§ The Board of Trade may confirm the Older with or without modifications as the case may require, and un order so confirmed shall have effect as if enacted by Parliament, and shall he conclusive evidence that all the requirements of this Act in respect of proceedings required to be taken before the making of the Order have been complied with.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
moved to add words providing that all Orders of the Board of Trade should lie on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for 30 days. The effect of the clause as it now stood was to make the Board of Trade perfectly independent of Parliament and without 286 any check whatsoever with regard to these Orders. He did not think such a thing had ever been done. In the present Session of Parliament there was something of the same kind proposed in another Hill, but that was stopped by their Lordships. The noble Lord who sat at the Table had pointed out to their Lordships the danger of the clause as it stood, and he also told them that this Amendment, although to a certain extent a protection, was not, in his opinion, entirely an adequate protection. He quite agreed with the noble Lord that properly speaking there ought to be some provision for something in the nature of a Provisional Order, but in putting down this Amendment he had in his mind what he believed to be the desire of Parliament to make these proceedings as cheap as possible, and therefore be simply proposed that all these Orders should lie on the Table of the Houses of Parliament for 30 days. That preserved to Parliament that general control which with regard to such a matter as light railways he hoped their Lordships would consider was absolutely essential. Why should Parliament give to the Board of Trade the absolute independence which this clause did? and if they gave the power to one public department, why not give it to any other public office? He hoped their Lordships would not forget that the President of the Board of Trade was an official that changed with the Government, and if the clause in question passed as it stood, whoever might be the President of the Board of Trade would, for the time being, have in his power the full control over the construction of light railways. The new clause he proposed delayed the matter for the shortest possible time, and if, during that time, there was no objection, the Order would go on without any expense to the parties.
§ *THE EARL OF DUDLEY
said the Amendment was almost identical with one proposed in the House of Commons, and defeated, after a full Debate, by a large majority. It struck at the root of the whole policy that the Government had adopted in this Bill, and therefore he most emphatically asked their Lordships to reject the Amendment. The Government believed that if it was inserted the Bill would become virtually waste paper, and that the utility of the 287 procedure they were trying to set up would be absolutely nullified. What did the suggestion of his noble Friend mean? He suggested that after all the expense and trouble of promoting an Order under the Bill had been incurred—after the most careful consideration had been given to a scheme, not only by an independent and impartial body of Commissioners, but also by the Board of Trade—after local inquiries had been made and evidence taken in opposition to and in favour of the scheme, a further tribunal should be brought into play and the whole matter subjected to the uncertainty of Parliamentary approval. He said again that if the proposed clause was inserted in the Bill, it would be fatal to its provisions. Was it likely that they would get a business man to subscribe money for promoting a scheme under the Bill, which at best would only hold out the hope of a slender profit, if it was to be subjected to such a course as that suggested by the noble Lord. The uncertainties under his Amendment would be even greater than they were at the present time under the ordinary method of procedure by a special Act. At least the promoters could now state their case. They could obtain counsel, call witnesses, speak as to the local want of an undertaking of the kind, but if the noble Lord's Amendment was inserted in the Bill, the scheme would be laid upon the Table of either House, would be absolutely undefended, and probably not altogether comprehended, and be made subject to a snap Division in the other House after 12 o'clock at night. It was not, of course, for him to criticise Parliament or its methods; but their Lordships knew well the ordinary condition of the House of Commons after 12 o'clock at night; what a small proportion of Members was then usually present, and how easy it was at that time to delay, and possibly to block, the final accomplishment of any proposal. Moreover, they could not answer that under this Amendment criticisms and objections would be considered on the merits of any particular proposal. Let them take the case, for instance, of an existing railway company. It would be perfectly possible for any Member in such a case to object to the Order, not because he particularly objected to it, 288 but because he held extreme views as to the policy of our railway system generally; and according to the Amendment every Order under this Bill was to be subject to conditions of that kind. He thought it would be most unfair to the promoters of an undertaking, after having incurred all the expenses necessary to the promotion, that their scheme should be subjected to uncertainties of that kind. He did not put forward those objections to the Amendment merely as matters of opinion. He could assure the House that there was at the present time a railway company ready and prepared to promote a number of schemes for the establishment of light or branch lines under the Bill the moment it became law, and he could state as a fact that when the Amendment analogous to the one now before their Lordships was proposed in the other House, the general manager of that company told one of the officers of the Railway Department of the Board of Trade, that if it was inserted in the Bill, every one of those schemes would be dropped by the company. His noble Friend said that what he proposed was to be without prejudice to the making of any other Order. What did he mean by that?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said it meant that if the other House objected to the passing of the Order, then that Order would not, of course, come into force, and a new Order might be promoted.
§ *THE EARL OF DUDLEY
But by whom would it be promoted? If the Order was to be altered by either House of Parliament as a whole, it then meant that Parliament, without evidence, without local knowledge, and without full information as to the facts, was going to set aside an Order made on evidence given before the Commissioners and the Board of Trade, or change it according to its own views. But if the Order was to be sent back to be re-promoted, then it meant that the whole of the previous expense was to be wasted, and the cost of promoting those lines under the Bill be immensely increased. As he said at the commencement of his remarks, the Amendment went to the root of the whole matter; it would strike a serious blow at the procedure the Government 289 were endeavouring to set up, and it would, in his opinion, render the provisions of the Bill nugatory. He hoped, therefore, that their Lordships would reject the Amendment.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said he desired to say only one word in reply. The noble Lord seemed to think that the proposal he submitted would throw some cost on the parties. But how could it do so? The Order would lie on the Table of both Houses for 30 days, and if during that time neither House disagreed, the Order would come to an end. It was quite a mistake to suppose that this would entail any cost. Then the noble Lord seemed to be rather disturbed by some words in the clause, but he could assure the noble Lord that the clause was a common one. It would be found in many Acts of Parliament, in the Scottish Fisheries Act of last year among others. He was seriously concerned to hear that the noble Lord had such a bad opinion of the House of Commons, and particularly after 12 o'clock at night—[laughter]—and because of the possibly unfortunate condition of the House after that hour, he invited their Lordships to put the President of the Board of Trade, in whom he naturally had greater confidence as a despot, in the place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords as well. He must say that he attached great importance to Parliament retaining a control over those Orders. The President of the Board of Trade might make, and probably would make very good Orders, but he might also make bad Orders, and in such circumstances it was very expedient that Parliament should keep the control of matters of this kind in its own hands. Parliament might be trusted not to interfere without good reason. He hoped their Lordships would accept his Amendment.
§ *THE EARL OF DUDLEY
said the noble Lord had misunderstood him. He never said that the mere laying of the Order on the Table of the House would entail expense, but what he did say was that if the Order, under the, noble Lord's Amendment, should be sent back either to the Board of Trade or the Commissioners to reconstruct or recast, very-great extra expense would be entailed. ["Hear, hear!"] That was obvious. Then the noble Lord said that his proposal 290 had been followed in other Acts of Parliament, and that it was not an uncommon procedure. No more so was the suggestion made by the Government. Their suggestion also had a precedent; for instance, in the case of the Allotments Act. Land was taken compulsorily, without appeal to Parliament for a definite public purpose, and the Government were only following that precedent in the present Bill. They believed that the establishment of light railways in certain districts was for the general good, and therefore it was not straining the Constitution to come to Parliament, and ask to allow those railways to be constructed and land to be taken for the purpose.
§ Amendment negatived; Clause 10 ordered to stand part of Bill.
§ Clause 11,—