HL Deb 11 August 1885 vol 300 cc1706-15

Commons' Reasons for disagreeing to one of the Amendments made by the Lords considered (according to Order).


in explanation, said, that the Commons disagreed to the insertion of the following Clause:— For the purpose of the eighth section of the Dublin Corporation Waterworks and Fire Brigade Provisional Order, 1874, the statutable or contract allowance of water to the townships mentioned in that section shall be deemed to be twenty-five gallons per head per day instead of twenty gallons per head per day as provided by the Acts in that section mentioned, relating to those townships respectively. The Commons' Reasons for disagreeing were—

  1. "1. Because the Amendment alters the quantity of water to be supplied to the townships by existing contracts and Acts of Parliament, without making any provision for an increased payment by the townships.
  2. "2. Because the Amendment is not germane to these Provisional Orders, which only supply a legal basis for ascertaining the population of the townships."
He would now move that their Lordships do not insist on the Amendment they had made in the Bill; and, in doing so, he must decidedly say that the Amendment of the House of Lords had been sprung on their Lordships' House at the last moment by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald) in a manner which was hardly fair. The matter had been before them on several occasions, and it was of a very simple character, and the Reasons of the Commons for disagreeing to what had been done at the instance of the noble and learned Lord put the whole thing in a most clear and definite light. This Provisional Order Bill was merely for the purpose of assessing the population of the townships near Dublin, and the Committee of their Lordships' House—though in the Committee Room itself they had arrived at a different conclusion—were anxious to put into the measure a clause allowing the townships five gallons of water per head per day more than they received at present, and than they had any right under their Local Acts to ask for. It might be right that the townships should have 25, 30, or 35 gallons of water—that question he (the Marquess of Waterford) would not go into; but the question was whether they were right in trying to force from the Corporation of Dublin five gallons more per head per day for the present payment—in short, that they should have 25 gallons for the same price they had agreed to pay for 20. He contended that if the townships wished to increase their water supply, they should have come to their Lordships' House with a Bill for the purpose. They did not do that; but in a Bill promoted for a totally different purpose—for the purpose of assessing the population—and in a Bill which the Corporation had a perfect right to promote, a clause was brought forward in the House of Lords which had never been mooted in the Commons, seeking to benefit the townships by giving them this additional five gallons of water per head. He hoped their Lordships would not insist upon the Amendment, which was only carried by a majority of 2 on Friday last.

Moved, "That the House do not insist upon their Amendment to which the Commons have disagreed."—(The Marquess of Waterford.)


said, he wished to point out to their Lordships that the subject had been before them three times. It would be remembered that when he (Lord Elphinstone) first moved the clause which was the subject of discussion, he had been defeated by a majority of 1. On the following night the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald) brought forward the Amendment again, and carried it by a majority of 2. It then went down to the House of Commons, where it was rejected, and the Bill was sent back from that House with the Reasons of the Commons in disagreeing to the clause. It was suggested that, because it had been rejected by the House of Commons, therefore their Lordships should be content to see it struck out of the Bill. He (Lord Elphinstone) could not accept that doctrine, for the logical conclusion of it would be that their Lordships would have to accept every Private Bill that came from the Lower House without alteration. Now, in this case, the expense of referring the Bill to a Select Committee of the House of Lords had been incurred. Five of their Lordships had sat to consider the Bill, and with the greatest patience they had listened to all the arguments for the Corporation and the townships. Both sides had been brought before them, and they had carefully weighed all the arguments. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Waterford), on the other hand, had only heard one side of the case—namely, that of the Corporation of Dublin. Whilst he (Lord Elphinstone) had listened to the speech of the noble Marquess, if he had shut his eyes, he could have imagined himself back in the Committee Room listening to the counsel for the Corporation. Could the noble Marquess know as much about the matter as the Members of the Committee, who had devoted 16 hours to its investigation? It was not possible. The Committee had recommended—they even now unanimously reeommended—their Lordships to accept the Amendment. If it were rejected, they would simply be handing over the small townships, bound hand-and-foot, to the tender mercies of the Dublin Corporation. They would require each township to bring in a Bill itself, which they were not in a position to do, for such a course of procedure would entail great expense; and, beyond that, the Authorities of the townships were not entitled to tax the ratepayers with the expense of bringing forward a Bill in Parliament. In the interest of the small townships, therefore, he would ask them to adhere to the Amendment carried by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald) on Friday night.


in rising to move, as an Amendment, the appointment of a Committee to confer with the Commons on the subject of this difference, said, he most emphatically denied that he had sprung a mine upon the House on Friday, and also, as had been charged against him in some of the newspapers, that he was a resident in one of the townships, or was interested in this question in any personal manner whatever. He declared that he had been induced to take action in regard to the Bill by representations made to him from Dublin, and he strongly protested against the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Waterford) having thrown the weight of the Government into the scale against the townships, and having actually sent out a Government Whip to sustain the Motion against the Amendment. That was not a fair mode of proceeding. The Bill was a private one; and a conflict between the Corporation and the town- ships was a matter in which the Government should not have interfered, for it was contrary to Constitutional practice. The Corporation sought to get certain advantages for itself, and the townships, in like manner, sought advantages for themselves, which otherwise they could only obtain by coming to Parliament for Local Acts at an enormous expense, which there were no local funds to defray. He maintained that it was not in accordance with the practice of the House that the Government should throw its weight into the scale in such a matter as this without explaining the reasons for it. In neither House of Parliament had he ever known such a course to be pursued. The townships, he would point out, were struggling for a larger supply of water for health and sanitary purposes, and their aspirations seemingly were to be rendered hopeless by the Government issuing a Whip and calling its supporters to oppose them. In face of the serried ranks of the Government opposite, he would appeal to the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranbrook), with whose fairness he was familiar, who said what he thought and thought what he said, as to whether it was the usual course in Parliament for the Government to take one side in reference to a Private Bill and overwhelm the other side? Apart from that question, he very much doubted whether the proper course of dealing with the Bill had been adopted. The Bill was sent back to the House of Commons with two Amendments; and he had always thought that when a Bill was referred back in that way, it was customary to put it before the Committee which had originally considered it, in order to get their opinion of the Amendment. That course had not been followed. However, he supposed it was for their Lordships to assume that, whatever the House of Commons had done, they had done according to their rights. In the ordinary course, when the Commons' Reasons for disagreeing with the Lords' Amendment were sent up to the House of Lords, a Committee should have been appointed to confer with the Lower House to see if some line could not be laid down upon which conflicting opinions could be reconciled. Then, again, the "Reasons" themselves were open to grave discussion. The first was not really a reason why the Amendment I should not be assented to, but rather a reason why a Conference should take place, to endeavour to draw some line between the extra water which should be allowed the townships free, and that for which they should be called on to pay. The next "Reason" was a mistake. The Provisional Orders did a great deal more than was there suggested. He thought that if their Lordships examined the Report of the Committee and the evidence taken before them in their Lordships' House, they would say that the noble Marquess had no right to complain of having been taken by surprise in the matter, and that he (Lord Fitzgerald) was perfectly justified in moving the Motion he would now make.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment moved, To leave out all the words after ("That"), and insert ("this House, insisting on its Amendment, do now proceed to appoint a Committee to meet and confer with a Committee of the Commons").—(The Lord FitzGerald.)


said, that this question between the Corporation of Dublin and the townships had been raised almost to the dignity of a great Constitutional question by the speech of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Fitzgerald). That noble and learned Lord had commenced by explaining to their Lordships that he had no personal interest in this matter, and was not actuated by any private motive in the action he was taking. But no one would, for a moment, suppose that the noble and learned Lord had taken action in the matter from other than a deep sense of what appeared to him to be right. As to the reason why his noble Friend (the Marquess of Waterford) had taken up the opposition to the claim of the townships, he (Lord Ashbourne) would remind their Lordships that the noble Marquess had charge of all Provisional Order Bills in that House as representing the Irish Local Government Board, before whom all Provisional Order Bills came to be examined; and it was because the Irish Local Government Board were opposed to this Amendment that the noble Marquess had opposed it. With reference to the suggestion that there should be a Conference be- tween the two Houses of Parliament, he (Lord Ashbourne) said that a Conference was an antique and, though Constitutional, obsolete piece of machinery. He was not aware that there had been any such Conference for many years. In 1881, when there were grave differences of opinion between the two Houses on the subject of the Irish Land Bill, and when the tension was at its highest, he had thought that it would be necessary to resort to the machinery of a Conference. He was told, however, at the time, that Conferences had fallen into disuse. He could not, therefore, treat it as other than an interesting suggestion, when the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald) came forward and gravely put it to their Lordships that, in the matter of the supply of five gallons of water to the population of certain townships, that almost obsolete Constitutional machinery should be revived. He would further call their Lordships' attention to the fact that this Amendment had not come from the parties to the Bill—in fact, he believed it had never occurred to the counsel for the townships to suggest the course which the noble and learned Lord opposite supported—but it had been suggested by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Marlborough) and his Colleagues on the House of Lords' Committee, who had thought that it would be a course satisfactory to the townships, and worthy of the consideration of the Dublin Corporation. He (Lord Ashbourne) certainly could say that he was not disposed to disagree with that. The proposal might have been put in a shape worthy of the consideration of both sides; and, in saying that, he was not speaking of the matter as a Member of the Government, but as an Irishman well acquainted with Dublin, and sympathizing very deeply with the townships referred to. That proposal to have assumed a practical form should have been in the nature of a suggestion, to be made the subject of some agreement or negotiation between the Corporation and the townships; but it must be borne in mind that there was only one side of the bargain embodied in the clause rejected by the House of Commons. That clause provided that everything was to be taken from the Corporation and given to the townships, and the townships were to give nothing in return. Was that fair? It could not be regarded as a very satisfactory bargain for the Dublin Corporation; and, therefore, it seemed to him that the first Reason given by the House of Commons was not displaced in the slightest degree. That Reason he regarded as impregnable, unshakeable, unanswerable. He did not, however, attach so much importance to the second Reason, although, no doubt, it was substantially accurate. He would point out to their Lordships, that when the Bill had first come before their Lordships' House, the Members of the Committee to whom it had been referred had used persuasive arguments to show that the Report of the Committee as submitted was not correct, and that the Bill required the insertion of this Amendment. However, the Irish Local Government Board, after due and adequate Notice, had succeeded in carrying its view by a majority of their Lordships, and there the matter should have been allowed to rest. But the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Fitzgerald) immediately afterwards, and without Notice, got the first decision of their Lordships reversed, and the Bill went down to the House of Commons. He (Lord Ashbourne) could well imagine how the Commons had felt paralyzed, and, in an agony of doubt as to what they were to do, looking at the conflicting decisions of their Lordships' House on two separate days. They could not lose sight of the fact that the matter came on in a full House of Commons. The matter was one which excited keen interest, for a proposal to tax one class for the benefit of another was a matter which always excited a keen interest in the House of Commons. Without there being the slightest suggestion of surprise, the Bill came on in the ordinary way, and was immediately discussed, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland took exactly the same course there which had been taken in their Lordships' House by the noble Marquess. There were those present who were well able to speak for the townships; but what happened? Why, the first decision of their Lordships was affirmed without a division being taken. 'Surely that should have an immense effect upon their Lordships, now that they were asked by his noble Friend in charge of the Provisional Order Bill to agree to the Commons' Reason for disagreement with the Amendment. If it could be proved that the 20 gallons of water was an insufficient quantity, and that 25 gallons was necessary for the health and comfort of the district, that argument would certainly be a powerful one in support of the views of the noble and learned Lord. But he (Lord Ashbourne) had in his hand the opinion of a very eminent engineer as to the desirability of adopting the Amendment which the Commons would not accept. That gentleman had declared that it would work pecuniary hardship to the City of Dublin, and give a great benefit, with no pecuniary burden whatever, to the townships. He was of opinion that in the case of those townships 18 gallons per head per day would be a very ample supply; that to supply 25 gallons of water to the townships would be an absurd supply, and would imply bad management and undue waste; and that the effect would be to drain the Vartry of 500,000 gallons of water per day—water which would eventually be wanted.


Was that opinion before the Committee?


I assume not; but, at all events, there it is.


There was a great deal of evidence to the contrary brought before the Committee. The Committee, of course, only dealt with the evidence they had before them.


said, he only quoted that opinion as showing that, in addition to the vast inconvenience of seeking to reverse the unanimous opinion of the House of Commons, a most eminent authority was opposed to the Amendment inserted in the Bill.


said, he cordially supported the Amendment of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Fitzgerald); for he thought that that noble and learned Lord knew more about the question than any engineer, who could only speak professionally. He had to complain that the discussion had degenerated so much into a personal matter.


said, that as the noble and learned Lord (the Lord Chancellor of Ireland) had mentioned his name, he might, perhaps, be allowed to say a few words in justifica- tion of the action he had taken as a Member of the Committee. When he looked at the appearance of the House, he was afraid there was very little chance of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Fitzgerald) carrying his Amendment. But he (the Duke of Marlborough) would ask their Lordships to consider what they would do if they happened to be discussing the affairs of a London Water Company—as, for instance, the Lambeth Water Company, which was discussed the other day, in the other House—instead of the affairs of Dublin. He ventured to think they would not have taken the same course as they had done in this case. The fact was, they seemed to be prejudiced in favour of the Dublin Corporation; and, consequently, not prepared to do justice to the arguments used on the other side. There were several points in the case as it had been presented by the noble and learned Lord who had moved the Amendment which, he (the Duke of Marlborough) thought, were very strong. In particular, there was the argument in regard to the rating of the suburbs, which had largely increased since this agreement was entered into, and the rateable value of the property had increased in a still greater ratio. The consequence was that the Corporation was receiving a much larger revenue from the townships than they had any reason to expect, and it was largely on account of that consideration that the Committee came to the opinion that advantage ought to be taken of this opportunity to protect the townships, not so much against the present, as against the future, rapacity of a powerful Corporation. He cordially supported the Amendment; but, as he had said before, he was afraid the chance of carrying it was very small. He should, however, vote for it on principle.

On Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion?"

Their Lordships divided:— Contents 21; Not-Contents 10: Majority 11.

Resolved in the affirmative.

The Amendment not insistedon, and a message sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.