§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. BOOTH
I think this is the proper time to ask the Manchester Ship Canal Company and the Manchester Corporation how far this joint venture of theirs should be pursued. I am not challenging this Bill. I think it is in the interests both of the City and the Ship Canal Company, but I want to point out that we have travelled a very long way in an unexpected direction, and I do not know whether it is part of any settled policy. I rather think that not much thought has been given to the general direction which has been pursued. We have arrived at a position in which the Manchester Corporation and the Manchester Ship Canal Company have 1965 intertwined their interests in such a way as I do not think appertains to any other city. It is a matter of some moment, but it would not be convenient to the House to go into this matter in detail. I may point out to hon. Members that there is a joint board, and that a number of councillors and aldermen of the Corporation are elected on the Ship Canal Company. Although there is no remuneration for a councillor or alderman as members of the corporation, those councillors and aldermen who are elected to this joint board receive remuneration from the company. I am not challenging that, but I want to point out that Manchester has gone a very long way in this direction of mixing up the interests of the community and the ratepayers with that of a private company.
I cannot see where this kind of thing will stop, or whether the city fathers of Manchester have thought it out. I do not know whether the company will repay its obligations to the corporation in the shape of loans which the corporation has secured for the company when its own credit was not sufficient to obtain those loans. It may be that they will not appear before this House for some time, but I hope, when the company come before us again with a Bill of this magnitude, someone on their behalf will be able to say what the ultimate solution of this extraordinary position is going to be. I do not propose to interfere with what is considered to be a very advantageous thing for Manchester. I do not know whether the points I have raised have been considered, but I know that there is no parallel in the whole of the country to the position and the entanglement' into which we are getting with regard to the relations of this private company with the corporation of Manchester. I suppose that there was no other way. I remember that when the first Bill was before this House the heads of the city of Manchester were in great concern. The rateable value had begun to go down, and they were afraid that the population was about to decline. They made superhuman efforts to get this canal in order to have competitive rates with the railway company. They achieved their object; and, although the ratepayers did not get a good investment, Manchester gained through the railway company no longer having a monopoly. That was years ago, and, by degrees, the city has become involved in large sums with the fortunes of this com- 1966 pany, and I do suggest that, if they come forward again asking for powers, I shall be entitled to some general statement as to what the ultimate issue of that policy will be.
§ The CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS
I can assure the hon. Member that the Committee upstairs, of which I happen to be the Chairman, went very carefully into the matter to which he has referred, not into the origin of the Ship Canal, but into the present position, which is the actual matter dealt with in the Bill, and they were satisfied that the proposals in this Bill were an advantage to the citizens of Manchester.
§ Mr. KING
I think that we ought to be grateful to the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) for bringing this very interesting subject before us. I only rise to call attention to the fact that there is not one single Member for the city of Manchester in his place. I think that is a great disadvantage, because they, no doubt, would be in a position to enlighten us on the very important issues which have been merely sketched, and I hope that on a similar occasion, if it arises, they may be here to enlighten the House.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I venture to submit that the city of Manchester and the local authorities there know far more about their business than either the hon. Member for Pontefract or the hon. Member who has just spoken.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
The hon. Member for Mansfield knows nothing whatever about the Bill. The corporation bring forward a Bill which is unopposed by any single person from Manchester, and I think the hon. Gentlemen are merely wasting the time of the House and preventing us getting through to-night measures which are so important in the interests of those who have private Bills here.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.