HC Deb 31 August 1909 vol 10 cc323-9

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."


moved, as an Amendment, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."

I am sorry to detain hon. Members at this late hour, but this is a matter of principle in connection with the promotion of local Bills, and it is not my fault that I cannot get an opportunity of speaking upon it at another time. There are three or four reasons why I oppose this Bill. One is, that when the Bill was before the House last week I moved an Amendment which I hoped would be accepted in some form. It was not accepted, and I got very little expectation. A fresh matter which has been discovered is that the Bill contains a clause which gives the municipality of Dunoon the right to charge what they like for people going into the park. The third reason for objecting to the Bill is that my hon. Friend the Member for Argyllshire is able to be here to-night, and I wish to give him an opportunity of dealing with a matter affecting a portion of his constituency. In a notice sent round we are told that the Bill was originally promoted under the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act by the Corporation of Dunoon for purposes immediately affecting this popular watering-place. I think that it is accounted popular, but if so, why do they want to spend more of the ratepayers' money in advertising it?

With regard to these costs, it has been said that they are taxed and cannot go beyond a certain figure. Those who unfortunately have to do with Parliamentary costs know that taxation means nothing at all. I should like to be shown a case where the Parliamentary tax master has ever reduced the cost of these Bills. I have known cases in which he has increased them. In the preamble it is stated: "Whereas it is expedient that the Town Council should be authorised to make charges for admission to the pleasure ground of the Town Council known as the Castle Garden during the performance of concerts or other musical entertainments held in the said park." That appears to be given as a reason for spending all this money. In Clause 3 it is provided that "the Town Council may make charges of admission to the pleasure ground of the Town Council known as the Castle Garden during the performance of concerts or other musical entertainments held in said gardens as they may from time to time think fit." This park or open space was, I understand, paid for by the ratepayers of Dunoon, and it is kept up at their expense, and to my mind it is a curious thing that ratepayers should be forbidden to go into their own park without paying. What would be said if the London County Council or any of the other authorities who have open spaces were to charge the people for going in when a band was playing or when a band was not playing? I draw attention to this because it may be a very awkward precedent to have used in other cases if a town council in Scotland were to be allowed to charge ratepayers for going into a park provided by their own money. That would be reason enough for throwing out this Bill altogether. Up to the present time we have had no explanation with regard to this most extraordinary Bill or as to why the House of Lords struck out so many of the clauses. As I understand, the ratepayers do not want this music or fireworks in their gardens, and they do not want the place made a music hall of at all. Consequently, they are not in favour of this expenditure, which, we are told, is not required. We have been told, again, that it would cost between £2,000 and £3,000, which means a rate of either 7d. or 10d., as the case may be. That is an enormous rate for so small a place. It is proposed, I am further informed, to spend £600 per annum, or a 2d. rate, to advertise the fireworks. That is another reason why we should throw the Bill out altogether. Dunoon is very heavily rated, and they have a debt of £120,000. In my opinion, it is my duty to protect these ratepayers. A plebiscite of the ratepayers could have been taken. It is said that 1,400 of them have approved in some way of the Bill, though a good many say that they were not in favour of the whole of it, and were never told at all that it was intended to borrow £80,000. Unfortunately, of late years nobody seems to trouble about economy.

It is our duty to encourage economy, not only in Imperial affairs, but in local affairs. The happiness and prosperity of the people of this country depend more upon good local administration than upon Imperial administration. We have the high authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) for that statement. We have also to consider that it is so easy nowadays to borrow money, and that it is so easy to spend money that is borrowed. But the people who lend the money always take care to have the excellent security of the ratepayers, who have to pay the money back, whether they like it or not. Consequently, it is our duty to try and help these ratepayers against even their own representatives on the council, who ought not to be allowed to promote bills without having the legal right to go to the expense of doing so. We know that in this case they have not put a clause in the Bill to legalise the payment of the costs thereof. We were told in the course of the discussion last week by some Members that we should not interfere in these matters. That is not my opinion. It is not only our right, in my opinion, but it is our duty, to look after everybody and everything, from a needle to an anchor, and to protect innocent ratepayers, who have no other people to protect them. Their money should not be speculated with. My opinion is that rates, as well as Imperial funds, are trust moneys, and that the authority has no right to speculate with them. No doubt they have a right to do certain things, but not to speculate or enter into any transaction which becomes a speculation and which may or may not be successful. In this case speculation has not been successful. There is too much of this squandering of public money imperially and locally. My opinion is that it is time a lesson was taught to these authorities as an example to the rest, so that we may show to them we intend to use our influence to protect the ratepayer and taxpayer as far as we can. The way to do that, and the only way I can suggest, is to throw out this Bill. The money to pay for it may be found out of common good or out of the fireworks. If they like to get it that way I do not care. But I do say that a rate of sevenpence ought not to be put on these people in this way. That is a serious matter, and if we had to pay it ourselves we should complain. I regret we did not have the opportunity of discussing this question earlier in the evening, and sooner or later Parliament will have to take up the question of the costs in these matters. I appeal to the House to do what is right and proper by the ratepayers of Dunoon.

Mr. H. A. WATT

I desire to second the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend. I have no doubt the House admires the way in which my hon. Friend has opposed this Bill. No sooner does he get a knock-down blow in one round than he rises to the next. The House is aware this Bill originated in the House of Lords, from which it came in a rather shattered condition, with only five clauses, two of which are simply interpretation clauses. This House has now an opportunity of dealing with the remnant, and I am sure if they understood the Bill they would think twice before they passed it. Clauses 3 and 4 override the general law of the land. On March 8th last an Order of this House was passed enacting that all private Bills promoted by municipal authorities by which it is proposed to create powers in conflict with, deviation from, or excess of the provisions of the general law shall be committed to the Local Legislation Committee. For some mysterious reason, on August 9th that Order was suspended in order to facilitate the passage of this Bill. If the law of the land is to be changed, it should not be done by a Bill of this kind. The law which Clause 3 overrides is that no charge can be made to the public for entering a park which belongs to the public. That is the law, at any rate in Scotland; but under this clause the town council of Dunoon will be in a position to charge the people any sum they like for entering their own park. It is also the general law that fishermen engaged in white fishing should be permitted to build a stand to facilitate their fishing lower than high-water mark; but Clause 4 empowers the town council to override that. The Bill is of importance in that it overrides the general law in those two respects, and on that ground it ought to be condemned by the House.


As the Member for the county in which Dunoon is situated, I may perhaps be allowed to say a few words. I should certainly hope that my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment would not put the House to the trouble of a Division. If he does I sincerely hope that the Amendment will be thrown out and the Bill carried in the form that it is. I have been cognizant with the Bill and with the intentions and policy of the town council from the commencement. If my judgment is of any value at all, the whole points of the Bill, which the town council ask the authority of the House for, are parallel to those that regularly come before the House, and are in every way deserving of the attention of the House. As to the three matters in the Bill with regard to the concerts the Corporation have already spent an extremely large sum of money in providing Dunoon with perhaps the finest public hall in the West of Scotland. The object of the Bill is to enable high-class music, concerts, and everything of the kind to be given in the season. Dunoon, as many of the Members may be aware, is the principal place on the Clyde as a pleasure resort for the citizens of Glasgow. The object of the town council is, in a reasonable way, to provide accommodation and entertainment for visitors and friends; and it should not be forgotten that in the summer time it may be considered advisable to carry on the concerts outside in the gardens, which are not the property of the town council, instead of in the pavilion The town council are asking for power to charge for admission to the concerts outside as well as inside. In the interests of the ratepayers it is eminently desirable that they should have this power. The town council has also spent an extremely large sum in the development and improvement of the foreshore. Where they have spent this money on the foreshore—with the approval of the Board of Trade—they should also have the means of controlling what goes on there. Exactly the same clauses as these, as I understand, are in-

Division No. 575.] AYES. [12.20 a.m.
Acland, Francis Dyke Fullerton, Hugh Pease, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Saff. Wald)
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert John Radford, G. H.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Glendinning, R. G. Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)
Beale, W. P. Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Bright, J. A. Gulland, John W. Robinson, S.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney Charles Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Russell, Rt. Hon. T. W.
Carlile, E. Hildred Higham, John Sharp Silcock, Thomas Ball
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Illingworth, Percy H. Stanier, Beville
Cleland, J. W. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Clough, William Lewis, John Herbert Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Clyde, J. Aven Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander
Cooper, G. J. MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.) Valentia, Viscount
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) M'Callum, John M. Waring, Walter
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Masterman, C. F. G. White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott- Mond, A. White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Emmott, Rt. Hon. Alfred Mooney, J. J. Williamson, Sir A.
Evans, Sir S. T. Nannetti, Joseph P. Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Everett, R. Lacey Norton, Captain Cecil William
Falconer, J. Nussey, Sir Willans TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.
Ferens, T. R. O'Malley, William Ainsworth and Mr. Lamont.
Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Hodge, John Summerbell, T.
Banner, John S. Harmood- Lardner, James Carrige Rushe
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Nicholson, Charles N. (Doncaster) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.
Crean, Eugene Nolan, Joseph A. C. Morton and Mr. Watt.
Hay, Hon. Claude George O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)

Bill read the third time, and passed.