§ REPORT OF AMENDMENTS.
§ Order of the Day for the Report of Amendments to be received, read.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My Lords, I have an Amendment which I venture to submit to your Lordships' favourable consideration. I think it is a very right, just and reasonable Amendment. It is on page 1, line 3, after "Companies" insert "Local Authorities and persons," and leave out "for profit;" and in Clause 3, page 1, line 12, after "Company" insert "Local Authorities and persons." The Bill, as it at present stands, appears to me to be somewhat illogical, inconsistent, and more or less one-sided, and I must invite your Lordships to make it logical, consistent and fair to all concerned. The object of the Bill is to give to consumers of water security against the arbitrary exercise by the Water Companies of the powers that they hold under the present law; but this Bill applies only to Water Companies; it excludes al consumers who get their water from Corporations of any kind. My Lords, there are at the present time about 250 Water Companies who supply water to consumers. On the other hand there are about 150 Corporations, some of which sell water, as I shall presently show, at a profit. It is only right, as it appears to me, that the same protection which it is proposed to extend to consumers of water obtained from companies should be extended to those who get their water from Corporations. What is my noble Friend's defence of this exclusion? He says in the one case these companies supply water for a profit. Well, my Lords, amongst the Corporations there are any number who supply water for a profit outside the municipal boundaries: Manchester, Birmingham, 158 Liverpool, Leeds, Huddersfield, Rochdale, and many others. They supply water in the same way that companies do outside the municipal boundary; and, as regards the municipal limits of Birmingham, they are only one-fourth of the area of supply. And although some of these Corporations may not supply water for a profit in the ordinary sense of the term, still they are bound to keep the rates as low as possible, and to enforce payment of water rates in the interests of the ratepayers as much as the Water Companies do in the interests of their shareholders. Their profit and loss is in high or low rates; therefore, I maintain that this question of profit does not matter. What does it matter to the consumer whether the company makes a profit or not? His loss is certain if his water is cut off; and whether it be under a Corporation or under a company the loss and inconvenience to the consumer will be the same. My noble Friend says that he brings in this Bill in its present form to bear upon the Water Companies because they arbitrarily and harshly exercise their power. I believe there are very few cases, indeed, in which that is done. But, he says, there is a remedy which he does not give by the Bill to consumers who got their water from Corporations and are harshly treated. What is the remedy? Just take the case of us in London! All London at present is supplied by Water Companies, and if this Bill were to pass this year into law we should get protection under this Bill. But it is notorious—I see my noble Friend who is at the head of a Commission to inquire into this question of the watering of London—that the question of the watering of London being transferred from companies to the County Council is a question for consideration in the immediate future, and it may very likely take place. What will happen? This year, if this Bill passes, we consumers will get protection from this Act. Next year, if the water is in the hands of the County Council, that protection will be taken away, because the County Council are not in the Bill. A most absurd position we shall be found in. And what is my noble Friend's remedy? It is even more absurd than the position 159 in which we shall find ourselves. Why, he says, the remedy is in the hands of the ratepayers; that is to say, that any unhappy consumer who has been harshly dealt with, supposing the water is in the hands of the County Council of London, may at the next coming County County Election, if he can, turn out the then Government of London. My Lords, I do not think it will matter much to the unhappy consumer whether his water is cut off by Lord Rosebery, or by the Chairman, whoever he may be, of the Water Company. And I do hope that such an anomaly as that will not be allowed to pass into legislation. It is impossible, I venture to think, that your Lordships can pass the Bill, because you have to take care that your Bills in this House are carefully drawn, and sound in principle, and consistent with previous legislation; and I believe it is impossible that you can pass the Bill of my noble Friend in its present form. But there is, behind this, one other very important question, and that is the question of private enterprise versus municipal monopoly. Now, my Lords, it is private enterprise that has made this nation; it is private enterprise that has brought water to London; if it were not for private enterprise working for a profit, and inducing people to put money into these companies, instead of having very good water from the Grand Junction, the Chelsea and other waterworks, we might probably be drinking a decoction of sewage and dead dogs from the Thames. Therefore I venture to think that so far from discouraging, this House of Parliament should, on all possible occasions, encourage private enterprise; it is the mother of invention, and leads to improving the national progress, whereas the danger you run from municipalisation of all this trading is that it puts a stop to private enterprise and national progress. Lastly, my Lords, I have only this further argument, that in 1847 a general Act was passed for consolidating in one Act certain provisions usually contained in Acts authorising the making of waterworks for supplying towns with water; and this Bill is entitled: "An Act to regulate the power of companies supplying water under 160 the powers of the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847." I think this is a very strong point indeed. Parliament, when it regulated the powers of Water Companies for supplying water to towns in 1847, drew no distinction whatever between Water Companies and Corporations supplying water; because I find in the Interpretation Clause these words—I particularly call my noble Friend's attention to them: "The word 'person' shall include a Corporation whether aggregate or sole." Therefore, my Lords, the principle on which Parliament acted in 1847, is departed from in the Bill which professes to be founded on the basis of that same Act, but leaves out a Corporation, even sole, where there are persons who supply water to individuals. My Lords, I have nothing more to say, but I ask your Lordships to accept the Amendment which I have ventured to propose. I do not know what course Her Majesty's Government will take, but, so far as I have reason to believe, the Bill is not to be made a Cabinet question, and supposing the Members of the Government are free to vote as they like, I believe, under the circumstances, and, indeed, I feel confident that the common sense of your Lordships' House will support the Amendment of which I have given notice.
§ Moved, in page 1, line 3, after ("companies") insert ("local authorities and persons"), and leave out ("for profit"); Clause 3, page 1, line 12, after ("company") insert ("local authorities and persons.")—(The Earl of Wemyss.)
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I hope the noble Earl will not expect me to follow him into the question of the relative merits of supply by private or by public Corporations; but to the merits of the Amendment I will address myself at once. The noble Earl was not quite correct in the version that he gave of the origin of this Bill. This Bill originated in certain complaints that were made with regard to the supply of water to consumers, and more especially, by the Metropolitan Water Companies. In consequence of that a Bill was introduced. The private Water Companies, 161 both of the Metropolis and the country generally, objected to the Bill and desired to be heard; and accordingly, there was a very full inquiry by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House. Half of the Bill passed into law two years afterwards. The Bill itself did not proceed in its entirety, and this Bill is now revived in consequence of further complaints which have arisen with regard to the water supplied by private companies. This Amendment proposes to insert "Corporations," and to place them on all-fours under the Bill with private Water Companies. Now, so far as Corporations are concerned, I have not the slightest regard for them, any more than I have for private Water Companies, and, personally, I have no objection to their being made subject to the provisions of any Bill to which it may be found desirable to make them subject. But there is this difficulty that appears to me: that they have not been heard. The Bill did not relate to them originally. They are now proposed to be introduced for the first time; and the result of so introducing them, if your Lordships accept the Amendment, will be, presumably, that some of them, at all events, will complain and will wish to be heard; and the result of that will be that this Bill, which no one denies is expedient, will lose whatever chance it may have of passing into law. My Lords, the proper way it seems to me, would be to introduce a Bill into the next Session of Parliament, placing the public Corporations on the same footing as the private Water Companies; and then, if they wish to protest, that your Lordships would give them a chance of being heard, just as was the case with the private companies some years ago. But, my Lords, I think there have been instances lately which show that this Bill is required; and I think that, if your Lordships accept the Amendment, it certainly will greatly impair any chance of the Bill passing into law.
§ *LORD GRIMTHORPE
My Lords, I am not sure that I heard distinctly all that the noble Earl opposite said as to the history of the Bill. But it was my fate to hear a good deal of questions of this sort in former years, and the conclusion I came to was that the British 162 ratepayer requires protection against Corporations and all kinds of municipal bodies a great deal more than he does against companies. In the old days, when the companies were practically free from restrictions on their dividends, and before the time when they were obliged to sell their new shares by auction, I admit there was a great deal of control required over them, and that they looked to nothing but the very natural object of increasing their profits as much as possible. That, however, by legislation which took place before I ceased to be conversant with such things, was tolerably well prevented. And now we are face to face with this question—whether the British ratepayer requires to be protected against Corporations more than against a company? If you think for a moment, you will see that so long as companies exist in towns where there are Corporations—and I suppose there are Corporations in almost all towns where companies exist—there is a natural, and I have heard it called a desirable, antagonism between the Corporations and the companies, because the Corporations are always at hand to watch any action of the companies, and they have no difficulty in appearing before Parliament. There are means now by which they can appear, not at the expense of individual members of them. Time was when they could only appear at the risk of somebody, but that has passed by. On the other hand, when a Corporation itself becomes the water supplier, there is no controlling power whatever; and not only that, but the ratepayer feels, if he thinks about it, that he is spending his money at both ends—contributing to rates to fight himself, and fighting very likely a hopeless and, at any rate, an expensive battle. I know that to a certain extent has been put aside now by the policy of Parliament, though I respectfully say I do not think it a wise policy, of encouraging Corporations to be suppliers of water and gas. The principal reason for which—and one that I had often to urge myself—was that, if you did not have that, you had competing Water Companies and Gas Companies, spending double capital to do the same work; and I agree that 163 it was better that Corporations should be suppliers of water and gas under proper control than that the supply should be subjected to the waste of double capital, and double sets of people pulling up the streets, and a variety of things of that kind. But all that is past and gone; and the sole question now is a question of what I may shortly call tyranny; and I am certain from my experience—I think it hardly requires experience to discover it—that there is a much greater probability of tyranny in the hands of a Corporation than in the hands of a company. The companies have almost ceased to have a motive for doing it, because when they have reached the maximum dividend they have no motive at all; besides that, they are under the control and the constant watching that I have spoken of. On the other hand, there is, I suppose, no official in England more arbitrary in his proceedings than what I may call the Bumble of a Corporation. Besides that, as the noble Earl on the Cross Benches has well said, why are we to repeal the policy of the Act of 1847? It is true the Bill does not repeal it in words, but in substance it does. The clauses of the Act of 1847 apply to all bodies equally, and are your Lordships going all of a sudden to say that they shall not? Are you going to exempt the very class of people who are most able and most determined—and I think lately we in London have been getting a valuable lesson in that just now—to do whatever the lowest class of the ratepayers require—that is, to persecute the higher classes as much as they can? The noble Earl on the Cross Benches has already alluded to the answer that I have heard given many times, that the consumers have the remedy in their own hands, by turning out the Corporations. Fancy placarding a town with, "Don't vote for Bung"—to use Dickens's words—"because the Corporation cut off my water." I do not think Corporations or Councils are nowadays elected quite upon principles of that kind. Therefore it is mere idleness to say that there is any remedy. There is no remedy at all for a small man fighting against a Corporation which will levy taxes 164 upon him to pay the expense. On those grounds I entirely agree with the noble Earl. But there is one other thing to be said. I think the noble Earl opposite said truly enough, that this Amendment may lead to the postponement of the Bill for another year. But, if I did not misunderstand him, he admitted that the Bill was imperfect, and he would find no fault if another Bill were introduced next year to include Corporations. If there is to be legislation next year, why not wait for a complete Bill, instead of nibbling at a bit of it, and then taking the chance of somebody being able to bring in another? And the more so because there is no chance of any but a Government Bill getting through the other House this year now. The Bill is admitted to be defective now by its promoter here.
§ *LORD GRIMTHORPE
I know the noble Earl did not say so; but, if what he said did not amount to that, I do not know what it amounted to. On those grounds, my Lords, I am certainly inclined to vote with my noble Friend on the Cross Benches.
§ *LORD HENNIKER
My Lords, this is not a Government measure; but your Lordships will no doubt desire that some expression of opinion should be given to your Lordships by the Local Government Board on the question. The other day before the Standing Orders Committee I asked your Lordships to be kind enough to pause before you agreed to the Motion of my noble Friend on the Cross Benches. The Bill is generally in accordance with that which was passed in the year 1885 by your Lordships' House, after a very careful investigation by a Select Committee of this House, and there was no provision in connection with these proceedings that the Bill should be extended to Corporations as is now proposed. As I told your Lordships, and as my noble Friend told your Lordships just now, it came before the Committee, and the Water Companies were heard most distinctly, and the Bill was passed in this House. Why it did not pass the House of Commons I do not know. With regard to the question of profit which has been 165 mentioned by my noble Friend on the Cross Benches, there is a clear distinction between the case of a Company whose chief object must necessarily be to sell at a profit, and that of a Sanitary Authority supplying water, inasmuch as the Sanitary Authority would obviously be more likely to have regard to considerations affecting the public health than a company who have no duties whatever as regards sanitary administration. It may be that there are some exceptional cases where Sanitary Authorities have exercised to an undue extent their powers in regard to cutting off the supply of water, in consequence of the non-payment of rates. But the Local Government Board have no facts before them which would support such a contention; and it is not unreasonable that before a measure, such as the present Bill, is extended to include these authorities, there should be some inquiry, and that the authorities should have an opportunity of replying to any allegations of this character. My Lords, looking to the period of the Session, the adoption of such an Amendment as this of the noble Earl would undoubtedly imperil the passing of the Bill, as my noble Friend opposite has said. I have heard it for the first time contended by my noble Friend behind me (Lord Grimthorpe) just now that such a measure so far as the companies are concerned is not desirable. But it is very inexpedient that this Bill which will be attended with undoubted advantages should be imperilled because the operation of its provisions is not extended. These Acts of Parliament, Water Bills, are, some of them, very old, and of course this Bill interferes with them to a certain extent; but I think my noble Friend who sits at the Table (Lord Morley) will tell your Lordships that in all the new Bills which affect Water Companies that come before him the arbitrary powers which these old companies possessed of cutting off water are almost invariably, if not invariably, struck out. The course which suggests itself to the Local Government Board is that it would be wise not to lose a Bill of this kind, which is valuable in itself; but that it should be passed if possible—it is for your Lord 166 ships to decide of course—and they think it very desirable that if necessary, if it is thought right, a Bill should be introduced next year which would deal with this question of Local Authorities, when, if your Lordships think it desirable, the Local Authorities would have the same opportunity of coming before a Select Committee as the Water Companies had in 1885. In fact, my Lords, the Local Government Board think that the Local Authorities should have an opportunity of showing that there is not sufficient ground for their inclusion—that the Bill is good in itself, and therefore should not be lost because it does not go any further than it does, and they think it might wisely be passed, seeing that the question might be considered very carefully next year by a Select Committee if the noble Earl opposite (Lord Camperdown) or the noble Earl on the Cross Benches will bring in a Bill to that effect.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, so far as I am concerned I find it impossible, as an abstract question, not to agree with the noble Earl who has moved this Amendment; because, seeing that very many Corporations are really in the position of these Water Companies, enjoying the same rights, in some cases having taken over the undertaking of a Water Company, and with it those rights, it does seem somewhat anomalous that you should put a restraint upon the power of enforcing remuneration for water supply which should be applicable to the companies who supply water, and not to the Corporations who supply water, very often really under precisely the same authority. I do not know that I altogether agree with my noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Grimthorpe) that there is greater danger of Corporations dealing hardly in this matter than individuals, and although I admit, with my noble and learned Friend, that the matter would not be one which would determine an election, yet I do think that the fact that a Corporation is an elected body does put upon its members a certain amount of restraint in preventing them from 167 raising outcries of hardship, which might affect them in a way in which the Directors of a Water Company, or a Corporation itself generally, would not be affected. Therefore I am not sure that there is not some further restraint in the case of Water Corporations, arising from their constitution, than there is in the case of Water Companies. But, after allowing for all that, I do not see why, as a question of principle, all those who supply water under similar authority should not be placed under similar conditions. But then, of course, one has to consider what ought to be done with regard to the Amendment proposed to this Bill. I take it to be certain that, with this Amendment inserted, the Bill could not be passed, and ought not to be passed, because the title of it is "Water Companies (Regulation of Powers) Bill"; it was taken, after evidence given bearing on that, as a Bill affecting Water Companies only; there was no notice to any of these other bodies of any intention to include them—the title itself is not one that includes them; and therefore they would have nothing to call their attention to the matter, and they have had no opportunity of making any representations upon the subject to this House. It seems to me that it would not be right under those circumstances to insert an Amendment which includes them, because they undoubtedly would have a claim to put their views before this House before being included; they would have a right to say: "As you had before you a Water Companies Regulation Bill, we had no idea that it concerned us, and it is hard, nearly at the last stage of the Bill, to bring us within the scope of it without our having an opportunity of being heard." Therefore, my Lords, I feel myself in this difficulty: I do not see if the Amendment is agreed to that it is possible to proceed with the Bill this Session, because, if an inquiry is to be held, and then the matter is to go through in this House, and afterwards in the other House, knowing what one knows—even putting the termination of this Parliament at the most distant date that has been suggested as probable in recent times—I do not think there would be any chance of the Bill 168 getting through. Then ought we to insert an Amendment which would be fatal to the Bill, when there are provisions in this Bill which do seem in the case of Water Companies—and I do not speak of them generally—in the case of individual companies, to be somewhat urgently needed? There are cases of very considerable hardship that have been occurring down to the present time, and this Bill proposes to provide a remedy for them. It will not prejudice the proposal to deal with Corporations on the same basis another year; and, if I do not see my way to vote for the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl, it is only because it seems to me that it must be fatal to this Bill, and, personally, even though in vindication of a sound principle, I am unwilling to see a useful Bill of this sort irretrievably lost.
§ LORD NORTON
My Lords, I would only say that the last part of the argument of the noble and learned Lord opposite seems to me perfectly true. I should not be disposed to dispute whether consumers may be subject to tyranny on the part of Corporations as well as companies; but the sole question is, are they not to be protected against the tyranny of Water Companies, or are we to wait to protect them against other bodies? That seems a most unreasonable proposition. It is acknowledged on all hands that if the Amendment is passed the Bill must be dropped for the present Session; and the provisions that it makes against the tyranny of companies are to be waited for for another year, when, possibly, similar provisions may be introduced against Local Authorities. The argument of the noble Earl who moves the Amendment only tends to this: that another Bill ought to be introduced next Session to provide against similar tyranny on the part of Local Authorities. And let me say one word more: that his argument from the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, has no weight whatever. That is an Act making provisions which are applicable to any sort of body—it is a General Clauses Act for all cases. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be most unreasonable to postpone this Bill because it does not go far enough.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
The noble Lord who spoke for the Local Government Board just now appealed to me as to the general procedure with regard to Bills for Water Companies. It is true, as he says, that at the present time, in every Bill, whether it relates to a Water Company or a Corporation performing the functions of a Water Company, a clause prohibiting the cutting on of water arbitrarily is invariably introduced. My Lords, I confess—and I agree entirely with my noble and learned Friend behind me (Lord Herschell)—that reason is all on the side of the noble Earl who moved the Amendment. I do not see why the consumer—for after all this Bill is intended to protect the consumer—should be left to the tender mercy—it may be a little more tender—of the Corporation than of the company; I am not quite sure of that; but I do not see why he should be left to the tender mercy of the Corporation without the protection that this Bill gives him against the company. At the same time I am bound to say that there is a great deal in what has fallen from noble Lords on both sides of the House as to the danger of losing this Bill if you enlarge its sphere very much, as undoubtedly this Amendment would. And although, as I have said, I must admit that reason is entirely on the side of the noble Earl, I think, from the view of the expediency of getting the Bill passed, I should myself be unwilling to support his Amendment at the present time. If I were to add anything to what the noble Earl said in favour of his Amendment, I would point out to the House that not merely are Corporations supplying water in their own districts, but in a great many places they are supplying water outside their districts, and in those capacities they are not merely morally, but legally and technically, in exactly the same position as Water Companies. I believe I am right in saying that the Courts of Law have held that a Corporation supplying water outside its own district is technically a company within the meaning, for certain purposes at any rate, of the Public Health Act. I think it is necessary to say these few words of explanation of the fact that I should 170 not vote either for or against the Amendment.
§ *EARL STANHOPE
My Lords, as I happened to be a Member of the Select Committee that considered this Bill some years ago, I should like to say a few words. No doubt, it is a very anomalous thing to exclude Corporations and local bodies from penalties under this Bill for the sudden cutting off of the water supply from a consumer; but, at the same time, to call and to examine witnesses from as many as one hundred and fifty local bodies and Corporations, in order to extend the operation of the Bill, would require at least two Sessions; because probably the other House would not be content solely with the examination of witnesses in this House. Seeing, therefore, that there were evils complained of, and certain grievances to small consumers of water which were clearly proved before the Committee some years ago under the Chairmanship of my noble Friend opposite, I hope and trust that the principle of this Bill will be accepted on the present occasion, always understanding that hereafter it might be extended to include other bodies. And more than that, my Lords, much of our legislation in both Houses is tentative. We are not sure that we are devising the best means in this Bill for stopping an abuse; but, if we are able to pass this Bill on this occasion, and it goes through Parliament, we shall be able after the period of a year or so, to see whether it can be easily extended, and on the same lines. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will be disposed to pass the measure as it stands.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I merely wish to say one single word. As I expressed a strong opinion at a previous stage of the Bill upon its not including Corporations, I do not wish to be misunderstood; but I agree with my noble and learned Friend beside me, and I am not prepared to imperil the Bill for the purpose of inserting this Amendment now. Therefore, I hope the noble Earl will not proceed with his Amendment; but, if he does, I must vote against it on that ground alone.
§ *EARL FORTESCUE
It seems to me, my Lords, that the complaint that these Municipal Bodies have not had an opportunity of appearing before the Committee—considering that if they appeared the cost of their appearance would be defrayed from the rates paid by the same ratepayers as would be suffering from their action—has not much weight. The question seems to be one of principle. If it has been very carefully considered by a Select Committee, and able counsel have set forth all that could be urged in modification, or in rejection of the provisions of this Bill, it seems to me a very small and technical objection that the fact of Municipal Corporations not having had an opportunity, at the expense of the ratepayers, of pleading their cause or being represented is an adequate reason why, being satisfied as we ought to be before we pass this Bill, that the principles embodied in it are sound, that should stop us from giving similar protection to the consumers of water where Municipal Corporations happen to be the parties supplying it. And I must be allowed to say that Municipal Corporations are not generally elected on some question of water. Recent experience shows us to how large an extent they are indebted to political and party feeling for their seats. And it does not appear to me that we can rely upon any protection against hard dealing on the part of a temporary majority in any Corporation from the fact that they periodically come out for re-election. Looking to the broad principle involved in my noble Friend's Amendment, I am not to be deterred from supporting it, even by the alarming prospect of delaying the application of the remedy to a part of the consumers of water affected, only leaving the others to the uncertainty of legislation at some future time to deal with them, piecemeal also, instead of adopting some clear and general principle, after the matter has been, as we are assured it has been, thoroughly considered, in our legislation on the question.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Viscount CRANBROOK)
Although I agree, my Lords, entirely with what is the general sense of the House undoubtedly, in wishing that this Bill had included the Corporations 172 as well as the Water Companies, I cannot help thinking that my noble Friend would do wisely not to press this Amendment to a Division after the House has already unanimously, on the part of those who have spoken, expressed an opinion that its principle should be extended to Corporations hereafter. And I would venture to say in favour of passing this Bill, with that future object in view, that the Water Companies themselves have practically accepted the Bill—they have not made any objection to it; and, therefore, we are not putting upon them terms to which they have any objection. And although it may be desirable to extend the Bill subsequently, yet, inasmuch as the Water Companies have ceased to oppose this Bill, I think the House might venture to accept it.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
I am most unwilling, my Lords, to put myself in opposition to the views of the majority of the House. I suppose the best course would be to rest satisfied with the strong expression of opinion in favour of the principle of this Amendment. Now, my noble Friend said that it was proposed by my Amendment to introduce the Corporations for the first time into this kind of legislation; but, so far from that, my noble Friend's Bill is the first time they have been exempted from this legislation.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS
But they have never been exempted before; and I maintain that that is a very broad principle, and that your Lordships are departing from a sound principle, which is admitted to be sound by those who have spoken. When you have the Act of 1847, which imposed certain restrictions upon those supplying water, including Corporations, and even Corporations sole, I say that this Bill is a very serious departure in principle from that, whatever my noble Friend (Lord Norton) may say with regard to that point. But, my Lords, the reason given is delay. Reference has been made to this Bill when it was in Committee. It was not in Committee this year; it is the counterpart of a 173 Bill which was in Committee in 1885; and, after sitting for a length of time in 1885 and examining about 150 witnesses, my noble Friend allows the time to elapse from then till now before bringing in this Bill. Therefore I venture to think that, when a matter of broad and grave principle is at stake, the delay of another year would have been of very little importance. My Lords, who is to bring in that Bill? I do not know. I do not know whether my noble Friend who represents the Local Government Board, if he is in office then, will do it, or whether whoever is at the Local Government Board will do it. Certainly I am not going to trouble myself with it further than to endeavour to get sound principles introduced into the legislation of your Lordships' House. But even if this Bill passes your Lordships' House, it does not follow that it will become law this year. There is such a thing as blocking Bills, and I shall be greatly surprised if this Bill is not blocked to the fullest extent in another place. However I shall not go in the teeth of the majority of this House. I am perfectly satisfied with the adoption of the sound principle of that which I have brought before your Lordships.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.
§ Amendments reported according to Order; further Amendments made; and Bill to be read 3a to-morrow.