HL Deb 27 May 1892 vol 5 cc1-5


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."


My Lords, I have no wish or intention to oppose this Bill, or to express any opinion upon it; but I desire to ask your Lordships whether it will be possible that the Select Committee to whom this Bill will be referred may consider any alternative site. I believe it is not the custom of this House to move instructions to Committees, but if possible I think it would be desirable, in the face of the very considerable opposition that there is to the present site of the terminus near St. John's Wood, for the Committee to consider an alternative site. Last year, my Lords, a Committee was appointed on the Bill in the House of Commons, which was thrown out, and an instruction was conveyed to them to consider alternative sites; but they reported that they were unable to do so because there was no definite alternative site before the Committee. Whether it would be possible that a Committee of this House should consider an alternative site I do not know; but I think it would be desirable, as I understand that there is an alternative site which was brought before the House of Commons Committee that passed the Bill the other day. I understand that the Select Committee of the House of Commons did not consider themselves able, for what reason I do not know, to consider that alternative site; but I am assured that there is an alternative site which might be considered, and I hope your Lordships' Committee may be in a position to consider it.


Before the House comes to the Second Reading of this Bill, presuming that it will be sent to a Committee upstairs, I should like to say a single word in support of the view of the noble Duke. I should like to ask whether the Committee would have full power to inquire whether the access into London is the most suitable that can be found, and likewise whether the site of the proposed terminus is also the most suitable. Your Lordships are aware that there is a strong feeling on the part of many hundreds of the inhabitants of Marylebone on those two points, and I trust the House will not assent to the Second Reading of the Bill unless it is understood that the Committee will have full power to inquire into them.


My Lords, it is not necessary for me to say much on the subject. The Bill seems to me to be one on which the Committee might have ample power of making all the inquiries that are necessary. I hardly think they can go into an alternative site which is not specified; but I should very much deprecate anything like an instruction being given by the House to the Committee; it is not a custom that is usual in this House, and I think it might in the case of Private Bills lead to considerable inconvenience in future.


I think it is perhaps important to note too that the very absence of the practice of instructions in this House carries with it also the assumption that our Committees will look upon all these matters, not purely as between litigant and litigant, but also from the broad public point of view, and that they have full liberty to do so. I do not for a moment suggest what the broad public point of view in this case may be; I have not sufficient knowledge of the circumstances; but it is easy to see that it is a matter which excites a great deal of feeling and very strong opinion different from that which is ordinarily raised by Railway Bills; and therefore I hope that the Committee, whoever they may be, will feel that it is their duty to act as legislators, as well as a tribunal between litigants in the matter.


My Lords, I sympathise entirely with what the noble Lord has said; but I should like those who are experts in the Private Business of the House to tell us explicitly that the Committee will have power to do this. I feel a little doubt about it. Committees are apt to proceed in the same manner as has been customary in the House, and I have a little doubt whether they can go beyond the points raised in opposition to the Bill.


Does the noble Earl imagine that there is any law for them except our Standing Orders? I do not agree that any custom which has grown up is binding upon them.


I agree that there is no law binding upon them. At the same time when a practice has grown up Committees do not like to diverge, especially on important matters, from what they happen to know has been the regular practice of the House. I merely wish to know whether the Committee are clearly authorised to do this?


My Lords, the difficulty that occurs to me in the matter is that, according to the proposal of considering an alternative site, you are going to bring before the Committee power to take land without having given any notice to the owners from whom it is about to be taken. On those grounds therefore I should rather doubt whether the Committee would think it right to go into such an alternative scheme, the owners of the land not having had the usual Parliamentary notices.


I would suggest that there is some possibility of error in using the phrase "alternative site." I take it that the Committee would have a perfect opportunity and right to inquire into an alternative site in this sense: that the proposed site was not the best, and for that reason they would be entitled to reject the scheme altogether. But if what the noble Duke has said imports that the Committee would have power to take another site and actually give Parliamentary sanction to it, I believe that would be both distinctly against the Standing Orders of the House, and further that it would be entirely outside the law for our Committees on Private Bill Legislation to take into consideration any alternative sites that may be suggested.


If I may transgress the Rules of the House and speak once more, I should like to endorse what has fallen from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. It seems to me that it would be absolutely impossible for the Committee to go into an alternative site in the sense of pressing a definite alternative scheme in opposition to this Bill. It would be absolutely impossible, no notices having been given, and no scheme, plans or sections being before the House. But, after this conversation in the House, I feel certain that any Committee of your Lordships, to whom the Bill is referred will be very jealous and careful in their inquiry as to whether this particular site is a good one, or whether, in general terms, a better site might not in some future Session be found.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed; the Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.