HC Deb 27 November 1919 vol 121 cc1982-5

(1) A local authority may, with the consent of the Minister of Transport, purchase or accept the transfer of, and the owner of any existing ferry may sell or transfer to a local authority, upon such terms as may be agreed on between the owner and the local authority, any existing ferry which is within the area of that local authority or which serves the inhabitants of that area.

(2) Subject to the provisions of any Act of Parliament under which the ferry was established and to the rights of any other persons the local authority may work, maintain, and improve the ferry and charge such tolls as were legally chargeable in respect of the ferry before the sale or transfer thereof to the local authority, or such other tolls as the local authority, with the approval of the Minister of Transport, may determine, or, with the approval of the Minister of Transport, the local authority may, if they think fit, free the ferry from tolls, and shall have the rights and powers which the owner of the ferry possessed and shall be subject to the obligations and liabilities to which he was subject.

(3) A local authority may join with any other local authority for the purchase or acceptance, working, maintenance, or improvement of a ferry under this Act, or may contribute towards the expenses of the purchase or acceptance, working, maintenance, or improvement of a ferry by another local authority, and any difference which may arise between any local authorities who have agreed to take joint action under this Sub section shall be determined by the Minister of Transport or by an arbitrator appointed by him, and such determination shall be final and binding,

(4) In this Act the expression "existing ferry" means any ferry legally established by Act of Parliament or otherwise at the date of the purchase or transfer, and includes all boats and other vessels, landing stages, approaches, apparatus, plant, and other property used in connection with the ferry.

(5) The Minister of Transport shall have the like powers with respect to the holding of local inquiries for the purposes of this Act as are conferred by Section 87 of the Local Government Act, 1888, upon the Minister of Health for the purposes of that Act.

(6) In this Act the expression "local authority" means and includes a county council, the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses of a county or other borough, and the council of any urban or rural district. Any expenses incurred by a local authority under this Act may be defrayed, in the case of a county council out of the county fund, and in the case of the council of a borough or urban or rural district as part of the general expenses incurred in the execution of the Public Health Acts, 1875 to 1908. A local authority, if a county council, may borrow for the purposes of this Act under Section sixty-nine of the Local Government Act, 1888, as if those purposes were mentioned in that Section, and, if a council of a county, or other borough, or a district council, shall have the same power of borrowing for the purposes of this Act as they have under the Public Health Acts. 1875 to 1908, for the purpose of defraying any expenses incurred by them in the execution of those Acts.—[Sir E. Geddes]

Brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."


I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that this Clause is going to change the whole scope of the Bill. It will be a totally different Bill to that which obtained a Second Reading in this House. There is another and much more important point which I think the House ought to be acquainted with, especially the new Members. This is a private Member's Bill, brought in as such. As such it obtained the Second Reading, It went to Grand Committee and came to its Report stage as a private Member's Bill—that is to say, it wont through all its stages up to Report stage as a private Member's Bill. What happens then? The Government star it—that is to say, they make it a Government Bill. If the Government had not starred it it could not have been taken up, because the Government have all the time of the House, as is the custom when, we unfortunately are afflicted with an Autumn Session. Starring has been rarely resorted to during the years I have been in the House; only on very occasional circumstances and on very small matters. The reason is obvious. If the Government are going to star private Members' Bills at all frequently—and I think this is the third they have starred already this Autumn Session—what happens They get the whole advantage of the private Member's Bill which goes through without a majority of the House paying much attention to it, in all probability knowing little about it, and having thought that, as a private Member's Bill, it would never get any further. The Government are saved the trouble of taking any part in the Bill. They need not even condescend to come upstairs to the Grand Committee. Then, after all these stages have been gone through, they suddenly take it up as a Government Bill, and alter the whole scope and tenour of the Bill.

All the years I have been in the House there has been strong objection from all parts of the House—in the old days, when the House of Commons was the House of Commons—against the procedure of centuries not being carried out with due regard to the proper exercise of its functions by the House. This sort of thing was never tolerated. I venture to make this protest before it is too late. We have had some explanation, but many of us do not know very much about the Bill. Bills are hurried through. Even the Government do not know the proper course to pursue with these. I speak of what occurred to-day. If, on the top of all this, private Members' Bills are to be taken at the fag-end of the Sescsion and altered in this way, well, then, I say we are parting with a great many of the safeguards which existed in the old days, and the country will find to its cost that—well, I do not know quite what word to use—will find that it will be subjected to Bills which members have never had any opportunity of knowing about or speaking about. They probably will regret it when they find themselves suffering under these legislative enactments.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause accordingly read a second time.

The following Amendment stood on the Paper in the name of Sir E. HUME-WILLIAMS: At the end of Sub-section (1) to add the words Provided that where no ferry exists within the said area at the time of passing of this Act the local authority may, with the consent of the Minister of Transport, establish and work one in manner hereinafter provided.


This Amendment and the two that follow in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman are, I think, outside the scope of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman desires to make provision to provide ferries. I cannot accept that as within the scope of the Bill.


The Clause as it stands not only gives power to acquire ferries, but to free them from all tolls. Does not this Amendment of mine approximately do the same thing? Will not the Bill cover the two identical things —in the one case to acquire a ferry and free it, and the other to start one? Is not that within the scope of the Bill?


I think not. Clause added to the Bill.