HL Deb 10 August 1896 vol 44 cc273-84

(2.) The party or parties making such application shall have

published once at least in each of two consecutive weeks in some newspaper circulated in the district or some part of the district, an advertisement describing shortly the land proposed to be taken and the purpose for which the land is proposed to be taken, naming a place where a plan of the proposed works and of the lands which may be taken, and a book of reference to such plan, may be seen at all reasonable hours, and stating the quantity of land they require; and shall further have

served a notice in manner hereinafter mentioned on every owner or reputed owner, lessee or reputed lessee and occupier of such land, defining in each case the particular land intended to be taken, and requiring an answer, stating whether the person so served assents, dissents, or is neuter in respect of taking such land; such notice to be served

by delivery of the same personally to the person on whom it is required to be served, or, if such person is absent abroad, to his agent; or

by leaving the same at the usual or last-known place of abode of such person as aforesaid; or

by forwarding the same by post in a registered letter addressed to the usual or last-known place of abode of such person;

Every such plan shall be drawn on a scale of not less than four inches to a mile, and the book of reference shall contain the names of the owners and lessees, or reputed owner and lessees, and of the occupiers of the lands which may be taken.

He did not wish to add unnecessarily to the expenses of the procedure connected with the Bill, but he thought it only-reasonable that when land was proposed to be taken some notice should be given to the owners and occupiers of the land.


said he could not accept the Amendment. His objection to it was that it tended to stereotype procedure, which ought to be laid down rather by rule than be specified in an Act of Parliament, and which ought to be variable according to the particular circumstances of each case. He thought it would be most unwise to apply rigidly to the small undertakings contemplated by the Bill the machinery applicable to large railway schemes. His noble Friend in drafting his Amendment appeared to go on the assumption, that promoters of light railways under the Bill would require large tracts of land. The Government, on the contrary, believed that light railways would not be constructed to any great extent under the Bill unless a liberal use of the roads was granted by the local authorities, for otherwise the cost of promotion and construction would be totally out of proportion to the revenue likely to be derived from the undertakings. They might safely assume, for the same reason, that wherever land was wanted every effort would be made to obtain it by agreement rather than by compulsory powers. He quite agreed that, in cases where land was taken compulsorily, every opportunity should be given to persons affected of objecting and laying their case before the Railway Commissioners and the Board of Trade. Clause 15 gave the Board of Trade powers in those cases of securing the publicity his noble Friend required, and, besides, he intended to move an Amendment to that clause providing that plans and sections of the proposed railway should be deposited for inspection. Moreover, further protection in that direction was provided under the Lands Clauses Act, which would be incorporated in the Bill. The primary object of the Bill was to cheapen the cost of the promotion of such undertakings, and that was far more easily obtained by the elasticity which procedure under rules allowed.


said the noble Earl opposite seemed to think that the publication of advertisements in a country notice, and the serving of notice on persons likely to be affected by the railways, would be the source of serious delay and expense. He did not know that it was a matter of great importance one way or the other, but he was surprised that a Government so eminently Conservative should resist the moderate proposal of his noble Friend. After all, it was not a great tax, either in the way of money or time, to ask the promoters of a light railway which might go through a district to take the simple steps proposed in the Amendment. He did not know if the Prime Minister had considered it, and associated himself with the objections of the noble Lord. If he read the Amendment he would see that the objections were of a trivial character, and that the Amendment was one to which no Government that had not some subterranean object in view could possibly object.


said he entirely disclaimed any subterranean object in reference to light railways. But since he had been in the House he had read the Amendment, and he had listened to the clause which his noble Friend read from the Lands Clauses Act, and it seemed to him that the same result was achieved by the two sets of enactments. Therefore, if there was already on the Statute-book an enactment that secured sufficient publicity for all persons interested in the land, it was not worth while to have a totally different set of enactments, which would undoubtedly tend to complicate matters. He entirely agreed with the noble Earl that it was not a matter of great consequence.


contended that the reference to the Lands Clauses Act applied to quite a different stage of the proceedings from that with which they were dealing, and to a different set of persons. The section of the Lands Clauses Act applied to the actual purchase of estates "taken in connection therewith." But this notice had nothing to do with the Board of Trade, and did not refer to proceedings before the Board of Trade. It referred to the initial proceedings stated in Clause 7 which were before the Light Railway Commissioners, and the Amendment said that before the Commissioners proceeded notice ought to have been given to the person whose land it was proposed to take—surely a simple and reasonable thing. The Board of Trade apparently laid down the doctrine that notice ought to be given, not specifically or in pursuance of Parliamentary enactment, but by regulation. Therefore the regulation was to be made by the Board of Trade, and they were to indicate what the notice was to be, so that any person whose property was to be taken had to depend on the Board of Trade and its regulations as to what notice it received, and how satisfactory or not that notice might be. The noble Lord said he was under the impression it was proposed to take large tracts of land. He was under no such idea. But whether the tract was large or small did not make much difference. To the man whose property it was proposed to take, it was exactly the same whether his property was large or small. He then referred him to Clause 15 to satisfy him. But Clause 15 had nothing to do with the proceedings before the Light Railway Commissioners at all. It referred to certain applications to be made to the Board of Trade in reference to the local inquiry to be held by them. He had heard no reason whatever for departing from the ordinary rule which, as the Chairman of Committees pointed out, ought to be complied with, that notice should be given to the person whose property it was proposed to take. He could not willingly assent to the doctrine of the Board of Trade that they were to have control of the notices, so he would ask their Lordships to go to a Division.


said that if it was proposed to take a person's property one must, under the Lands Clauses Act, give notice of one's intention to take it, and of everything they wanted to take. The matter the House was now dealing with was that of preliminary notice, which might come to nothing unless the application was granted. As the Bill originally stood he should have agreed with the noble Lord, but if he would look at the Amendment he would find the Board of Trade had no power (the House was dealing with the compulsory taking of land) to vary any of the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act.


said a man might wish to appear before the Light Railway Commissioners to argue against light railways altogether. When they purchased his land and entered on occupation, it was rather late to give him notice that they would take his land.


said it was obvious that taking a man's land without his consent was a serious operation. But introducing a light railway into a district was hardly an operation that could do harm as long as they preserved the rights of property. He did not see why it should be necessary to give this elaborate notice and have all these complications of arrangement to prevent the possibility of a local authority setting up a light railway where it was not required. The difficulty of setting up light railways would be great enough without unnecessary formalities.


said that he was afraid he remained unconverted in spite of what had been said. As a matter of fact, it was surely no question of indifference to a district what course the light railway was to take. It was not an expensive or tedious formality to put an advertisement two weeks running in the county paper to say such a railway was proposed, what course it would take, and where plans could be examined.


said a part of this proposal dealt with the question of maps, and it laid down that the same sized maps used for large railway schemes should be in force in these small undertakings. Surely that procedure was out of all proportion to the undertakings the Board of Trade contemplated in this Bill. He understood that his noble Friend agreed, with regard to the later stage, that the provisions of the Lands Clauses Act were sufficient to insure that due publicity should be given. But with regard to the first stage, he should like to know how the Commissioners could carry out their duties under Clause 7 unless they gave due notice to all who might be affected by or mentioned in the clause. However, it was not a point which was vital to the Bill, and if the House was of opinion that the safeguards for publicity contained in the Bill were not sufficient, he did not wish to press the House to a Division. But he was still of opinion that the Amendment was unnecessary.

Amendment agreed to.

On the question "That Clause 7, as amended, stand part of the Bill,"


moved, to insert at the end of the clause— if the Board of Trade overrule any objection made by the council of a county or county borough, they shall give notice thereof to the council, and if the council within one month of the receipt of that notice send to the Board of Trade a request, adopted by at least an absolute majority of the whole number of members of the council, that the Order shall be submitted to Parliament, the Order so far as it affects that county or borough shall have no effect unless it is confirmed by Parliament. The noble Lord said that the House would observe that in the Bill there was no definition of "light railway," and he understood that the provisions of the Bill applied and were intended to apply, to tramways in towns. He believed that up to the present time the local authorities of towns had had the management of their own tramway system, subject to the supreme control and superintendence of Parliament. But the Bill proposed that Parliament should abdicate this power of control and supervision and transfer it to three permanent officials under the Board of Trade. This was a new departure in local government. He had great respect for public Departments and the work they did, and they were entitled to the respect they obtained from Parliament, "but he doubted whether so much power should be concentrated as was proposed in three officials at Whitehall. This was not a party question. As long as he remembered, both sides of politics had maintained stoutly the principle of local self-government. But if there was one subject which ought to fall within the province of local self-government it was the management of tramways in towns, and he did not think authority in such a matter of local interest should be at the discretion of a Government Department. The principle of the Bill had been approved by Parliament, and they all desired to see it carried into effect, and a fair trial given to it. But he would submit that, if a Government Department overrode the deliberate opinion of a local authority, some right of appeal should be given to that local authority. His attention was drawn to the clause as a member of the London County Council, but he made no distinction between London and other towns in this respect. His objection was to such interference with local self-government in all large towns, and the objection between London and other towns was only one of degree. It was right that there should be control over local authorities, and all parties accepted the conclusion of Parliament as final, but it appeared to him that the conclusion of Government officials was quite a different matter, against which there should be a certain right of appeal to Parliament.


could not accept this Amendment, which aimed at setting up a veto on behalf of county or urban Councils, and, by a bare majority, to force schemes promoted under this Bill to be submitted to the expensive and—for this purpose—inexpedient procedure of a Parliamentary Inquiry. The policy of the Bill had been to put local authorities upon the same footing with regard to their power of objection before the Commissioners and the Board of Trade as they would be before Parliament if the promoters of a light railway were proceeding by the present method of obtaining a special Act. He believed there was no real cause for complaint, and the objections which might be urged by local authorities to a scheme of this kind would naturally carry weight before the Railway Commissioners and the Board of Trade. Moreover, he did not believe this Amendment was required by the County Councils as a whole. The Government had been in constant communication with many of the County Councils upon this subject, and in no case had they received any expression of a desire for an Amendment of this character, all the communications from these bodies being unanimous in their approval of the Bill as it at present stood. The Amendment, he believed, had been put forward primarily in the interests of the London County Council, that body, no doubt, thinking that, if this Bill passed, tramway schemes would be promoted under its provisions which might hamper them in their position in regard to the tramways which now existed. He did not believe that danger was one which could really be seriously considered. Local authorities had full power of objection before the Commissioners and the Board of Trade, and he believed the moment it was shown that a scheme under the provisions of this Bill was intended to act as a rival to the tramway schemes already existing in London, the Board of Trade would insist that it should be presented to Parliament in the ordinary course of things. It must also be remembered that the London County Council was the road authority over the main roads of London, and, therefore, it would be impossible to promote a tramway undertaking upon the main roads without obtaining the sanction of the London County Council, or at least without the Council having a full opportunity of objecting before the Board of Trade.


attached the greatest importance to this Amendment. How the Bill had come up to the House of Lords, after passing through the House of Commons, without any such provision being made in that popular Chamber for preserving the rights and wishes of localities, was to him a mystery. What was the very moderate Amendment of his noble Friend? It was that, when a representative council of a borough or county objected to a scheme that was laid before the Railway Commissioners, they should have the right, not of veto, but of an appeal to Parliament. The noble Earl said it was to be only by a bare majority. How else did they decide any question in either House of Parliament, except by a bare majority? But, if the noble Earl was discontented by a bare majority, he had only got to insert in the clause a "proportionate" majority, and he was sure his noble Friend, rather than lose the benefits of the clause, would accept such an alteration. They had heard the old story of the great and illimitable confidence placed in permanent Commissioners, whether of the Board of Trade or other Department. He was not quite sure whether that confidence was absolutely illimitable. They had had Commissioners for many years past for whom they had the greatest esteem and respect, but still they had not that implicit confidence in them which would allow them to override the wishes of localities without possibility of appeal to Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] Under the Bill as it stood three permanent officials, sitting in a room in Downing Street or Whitehall, might entirely override the wishes of the County Council of this great Metropolis—a body, he was aware, which was not altogether popular among their Lordships, but which it could not be denied represented the views of the people of London—on such a matter, say, as the tramways of London. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Government objected to a bare majority, but would agree to any fair proportion of votes of a County Council giving the right of appeal to Parliament, he would urge his noble Friend to accept the clause so modified. Without some such provision as this he regarded the clause as likely to overrule the openly-expressed wishes of localities, and therefore as likely to overturn the whole tendency of legislation for the last few years, and largely to neutralise that Local Government Bill in which the President of the Board of Trade took so legitimate a pride. ["Hear, hear!"]


observed that it was undoubtedly a formidable circumstance that the London County Council should have thrown its shadow across the progress of this Bill. But he begged the House not to be dazzled with the lustre of the London County Council, and not to imagine that popular appeals to its infallibility, and to the remarkable manner in which it always represented the wishes of the people of this Metropolis, should turn the House away from the important considerations which were raised by this Amendment. The whole country was not governed by the London County Council, and the parts of the country where light railways would be required were exactly the parts with which the London County Council had very little to do. ["Hear, hear!"] The object of the Bill was to make light railways possible. They had hitherto been impossible on account of the expense of setting them up. It was desired to diminish that expense, and to do that they must diminish to some extent the precautions by which they had hitherto arranged undertakings of this kind. There were only two interests really which were possibly jeopardised by a light railway. One was the interest of private property, and the other the interest the public had in their roads. The question was whether they were bound to surround that last interest with precautions which might be very embarrassing and very costly. It was not a question of what was to be done with a light railway which was wholly within the province of one local authority. Of course light railways did not confine themselves to the province of one locality. They did not begin or end there. They might go possibly through a mile or two or a few yards of one local authority, and that local authority might desire to divert the course of the light railway and to force it into some other course which would be more suitable to their own view and their own interests; and if they gave them this power of absolute veto, even if their interest only applied to a few miles, they would enable them to exercise a dominant control over the circumstances and conditions under which the light railway was to be made, and which might very often be exercised much more in the limited interest of the particular area over which that local authority ruled than of the general interest of the public. Where the interests simply concerned the locality over which the local authority ruled, he quite agreed in the principle that they should give them the utmost power, but where interests were affected that touched many areas or more areas than one, and where there was or might be a difference of opinion among local authorities, they must seek for an arbiter outside. He thought it was a strong Measure to say that that arbiter must always be Parliament. He did not see that there was any danger in committing that arbitration—an arbitration which probably would not arise very often, and in which there would be very little temptation to go wrong—to some body which represented the central and Imperial power rather than the local authorities. It was the natural function of the Imperial power to be the arbiter between local authorities when they could not agree. Therefore he should be sorry to give the absolute veto which this clause proposed. He thought it might tend to hinder this experiment of light railways. It was no doubt an experiment. It was an experiment which might not succeed, but which they had every ground to think would be very beneficial if it did succeed. But they must give it a chance to succeed, and they must cut down all the precautions which were embarrassing wherever they could do it without serious danger either to private rights or to public interests. He therefore thought his noble Friend was right in objecting to this Amendment. It might produce a serious embarrassment. It could not affect, to any formidable extent, the interests of that most aggressive body, the London County Council. The London County Council would very seldom have any light railway to play with, and he did not see why the interests of the distant parts of the country, where this Bill was really required, should be sacrificed in order to meet the requirements of its jealousy.


hoped the House would not be misled by the phraseology of the noble Marquess. He spoke of the proposal as giving an absolute veto to the local bodies. The clause only sought to give to local bodies the right enjoyed by everybody in this kingdom of an appeal to Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] That did not seem to him to be a very great demand to make when they knew what the proceedings of the Commissioners themselves were. He hoped the House in this matter would not merely consider the case of the London County Council—a phrase which, he knew, often prejudiced good causes in that House—but would remember that the authority of every great local body in this country was jeopardised and at stake, and that, if they, by rejecting that clause, denied to these local authorities the small appeal which that clause would give them, they were casting a slur upon them which he did not think they deserved and which he thought they would be quick to resent.

The House divided on question "That the proposed sub-section be here inserted."

Caledon, E. de Vesci, L. (V. de Vesci.)
Camperdown, E.
Carrington, E. Glenesk, L.
Crewe, E. Hare, L. (E. Listowel).
Hardwicke, E. Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.
Kilmorey, E.
Morley, E. Kensington, L. [TELLER.]
Portsmouth, E.
Spencer, E. Loch, L.
Stamford, E. Macnaghten, L.
Suffolk and Berkshire, E. Muskerry, L.
Verulam, E. Rosebery, L. (E. Rosebery.)
Sackville, L.
Falmouth, V. Stalbridge, L.
Oxtenbridge, V. Stanmore, L.
Powerecourt, V. Welby, L. [TELLER.]
Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)
Burghclere, L. Wolverton, L.
Halsbury, L. (L. Chancellor.) Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.)
Devonshire, D. (L. President). Belmore, E.
Cross, V. (L Privy Seal). Carnwath, E.
Clarendon, E.
Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.) Coventry, E.
Somerset, D. de Montalt, E. Dudley, E.
Lansdowne, M. Fortescue, E.
Salisbury, M. Ilchester, E.
Lanesborough, E. Emly, L.
Mayo, E. Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)
Onslow, E. Harlech, L.
Portarlington, E. Harris, L.
Rosse, E. Iveagh, L.
Selborne, E. James, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Kilmaine, L.
Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Waldegrave, E. [TELLER.] Lawrence, L.
Lingen, L.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E. Massy, L.
Mendip, L.(V. Clifden.)
Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)
Sidmouth, V.
Templetown, V. Monek, L. (V. Monck.)
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Addington, L.
Ampthill, L. Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)
Annaly, L.
Ardilaun, L. Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)
Ashbourne, L.
Bagot, L. Rathdonnell, L.
Balfour, L. Rathmore, L.
Bateman, L. Rayleigh, L.
Belpor, L. Rossmore, L.
Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.) Rothschild, L.
Sherborne, L.
Churchill, L. [TELLER.] Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)
Clarina, L.
Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.) Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Clonbrock, L.
Cloncurry, L. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Colchester, L. Teynham, L.
Colville of Culross, L. Ventry, L.
Connemara, L. Wenlock, L.
Crofton, L. Wimborne, L.
De Freyne, L. Windsor, L.
Dunalley, L.

Proposed sub-section negatived; Clause 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 8 and 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10,—