HL Deb 01 June 1886 vol 306 cc619-32

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he was very sorry that it was his duty to trouble their Lordships with another discussion upon a matter of Private Business; but his apology was it was impossible without serious delay to the interests of those promoting the Bill that the discussion should be postponed. Their Lordships were aware that the Chairman of Committees did not usually move the second reading of a Private Bill when Notice of opposition was given, and the promoters of this Bill had therefore asked him, as being acquainted with the circumstances of the case, to state the matter to their Lordships. He was aware that their Lordships were anxious to get to the other Business upon the Paper, therefore he should endeavour to state what he had to say as briefly as he possibly could consistently with putting the case clearly before the House. The case was this. Glasgow was a large city, as their Lordships knew, which was surrounded by several small burghs, and in some respects the interests of these burghs and the City of Glasgow were from time to time in antagonism. This was not a new matter, but he must confess that he did not know and could not imagine on what grounds the second reading of the Bill was opposed. It seemed to him that upon all grounds it was a matter which should be referred for consideration to a Committee upstairs. There had been many contests upon similar Bills to this one, and in the large majority of cases those contests had been relegated to a Committee upstairs. His plea was that they should pass the second reading, and let the Bill be fought out in a Committee. He might tell their Lordships that this Bill had already passed the House of Commons. The second reading was passed without any such opposition as that which threatened it now. The Bill was referred to a Select Committee, before which it was contested upon eight days, and ultimately it was passed unanimously by the Committee. That being so, what ground there could be for opposing the Bill, at this stage, he was quite at a loss to imagine. What the Bill sought to establish was the annexation of two districts to the City of Glasgow—the districts of Kelvinside and Hillhead. The population of Kelvinside was as nearly unanimous as it was possible for a population to be for union with Glasgow. They wanted a settled government; they wanted the advantage of the police of Glasgow and all the other advantages which towns and cities enjoyed. They had at present a great many different jurisdictions. He did not think those who were opposing the Bill would contradict him when he said the population of Kelvinside was nearly unanimous for the annexation, and he did not think he overstated the case when he said that so far as the burgh of Hillhead was concerned the population was very nearly equally divided. He believed he could claim a small majority for annexation to Glasgow; but he would not press the matter so far as that, but would merely say that it was proved before the Committee of the Commons that the population of Hillhead was about equally divided. There would be, of course, if the Bill went to a Committee, the usual sort of allegations made on the one side and on the other; but he would abstain from saying a word about the merits on this occasion, for with such knowledge as he had of Private Bill affairs, he thought he might say, without fear of contradiction, that there was nothing so inconvenient as to discuss the details of a Private Bill in the Whole House. Therefore, he should say nothing about the merits of the Bill; but he should ask their Lordships to allow him this indulgence—that if anyone on the opposite side went into the merits, he should be at liberty to answer any point that was material. He did not think the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Tweeddale), who was to move the rejection of the Bill, would go into the merits. He (Lord Balfour) could say that he felt with the full weight of any authority that he possessed that this was a matter to which justice could not be done except by a Committee having the advantage of the sworn testimony of the witnesses, and all the assistance that counsel on both sides could properly give. There was no opposition of this kind in the House of Commons; and he was quite at a loss to know why now, when the only public body, as far as he knew, who were opposing the Bill on its merits were the Commissioners of the Burgh of Hillhead, they should have recourse to the very unusual measure of raising opposition on the second reading. He had seen a Paper that had been circulated, he believed, at the instance of the Hillhead Commissioners, in which they made the allegation that if their Lordships passed the second reading of the Bill they would be going contrary to the principles laid down in the Burgh Police and Health (Scotland) Bill, which their Lordships passed earlier in the Session. As some of their Lordships knew, he was on the Committee that passed the Bill; and he said emphatically that they would not be going contrary to any principle laid down in that Bill. It was true, when that Bill was first introduced into this House, there was a clause in it giving power to large Corporations like Glasgow to annex a smaller burgh after certain procedure, and without the consent of the Commissioners of that burgh or of the population; but the Committee to which their Lordships referred that Bill struck out that power, for they thought that in a Public Bill of that kind no power should be given which would allow Corporations to override the decisions of a Private Bill Committee; but they did that solely to keep the matter open. He spoke for himself, but he believed that that was the ground on which the Committee came to the decision. The Committee did not wish to express any opinion as to whether it was right or wrong for one burgh to annex another; but simply, if that was to be done, it should be done after full and proper procedure in the usual way, and not in any side way by means of a clause in a Public Bill. The only other allegation which he thought could be made against the Bill was that there was no exact precedent for it. He was not quite sure whether there was any precedent which was exactly on all fours with it; but there were some which were extremely like it—in fact, so like it as to be nearly indistinguishable. He was stating what was within his own knowledge when he said that part of the burgh of Partick, under government exactly the same as the burgh of Hillhead, was annexed by Glasgow contrary to the wish of the Commissioners of Partick. If a precedent were wanted, that formed an almost exact precedent for what their Lordships were now asked to do. It was the very commonest thing for parts of one district to be annexed to a burgh without the consent of the Governing Body of the district from which these parts were taken; and it was the commonest thing that the opposition should be referred to a Private Bill Committee, and there discussed, each case being threshed out on its merits. He held in his hand a long list of cases in which that had been done. He would not trouble their Lordships with it, because he was quite certain the principle would not be disputed, and also because, as he had already told their Lordships, he was very anxious to shorten this discussion as far as he could without doing injury to the interests which had been committed to his care. On the whole, he urged their Lordships to take what he thought they would agree with him was the right and proper course—to read the Bill a second time, and to let it be referred to a Select Committee in the ordinary way, in order that the whole question should be thoroughly threshed out. He moved that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Balfour.)


said, he would bespeak their Lordships' indulgence while he stated the grounds on which he ventured to ask their Lordships to defer the considering of this Bill to this day six months. He could assure their Lordships that he had not undertaken this duty with any pleasurable feeling. He had no wish to occupy the time of their Lordships' House, and he had only made this Motion on this occasion because he believed that to read this Bill a second time would be to establish a most inconvenient, not to say dangerous, principle in connection with the very important question—very important in Scotland certainly—of the extension of the burgh boundaries in cases such as that in which Hillhead was situated in connection with Glasgow, and in the case of other burghs throughout Scotland. The objections he took to this Bill were twofold. One was to the manner in which it had been promoted, and the other was the decision which was come to in the other House. This Bill was to annex and incorporate with the City of Glasgow the police burgh of Hillhead and the district of Kelvinside, and for other purposes. On a Bill of this description he thought their Lordships—especially those of their Lordships who were acquainted with cases of this kind, and there had been several before their Lordships' House—would expect to find as promoters of it either the authorities of the district which was to be incorporated with Glasgow, or the authority of the burgh of Hillhead, or the authority of the burgh of Glasgow. Those Governing Bodies, or their representatives, were conspicuous in this case by their absence only, and in their place there were the names of two firms of solicitors, firms representing a handful of private and wholly irresponsible individuals who resided in Kelvinside and in Hillhead. In other words, their Lordships were asked at the instance of these irresponsible gentlemen to take in hand the abolition of a burgh of considerable size, with a population of between 8,000 and 9,000, and the valuation of which was £80,000; a burgh established by Act of Parliament, and against the management of which not a single word could be alleged. Their Lordships, he thought, would agree with him that that was a very preposterous thing. It was wholly unprecedented. He could say with confidence that in Scotland, at any rate, there was no example of a Bill whose object was the abolition of a police burgh being promoted by any others than the authorities of the burgh itself. In respect to the mode in which the Bill was promoted it was absolutely without precedent. It was most undesirable and most unreasonable that a burgh constituted by Act of Parliament should be exposed to be assailed by private individuals who happened to think it would be desirable to annex it to Glasgow or some other burgh, and who were able to employ a solicitor in order to have that carried out. He relied on that as his first ground why their Lordships should not read the Bill a second time, for if they were to read it a second time a most objectionable principle would be established. The next ground on which he asked their Lordships to reject this Bill was not altogether the same. It was this, that the decision which had been come to upon this question of the annexation of Hillhead was opposed to every decision which had been come to by Parliament, whether in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords. It was opposed to every decision which had been come to upon the question of the extension of burghs and of the annexation of one burgh to another. The first occasion on which Parliament had expressed its opinion as to how these annexations should take place would be found in the Act of 1857. That Act was described as "An Act to provide for the extension of boundaries of burghs in Scotland," and he referred to it because for the first time it laid down what Parliament then considered the proper mode of dealing with such questions. This Act required the sanction, in the case of a burgh, of a Town Council, and, in the case of a county, of the regular constituted authority, and the mode of annexation was surrounded by many other provisions, such as going before the Sheriff; but he need not further refer to them. After that, from the year 1868 to the year 1879, there were no less than four Bills promoted by the Glasgow Corporation, each of which had the object of annexing either for Parliamentary or municipal purposes some burgh or burghs in the neighbourhood of the city. He said, without fear of contradiction, that in every instance in which pro- moters failed to show that the constituted authorities were in favour of annexation, in every single instance, whether the Bill was in "another place" or before their Lordships, the Bill was rejected. He now came to what occurred last year in connection with the Burgh Police Bill. The same question arose under that Bill, because the Bill as introduced, so far as he could remember, contained a clause which laid down this rule, that where burghs wished to be united they should proceed by Act of Parliament—that was to say, in each case the authorities should make joint application for annexation. This question was fully discussed before their Lordships' Committee. The representatives of the City of Glasgow were present, also the representatives of the smaller burghs, and it really became a question as to which was the best mode of dealing with this question. The representatives of the City of Glasgow contended they were entitled to go behind the authorities of the burgh, and ascertain for themselves—by means of signatures obtained by canvassers—whether the burgh was desirous to be annexed to them. The representatives of the burghs contended that was not a fair mode of obtaining the opinion of the burghs, as it was in practice open to very great abuse. After hearing all that was to be said upon the question, the Committee decided in favour of the mode recommended by the smaller burghs—namely, that annexation should only be made upon the joint application of the authorities of both the burghs seeking for incorporation. The net result of what had occurred in Parliament during the last 30 years was this, that Parliament had insisted as a condition of annexation or extension of boundaries that in every instance the consent of the burgh to be annexed should be a condition antecedent to the annexation. He made this statement without fear of contradiction, and he held that it was a very reasonable and proper arrangement; but whether it were proper or not, it was the decision which Parliament had come to, and was consistent with every decision which had been given since 1857. From his knowledge of the burgh of Hillhead and of the district of Kelvinside, it was right he should say that it was not contended by anyone who knew the facts that the sanction of the authorities of Hillhead had been obtained. On the contrary, it was true that every one of the Commissioners of Police of that burgh were opposed to this annexation; and, moreover, the ratepayers were not in favour of it in the burgh of Hillhead. Were they in favour of it in the district of Kelvinside? The figures that he would now place before their Lordships they might rely upon as being strictly accurate. In the burgh of Hillhead there were 1,692 ratepayers, and of this number 671 signatures had been obtained by canvassers sent about by the irresponsible gentlemen to whom he had referred. But that was not even on paper a majority of the ratepayers. Taking Kelvinside, he found there were 890 ratepayers, of whom 390 only had signed their names in favour of this measure, and in this case the figures of those who were supporting the Bill had been accepted as accurate. He, therefore, in face of the Act of Parliament of 1857, to which he had referred, in view of the decisions given from 1868 to 1879, and in view of the decision given last year by the Committee of their Lordships' House on the Burgh and Police Bill, and of the fact that that Bill passed their Lordships' House a short time ago, he said that in view of all this, and having regard to the nature of the opposition set up against the Bill, he was entitled to ask their Lordships to reject this Bill on the grounds he had stated. There was only one ground upon which this Bill could be supported, and that was not a sound one. The only thing said in favour of compelling the burgh of Hillhead as well as the district of Kelvinside to be annexed to Glasgow was that if it were not done a certain arrangement entered into by the City of Glasgow and the shareholders of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Glasgow would fall to the ground. He had two observations to make regarding that view, and the first was that he failed to see any connection whatever between an arrangement entered into by the City of Glasgow and the shareholders of the Royal Botanic Gardens and the question of incorporating and annexing the burgh of Hillhead and district of Kelvinside. They appeared to him to be questions that had no connection whatever, and should have none; but his next objection was this, that it was altogether untrue to say that the agreement, which he had no doubt was a very proper agreement in itself, would fall to the ground, or at any rate must fall to the ground, if this Bill was not allowed to pass. He held in his hand an Act of Parliament which was described as a Glasgow Public Parks Act, and Clause 23 of this Act provided for this very contingency, the very contingency of the shareholders and owners of the Royal Botanic Gardens wishing to hand them over to the City of Glasgow. He would not trouble their Lordships with more than a few words, but the clause said that the Lord Provost, &c., might enter into agreement on such terms as might be considered convenient for the transfer of the Royal Botanic Gardens. There was nothing in the Hillhead Bill with regard to these Gardens that could not be equally well carried out through the medium of this Act of Parliament; and one, therefore, could not help coming to the conclusion that the City of Glasgow, in threatening to extinguish the Royal Botanic Gardens by selling them up, had some ulterior object that they did not wish to declare. It would almost seem as if, having lent to the authorities of the Gardens a sum of £47,000, they were threatening to use their power as mortgagees, with the view of compelling the burgh of Hillhead to come under the Corporation of the City of Glasgow, and this although the property in question was worth more than double the amount advanced upon it. If that was so, and it was the only explanation he could find in favour of the Bill, he thought it was not altogether creditable to the City of Glasgow, and perhaps it accounted for the fact that the names of its authorities were not upon the back of the Bill, though he was informed they were really its promoters. He had now said all he wished to say upon this subject. He had desired to explain to their Lordships that the second reading of the Bill would establish a very inconvenient precedent—namely, that of a Bill being promoted by irresponsible persons for the abolition of a burgh, against whose administration nothing could be even alleged, far less proved. To pass the second reading of such a Bill would, he considered, be establishing a most undesirable precedent, and he begged, therefore, to move its rejection.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now,") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—(The Marquess of Tweeddale.)


said, he thought it had perhaps not escaped the attention of their Lordships that the arguments that had been used by the noble Marquess who had just sat down were precisely those arguments that must naturally come before a Committee. They were almost all of that character, and especially so in regard to the last item of his noble Friend's speech—the reference to the Botanic Gardens, near Glasgow. No doubt, it was a matter of great importance; but he did not profess to understand the whole of the case, although he knew something of it, and he therefore thought this also was one of the matters that should go before a Committee. He knew something of the locality and of the people resident in both, and he had seen and considered the representations of deputations from both burghs, and he had still some doubts upon the subject. He wanted the Bill to go before a Committee for elucidation. The argument against the Bill was that no case of annexation should be allowed unless applied for by the joint constituted authorities of both parties, and that Parliament had decided this point. That, however, was not the case, because there was no such law. A clause was struck out of a Bill which would have given undue facilities to great cities like Glasgow for annexation; but no other clause was inserted forbidding annexation. Taking a wide view of the case, he thought it was precisely one of those matters that ought to go before a Committee. Therefore, he hoped they would give the Bill a second reading.


said, that to throw out the Bill on the second reading was a high-handed proceeding which their Lordships would reserve to themselves only on the vicious principle of the Bill being satisfactorily proved. He hoped that unprecedented and unexpected course would not commend itself to their Lordships' House; but that they would agree with the noble Duke and the noble Lord who moved the second reading of the Bill that this was exactly one of those cases which were eminently adapted for inquiry before a Committee of their Lordships' House. "What was really the principle of this Bill? It was one which had been asserted over and over again by Parliamentary sanction—namely, that the identity of interest and benefit which extended to what was particularly the population of one community, should also apply to the burden and obligation. That was the whole principle at which this Bill aimed; and when their Lordships were asked to reject the Bill, they were asked to set aside not only the wish of a very large portion of the people of the districts to be annexed, but they were also setting aside the wish of so respectable an authority as the Corporation of Glasgow. The noble Marquess said the Corporation of Glasgow had taken no part in this matter. He could hardly conceive a more significant part for the Corporation to take than to undertake the expenses before Parliament, as the Corporation had done. Kelvinside and Hillhead were just as much part of the City of Glasgow as St. Pancras was part of the City of London, and they were inhabited by persons carrying on business in Glasgow. The people went out to these suburbs to live for the sake of better air and better houses. The aggregation of the population led to complicated machinery in the shape of local bodies and local trusts of all kinds, and it hardly seemed right that the persons who created the necessity for that kind of legislation and machinery in Glasgow should escape all responsibility in the matter from the mere fact of living in Kelvinside. The anomaly was increased when they remembered that if the House threw out this Bill on the second reading they would not only be affirming the continuance of that state of affairs, but flying in the face of the very people who wished to take their proper share in the responsibility for the burdens of the people of the City of Glasgow. It had been said that the promotors of this Bill, as far as Kelvinside was concerned, were not very responsible gentlemen; well, he believed Kelvinside had no burgh authority of its own, but the bulk of the population of Kelvinside were entirely in favour of this annexation. He admitted, as far as Hillhead went, opinion might be a little balanced; but that surely was a matter which would be brought out in Committee before their Lordships. The noble Marquess also quoted the Act of 1857. The Act of 1857 would be perfectly unworkable for the present measure. The Act of 1857 referred entirely to the extension of municipal burghs, and this was a question of the absorption of one burgh into another. Moreover, that Act was 30 years old, and since its passing legislation had been incumbered by all kinds of other Acts, which would make it impossible to take the power under that Act necessary for the present purpose. As to the Botanic Gardens, that matter, it was urged, was provided for in the Act of 1878; but although under Clause 27 of the Act of 1878 the City of Glasgow took power to take over the Royal Botanic Gardens, they did not take any power of assessment, and they declined altogether to exercise that Act unless Kelvinside and Hillhead were thrown into the Corporation of the City of Glasgow. Very naturally they did not care further to assess the people of Glasgow for Gardens which were not situated in the burgh which was under their jurisdiction. He hoped their Lordships would read this Bill a second time.


said, he thought it would be very unfortunate indeed in the municipal interests of the larger burghs of Scotland if their Lordships were to refuse the second reading of this Bill upon the principle set forward by the noble Marquess. He did not intend to follow the noble Marquess into the facts of the case, and that for the best of all reasons, that he was not intimately acquainted with them, and he presumed that in that respect he was in the same position as the majority of the Members of this House. This application was made to Parliament at the instance of a large body of inhabitants and ratepayers within an area of about 800 acres. Considerably less than one-sixth part of that area was under municipal government, and consisted of the small burgh of Hillhead, which was constituted under the Act of 1862. In this case the promoters did not say that their present civic rulers were not doing their best as far as their powers enabled them; but what they did say was that they could not give those advantages which the Corporation of Glasgow could give to all the inhabitants of the district if this union which the promoters sought was accomplished. If that was proved, union would be right and expedient, and he would be very much surprised if the House were to affirm that, notwithstanding the expediency, there should be no union, simply because there had existed within that area a small civic authority. The decision that was come to by the other House did not furnish sufficient data for their Lordships giving a decision on that point; but, at the same time, there was one fact which could not be disregarded in considering whether the Bill ought not to be sent to a Committee. A Committee of the other House did come to the conclusion that the case of the promoters had been made out. He did not say it necessarily followed that this House would come to the same decision; but primâ facie it appeared to him to show that the promoters had at least come here not entirely without a case.


said, his noble Friend who moved the rejection of the Bill based his case partly on principle and partly on precedent. The principle, he understood, was drawn from the Act of 1857, and also the proceedings of the Select Committee to which the Burgh Health Bill was referred, and of which he (the Earl of Dalhousie) had the honour to be Chairman. If this Bill had originated in this House, there might perhaps have been a great deal to be said for the view of the noble Marquess; but the House must remember, as had been pointed out by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Watson), that this Bill had already been considered by a Select Committee of the House of Commons, that it had passed through all its stages in that House, and that after all that had taken place it had now come before their Lordships. It would, therefore, be creating a precedent which, if not entirely new, would certainly be a very strange precedent, to reject without consideration, and on the second reading, a Private Bill the merits of which depended so largely on facts and details that could be adequately considered only by a Select Committee. He hoped the House would not take that course, but that they would give the Bill a second reading. He pronounced no opinion on the merits of the case, or upon the possible rejection or acceptance of the Bill by the Select Committee. He submitted that that was a matter which ought to be left entirely to the Select Committee. The noble Marquess pushed his argument as to principle rather far. The noble Lord who moved the second reading of the Bill stated very correctly what took place in the Select Committee. The noble Duke also gave an account of what took place, as did also the noble Marquess. As Chairman of that Committee, he (the Earl of Dalhousie) was in the happy position of being able to agree with all three so far as the facts were concerned. But when the noble Marquess drew from what took place in the Select Committee an argument to this effect—that the principle which they introduced and embodied in that Bill was for ever after to prevent the annexation by larger burghs of adjoining burghs on any other principle than that there laid down, and when he remembered the Bill had not yet become law, he must confess that the arguments as to principle were considerably weakened. On the ground that this Bill had been considered by the House of Commons, and had come before their Lordships for second reading, he thought it would be against precedent if their Lordships did not read it a second time.

On Question, That ("now") stand part of the Motion?

Resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed: The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.