HC Deb 04 July 1910 vol 18 cc1411-26

I beg to move: "That it be an Instruction to the Committee on Port of London (Port Rates on Goods) Provisional Order Bill, that they have power to consider whether exemption from port rates should be granted in respect of goods imported coastwise for transhipment only, and to report accordingly."

In submitting this Motion it is necessary for me to repeat in very few words something of what I endeavoured to say when the Second Reading of the Bill was before the House a fortnight ago. The whole difficulty we have got to face on behalf of the interests I am representing here to-night is in connection with the discrimination shown by the Bill as between goods coming from the coast and goods coming from inland places to the Port of London for export. It has only been discovered within the last two or three weeks how midland and inland manufacturers are seriously handicapped by the provisions of this measure. I do not know who is to blame, or why the matter has not been more fully discussed in their interests before, but so far as I am able to learn persons like the manufacturers in the Midlands have been entirely outside the whole of the negotiations before the Committee in 1908, and before Lord St. Aldwyn's Committee a few weeks ago, and the consequence is that when this Provisional Order was presented to the House a fortnight ago the discrimination between the coastwise traders and the inland traders was found to be of such a serious character that it has given rise to distinct opposition to the Bill so far as these interests are concerned. The inland trader is, in the first instance, most seriously handicapped. He sends his goods to London for export in competition with goods which are sent from various seaboard places to the port for export. The inland trader is handicapped first of all by the fact that he sends his goods to the port by railway or canal, while the seaboard trader sends his goods by ship. The consequent difference in the freightage is exceedingly great. The inland trader pays a larger freight by railway or canal than the seaboard trader who sends by ship, and the result is that at the Port of London he is most seriously handicapped as against his competitor on the coast. It seems to me in the circumstances that if Parliament were to intervene at all it ought to intervene in the direction of lessening the handicap rather than of making it more severe; but, as a matter of fact, by the terms of this Bill the result is that those who come from the coast, already having an advantage over those who come from inland, are to be freed from rates altogether in their transhipments, while goods coming from the midlands by railway or canal are to pay rates in addition, and the consequence is that the existing handicap is intensified by what I may call the Parliamentary handicap, and the double result is a very serious one indeed for the midland trade.

It does not end there, for this not only applies to the goods sent from midland and inland manufacturers to the Port of London, but it also relates to the raw materials which are brought in through the port for midland manufacturers. They have to pay rates on the incoming as well as the outgoing materials, whereas the coastwise traders are relieved from rates in each direction. It is manifest to anyone who knows how competition goes forth between manufacturers that any additional charge of this kind burdens them to such an extent as to make business almost impossible. The existing freight has been such as to cause a serious handicap to the trade of the midlands. I instanced two cases in which large manufacturers in Wolverhampton, who suffered from a handicap of a similar kind, have left our town and gone to the coast simply because they could not stand the extra burden of sending their goods by railway or canal. Having done that, and having deprived the midlands of the advantage of these large manufactures in our midst, of the population who would have been employed in them, and of the general business resulting, Parliament, which has already done so much for their benefit, practically says, "We will do more," thereby giving an incentive to other manufacturers, who so far have withstood the difficulty, to follow suit, so that they may get the benefit of the discrimination at the Port of London. It seems to me, therefore, that the injustice of this discrimination between the two opposing sets of manufacturers is so great that Parliament should never have assented to it at all. If we were approaching the matter for the first time I do not think I should have much difficulty in convincing the House of this injustice and asking them to put the matter on absolutely fair and just lines between the competing manufacturers, so that no discrimination should be allowed. The point I am putting at the present is not that the midland manufacturers should be relieved from the rates that have to be paid. They understand that the Port of London must have revenue, and none of them are desirous of refusing the needful revenue in that behalf. What they object to is that while they have to pay, their competitors, already having an advantage as compared with themselves, do not have to pay. It is not their desire to be relieved of rates; it is their desire to prevent this discrimination whereby one competitor is to have this advantage over another.

It seems to me that if this matter came before the House to-night for the first time, that would be evident to anyone, but it does not come before the House for the first time. It is covered by the Act of 1908, and by the arbitration before Lord St. Aldwyn. I have learned with surprise that the midland manufacturers, who are so keenly affected by this discrimination, knew nothing whatever of the way their trade was being jeopardised. I do not know how the discrimination was originally made. It appears to me that the Bill under which it took place must have passed through this House on "domes of silence," otherwise the manufacturers would have heard of it. They only learned two or three weeks ago of the great injustice to which they were being exposed, and they immediately wrote to their representatives in Parliament to bring the matter before the House. We did so on the very first opportunity a fortnight ago, and having stated the case as clearly as I could in the few minutes I occupied the attention of the House, I said that if we could secure from the President of the Board of Trade a statement that the matter would be fairly considered on its merits before the Committee, none of us desired to hurt the Port of London, or in the slightest degree interfere with its activities. All we wanted was that this discrimination should be removed. The President of the Board of Trade, with his usual courtsey, promised that every point raised in the Debate should receive the full consideration of the Committee.

I am absolutely satisfied that it was the sincere desire of the President of the Board of Trade that this matter should be discussed by the Committee fully and fairly on the merits, but, having gone into the matter, I believe he has discovered, and doubtless he will tell the House tonight that there are technical difficulties in the way preventing that clear discussion of the matter before the Select Committee upstairs, that I think he, with us, would sincerely desire. Consequently I had an opportunity with a number of my Friends of discussing the matter with him on various occasions, and I wish here to testify that the President of the Board of Trade, in the special circumstances which existed, has shown every possible endeavour to meet us as fairly as he can. He will speak in a moment, and will explain what his position actually is, but I am now going to indicate what he has told me and told my Friends he is prepared to do. He is not prepared, I understand, to accept the instruction that I am submitting to the House. I wish he could. But I understand that he cannot go so far as that. As I understand, what he desires is that, so far as it is in any way practically possible, the case that I am submitting to the House to-night shall be fairly submitted to the Committee upstairs, that there shall not be the bar placed against the midland manufacturers of presenting petitions or of their being entirely excluded by the technical terms of the Act of 1908, but that on the merits the matter may be fairly discussed. I understand that the President does not commit himself in the slightest degree to any opinion one way or another upon the merits. He does not want to prejudice, the case before the Committee, which he fully understands we do not ask him to do. I understand that he will take steps to-night so far as is practicable that the Committee upstairs may not enforce this special bar against the consideration of the matter submitted, and that they may on the merits consider what is best to do.

With your permission I propose to read a short memorandum in which the President of the Board of Trade has been good enough to express his views in accordance with which I trust we may carry out what is laid down. I do not know whether I am sufficiently well acquainted with Parliamentary ways to know how this will operate. I understand that the President desires me on his statement to withdraw my Motion to-night which I shall do as I would rather get a little than lose everything. But in what he is going to express I understand that there will be something in the nature of a Parliamentary understanding whereby the Committee upstairs will learn the views expressed by the President of the Board of Trade here and will take them into consideration so that the matter shall be fairly considered on its merits in the Committee. If that course be adopted the chief object we have in view will be achieved. What is supposed to be intimated simply is that it be left to the Committee to decide what goods in the circumstances shall come within the category of transhipment goods. The port authority agree that their counsel will not raise the technical point against the petitioners being heard, and on that basis I understand that the President of the Board of Trade will accept the instructions standing in the name of my hon. Friend opposite in regard to the presentation of petitions.

I have only to remind the House of what I said just now that the position in which Midland traders find themselves is entirely new, and being new they had no previous opportunity of presenting the petitions before the Committee; and I ask now that they may present petitions and that this matter may be discussed before the Committee in proper course. My position is somewhat difficult for if I withdrew the motion I do not know what the position may be exactly, but I do it in the absolute good faith and on the understanding that the Select Committee will take into consideration what takes place in this House and the statement of the President of the Board of Trade so that the interest of those on behalf of whom I speak tonight may be fairly considered in the Committee. If on technical grounds that was still refused of course there would be nothing for us but when the Bill comes back to this House to ask to recommit the Bill in order that the matter might be fully considered. But I sincerely hope that this will be avoided altogether, and the matter may be considered on its merits on the Petitions being presented before the Select Committee upstairs. I beg, therefore, to move the Instruction that stands in my name, doing it at this moment formally in the hope that by the statement which will be made in a moment by the President of the Board of Trade I may be relieved from pressing it, and that the matter may be discussed before the Committee in the way which I have indicated.


I beg to second the Motion, and have only to say that I regard this as something more than a mere understanding. I take it to all intents and purposes practically as an undertaking that by some means the grievances of our traders from the midlands shall be remedied.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)

Not at all. What I have endeavoured to do is to give the traders an opportunity of petitioning so as to be able to state their case to the Committee. It is not my business to say whether the Committee will remedy anything. I could neither give a pledge about it nor would it be my duty to do so. My hon. Friend (Mr. George Thorne) has exactly described the position.


I am afraid that I did not express my meaning quite clearly. What I meant by something more than a mere understanding was that the right hon. Gentleman would do his utmost. I accept his explanation, and am sure that all of us who have had these negotiations in hand recognise that he is most anxious to remedy what is an undoubted grievance.


I do not propose to go into the merits of this particular case, and anything I say must not be held to imply that when this question comes before the two Parliamentary Committees I am in any way bound to support this proposal. What I am anxious to do and what my hon. Friend behind has very clearly explained is this: I understand that the position of these particular traders is that when this question of the rates to be charged by the Port of London came before Lord St. Aldwyn's Committee the other day, Lord St. Aldwyn being appointed by the Board of Trade to inquire into and report, with regard to the Provisional Order proposed by the Port Authority, owing to some misunderstanding or because of the want of publicity—though as regards London there was plenty of publicity—these particular persons representing these particular interests did not have an opportunity of stating their case before Lord St. Aldwyn. I may point out that a more or less similar case, that of the railway companies, was stated, and stated very fully, before Lord St. Aldwyn. But I entirely accept the position stated by my hon. Friend that these particular interests were unaware of this inquiry or, at all events, unaware of how it might affect them, and, therefore, were1 not in a position at that time to state their case before them. When that was drawn to my attention it appeared to me to be a hard case. I think in these matters that every interest involved ought to have a good opportunity of stating its case either in the House of Commons or subsequently to a Parliamentary Committee, which sits in reference to these matters; and when a proposal was brought under my attention in this House, and subsequently by hon. Members, that I should endeavour, as far as possible, to obtain for them a hearing before the Parliamentary Committee, and a hearing which would not be estopped, as it were, by the raising of any technical question in reference to the lateness of Petitions or in reference to any other matter. First, in regard to the second Instruction on the Paper with reference to Petitions, there again I have been anxious that every industry should have an opportunity of petitioning in regard to this matter lest some of them might not be aware that the period for petition would be closed as early as it was, and I know in accepting that, with the reservation I mentioned, it gives those interests an opportunity of being heard by petition before the Committee. A more important point than that in connection with this matter was raised by my hon. Friend. As far as the Board of Trade are concerned, we do not think that these traders would be prevented by a technical objection from stating their case before this Committee. But we were advised, and my hon. Friend was advised from other quarters, that there was a possibility, and very likely a probability, that technical objection might be taken, and they would not be able to state their case to the Committee. My hon. Friend, however, has put down an Instruction to which I cannot agree, because it opens out a much larger question, involving an alteration of the original Act of two years ago. To that, of course, we could not assent; but I was anxious, as my hon. Friend has already said, that these interests should have an opportunity of being heard, and I therefore had conversations with the Port Authority to see how far they would be willing to waive their undoubted power to raise a technical objection to those interests being heard at all. I have been able to persuade the Port Authorities to waive any technical objections in this matter to those interests being heard before the Committee. I would like to repeat, therefore—because in these matters there should be no misunderstanding—that which I suggested to my hon. Friend, and which he accepted—"I desire that the question of these rates should be left to the Committee to decide what goods in the circumstances should come within the category of transhipment goods." The Port Authorities, I am glad to say, have agreed that the council will not raise the technical point against the petitioners being heard. The House, of course, will understand that there are two Committees, the Committee of this House and the Committee of the Lords, who must also consider the Bill. There is really a double opportunity of this question being raised, and in what I have done I want to make it quite clear—because this is my objection to the Instruction—that I must not of course be held to imply in any way the support of the Board of Trade, who are responsible with the Port Authority for the Provisional Order as now introduced. Whatever goods are finally included within the definition of transhipment goods must, of course, under the terms of the Act of 1908, be free from port rates. My hon. Friend wanted to know exactly what our position is in regard to this Committee. I am advised by the best authorities that an arrangement of this sort is recognised by Committees of the House. If the Port Authority had raised this technical objection, what I have said and what my hon. Friend has said would weigh with the Committee, and unquestionably, as I am advised, they would take it as an indication of the desire of the House that in this matter each particular interest should have a full and fair hearing. Under these circumstances I appeal to my hon. Friend not to press the Instruction, which I am afraid I cannot accept, but after his speech, and after what I have said, to agree to my suggestion, which I think will give the interests concerned an opportunity of stating their case in Committee without being barred by any technical objecton.


So far as I have been able to follow the President of the Board of Trade I think he has not thrown the weight of his office into the scale against the dockowners of the country. The question which is raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. G. R. Thorne) is one which might very easily be made applicable to all the rest of the ocean docks. During the last twenty years there is no class of investment which has yielded so small a return as the immense sums spent in the improvement of our great docks. The source of revenue of the Dock Committee is largely from coastwise traffic, and I maintain that inland towns and great manufacturers using our ocean docks should be willing to pay a reasonable sum for the coastwise traffic that they bring to those ports. Manufacturers, so far as the Port of London is concerned had certain privileges before the passing of this Act, and those they wish still to enjoy; but it seems to me and to those who know the run of the business that, in view of the wonderful improvements that have taken place in our ocean docks, these manufacturers are benefiting very considerably. It has been made possible for very much larger ships to use the docks and in consequence they are getting a lower rate. The inland interests should therefore be prepared to pay some reasonable sum in view of these facts. My hon. Friend said that this Bill differentiates between Wolverhampton and other places in England—between manufacturers inland and manufacturers on the coast. I do not think there is very much in that. Assume that goods come to the Port of London and are transhipped to another port, when they have got to the other port there they are charged with foreign dues, whereas if these same goods were to pass over the canal and then be discharged at Wolverhampton, no ocean due is charged. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will secure for these gentlemen a full and adequate hearing and that it will not prejudice the docks in any sense or form, for I can assure hon. Gentlemen, as far as the docks of London are concerned, they want very badly all the revenue they can legitimately get. I do not think that the Port of London is likely to charge any coastwise or foreign vessels in excess of what they may reasonably be asked to pay considering the service that is performed.


This is an attempt to override the Port of London Act, 1908. The Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. G. E. Thorne) is directed against Clause 9 of the Provisional Order. Clause 9 is simply carrying out the express direction of Section 13 of the Port of London Act, 1908. Of course, I recognise that the Parliament of 1908 could not bind a future Parliament, and that it is open to Parliament, notwithstanding that provision in the Act of 1908, to alter or to omit altogether Clause 9 of the Provisional Order. But it does seem very doubtful to me, and I should be glad to have your opinion as to whether, without an expressed Instruction from this House, if it even be open to the Committee upstairs either to receive objections to or to alter Clause 9 of the Provisional Order.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Whitley)

I do not think that that matter arises until it goes to the Committee.

Mr. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)

I hope the House will not run away with the idea that we traders from the Midlands are in any sense hostile to the Port of London or the new authority that is being put up. All we want is fair play, and to make it quite clear what goods for transhipment means. It is as to that difficulty that we are anxious to go before the Committee upstairs, and that we do not wish to be shut out by a technical ruling. I am quite sure it is my experience of Committees upstairs that a direct indication from this House, though it may not be quite as explicit in words as some of us would have liked, yet that it will be taken in the sense in which it is intended, namely, that our representations should not be excluded for any technical reason. We quite see that if all inland manufactures, as well as transhipment goods and coastwise goods, were to be exempted from paying rates, it would be a serious thing for the new Authority. We are not taking up such an unreasonable position, but in view of the Clauses of the original Act, we want it made perfectly clear that the Committee shall have some qualification to interpret the meaning of that Clause in that Act and to take into consideration. It is only a common-sense view we wish to lay before the House. We wish to be sure that the Committee upstairs will be able to follow what doubtless will be their own inclination as business men, guided by that common sense which distinguishes Committees in their deliberations, and that the Committee will be entitled to follow that course without being overruled by some technical objection.


When the Port of London Authority consented to this matter being thoroughly discussed and dealt with by the Committee upstairs, I wish, on behalf of the Port of London Authority to make it perfectly clear that the Authority was strongly opposed to the course recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. This is not a new question, as he would lead the House to believe. The midland manufacturers are not the simple people that some of the hon. Members addressing the House would give us to believe. They, in their wisdom, left their case in the hands of one of the most competent bodies of men there is in the country, and they left it in the hands of the railway companies to fight their case before Lord St. Aldwyn. Their case was submitted to Lord St. Aldwyn in the fullest possible way, and Lord St. Aldwyn, in his Report, issued on 18th April, said:— The first proposal seemed to me to be an entirely unreasonable interpretation of the term transhipment. No instance could be given of the acceptance of such an interpretation in any other port. The Port of London Authority adopts the finding of Lord St. Aldwyn in this matter, and when this matter comes before the Committee they will oppose it, as they did before Lord St. Aldwyn, to the best of their ability. If the course was adopted which the midland manufacturers now demand, practically that would cut out from the Authority the revenue which it is actually necessary for us to have to improve the Port of London, and make it what it ought to be—that is, the finest port of the world.


I cannot understand the position of the hon. Member who has just spoken as to the revenue which the Port of London has to depend upon. I do not think the interests of the midland manufacturers have a sufficient representation before the Committee. The hon. Member says that their interests were referred to a great railway company—namely, the Midland Railway Company, but the interests of the midland manufacturers are not theirs. When I am speaking of the midland manufacturers I do not mean Wolverhampton and Birmingham only; I mean the whole of the midland manufacturers. I venture to say that the midland manufacturers have not been aware of the importance and of the serious character of these recommendations in this Bill. It is a habit of manufacturers not to acquaint themselves with what is going on in this House; and in this instance they have only been seised of the fact that they are to have a great discrimination put against them, and which is not put against coastwise manufacturers. We are not complaining at all of the Port of London requiring revenue. The representative of Bristol said just now the docks cost a large amount of money, and therefore they want remuneration. I am afraid the hon. Member missed the point. We quite agree that they want remuneration, but why should discrimination be made against one part of the community as against another? That is where we join issue. I must say I have not heard a single argument up to the present time as to why there should be this discrimination made against the midlands. If the port of London decided to do certain things in 1908 surely those are not like the law of the Medes and Persians which cannot be altered. I take it that that is not the function of the midland Members, and that the function of those midland Members is to point out the equities of the case. While the President of the Board of Trade very truly says he cannot decide what the Committee will do, at the same time we are aware from what he said that he can influence the authority of the Port of London, and that he can undertake to a certain extent that the question shall be brought before the Committee who have to discuss the matter. If his instructions are carried out, I think we shall be satisfied. He does not go so far as to say that the whole question of principle shall be conceded, but he admits that the question of transhipment as affecting certain goods should be considered. I take it that that, means that the heavy trade of the midlands which comes into competition with much heavy trade of the coast shall have due consideration in the settlement of the question. As a manufacturer in the midland district for forty years, I know that we have to contend with many difficulties of which those outside the midlands are little aware. Being in an inland position, we have railway rates and other disabilities to contend with, and if we are made subject to another disability in the shape of this unjust discrimination, it will be a heavy blow to us. I have a telegram in my hand giving an account of a meeting at Birmingham of representatives of all the towns in the immediate vicinity of that city and expressing the hope that the Instruction will be adopted. That meeting shows the importance which the midland manufacturers attach to the question. I can assure the President of the Board of Trade that this is no trifling matter. It has not had sufficient consideration up to the present, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will use all his influence to make it the subject of discussion, so that, whatever has taken place with regard to previous acts of the Authority, we shall have justice in this matter. That is all we plead for. At present a discrimination is made against us in favour of the foreigner who imports his goods into the Port of London and tranships them, and also in favour of the coastwise trade. Why that should be I cannot see. It is that injustice which we desire to see remedied. We are thankful to the President of the Board of Trade for undertaking that the matter shall be fully considered, and with that undertaking I think we should be satisfied.


In asking leave to withdraw my Motion, may I say what I understand the position to be. I listened to the statement of the Vice-President of the Port of London Authority (Sir Owen Philipps) and I quite understand that on the merits he would oppose this proposal before the Committee. I do not understand him to mean, however, that he differs from the position taken up by the President of the Board of Trade, but that he supports the right hon. Gentleman's view that the merits of the matter may be discussed, and that the petitioners should be heard. On that understanding, and recognising the sympathy shown by the President of the Board of Trade, I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

9.0 P.M.


If the midland manufacturers go before the Committee and express their opinion with a view to imposing a charge upon those who send their goods to the Thames for transhipment, a very serious injustice may be done to manufacturers on the east coast. They manufacture their goods and send them to the Tees or to the Tyne, and in many cases they are then brought to London for transhipment to Japan or China, or elsewhere. These goods have paid the river dues on the Tees and on the Tyne, and in many cases they have also paid railway rates from the works.


I must point out that we are not now discussing the merits of the question, but only whether certain parties should be heard.


My point is that if the manufacturers of the Midlands are to be heard, it is essential that a similar opportunity should be given to the manufacturers on the north-east and east coasts who send their goods to the Thames for transhipment. These manufacturers are in competition with the midland manufacturers, especially in the matter of corrugated sheets and other materials of that nature. They have to pay both railway rates and river dues, and if a charge is placed upon their goods when they come to the Thames for transhipment, a large number of their ships will cease calling at the Thames, and London will lose a very large revenue indeed in other directions.


I am sorry that this Instruction is to be withdrawn. I do not want to go into the merits of the case, that is for the Committee itself. But this question has never been discussed either in the House or in the Committee of 1908, although there was a distinct promise made by counsel in the Committee that all these matters should be considered when they came before Parliament. When Lord St. Aldwyn held his inquiry he said that this was not a matter he could express an opinion upon, but that it was for Parliament to settle. If these questions cannot be considered by the Committee upstairs, they will not be considered at all, and I am sure that would be much to be regretted. The hon. Member representing the Port of London Authority (Sir Owen Philipps) told us that they wanted this money to improve the Port. As far as we have been able to gather it is wanted for no such purpose. They want it to make up the loss brought about by taking over the docks. Why the Port of London should be damaged in its trade on that account I cannot understand. I am sorry that there should be any refusal on the part of the President of the Board of Trade to carry out the promise that when the Provisional Order came before Parliament this question should be properly considered, and I hope that my hon. Friends, if they cannot be heard in the House of Commons, will make an attempt by and by to be heard in the House of Lords.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.


I beg to move: "That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is referred, that they have power to hear all Petitions presented on or before Thursday, 7th July, 1910, against Clause 9 of the Provisional Order proposed to be confirmed by the Bill."

After what has been said by the President of the Board of Trade, it is not necessary that I should make any statement. I therefore beg to move.


I beg to second the Resolution. After the intimation the right hon. Gentleman has given I do not desire to say more. But I do trust that he will accept the Resolution as it stands. The right hon. Gentleman has already expressed the opinion that as far as possible all parties should be heard, and the Instruction is that there shall be power on the part of the Committee to hear all Petitions on or before Thursday. I am not unfamiliar with the practise that takes place before the Committee. It may well be that an opportunity might occur, otherwise the petitioners, not having their Petitions placed before the Committee before Thursday, should have the opportunity of placing their case before the Committee. At any rate, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the terms of the Instruction, as they are such that the Committee may decide to, if possible, give an opportunity to all persons to be heard. If not, according to my information, there are undoubtedly some person? who will feel that they have not had the opportunity of having their Petitions heard. The object of this Instruction is that all persons should be represented and heard. They should have the feeling that their grievances, if any, are removed.


As I have already informed the House I am very anxious that no bar should stand in the way of those who, through some misunderstanding, have not been able to lodge their Petitions early enough. I accept the Instruction, but, as I have pointed out to my hon. Friend, as regard the date I should prefer to have Tuesday, that is to-morrow, instead of Thursday. For this reason: That I understand the Committee will be set up and will sit. I think that is arranged, and that the parties have been notified they will sit to-morrow. Therefore, to present Petitions after the Committee has already commenced sitting is rather exceptional, and possibly would be of no advantage to the petitioners. But under the circumstances, and with the words put in that they have power to hear Petitions, I do not object. Only I think I must, in accepting the Instruction, point out that it is very likely that if Petitions are put in to-morrow there will be no opportunity for the Committee to hear them. I do not think, however, that this will act against those concerned, because those who represent the general midland traders have already been able to lodge their Petition upon which the whole position will be raised. So long as it is understood that no grievance can be alleged against the Committee or myself, if it so happens that by sitting on Tuesday these Petitions are not heard, I accept the Instruction.


May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for accepting the Instruction as it stands? I am quite sure he does not desire to shut out any persons in the qualification he has given. There may be persons to whom it will be an advantage to have the opportunity of going before the Committee if the Committee should desire it.

Question put, and agreed to.