Board of Trade would select in making the appointments to the board. They were the people they wanted on the Port authority, although he had heard slurs cast upon them. If there was a little more confidence between the industrial classes and the employ- 412 ing classes in the country, it would be better for the prosperity of both, and of the country at large.
§ MR. W. BENN (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said he had an Amendment on the Paper in the same terms as that now proposed, and he begged to thank the President of the Board of Trade for having accepted it He hardly found himself in agreement with all that the noble Lord had said as to this Amendment. The noble Lord had accused the Government of precipitancy in accepting the Amendment, but six months ago the principle of direct labour representation was accepted by the then President of the Board of Trade, who said that he thought there should be one, two, or three representatives of labour on the Port authority, so that the noble Lord could not charge the Government with acting precipitately in the matter. In constituting this authority the object to be aimed at was to get the best men, and the County Council would take care that the men selected by them were the best to represent the largest interest concerned in the Port authority. The noble Lord had said that they would not be elected by the working men.
§ LORD R. CECIL
All I said was that they would not be selected by the working men themselves. I was comparing this representation with the representatives elected directly in great industrial concerns.
§ MR. W. BENN
said that personally he thought there was a great deal to be said for the direct election of the labour representatives. The noble Lord had said they had got one representative of labour, and surely that was enough for an experiment. He was inclined to think that the experiment was likely to be more successful if they had two representatives rather than one. The Port authority was to have its own procedure. Supposing that no proposition could be discussed unless there was a seconder, and the representative of labour brought in a proposal directed against the interest of capital, and could not find a seconder. He would then be unable to raise the matter. Again, the Port authority had to set up a number 413 of committees. They were not paying the members of this authority, and it would be difficult, if there was only one working man representative, who had to earn his own living, for him to sit on these committees. From these two points of view he thought it was an excellent thing to have two labour representatives instead of one. Another important point was that the labour interests of the Port of London were quite as varied as those of capital. The labourers were divided into certain distinct interests—the lightermen, who were the aristocracy amongst the labourers, the stevedores, who were the middle class, and the dockers, who were the poorest; and they looked at many things in different ways. In dealing with these classes it was a great advantage to have the representatives of labour capable of taking a wide view, not only of the interest of the class they represented but of the interest of all the classes engaged in the port. The first job which the authority would have to undertake would be the regulation of casual labour, and hon. Members well knew that the representatives of the workmen often gave totally different evidence. The representatives of the lightermen and the stevedores were satisfied with the present system, and the representatives of the dockers wanted almost a revolutionary change. It would be greatly to the advantage of the labourers as a whole if the representation was not confined exclusively to one section. As to the future, he had not the slightest doubt that the great advantage of having representatives of labour on the Port authority would be the avoidance of strikes and misunderstandings. These disputes were much more likely to be avoided if there were more than one representative of labour. If there was only one he would be often placed in a difficult and rather invidious position. If there were two the workers themselves would have much greater confidence in their representation. From the employers' point of view it would be a great advantage to have more than one representative, because every representative of labour was a missionary of peace, and in the case of disputes it would be a great advantage to have working men on the Board to explain to their fellows exactly what was going on. He wished 414 again to thank the President of the Board of Trade most heartily for securing this representation of labour, and he could assure him that he had done something to promote the well-being and efficiency of the Port of London.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said he did not think that there was any objection to have one representative of labour as originally proposed. He agreed with his noble friend that there was just the danger of over representation of labour in this particular portion of the Port authority—dealing with the nominated members, which was the permanent portion of the authority. It seemed to him that the Government might well rely on the democratic feeling that existed among all the interests that were to be represented on the authority under subsection (5). There was no reason why among the eighteen elected members there should not be one, two, or perhaps more who were directly representative of labour. It seemed to him that the Government had not thought really of the possibility of labour being unduly represented through the ordinary form of election. He called the attention of the Committee to the possible composition of the ten nominated members. He assumed that the Government in making the appointment of these ten had covered the general interest of the Port. Naturally they secured the appointment of a representative of the Admiralty, who would cover the Naval interest. Then the Board of Trade would naturally be represented by representatives of commerce and industry in the widest sense. The municipal interest in its most general sense was clearly intended to be represented by the members chosen by the London County Council and the City Corporation, while the purely technical and professional interest, with traditional knowledge of the river, which belonged to Trinity House, would be represented by the member chosen by Trinity House. He thought in these circumstances that to give one direct representative of labour was as much as the Government ought to be called upon to do. Therefore, although he was naturally sympathetic to the representation of labour 415 in these eighteen elected members, he was opposed to a double representation of labour which would necessarily crowd out one of the very important interests to which he had already referred. Therefore he felt bound to support the Amendment.
§ * MR. NAPIER
thought the whole House would desire to have on the Port authority labour represented by one or two members, but the true way to do this was either by the method suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the early part of the debate, or by leaving the County Council unfettered discretion to elect a representative of labour. He objected to the Amendment, not because he objected to labour representation, but because it unduly fettered the discretion of the County Council, and in doing that, the Government were setting an exceedingly bad precedent. He felt very strongly that in accepting this Amendment the right hon. Gentleman had taken a step which was not really and truly democratic, but which tended to class representation.
§ * MR. MORTON
said he was sorry to find there was opposition to this Amendment. The objection to the proposal to get labour better represented on the Port authority would be well understood out of doors.
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said he was in a very considerable difficulty about this nomination, because everybody said that the members of this body ought to be elected on a democratic basis. This was starting all wrong, because if they began with a nomination they could not have a democratic basis. Then the hon. Member for Gravesend had said there was possibility of a labour man being on the body. What they, in that part of the House, meant by a labour man was a man connected with trade unions or labour organisations apart from a man of commerce. The hon. Member said they were likely to be selected, but surely that could not be so. What was going to happen? Were they going to be elected by payers of dues, owners of river craft, and wharfingers? Did anyone think that even sc respectable a man 416 as his hon. friend the Member for Finsbury could get a vote from one of them? The constituency which sent them there would not consist of wharfingers alone, and they would be voted against in the constituency. Let them not talk about democratic basis; it did not come in there; it did not work out. But why put this particular one on from the London County Council and also one from the Corporation? What a delightful thing it would be if the Corporation would elect him! Why should not the City of London have a labour member? It was about time. It was a reason why he should be elected that they promoted City Guilds and institutions of that sort. In regard to the Amendment, what would happen was that the Council would simply choose the man they wanted and put him up to represent labour. If they said, however, that this man should be selected by a labour group or be a paid official of a labour organisation he was walling. But that was what would not happen.
§ MR. CROOKS
said they would have to be careful, because if they got in a docker the stevedores would be jealous. If, however, they were going to consult trade union organisations there was no reason why the Amendment should not be carried.
§ The Amendment agreed to.
§ * MR. MORTON
proposed to leave out subsection (9) and insert "The Port authority shall set apart such sum not exceeding in any year £2,100 as the Port authority, with the approval of the Board of Trade, thinks fit, and shall divide the same among the members of the Port authority as they from time to time think fit." He wanted to provide that the Port authority might pay its chairman, vice-chairman, or chairman of committees, or others any salary within the limit mentioned in the Amendment 417 as it might determine. He desired that these monies should not go to the chairmen of the Port authority alone but should be divided among the members of the body, in a somewhat similar method to that carried on by the Thames Conservancy. His proposal was democratic. It was not quite Socialistic because he did not propose to make an equal distribution of the money. On the Thames Conservancy they used to give the chairman £500 a year out of the money, and the rest of it was divided among the members, but always according to attendance. Nobody had any money unless they worked. They got a fresh chairman a few years back; they appointed Lord Desborough. They reduced his salary to £300, not necessarily because he was a Lord but they did reduce it and divided the rest among those who attended, after paying £100 per annum to the chairman of committees. He thought that was a much better arrangement than giving it all to the chairman. He did not think that anybody for a moment could contend that it would be reasonable to expect the majority of the members of this Port authority to do the work, and for the chairman to take the money, or practically all of it, and, therefore, to his mind it was much more fair and democratic to divide it as he had suggested. He knew some people would say: "You should not let them have any money at all." That would apply equally, of course, to the chairman of the Board and the chairman of committees, because they had no more right to get money than the ordinary members. It was only fair and right that gentlemen who gave up two or three days a week should be paid. He dared say he could find an excellent lot of gentlemen to occupy the front Treasury bench without any salaries at all, but they paid the Members of the Government salaries, some of them very large ones, and some were wanting more, but there was just as much reason for paying members of this Board for their attendance as there was for paying officials who represented the Government in the House of Commons. Therefore he had always thought that it was only fair and right that gentlemen who were willing to give their services and a 418 great deal of their time should be paid. If they did their duty on a board of this sort they must give up a great deal of time as they should go and inspect everything. Otherwise they could not look after the men or anthing else concerned with the management. Unless the masters were continually inspecting and visiting the work so as to let everybody know they were looking about, it would not be kept straight. If they paid the chairman and not the others, the business might be left entirely to the chairman, and then they got the worst sort of government they could have, because one-man goverment nearly always failed. He trusted the Committee would see its way to agree to this proposal. He begged to move.
In page 2, line 26, to leave out subsection (9), and to insert the words '(9) The Port authority shall set apart such sum not exceeding in a year two thousand one hundred pounds, as the Port authority with the approval of the Board of Trade thinks fit, and shall divide the same among the members of the Port authority as they from time to time think fit.—(Mr. Morton.)
§ Question put, "That the words of the subsection down to 'vice-chairman,' in line 27, stand part of the clause."
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I do not think this would be a very good arrangement. It is a great question whether members of these public or quasi public bodies should be paid. It is another question of importance whether the chairman should be paid, and another question whether the chairman of committees ought to be paid. I do not know that it is any solution of either of these questions to take £2,100 and divide it in sums of £60 or £70 among a body of twenty-eight business men, whose time would be valuable, and who would not be attracted by this remuneration. I do not think that is consonant with the dignity or efficiency of this new Port authority. The sum of money seems to bear no relation whatever either to what is necessary to get people to serve on such a body, or what can be considered an adequate remuneration of their services. I am well aware that a similar principle has been adopted upon 419 the Thames Conservancy, and I am not at all sure that it has been in every respect attended by results that have altogether eliminated from the area of the operations of that body any ground of complaint. I venture to think that the much more reasonable way is to pay people adequate salaries for responsible executive work which they have to discharge, and which will absorb the whole of their time, as in the case of the chairman or chairmen of committees, and if any payment should be made to other members it should take the form more of reimbursements for out-of-pocket expenses than this sort of arbitrary or capricious douceur which is distributed among the members en bloc. A very noticeable thing is the opinion which the London County Council have formed as to the principles at present in vogue on the Thames Conservancy. They do not allow their members who are members and officials of that body to take that £70 a year; it is paid into the general funds of the London County Council. I think that does indicate in a very remarkable way the opinion which has been forced upon this large public body in regard to such matters as this. I am bound to say I wish to treat the hon. Gentleman's Amendment with all respect, but I do not think that the House will find from any point of view that it is a practical or convenient arrangement. I, therefore, trust that we may be permitted to adhere to our plan in the Bill which is to pay substantial salaries to the persons whose services must be almost wholly absorbed in the work and to allow the Port authority to have in the management of their business the same sort of discretion as the private bodies which they are going to supersede. I hope they will not pay more than is necessary, but they will have to pay people who give the whole of their time. If any other payment is required, let it be proportionate, and let it be only for legitimate out-of-pocket expenses.
§ * SIR A. SPICER
totally disagreed with his hon. friend in the Amendment he had moved. He thought the Committee had studied economy quite sufficiently in the clause now under consideration. He would not be in the least surprised if 420 experience showed that they had to pay more money in the way of salaries to the members. After all the new Port authority would be called upon to administer a trust the capital sum of which would be over £20,000,000, and he very much doubted with all the claims made upon our ablest men in London, whether they would be able to obtain sufficient strength without paying more than was contemplated in this section. It must be remembered that they would not hand over to the new Port authority a business that could be run through with comparatively little time on the part of those who were going to administer it. They were handing over to the Port authority a great enterprise which would want all their powers of administration to make it a success. He believed it could be made a real success, but it would have to be carried out by men who were not going to play with the matter, and who would give a large part of their time and strength to this great enterprise. Therefore, he ventured to point out that the Committee must not be surprised when the new authority commenced to work if it came back and said: "If you want us to do the work properly we must get the right men and must be prepared to pay a higher remuneration."
§ MR. BARNARD
said he found from the section on which this Amendment was based that, subject to the provision of the section, they might appoint a chairman and vice-chairman who need not be an appointed or elected member. He wanted to ask why a distinction was made between the Port of London and the Thames Conservancy.
§ SI H. KEARLEY
The hon. Member asks why the distinction between the Port of London and the Thames Conservancy?
§ MR. BARNARD
said he was referring to page 9. At the point under discussion it said they might appoint a chairman, a vice-chairman, and chairmen of other committees, and then he turned to page 9, and he found nobody but the chairman might be appointed.
§ SIR H. KEARLEY (who was imperfectly heard)
was understood to say: The 421 reason why we only put the chairman in the case of the up-river board, and why we put chairman, vice-chairman and chairmen of committees into the Port-authority I should have thought was obvious to everybody. The down-river authority is an extremely important board. The up-river board is, of course, important, but the Port authority is a great trading board, dealing with great commercial interests, which the up-river board does not. The hon. Member proposes that all the members should be paid approximately about £70 a year each. I put this question to the Committee. We have talked to-night about the desirability of attracting the best men to this Port authority. Does any hon. Member think £70 a year is likely to attract the best men? The probability is that it would attract the class of men we do not want to see there. We take provision in the Bill to pay the chairman, vice-chairman and chairmen of committees at the option of the authority. In discussing this matter among ourselves at the time the Bill was being framed we saw very clearly that on a board of this kind it might be necessary to pay a really substantial salary to the chairman, vice-chairman and chairmen of committees. For example, there are those who have great experience in the administration of docks, and we could only obtain their services by means of a substantial salary. I have in my mind men whom we should be very desirous to have, who certainly could not afford to come on the board as ordinary unpaid members, but who would be of great advantage to the board as chairmen or vice-chairmen. There must, of necessity, be several committees set up, one to deal with the administration of the river, one to deal with the administration of the docks, and so on. I am perfectly certain that when this new authority is set up it will have to be composed of men who will devote themselves continuously to this work, and we shall not get the extremely important assistance of these men without paying them a substantial salary. I hope after this explanation my hon. friend will not press this Amendment.
§ MR. H. C. LEA (St. Pancras, E.)
said the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary-Secretary had had a 422 rather curious effect upon him, because he was prepared to support the Government till he heard the hon. Gentleman. Among other things he said the effect of paying a man £70 per year would be to attract to the Board a very undesirable person from his point of view. Under subsection (5) of Clause 1 the only persons who would be attracted were persons elected by payers of dues, wharfingers, and owners of river craft. The hon. Gentleman in his long experience of business in the City of London must know very well that the payers of dues, wharfingers, and owners of river craft were not the people to elect undesirable men who might put up, so that that argument was absurd. Then the hon. Gentleman said he had somebody in his mind who would be attracted by a big salary. It at once occurred to him that there was a job here. He would much prefer that the Parliamentary-Secretary should get that gentleman out of his mind and put him in the Bill so that they might know who and what kind of man he had in view. Under those circumstances, he had much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ * MR. MORTON
said he did not know that it would be necessary for him to go to a division, but he would like to say a few words in reply to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. He had reminded them that the members appointed by the London County Council were not allowed to take their fees, but all those gentlemen were sorry they were not allowed to take them. It was an amusing state of things. These gentlemen came to them politically and asked them to pledge themselves to the payment of members; and, when an attempt was made pay them, they were so pure they could not take a fee. The only objection they were told was that people would be hunting about to get £60 or £70 a year. They were not very likely to do that. What they would do would be to hunt about to get £1,000 or £2,000 a year, and in all probability those appointments would be filled by politicians and not by anybody who understood the work at all. That was why one should be careful how he supported the clause as it stool in the Bill. He could not understand the Government 423 objecting to the payment of the ordinary members of this authority or any other similar body, because they were pledged to the payment of Members of Parliament. It was most extraordinary. For many and various reasons, they supported the payment of Members, but when they had a proposal before them in concrete form they said: "Oh no." Having given the best consideration he could to the matter, he did not think it necessary to put the Committee to the trouble of a division, although he was practically certain the Committee was really with him in the matter. Possibly they might think the Bill would never come into force, and that it was not worth troubling about that night. At any rate he did not want to put the Members to the trouble of going through the division lobby. Therefore, he asked leave to withdraw.
§ Leave to withdraw refused.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. HOLT moved to amend the section in the sense of giving the authority power to pay the chairman I and vice-chairman, but taking away the power as regards the chairmen of committees. He did not want to see the chairman or vice-chairman paid, and he would be very glad to know that the Board of Trade would make a very determined effort to procure a chairman or vice-chairman who would accept the positions without any payment whatever. He was perfectly certain from his own experience in. Liverpool that, if they wanted to get the best men—as he was sure they all did—they were more likely to do so by making a determined effort to get men to serve on the authority without payment for the sake of the town and the trade of the port. He supposed it was no exaggeration to say that the chairmen of committees would number seven or eight, and allowing for the chairman and vice-chairman of the authority that would mean approximately that one member in three would receive payment. It was quite illusory to suppose they could pay the chairman of one committee and not the chairman of another. There would be jealousy among the committees. Not only would the chairman of committee A. want 424 to receive the same as the chairman of committee B., but the members of committee A. would regard it as a slur upon them if their chairman did not receive the same as the chairman of committee B. If the proposal therefore were adopted, it would involve the payment of about one-third of the-authority. He supposed they might assume that the payment to the chairman of committees would be something like £300 per year if anything at all. He thought that would not be an unfair guess as to the salary that would be paid. If they had these jobs going at £300 per year, kindly disposed men would say: "Who is there who wants £300 a year and a decent job? Who is rather hard up?, Let us put him in the position." He was certain from his experience that that was the very first thing that would be done. They would put into the positions of chairmen of committees, not the best men, but the men on the committees who stood most in need of £300. That would be the practical upshot. The appointments would become a sort of old-age pensions for needy and unsuccessful merchants. He thought, therefore, it would be a great mistake to give the authority power to pay the chairmen of committees at all. The Members on the Treasury Bench, in speaking on the last Amendment, rather exaggerated the amount of work that would have to be done by the chairmen of committees. He was chairman of one of the committees of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and his experience was that it meant three hours work over and above what one would otherwise have had to do. The real hard detailed work was all done by the permanent officials, and he only gave directions as to lines of policy from the committee. If, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said, it was necessary to take over from the existing dock companies some experienced men who could not be got without a large salary they must be taken over as a permanent body of officials of the Harbour Authority. Lastly, he would like to ask hon. Members to consider what were likely to be the feelings of the other members of the committee working under this chairman. They would feel either that he was the 425 servant of the committee or that they were in some way in an inferior position to him. He would therefore very earnestly beg the Board of Trade to accept his Amendment, and see if they could not go further and give some kind of pledge that they would make a determined effort to set up the Port Authority on the lines of the members not being paid, and only to pay the chairman and vice-chairman in the case of the worst and last necessity.
In page 2, line 27, after the word 'Chairman,' to insert the word 'and.'"—(Mr. Holt.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'and' be there inserted."
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I hope the Committee will notice that this power is an enabling power and not a compulsory one. No one says the port authority is to pay its chairman or vice-chairman, but if they think it necessary for the proper and efficient conduct of the great responsibility they are inheriting to make such payments it ought not to be withheld from their discretion to do so. Personally, I entirely agree with much that has been said by my hon. friend in moving the Amendment. I think there are many advantages in honorary service being given on these great public bodies. At the same time I respectfully ask the Committee to remember that we are taking over the whole of the docks of London, which are now managed by-private companies pursuing their own private interests and the interests of their shareholders with their opportunities and with their obligations. We are consolidating them into one solid mass and vesting it in the charge of a combined Port authority. That is a great operation, and any one who cares about collective ownership, about the efficiency of a quasi public authority, as compared with private syndicates, must in common prudence take the position of not denying to such public bodies the facilities and advantages, when they are legitimate and honourable, which the others have enjoyed and which, if they are denied, cannot fail to place them in a position of disadvantage in regard to others with whom they will have to deal as 426 well as in regard to the great responsibility which they have inherited from those who have gone before them. Without going into the question really on the merits of honorary or salaried service, which after all is a large question, I would ask the Committee to plump for a discretionary power for the Port authority to do what it may think fit and best to advance its interests.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
On the Second Reading I made very much the same speech as that which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman, and I feel rather strongly on this point. I do not say we should make it impossible for the chairman and vice-chairman to be paid. We should be running a risk. But if we have to pay the chairman and the vice-chairman of this body we admit that to a large extent the new authority is a failure. If you cannot get the best men to do it on the same grounds on which they do it in Glasgow and Liverpool you are getting a different body, and it will be more or less a failure. Just look how it works practically. If the chairman and vice-chairman are to get salaries, one of two things must happen. Either men will seek to get on the Board for the sake of those positions and the salaries which attach to them, or they will look upon these men as their servants, as men who are paid salaries and are in a different position from them, and yet these men with salaries will have a different position. If it is necessary, and I daresay it will be, to get some of these experienced dock people on to the Board, I agree with the hon. Member for Hexham that the way to do it is to pay them big salaries as permanent officials at the head of the Department. The effect will be either to get men who will try to become chairman for the sake of the salary, or it will amount to this, that if you pay big salaries, and you will not get good men without them, to the chairman and vice-chairman, you will pay a smaller salary to the managing director who ought really to do the work. In this case the thing to do from the business point of view is what is done by great industrial corporations, to pay whatever salary is necessary to your managing director and to try to get 427 the direction of this public body on disinterested motives. I am not going to support, the Amendment. I admit that the Board of Trade may require to give this authority, but I would like very much if the right hon. Gentleman would say now that he will not agree, in the first body which is under his own sole appointment, to make these appointments until he has made a determined effort to get a good body, including chairman and vice-chairman, without any salaries whatever.
§ * MR. DICKINSON (St. Pancras, N.)
said he was sorry the right hon. Gentleman had rather cursorily rejected this suggestion. The proposal to pay the chairman of a committee was not only quite novel, but he was convinced it was bad essentially. He knew of no authority similar to this which had anything like that power. They had heard that the. Liverpool port authority did not pay any of its members. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not set on foot this new proposal, which could only bring about invidious distinctions between members of the same body.
§ MR. BARNARD
hoped the Government would stand absolutely firm to their own proposals. This great business undertaking was nothing like a corporation or municipality. They were asking a new body to take over all the various docks, to put them into shape, and to work the thing as a going concern, the difficulties of which must be profound. The work of taking over a great going concern was much more enormous than any Member of the House could know. The hon. Member opposite, who belonged to the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, said he was chairman of a committee and it took two or three hours a week. He (Mr. Barnard) was chairman of the Water Board Committee which managed the whole work when it was taken over for four years, and he was positive it would take an enormous amount of time if they did the work as it was hoped and desired they should do it. In such an undertaking as this they would have to decide whether they were going for a general manager, or whether they intended that it should slide into being managed by officials, and unless they deliberately in the 428 first instance chose first rate men to be at the head it would drift into the hands of permanent officials. It was very easy to talk about paying £300 a year and that sort of thing, but they did not want retired men who might have been eminent in some other profession and could just spare the time to undertake this work. They could not do the work, and the result would be that they would not do it, although they might be the head-pieces. He was perfectly convinced from his little experience that it was highly desirable for the Government not to swerve in the slightest degree, but deliberately to try and get men of the type they had spoken of, and he did not believe they could do it successfully nor ought they to try to do it unless they remunerated them in a proper manner.
§ * MR. MORTON
hoped the Government would accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Dulwich in regard to the first appointment, to which they had had no answer. There were a number of officials in connection with the docks who might have to be considered. As far as he could understand the matter, they were all to be provided for by getting rid of them, and the directors were not to be retain because they were to have £127,600. London was the cheapest port in the world. Liverpool was anything but that, and Glasgow was a much dearer port, and they had this difference between Liverpool and Glasgow itself. In Liverpool it was all docks. In Gasgow they had no docks at all, and therefore they could not judge much from that what the management would be. He thought if the Government would give them the assurance asked for by the hon. Member for Dulwich, it would help them and give the new authority the opportunity of deciding whether anybody ought to have these big salaries which were suggested.
§ MR. CROOKS
said that unless this Bill was to be recast they must adopt this proposal as it stood on the Paper. If the hon. Member for Dulwich was right and they were going to run it by managing directors, it meant the whole staff were going to run the thing, high salaries must be paid them, and the committee 429 would act as overseer. The hon. Member knew perfectly well that in the commencement of a gigantic scheme such as this they had to get the best possible men. The first vice-chairman and the second deputy-chairman of the London County Council had £1,500 a year for several years for doing the very work they were proposing to do now. When they reorganised the scheme and abolished the office they saved money by giving £2,000 a year to the clerk and £500 a year retiring pension to the man who had been acting clerk before. What they had been getting for £2,100 they got for £2,500. They saved absolutely nothing by it. He did not know whether it was more efficient.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. MORTON moved to leave out subsection (11) which provided that the first elected members should be appointed by the Board of Trade. In the first place they had no assurance that these persons would represent the trading interests of the Port of London at all. Then the clause went on to say—"the first Chairman shall, if the Board thinks fit, be appointed by the Board and shall if appointed by the Board, be paid such salary, if any, as the Board may determine." Personally, he thought it would be much better if they waited and elected the eighteen members by the new constituency, so that they should represent the interests that they were supposed to. Then it would be much better to allow the Board to appoint their own chairman. That would get out of the difficulty. They might be political appointments, and have nothing to do with whether the person was a fit and proper person and knew anything about the business whatever. He was afraid that the Board of Trade, if it had the appointments, would be driven to making political appointments. This was such an important Bill that every line in it ought to be considered before they passed it. By spending all the money in purchasing docks they might ruin the Port of London and make 430 it a dear port instead of the cheapest in the world.
In page 2, line 34, to leave out subsection 11."—(Mr. Morton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words of the subsection down to the word 'Board,' in line 35 stand part of the clause."
§ MR. CHURCHILL
The hon. Gentleman's proposal ought not, I think, to command acceptance of the Committee. It is physically impossible that the first Port authority should be elected for this reason. The register is a register of payers of dues, and payers of dues cannot be formed into a register until after the schedule of dues and rates has been prescribed, and that schedule of dues and rates has to be brought before the House by Provisional Order and with all the safeguards of Parliamentary discussion. Until that process has taken place, which probably will not be next session, perhaps not the session after that, and until the resulting schedule of rates has been in operation for at least a year, so as to show who are the payers of dues, it would not be possible to form the register. Owing to the way in which the board is to be formed it would not be possible to prepare a register on which the election could be made. If it is suggested that we should try to create a new and revised register merely to get over this gap, I say that would be very inconvenient and troublesome. A great deal of importance is attached by many of the interests concerned to the fact that the first board is to be nominated by the Board of Trade. I must tell the hon. Member for Suther-landshire that they do not seem to have just such a bad opinion of the Board of Trade as, I am afraid, he has formed in his own mind. The different interests believe that they will get fair and just consideration in the appointments which will be made by the Board of Trade. The discussions have proceeded on that basis, and it is generally understod that our proposals have been made on that basis. The Committee were confronted with the proposal of the hon. Gentleman; it was most carefully considered and rejected, and I have no choice but to 431 urge this Committee to take a similar course and to adhere to the scheme in the Bill, namely, that the first authority shall be appointed by the Board of Trade.
§ * MR. MORTON
said he never stated that he had a bad opinion of the Board of Trade—certainly not worse than he had of other Departments. He admitted that one difficulty in regard to all of them was to get them to do their duty. Perhaps no greater sinner had existed than the Board of Trade in regard to many things they ought to have looked after. That he could prove, but it would be out of order to go into that matter now. [Cries of "Divide."] No time was gained by making a noise and crying out "Divide." He would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment after what the Government had said. He thought it would be a waste of time to put the Committee to the trouble of dividing. He was sorry that the name of the chairman of the new authority had not been given them by the President of the Board of Trade. The "man in the street" had told them that the chairman was practically named.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ * MR. MORTON
said he understood that Clause 2 was practically the same as Clause 3, and he thought, if it was in order, that the two clauses should be considered together. He wished to ask whether the Government were willing to postpone Clause 3 in order that it might be taken on another day. In that case he would let Clause 2 go through now without moving the Amendments of which he had given notice but it must be understood that they were to have a free hand in discussing Clause 3, which really covered Clauses 2, 3, and 4.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I am very anxious indeed that the crucial and fundamental clauses of this Bill, of which Clause 3 is perhaps the most important, should be discussed in the House at the best period for publicity and criticism, and that is also the view of my right hon. friend. It is clear that the crucial issue of the Bill is, of course, the purchase price with which Clause 3 deals. I should be very glad if it were the general wish of the Committee—
§ * MR. MORTON
I will move as a matter of form to report progress in order to give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of continuing his speech.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Morton.)
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I think it would be for the general convenience of the House if we were, when we reach Clause 3, to postpone it so that it should come on as the first clause to-morrow afternoon. That would enable us to come to a decision on the main principle of the Bill, and I think that is a fair and convenient way of dealing with the House of Commons. This is a Bill of sixty clauses, and so far we have only got to the end of the first clause, and I think that I must ask the Committee—I am very loth to do it—to go on to-night as far as the end of Clause 11. Between Clauses 7 and 11 there have been no Amendments put down. Clause 12 is very important. It deals with the port dues on goods. I think we are agreed generally that we should go down to Clause 11, and we can begin with Clause 3 when we meet to-morrow.
§ COLONEL LOCKWOOD (Essex, Epping)
said he did not see that the right hon. Gentleman had made any concession by postponing Clause 3. The House had an assurance from the Prime Minister that they would not be kept sitting late to-night. The whole of the debate had been carried on by Members on the 433 Government side of the House, and he thought it was most unfair to the House after the distinct promise given by the Prime Minister, that they should be asked to go on discussing the Bill. He thought it was going rather far to ask them to continue the debate until Clause 11 had been passed.
§ SIR WILLIAM BULL
said Clause 4 gave power to purchase the undertakings, and he would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should postpone Clauses 3 and 4. An hon. Gentleman below the gangway had given notice of a Motion to leave out Clause 4. Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to start at Clause 4 or 5?
§ * MR. MORTON
said he agreed that Clauses 2, 3, and 4 were really the same, and they should all be postponed. If the right hon. Gentleman could see his way to adopt this suggestion that would suit everybody. He did not think there was any objection to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the other clauses.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I really do not think that it is an unreasonable suggestion that has emanated from my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade, and it has been made after consultation with those who are criticising the Bill.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
No, but as regards the other clauses of the Bill. If my right hon. friend will look at the Paper he will see that there is no substantial point of disagreement in the clauses which it is suggested should be taken at this sitting. The concession made by the Government is a very substantial one, and as a means of arranging the debate it is a matter of considerable magnitude, even from the point of view of the consumption of time. The right hon. Gentleman knows the difference between a debate at an early hour of the day and a debate at a late hour of the night; and I think, under these circumstances, that the suggestion which has fallen from my right hon. friend is a very reasonable one. We ought to have down to Clause 12 taken to-night, which latter clause is of considerable importance, and the hon. Member for Dulwich asked that it should be postponed until to-morrow. I trust that the Committee will consent to the arrangement which has been entered into, an arrangement which will enable these important clauses to be taken first at to-morrow's sitting, and debated in broad daylight, when we can take full cognisance of every important point. Two days for this stage is a very reasonable allocation of time, when it is remembered that the influential Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament spent six weeks over the Bill. I trust that in these circumstances my hon. friend will withdraw his Motion.
§ LORD R. CECIL
asked if they sat up to-night to dispose of the clauses down to Clause 11, were they to be asked to sit up to-morrow night to a late hour? If so, he thought that was most unreasonable.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said that what the right hon. Gentleman said removed some of tin danger. He understood that if they should take down to Clause 11 to-night, the rest of the Bill was to be taken to-morrow. So far as he was 435 concerned, he hoped that the Government would not insist on any such proposal. That would be a very unreasonable suggestion, particularly in view of a new clause to be moved by the right hon. Gentleman reinstating a clause which was rejected by the Committee, and introducing a principle of the utmost possible importance.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2:
§ *MR. MCARTHUR (Liverpool, Kirkdale) moved to insert "(c) Acquire and carry on the undertaking of the Trinity House transferred to the Port authority by this Act." This Amendment he said involved a point of importance, not only to the Port of London, but to the other ports in the kingdom. There was one function not conferred upon the Port of London Authority by this Bill which was as important as the control of docks or warehouses—the power to light and buoy the port. All other ports in the country managed their own local lights. London was the only port which had its lights and buoys controlled and paid for out of the general funds of Trinity House. How did this anomaly occur? It arose in this way. Trinity House originally had jurisdiction over the Port of London, and it had gradually extended its embrace over the whole of the United Kingdom; but when Trinity House became the lighthouse authority for the United Kingdom, it continued to be the local lighthouse authority for the Port of London.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I rise to a point of order. Is this Amendment in order or not? It is clearly outside the scope of the Bill and Trinity House has had no notice of it.
§ * MR. MCARTHUR
, on the point of order, said the title of the Bill was in very wide terms, and the lighting of the Port of London was part of its administration. He could hardly see how 436 it could be outside the purview of the Bill.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that with regard to the point of order he did not think the question of taking over the duties of Trinity House as regarded the Port of London was out of order, although it might involve the Bill being referred to the Standing Orders Committee. But he understood that the duties of Trinity House extended outside the Port of London, and he did not think that taking over and acquiring the undertaking of the Trinity House came within the general scope of this Bill. If so, he must rule it out of order.
§ * MR. MCARTHUR
submitted further that it was only that part of the functions of Trinity House which related to the Port of London which were transferred. What was done by this proposal had been done in other cases. Trinity House had been responsible for the whole of the country, and then gradually the powers had been transferred from Trinity House to the local port authority at Liverpool, Glasgow and other ports.
* THE CHAIRMAN
If the proposal of the hon. Member is entirely confined to this port, he is at liberty to move his Amendment.
§ * MR. MCARTHUR
said it was entirely confined to the Port of London, and when the President of the Board of Trade interposed he was endeavouring to explain how it was that London had this almost obsolete system. The reason was that Trinity House originally had this jurisdiction over the Port of London, and the jurisdiction was gradually extended to the whole country. "He was going on to say that according to the old system each vessel paid for the lights which, it passed, but when, in 1898 the new Merchant Shipping Bill was passed, that system was altered and the ships had to pay a certain fixed rate per voyage. The money so collected went into a general lighthouse fund which defrayed the cost of the general lights of the country. The position at present was that London had its local lights paid for for nothing. The money 437 was paid out of the General Lighthouse Fund, whereas Liverpool, Glasgow and the Tyne and Belfast, and other ports supported their own local lights. London, however, was still in a condition of pupilage. It did not control its lights, but they were controlled and paid for by Trinity House. It was all very well as long as London had no Port authority of its own, but now they were going to give London a Port authority why should it not possess this power which they gave to the other ports? The present position was unfair to the other ports. The cost of London local lights was £50,000, and if this amount was paid by the Port of London the result would be that, the dues of the other ports would be reduced by 10 per cent. He would conclude by referring to two authorities to support the proposal he made. The first was the Royal Commission on the Port of London which in June, 1902, made this Report—The powers of the Trinity House, so far as they relate to the area of the Port of London as defined by the constituting Act should also be transferred at the same date.Then there was the Royal Commission appointed on Lighthouse Administration in 1908, who reported as follows—There certainly seems to be an inequality in the present arrangement. It is not, however, an inequality which could be altered by an administrative action of the lighthouse authorities, and since the question, as it affects the General Lighthouse Fund, is of no great practical importance, except as regards the Port of London, and a new Bill for the creation of a Port authority for London is now under consideration, this brief reference to it may, perhaps, be deemed sufficient.Therefore they had these two recommendations in favour of dealing with the matter, and the second in favour of dealing with it in the present Bill. He wanted to ask whether this anomaly was to be continued—an anomaly for which there was no defence, and one which worked out at the expense of other great ports. He begged to move.
In page 3, line 20, at end, to insert the words '(c) acquire and carry on the undertaking of the Trinity House transferred to the Port authority by this Act.'"—(Mr. McAthur.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."438
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I hope the Committee will not attribute this proposal to the recommendation of the; Royal Commission to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. That recommendation was quire different in its character from the proposal which he has put forward in his Amendment. The Royal Commission recommended the transfer, not only of the lighting and the buoys, but also of the pilotage under Trinity House, and it would be, on the face of it, unwise to transfer the lighting and buoys and leave another authority responsible for the pilotage. In the second place, I submit it is quite clear that this Amendment, if not technically so according to the rules of procedure, is in fact outside the scope of the Bill. Notices were not given to the parties affected and none were given to Trinity House when the matter was before the Committee, and as you, Sir, have indicated, if the Amendment is adopted it will probably lead to the recommittal of the Bill, and the consequent loss of all the fruits of our procedure during the course of this year. It will complicate the labours of the new authority, and those labours are already complicated enough. It is quite true that there is a certain anomaly. I do not deny it, but that anomaly is not created by this Bill, and it existed before this Bill was brought forward, and all we ask the House to do is to put the new authority in as good a position as the old. Let me point to the fact that the effect of the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman has moved would be to relieve to a very inconsiderable extent the General Lighthouse Fund, and would, to a very large extent, burden the finances and complicate the labours of the new authority. The relief to the shipowners all over the country would be practically insignificant. [An HON. MEMBER: Ten per cent.] I am informed that the saving by this operation to Trinity House would not be more than £3,000 or £4,000 a year. [Cries of "No."] That is what I am informed, whereas to transfer these duties to the new authority would entail the setting up of new machinery, a new office and a new staff, which would cost £16,000 a year. It would incidentally require a special lighting rate which would have to be levied for London, and the new authority, to 439 which we want to give a fair start, would have to being by putting an additional burden on the trade of London, and be put in a worse position than the private companies it will succeed. I hope the Committee will not accept the Amendment.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
said that there seemed to have been some misunderstanding as to what took place in Committee. He undertook that as far as they could say there should be no obstruction when the Bill was before the Committee of the House, but beyond that he said nothing.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
asked the Chairman's ruling to be made rather clearer because it seemed to him that there was something underlying, something more than appeared on the surface. He submitted to the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool that in his Amendment to acquire and carry on the undertaking of Trinity House transferred to the Fort of London there were no words confining it to the Port of London. It was rather serious because they might not have the advantage of the right hon. Gentleman's presence in the Chair when a further Amendment came on apropos of the same point. If before putting the question the Chairman would rule that it was necessary to say in the Amendment that it was confined to the Port of London it would clear the way in regard to a further Amendment.
said the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division of Liverpool had down a new clause which he understood was consequential to the Amendment he was now moving, and as he understood that new clause it did intend to confine the action of the. Amendment to what was transferred to the Port authority by the Acts and therefore confined the acquirement of what was suggested to be tinned over by Trinity House to the Port of London.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
said he had read the new clause through very carefully to see if there was any safeguard in it to prevent the inclusion of the Medway, and he failed to see it.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
said his hon. friend had called the attention of the Committee to the serious pecuniary inequalities caused to other large parts in the kingdom by leaving out of the purview of this new authority the functions of Trinity House as applied to the lighting, and also, he should think, to the pilotage, because in all those other ports those essential features of the port authority were part of the duties of the Port authority, and the effect of leaving them out here was important from a pecuniary point of view. The whole trade of the country had to pay for the special lighting and so on of the Port of London, whereas each other port paid its own special charges relating to those matters. A careful inquiry had been made and it had been ascertained that 10 per cent. of the charges at present levied were ascribable to what otherwise would be charged to the new authority of the Port of London. That was a serious point, because he did not think the Government in bringing forward a Bill of this sort would desire to inflict for all time upon the general commerce of the country a state of inequality or unfairness as between one po[...]t and another. There was another very important consideration. When this new Port authority got to work, when it dredged and made its channels and that sort of thing, buoys and lights and similar arrangements continuously had to be altered in order to show the new channels and other arrangements that were continually requiring to be made in conjunction with the navigation of any great port. Their experience in Liverpool, which, after all, was some guide in a matter of this kind, was that in consequence of the alterations in the channels by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and in order to make the port effective, the buoys and the lights and other arrangements were continually requiring to be altered. But what would be the effect if these lights, buoys, and arrangements of that sort were left under one body, Trinity House, whilst the other alterations which they necessitated were to be carried out by another? He could not imagine a more inconvenient arrangement in the interests of trade. It was necessary sometimes 441 at a very few hours notice to alter the position of a buoy or light, and such notice had to be advertised in a certain manner prescribed by the regulations, in order to bring it to the attention of shipping. He thought it was not merely from the point of view of the pecuniary inequality inflicted that this was a serious matter, but from the point of view of efficiency of administration it was extremely desirable that all the functions of Trinity House, so far as they were applicable to the Port of London, should from henceforth be placed under the Port authority, because they were the proper people to carry them out.
§ * MR. OWEN PHILLIPS (Pembroke and Haverfordwest)
said the Members for Liverpool were taking an opportunity in this Bill to make an indirect attack on Trinity House. As a matter of fact the shipowners and shipping trade of the Port of London were quite satisfied that Trinity House could carry out their work in the future as economically as they had done in the past, and it was both misleading and inaccurate to say that if the work of Trinity House was given to the new authority, there would be a saving of anything approaching the amounts mentioned by the Members for the Kirkdale division and the other hon. Members. He trusted that the Government would remain firm, and refuse to transfer this power to the new Port authority, which would have quite enough to do in taking over the docks and managing the great undertaking.
§ MR. WILLIAMSON
called attention to the fact that the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Kirkdale division of Liverpool extended far beyond the Port of London as defined in the Bill. The
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. M'Arthur and Mr. Fell.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Seddon, J.|
|Cave, George||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Bellairs, Carlyon|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Barnard, E. B.||Bennett, E. N.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Beauchamp, E.||Berridge, T. H. D.|
§ Amendment referred to an area extending from the estuary of the River Thames westward of imaginary straight lines drawn from the Neptune Tower on the North Foreland in the county of Kent to the eastern extremity of the Sunk Sand, etc. That was an area far beyond the area of the Port of London which was under consideration.
§ MR. E. H. LAMB
said that they were under the disadvantage of not having the new clause before them, but so far as he could see in the Amendment as now before the House there was nothing safeguarding the position—that this undertaking of Trinity House transferred to the Port authority should be confined to the Port of London. Was it not necessary that those words should be inserted?
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that if his attention bad been called to the fact that the new proposed clause would extend outside the Port of London he should in the beginning have ruled it out of order, but the discussion having been begun, he should not do so at this stage. All the more so because the differences were small. He did not know what the hon. Member for Rochester meant about the Medway. If the Amendment were negatived a new clause could not be proposed at all, and therefore nothing whatever would be done in regard to the Medway. The new clause would be out of order and could not be moved if the Amendment were negatived.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 6; Noes, 125. (Division List No. 374.)
|Branch, James||Higham, John Sharp||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Brodie, H. C.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Brooke, Stopford||Holt, Richard Durning||Robinson, S.|
|Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh)||Horniman, Emslie John||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Illingworth, Percy H.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Rose, Charles Day|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Rowlands, J.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Kearley, Sir Hudson E.||Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Scott, A. H. (Ashton under Lyne|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||Seely, Colonel|
|Clough, William||Lamont, Norman||Shackleton, David James|
|Compton-Rickett, Sir J.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John|
|Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinst'd)||Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St. Pancras, E.)||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Lehmann, R. C.||Steadman, W. C.|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.||Levy, Sir Maurice||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Duckworth, Sir James||Lloyd-George, Rt.-Hon. David||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||M'Crae, Sir George||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Tomkinson, James|
|Evans, Sir Samuel T.||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Ure, Alexander|
|Ferens, T. R.||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Verney, F. W.|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Morrell, Philip||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton.|
|Forster, Henry William||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Murray, Capt. Hn. A. C. (Kincard.||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||White, J. Dundas (Dumbart'nsh|
|Gill, A. H.||Nuttall, Harry||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington||Wiles, Thomas|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton)||Williamson, A.|
|Gulland, John W.||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Gurdon, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Brampton||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Pirie, Duncan V.||Wood, T. M'Kinnon|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Joseph Pease and Mr. Herbert Lewis.|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Richards, T. F. (Wolverhampt'n|
§ MR. FELL moved an Amendment to insert after the word "jetties" the word "locks."
In page 3, line 22, after the word 'jetties,' to insert the word 'locks.'"—(Mr. Fell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'locks' be there inserted."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ MR. CHURCHILL moved that Clause 3 be postponed until after Clause 11 had been considered.444
§ Question, "That Clause 3 be postponed until after the consideration of Clause 11," put, and agreed to.
§ Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6:
§ MR. BARNARD moved an Amendment to bring expressly within the provision of the clause any liabilities incurred under the Thames Conservancy Act, 1905. He said he could save time if he simply moved the first of his Amendments to this clause. He understood that the Government considered the Amendments were met by the Bill, and upon that statement he would withdraw the whole of the Amendments.445
In page 5, line 32, after the word 'and,' to insert the words 'all property and liabilities of the conservators held, acquired, or incurred in respect of the Thames below the landward limit of the Port of London.'"—(Mr. Barnard.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir W. ROBSON,) South Shields
I have looked into the points raised in the Amendments, and I find that they are already covered by the words of the clause. The first Amendment is a drafting Amendment. The object of the second Amendment is to bring expressly within the purview of the clause any liabilities in respect of or any sinking fund applicable to the redemption of moneys borrowed under the Thames Conservancy Act, 1905. These are already within the purview of the clause.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. CAVE moved a new paragraph (g) repealing so much of Section 160 of the Thames Conservancy Act, 1894, as authorised a toll to be demanded or received in respect of any vessel navigating westward of London Bridge to or from any point eastward of Teddington Lock. He said he was very sorry to move his Amendment at that time, but in a few minutes he could make his case clear. The point of the Amendment was this: by the Act of 1894 special tolls were placed upon vessels navigating westward of London Bridge, but with a proviso exempting vessels not going 446 further west than to Strand-on-the-Green, which was just below Kew Bridge. The Amendment would extend the proviso to vessels going as far as Teddington Lock, and for the reason that the river above Strand-on-the-Green up to Teddington Lock, including Richmond and Twickenham, was placed in the Port of London. He was sorry it was so, but being so he thought they should have the advantage in Richmond of being part of the port for all purposes, and should escape these special taxes now put upon the upper river. The effect of the Bill without this Amendment would be that vessels going westward of London Bridge, say to Richmond, would pay first, of course, the ordinary port due and then the new rate under this Bill; and, thirdly, this special tax, a sort of upper river tax of, he thought, 2¼d. a ton. That was a very great burden upon cargoes going to places like Richmond. It was an old grievance and this was a chance of getting rid of it once for all. The matter was brought before the Joint Committee, and the Chairman said it was an injustice, but that it could be remedied by a Bill to be brought in by the Port authority when formed. It was entirely against his experience, however, that any authority having once obtained power to levy a tax, readily brought in a Bill to take away that power. He was afraid one could not trust to that being done, and he took this opportunity to ask the Committee to remedy the injustice. He thought it was not only hard on that part of the river, but it had this deleterious effect: if they put too high a tax upon river-going cargoes the effect would be and indeed already was to drive the traffic from the river on to the railways. The river lost and the railway gained, and in the end, therefore, the 447 Port authority lost by the addition of this burdensome tax. He hoped the Committee would support him in freeing this part of the river from the tax.
In page 6, line 42, at end, to insert the words '(g) So much of Section 160 of the Thames Conservancy Act, 1894, as authorises a toll to be demanded or received in respect of any vessel navigating westward of London Bridge to or from any point eastward of Teddington Lock shall be repealed.; and.'"—(Mr. Cave.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ SIR H. KEARLEY
This is an old existing grievance I am perfectly aware, and it has been brought to the attention of the Board of Trade frequently of late. It refers to an old due which has been levied now for many years, and the due was re-enacted in the Thames Conservancy Act of 1894. At the time that Bill was before Committee in this House, a very great effort was made on behalf of those who considered this an onerous burden to get it remedied. The Committee of that day felt themselves unable to remedy it, and hence it has endured down to the present time. Now that the powers are being transferred from the Thames Conservancy to the Port authority, the Port authority will inherit these dues, and when I say that the sum involved is £5,000 or £6,000 a year I would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to realise that it is not quite the function of the Government at this time to strip the new Port authority of its revenue, We have had frequent applications made to us from all sections to take this opportunity to do something that in effect would rob the Port authority of its revenue. If we were to begin to strip 448 it of its revenue even in a case of this kind it would make a serious difference to the balance sheet. I will say nothing with regard to what the hon. and learned Gentleman said as to the authority coming to this House to allow them to get rid of this due. All I can say for the moment is that we are not in a position to remit these dues, which would have a serious effect upon the finances of the Bill.
§ MR. CAVE
I do not think the hon. Gentleman has denied my case at all, but I feel it would not be right for me to divide the Committee on the matter. Having made my protest, however, I reserve the right to raise the point at a later stage. I do not withdraw the Amendment, but I will not divide the Committee.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ MR. WILLIAM RUTHERFORD
desired to ask a question. As he understood this clause, a considerable fund would disappear from the list of possible investments, namely, the Thames Conservancy Redeemable A. debenture stock. He understood that that was a trustee investment, and he did not find in the Bill from one end to the other anything which made the new stock of the Port authority into a trust security. It was not good finance to extinguish an investment which was a valuable trustee security and to substitute another class of investment which was not a trustee security. If the President of the Board of Trade thought there was anything in this point and would insert a clause somewhere in the 449 Bill which would make the new Port authority stock it trustee security it would be a great advantage to the fund, because it would enable the money to be borrowed at a slightly lower rate. It would be a great pity in this case to take away from the investment list an available trustee, security, and to leave the corresponding fund which would not be available for the purpose of trustees putting money into it unless there was a special clause in the Bill. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would see that this was an important point.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I think the hon. Gentleman has raised a very interesting point, and I can promise him that I will consider it carefully. I may say, however, I am informed that the A. debenture Conservancy stock is not, in fact, a trustee investment at the present time.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
In any event I will consider carefully the financial position—whether it is necessary, and in what way it is possible, to give effect to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 7:
§ MR. MORRELL moved to insert after the word "purpose," the words "or any powers conferred upon them for the purpose of preserving the rights and interests of the public with respect to the Thames and its tow-paths." The object of the Amendment, he said, was to 450 give to any local authority who might appear to be interested the same right of appeal with regard to questions affecting public interests as they now had with regard to questions of river pollution, so as to enable any local authority which was dissatisfied as to the exercise of the powers of the Thames Conservancy in the matter of the use of the Thames as a place of public recreation to appeal to the Local Government Board, and if the Local Government Board was dissatisfied to enable that Department to make an order on the Thames Conservancy to carry out the work necessary to remedy the defect. He did not wish to delay the Committee over this Amendment because he understood it was going to be accepted more or less as it stood.
§ MR. MORRELL
said that at any rate there was very little difference between the Amendment that was going to be accepted and this one. He could not quite understand why the Committee should be asked to insert the words which stood in the name of his hon. friend (Mr. Lehmann), because at the end of the clause, as the right hon. Gentleman would see, the Local Government Board might make such order as the circumstances required, and such order should be binding on the Conservancy. It would, therefore, be in the full discretion of the Local Government Board to make such order as they thought fit. The difficulty at the present time was that the powers and duties of the Thames Conservancy were extremely vague. No one knew how far it was the duty of the Thames Conservancy to interfere when obvious 451 encroachments were made on the rights of the public. In one case in his own constituency things had gone so badly that a village built on the banks of the Thames in Oxfordshire, and to which the Thames originally could have been the only possible highway, was now, owing to a series of encroachments, entirely shut out from any approach to the river. The result was that the inhabitants of the village, who were about 900 in number, were unable to get down to the river except by paying a toll. Gradually the road had been shut away from the Thames, and the last encroachment to take place was that a private owner, who had built upon piles sunk in the river, had made a garden between the road and the river, thus preventing people who came up the river in boats from landing. This had happened at Whitchurch. The parish council passed resolutions asking the Thames Conservancy to take action, but the Conservators replied that they were unable to do so as they did not see they had any power to interfere in the matter. Considerable correspondence ensued, but as a result of it all absolutely nothing was done, and to this day that village, which, as he had said, was built on the banks, was entirely shut out from the river. Should his Amendment be carried the Local Government Board would, in a case of that sort, be able to hold an inquiry and make an order. What he wanted to ask his right hon. friend to do was to give the Committee some assurance—in view of Members not pressing a lot of Amendments—that the Government would inquire into the whole question of the powers and duties of the Thames Conservancy with regard to the Upper Thames. At present those 452 powers and duties appeared to be in a very chaotic condition. In 1884, under a Liberal Government, a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into the operations of the Act for the preservation of the Thames and the steps that were necessary to secure the river as a place of public recreation. That Committee made an exhaustive inquiry and issued a Report, but from that day to this some of its most important recommendations had never been carried out. At present so unsatisfactory was the position of the Thames Conservancy with regard to the Upper Thames that if a piece of the towing path was washed away the Conservators had no compulsory power to buy land in order to repair it. A great many other instances might be quoted to show how the exercise of the present powers and duties of the Thames Conservancy was curtailed, but he thought he had said enough to convince the Committee of the necessity of something being done. He had reason to believe that it an inquiry was instituted by the Government into the financial position of the Thames Conservancy it would be welcomed by the present Conservators. They felt that in their present position they could not deal adequately with the very important problems which were continually arising along the many miles of the upper river—matters in which, under existing circumstances, the public suffered the loss of rights and privileges without there appearing to be much chance of securing a remedy. He did not wish further to delay the Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman told them that he was going to deal with the matter then there was nothing more to be said.
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted."
In page 9, line 40, after the word 'purpose,' to insert the words 'or any powers conferred upon them for the purpose of preserving the rights and interests of the public with respect to the Thames and its towpaths.'"—(Mr. Morrell.)
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I have had the advantage of several discussions with my hon, friend the Member for Oxfordshire upon the general question of the powers of the Thames Conservancy and the carrying out of some of the necessary duties which should be discharged in the public interest on the upper river. I am quite prepared to agree with him that those powers are not all that could be wished, and in many respects no doubt lack of funds has very often prevented the Conservators defending public rights as otherwise they would have wished to do. I can assent on behalf of the Government to adopt, not indeed the Amendment which the hon. Member for Oxfordshire moved, but the Amendment which stands in the name of my hon. friend the Member for Market Harborough. That Amendment, I may point out, is practically the same as that of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire, or at all events it has an exactly similar effect, while at the same time it offers the additional advantage that the words are correct as regards drafting. Therefore I should be prepared to accept the Amendment of my hon. friend the Member for Harborough, the effect of which is to give an appeal to the Local Government Board upon the complaint of the council of any county borough, district, or parish, adjoining the Thames. That is a general assertion of the responsibility 454 of the Conservators towards the rights and interests of the public on the upper river, and taking a step towards enforcing the effective discharge of that responsibility. I certainly agree that an inquiry is desirable into the present power and means for carrying out their duties at the disposal of the Conservators, and that the matter must be considered before the Board of Trade make a provisional order to repeal the Conservancy Act. Therefore while I should not be prepared to enter into any actual binding engagement, I can assure my hon. friend that I am substantially of opinion that the question of inquiry should receive urgent and effective attention from the Government at as early a date as possible.
§ MR. BARNARD
said he was not going to say much against the Amendment because he did not wish to enter into the whole question. He thought it was a very far-fetched thing to allow any rural parish council to lodge a complaint on a subject such as the preservation of the rights and interests of the public. He should like to hear from the Government what this meant, and to what extent it would be carried out.
§ * MR. MORTON
said he would like to say that, having gone into this question on many occasions, he thoroughly agreed that more power was wanted to deal with this subject, but the matter did not lie entirely with the Conservancy. The mischief was done by Parliament when the amalgamation of the upper and lower river took place, and it was agreed that all encroachments in the last twenty years might be kept. That was all the cause of the trouble, for it 455 meant, in other words, that all that had been stolen might be kept. There was no question that more power was needed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. LEHMANN (Leicestershire, Market Harborough) moved to add the words "or by the council of any county, borough, district, or parish adjoining the Thames, that the Conservators having failed to exercise any powers conferred on them for the purpose of preserving the rights and interests of the public in respect to the Thames and its towing paths which they ought to have exercised." He was very glad indeed that the Government had agreed to accept the Amendment standing in his name, for he thought that it was necessary that in a Bill of that kind there should be some mention made of the rights and interests of the public. With regard to what the hon. Member for Kidderminster has just said, he thought that the parish adjoining was the one which would suffer most from encroachments, and that, therefore, this power should be given to it.
In page 9, line 40, after the word 'purpose,' to insert the words 'or by the council of any county, borough, district, or parish adjoining the Thames that the Conservators having failed to exercise any powers conferred on them for the purpose of preserving the rights and interests of the public in respect to the Thames and towing-paths which they ought to have exercised.'
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.456
§ Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.
§ Committee report progress; to sit again To-morrow.