§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, I feel that any Measure which is for the furtherance of industrial works in Ireland must of necessity commend itself to your Lordships' notice and attention. This Bill passed the House of Commons in all its stages last Session, and the Attorney General presided over the Select Committee which sat upon that Bill. I had the pleasure of introducing the Bill into your Lordships' House last Session, but that pleasure was somewhat marred as I had to withdraw the Bill, because objection was taken to the provisions of it, and, I ought to add, the principle also was to some extent questioned. The Bill as now reintroduced into your Lordships' House most fully safeguards and meets those objections, and with your Lordships' leave I will now go through some of the provisions of the Bill. Under the provisions of this Bill, when anybody wishes to establish or develop an industry in Ireland, they have to apply in the prescribed manner to the Local Government Board, and the Local Government Board may dismiss the application, or direct a local inquiry to be held. Now, my Lords, what are the reasons which induce us to ask for these particular powers—water powers, and powers over land? It is for this reason that at present it is hardly possible that a proprietor can now impound water to obtain power on his own land, if that water runs through other properties to the sea, for under the existing law an injunction would lie, even where no real injury had been suffered, if the head-waters of the 907 stream were banked up for industrial purposes. With regard to the land, as your Lordships know, most of the land in Ireland is in the hands of tenants who possess fixity of tenure. There are also people who are acquiring the fee simple of their holdings, and there are also some smaller tenants who have been unable to make a good title to their farms, or have been unable to take out letters of probate or administration. The Lands Clauses Act, which is proposed to be applied to this Bill, provides full compensation to every interest that is affected, and its clauses are incorporated in the Bill. Undoubtedly, the conditions under which rights may be granted under this Bill are most fully set out and very strictly drawn. First of all, no industry can be established which is not an electrical industry—it is only for the purpose of producing electricity, which is an industry which cannot pollute any stream, Mid the land which is to be taken is to be barren, uncultivated, and mountainous. No demesne land can be taken under this Bill, and the establishment of such in industry must be shown to be of general local advantage, and a final provision is that no fishery of any substantial value is to be injured by the undertaking. I know that some people think that fisheries would be hurt by the powers under this Bill, but we have put in the words that they are not to be fisheries of any substantial value, in order to cover such fisheries as salmon, trout, and eels. It is often seen that eels are of more value than salmon or sea-trout fisheries. With regard to the making or refusing of a Provisional Order, that is to be done in the manner provided by the Lord Lieutenant in Council—that is to say, the Privy Council of Ireland—and I must draw attention to the fact that the Privy Council in Ireland have already been entrusted by Parliament with very important functions of a like kind, namely, such statutes as the Tramways Act, the Labourers Act, and the Educational Endowments Act. Those Acts deal with several millions in value of property, and no complaint has been made as to the manner in which those functions have been discharged. Now, there are certain Acts incorporated in the Bill under clause 5. I will pass to clause 7, which provides for full compensation 908 for any direct or consequential damage that may be caused by laying pipes over a road, through strengthening or constructing or reconstructing any bridge, and for diverting any right of way. If a right of way is diverted under this Act, another road or right of way is to be made at the expense of the promoters. With regard to clause 8, supposing an Order is made under the Local Government Board with regard to the provisions of this Bill, a sum is to be lodged to provide for costs, and also in the case of the undertakers of these industries becoming bankrupt, or in the case of the company being wound up, the money is lodged beforehand, so if the thing comes to an end and becomes of no use, that money may be given to those who have suffered or are supposed to have suffered under the Bill. The Local Government Board have power to make such general rules to apply to this Bill, and also the Lord Lieutenant in Council, as they think fit for regulating the procedure with respect to the hearing of objections, and all those rules in this section, that is to say, sections 2 and 3 of clause 10, are to be laid before Parliament. There is another very strict provision in the case of failure to complete the works, or in the case of the abandonment of an undertaking, and it is this—that supposing that, after three years an undertaking is abandoned, and the land acquired by the promoters under this Act is not made use of for three years, it shall be restored in a condition at least as suitable for agriculture or for agricultural purposes as it was when originally taken possession of. It has been brought to my notice that in a great many cases there might arise difficulty in watering cattle. In Ireland, of course, in the grazing lands, it is most important that the cattle should have plenty of water; but I will again revert to that part of the Bill which says that the land taken shall be barren and mountainous. As I said before, if the undertaker of one of these industries under this Bill becomes bankrupt, full provision is made for that state of things, and if after one month's notice the promoters fail to execute such works as may be necessary for the purposes of this section, the same shall be executed by such persons as the 909 Local Government Board may appoint, and any costs and expenses thereby incurred shall be defrayed out of the moneys lodged or secured under the foregoing provisions of this Act. I submit, my Lords, that the principle of the Bill is to encourage industries in Ireland, and anything which encourages industries in Ireland will, I hope, meet with your Lordships' approval, especially when those industries are, as is the case in this Bill, electrical industries, because we must remember the powers that are given by electricity—the power to light, the power of transmitting energy to tramways, and the power of making carbide of lime, and also the power of treating aluminium clay, and I may say that aluminium clay is found in very large quantities in the north of Ireland. I should like to say, in answer to some remarks which have been made, or which may be made, that there is no great company behind this to take advantage of it and to work it, and I hope that it has not been thought for a moment that I am here to clear the way for any body of speculators or people likely to take advantage of the Bill. This Bill is drawn up for the general good of Ireland. We do not ask for much—all we ask is for powers to deal with water which is really wasting in millions of gallons, and we also ask to take the barren and mountainous districts. I regret to see that the noble Earl opposite is going to move that the Bill be read this day six months. I truly hope that the noble Earl is not going to stifle an attempt to promote industries in Ireland—that he is not going to attempt to draw a hard and fast line with, regard to the industries of Ireland, which applies to the industries of this country—a country teeming with industries in every possible way. We ask for very little under this Bill. We ask to deal with matters essentially Irish, under Irish conditions. I hope the noble Earl will reconsider what he has put down, and rather direct his attention to amending the Bill. Any amendment which did not absolutely alter the nature of the Bill would be most heartily accepted by us. I beg, formally, to ask your Lordships to read this Bill a second time.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
In pursuance of the motion which I have 910 placed upon the Paper, I rise to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months. I am a most sincere well-wisher to Ireland, and I should be very sorry to do anything which I believed would interfere with the promotion of industries in that country. But, my Lords, there are different means of promoting industries in Ireland, as I think I shall be able to prove to your Lordships during the course of my speech. The noble Earl at the commencement of his speech said that he introduced this Bill last year, and that considerable objection was taken to its details, and also, he added, to some extent to its principles. Now, my Lords, in the latter statement his memory was not wholly accurate, because the principle was objected to in the most direct manner by no less a person than the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, whose speech many of your Lordships will not have forgotten, and he proved to your Lordships that both in principle and in detail this Bill was in contradiction to anything that had ever appeared before this House. Now, my Lords, the principle of this Bill, shortly, is this, that it gives to the Local Government Board, in conjunction with the Lord Lieutenant in Council, the powers of Parliament, as regards the taking of land compulsorily for the purpose of private industries. That is the principle of the Bill, and the whole principle of the Bill. Let me ask, here, one of several questions which I shall have to ask the noble Earl who is promoting the Bill. How far, and to what, does this Bill extend?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Then may I ask the noble Lord what is the meaning of the title of his Bill? What does the noble Earl mean by putting this title before the House—A Bill to afford facilities for the establishment and development of industries in Ireland"?
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Clause 1 says "any industry." I am quite sure that those who have promoted this Bill are persons who have not been very well versed in the ways of Parliament. If your Lordships will look, there are two statements—one is the Bill, and the other is the Memorandum; and if your Lordships will read these two together you will find that the Memorandum differs vitally from the Bill. The Memorandum says that the Bill is intended to facilitate the establishment of electrical industries in Ireland. Clause 1 says—Where for the purpose of establishing, or developing any industry in Ireland, the promoters of such industry propose to take, impound, use, or acquire any water or water rights of any land in connection therewith,then they may do certain things. After all, the Memorandum is the opinion either of the noble Earl, or of those who have advised him; but the Bill is that with which Parliament has to deal, and the Bill says that it is for the purpose of developing any industry in Ireland. Now, my Lords, let us see what that means, and what the extent of it is. What is an industry in Ireland, or anywhere else? There is nothing in the Bill to define what an industry is. I know that electricity is evidently in the noble Lord's mind, and, if I might say so, without any incivility whatever, he seems to have electricity on the brain, because, in clause 2, he says—If, upon such inquiry being held, the Local Government Board are satisfied that such water is intended to be used for producing electricity the Local Government Board may make an order, giving a provisional approval to the application.I can quite understand that the noble Lord had electricity in his mind; the only pity is that he did not call his Bill a Bill for promoting electrical industries, and limited to that alone. But I take the Bill as it stands, and I take the word industry. An industry may be a bank, it may be a railway, it may be a farm, or even a tobacconist's shop. Under this Bill, any person promoting any one of these industries may go to the Local Government Board, and persuade them, and also the Lord Lieutenant, to expro- 912 priate any water or land, thus entirely avoiding Parliament and the whole authority of Parliament. That is the plain meaning of this Bill, and that is, I think, a correct version of what it does. But let me for a moment suppose that the Bill is what I really believe the noble Earl intended it to be—a Bill dealing with electricity alone. On that supposition—and only taking it as a hypothesis—what reason is there for the electrical industries in Ireland to be dealt with in a different way to the electrical industries of any other part of the United Kingdom? In my opinion, and in the opinion of the great majority of this House, the object of Parliament ought to be to endeavour to assimilate the laws in regard to property and other matters as much as possible in all parts of the United Kingdom, and it is for this reason that there are proposals at the present moment, in another place, which very likely will be laid before your Lordships, which may not be in certain details as prudent or as wise as we should like them to be, but which we are prepared to support simply for the purpose of assimilating the laws in all parts of the United Kingdom as much as possible. What does this Bill do? It proposes to do the exact reverse. It happens rather unluckily for the noble Earl that this very morning a report of a Joint Committee of the two Houses was circulated with reference to these electrical industries; and on this Select Committee this House was represented by Lord Cross, Lord Spencer, Lord Knutsford, and Lord Monkswell, and they have arrived at a Report. There were various questions submitted to them, but the question which is of importance to this Bill is this. They were asked to inquire whether power should be given for acquiring land compulsorily by electricity companies for generating stations, and a Draft Report was laid before them, and was signed, and the particular clause of that Report that I am going to read was signed without any Division and without any difference of opinion—Provision should be made for the granting of these powers in the Provisional Orders of the Board of Trade subject to confirmation by Parliament.913 Now, this Bill proposes to act in quite the reverse way to that which is proposed by this Select Committee of the two Houses, which was appointed especially to consider this subject. Electricity, at all events, is not the only subject dealt with in the Bill; but, at any rate, although that is not so, we shall all be agreed that it is one of the principal subjects which is to be dealt with in the contemplation of those who promote this Bill. Now, my Lords, let us turn for one instant to the powers which this Bill proposes to give the Local Government Board and to the Lord Lieutenant. The Local Government Board, on having this application made to them by the promoters in question, are to satisfy themselves with regard to certain things, and amongst the things of which they are to satisfy themselves, is this, "that the establishment of such industry would be of general or local advantage." Well, my Lords, what conceivable industry is there which is not either a general or a local advantage? I suppose that any industry would employ at least one person, or, perhaps, two—a tobacconist's shop would; at all events, it would be very interesting to the person who established it, and, therefore, under one of these two categories, I should think you might bring in any industry that you could possibly imagine. Very well! the Local Government Board can make this order, and then it is to go to the Lord Lieutenant if there is any objection. That is the first step in the proceeding. The objection goes before the Lord Lieutenant, and the objector has to appear before him. Now, my Lords, just consider the expense of that. I presume that one of the chief objects of this Bill was to get rid of the delay and expense such as would be incurred by the promotion of a private Bill. By the operation of this Bill, the first thing that the objector has to do is to appear before the Lord Lieutenant; and, if he does not appear, then the Provisional Order is to become absolute, having the effect of law, after the lapse of a certain time. After the objection has been heard, the Lord Lieutenant may confirm 914 or disallow the Provisional Order, or confirm the same with Amendments, and with modifications, and then your Lordships will see in clause 5 that the Lord Lieutenant is empowered to make exceptions and variations in Acts of Parliament. Every single Department of State that I know of during the last two or three Sessions has brought forward a Bill to make its Orders have the effect of Acts of Parliament, and I have done all I could to oppose such proposals, but, I am sorry to say, that in one or two cases they have been successful; but so far as we have had experience, the results have been by no means encouraging. But now your Lordships are asked to give this power to the Lord Lieutenant, so that he, and the centralised authority, to whom so many of us in this House so greatly object—the Local Government Board—may supplant and supersede Parliament entirely. So much for the powers which are given by the Bill. Now we come to the next point. To whom does this Bill apply? On this point let me take the Memorandum. The Memorandum says, in the second paragraph—Another reason for the Bill arises from the fact that most of the lands of Ireland are in the bands of tenants possessing fixity of tenure or of tenant purchasers who have acquired the fee simple of their holdings. A single tenant could, as the law now stands, defeat a scheme by refusing way leave for conduit pipes through his farm, or by holding out for an exorbitant price, although the landlords of the locality, and the other tenants were anxious to assist the project. Moreover, the smaller tenants are often unable to make good title to their farms owing to failure to take out probate or administration, or to family disputes. Many complications would arise from this source unless the machinery of the Land Clauses Acts can be applied, and these Acts provide full compensation to every interest affected and are incorporated.How does this Bill help us? It does not help us in any way, and it ought not to be allowed to help us in any way. How can any person who has taken part in Irish legislation during the last 25 years, the object and effect of which has been to create these small tenants, support a Bill which will have the effect of striking a blow at the independence of these small tenants. So far as I can make out, it is a matter of opinion whether this Bill has any effect n this direction. That may be or may 915 not be. But, supposing it to be, how can the authors of this Bill justify what they write in this memorandum? Are the proceedings under this Bill intended to be such that they are to get the land of the tenant away from him—take him out of the protection of Parliament—and place him under the Local Government Board and the Lord Lieutenant, and under a series of rules which the promoters expect will be less protective to him than the existing law? How Irish Members of Parliament in the other House are going to vote for a Bill like this, and how they came to vote for a Bill like this last year, passes my comprehension, for it is admitted by the promoters of the Bill that it is at the expense and against the property of their constituents.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
Certainly, full compensation is allowed for in the Bill, but full compensation is allowed under the existing law, if the case can be proved to be a good one, and, as I am going to point out to your Lordships in a moment, it is by no means clear that the iniquitous procedure of this Bill, if it be adopted, is any cheaper than private Bill legislation. And here let me say a word upon the question of cost. What is the cost going to be? You have got to appear before the Lord Lieutenant in Council, which, as the memorandum tells us, consists principally of Her Majesty's judges, but previous to that there is the first inquiry before the Local Government Board. The small holder has to appear before the Local Government Board, and has to argue his case or be represented, and then, presuming the Local Government Board makes an order giving a provisional approval, the matter comes before the Lord Lieutenant. The small holder has to appear before the Lord Lieutenant, and if he fails to do so, then the order becomes absolute, and has the effect of an Act of Parliament. But if he does appear he has to pay for the cost of these proceedings—that is, if his objection be overruled; and very costly proceedings they are, as those of your Lordships are aware who have been acquainted with all the litigation which has taken place in Ireland during the last 20 years. 916 Surely any holder of property may be excused if he prefers to be left to the existing system rather than to this very mysterious system, of which so far we have fortunately had no experience. I am speaking against the principle of the Bill; I am not going to weary your Lordships by going into details. If I were to do so, I think I could show your Lordships several things which are extremely diverting. Perhaps I may be allowed to advert to one of them. Look at clause 8, and you will see—No order under this Act shall be made unless the prescribed sum has been lodged or secured within the time and in the manner prescribed, to defray the costs and expenses of the Local Government Board and of successful objectors, and to render any works constructed in pursuance of this Act innocuous in the event of the undertaking being abandoned or the promoters becoming bankrupt.Is that the state of things which the noble Earl contemplates with regard to the industries of Ireland? And that is not the only clause in this Bill that relates to bankruptcy; there are one or two others, and one of the contingencies which has been most contemplated is the failure of those who are to promote these industries. Now, my Lords, just for a, few moments put yourselves in the position of the Local Government Board. What have they got to guess at when these provisional orders are applied for? It is all pure matter of conjecture. First of all there will be the question of cost. What will be the costs of a successful objector—how many people are to object; secondly, will they be successful or not? Then, what is the sum which will be necessary to render the works of the presumable bankrupt innocuous? Then, in that question, comes the consideration as to what are his works, because it will be necessary for the Local Government Board to go into an inquiry on that subject. Then, when they have arrived at a conclusion, they will have to consider how many of these works are likely to be completed before his bankruptcy. All these little odd calculations are to be made under clause 8. Then we come to clause 12. That clause can only have been concocted, if I may say so without any impertinence, in Ireland—it must have been drawn up there. It says—If within three years after any provisional order under this Act has become absolute or 917 been confirmed, as the case may be, the promoters have failed to make arrangements for the construction of the works requisite for the undertaking, any land required by them in pursuance of this Act shall be restored to a condition as least as suitable for agricultural or grazing purposes as it was when it was originally taken possession of.Yes, your Lordships may smile, but that which. I have just read is only the beginning. But wait a moment till I have finished. This land which, as the noble Lord told us, was to be most barren—I think he forgot the word "uncultivated," which is in the clause, and which means "unploughed"—is to be put back into its original condition by the bankrupt, with the money which has been furnished to the Local Government Board by the bankrupt. Just assume this particular process to have been successfully performed. What then? What is to be done with the land when it is in that condition? The bankrupt clearly cannot go on with his industry, because he does not want the land for his industry. Is he likely to want it for farming by way of an alternative industry? Scarcely. Then what is to be done with the land? Let us turn to the clause for enlightenment. The clause gives this remarkably wise direction—In case the person from whom the same was acquired, his heirs or assignees within one month after the prescribed notice so require, and if the Local Government Board on application made to them, so order, shall be reconveyed or revert to him or them upon payment of the price paid for the same by the promoters.I will just ask your Lordships to conceive how such a condition as that can be carried out, and what amount of justice, or rather injustice, is there in it. Land is compulsorily taken away for the purpose of promoting an industry. The industry fails, and the land is presumed to be put right again. Then the tenant is not to get it back unless he pays the price originally paid him for it by the promoters. I really do not suppose that the Bill means nonsense of that sort; but that is the Bill as it stands at the present moment, and that is how the Bill proposes to deal with property. That, my Lords, is all I have to say with regard to this Measure, and I think it is enough to show how wrong it is in principle and how faulty it is in detail. 918 Such a Bill has never been heard of in regard to any other country; such a Bill has never passed your Lordships' House; the principle of it has never been accepted, and I hope and trust it never will be accepted. I will add this, if it is possible to amend this Bill in any way, we might be prepared to endeavour to do so; but just think what will happen if your Lordships read the Bill a second time. You will have confirmed the principle of it, and if it goes to a Select Committee, no Select Committed which has any knowledge of its duties will attempt to interfere with the principle of the Bill. The principle of the Bill gives certain powers to the Local Government Board and the Lord Lieutenant, and no Committee of this House, after a Bill has been read a second time, will attempt to interfere with these powers. My Lords, it is for these reasons, it seems to me, that the only possible course which your Lordships can adopt, if you do not mean to create a precedent which is just as applicable to England and Scotland as it is to Ireland, is to reject the Bill.
The noble Earl who has introduced this Bill asked me to give it my blessing. Unfortunately I am unable to do so, and some of the reasons which have been given by the noble Earl opposite are reasons which, if they had not been given so clearly by him, I should have been bound to give myself. But, as he has so clearly stated the objections to the Bill upon its principle, I need only give your Lordships one or two instances to show what the effect of passing such a Bill would be, especially if passed at the present time. When I asked the noble Earl just now, he said that as regards the promoters of this Bill, they had no knowledge of any schemes at present being promoted. Thereupon I drew his attention to one particular scheme, and he denies that there is any reference or any object whatever in the promotion of this Bill as regards this particular scheme to which I am now going to draw your Lordships' attention. There is a scheme at present, a very important scheme indeed, and one with which I am personally acquainted, and that is a scheme which affects the water of the Shannon which 919 borders the county to which I belong. I am not in any way personally interested in the waters of the Shannon, and therefore I am competent to give a disinterested opinion on the subject. Some gentlemen calling themselves the Shannon Electrical Syndicate Company are proposing what I can only describe as an enormous scheme. I suppose nothing like it has ever been contemplated outside America. This scheme has no less an object than this: to take from the waters of the Shannon a tremendous amount of water and turn that water into electrical energy, which energy is to be supplied to places a long way distant from the Shannon, and I may say that this Company looks forward to extending their cables as far as Dublin. However that may be, there is no doubt as to the correctness of the description I have given—an enormous scheme, and one which is calculated to affect the interests of a very large number of people. Not only will it affect the interests of riparian owners, but it will also affect the whole fishing industries of a large portion of Ireland. One part of their scheme is this—to impound the waters of the Shannon in one of the lakes far up the stream above Lough Derg, and so impound them that they will be able during the summer months to supply from this reservoir sufficient water to make up for the water which they will take away at the point where they propose to commence their works. I do not know whether your Lordships quite understand what I mean, but it is far up the river where they propose this scheme. This scheme will require an enormous capital, in order to properly undertake it. I may say at once that the scheme is one which is attracting a very large amount of attention. Meetings have been held to consider the matter, and I, as an independent observer, am quite free to acknowledge that I think that such a scheme as this would be one which, if it is properly directed, would advance the industries of Ireland to an enormous extent. But, such a scheme as this is not one which should be lightly undertaken, nor is it one which should be dealt with by the powers which the noble Earl would confer upon the Local Government Board and the Lord Lieutenant by his Bill. Yet, if the Bill 920 were to be passed by Parliament, the very first thing that would be done would be that these gentlemen, who can perfectly well afford to come to Parliament and get their scheme examined by a Select Committee, would obtain it under this Bill, greatly to the detriment of some of those gentlemen whose lands and water are affected. I am sure that it will be within the knowledge of a number of your Lordships what important fishing industries there are in the Shannon. The particular point at which they propose to Commence their impounding is a point called Doonask. That point is just by Castleconnell, and is a well-known place, and is perhaps the only place on the Shannon that I know of where there is any fall of water at all. But there is an enormous body of water there, and there are also some exceedingly valuable fisheries. They propose to take this large body of water from the river there, and their scheme will actually take so much water, as I understand it, that there will be something like a million and a half gallons or thereabouts returned to the intake of the water and the output into the river again. Therefore, you can see that there must, of necessity, be an enormous distance of the river which will be affected by this scheme, and it is one which requires exceedingly careful examination, and it is one which requires the best engineers of the country to look into it, and certainly it is one eminently fitted for examination by a Select Committee, and is not one suited for the purposes of such a Bill as this. This scheme not only affects the river itself, but it affects the lower Shannon fisheries, and the lower Shannon fisheries are the fisheries from which the great supply of salmon for London is obtained. It is a well-known fact that there are enormous nets all along the river which catch an immense number of salmon, which is all sent to London now by the fastest trains. The fish is packed in ice, and the supply is a very material one to London itself, and of great importance to the interests of owners in that part of the world. I think, therefore, that I am right in saying that such a scheme as that proposed by the Shannon Electrical Syndicate Company is not one which could be 921 dealt with, or which should be dealt with, by the provisions of a Bill of this kind. But the existence of such a scheme as this at a time when a Bill of this character is being brought before your Lordships' House, shows how important it is that we should not lightly pass a Bill of this kind, which will take from Select Committees the power which now rests with them and with Parliament. The noble Earl said that Parliament has already dealt with this subject by granting powers under similar Bills for public undertakings in Ireland, such as the Tramways Act and the Labourers Housing Act, and others. But all those purposes were public purposes for public interests—I believe every one of them—at any rate, I will ask the noble Earl whether he can name one which was not. But what he proposes to do is to give the promoters of private companies—the promoters of commercial interests—powers which have hitherto been strictly limited by Parliament for public purposes. The Tramways Act has been the means of doing a great deal of good in Ireland. I supported it at the time, and I have seen no reason to change my opinion since. In the county of Clare we have, I think, something like 56 miles of light railways, and I know that those railways have done an immense deal of good in the country, and if I had my way I would have had an additional railway when the Government offered us more money. As regards the Labourers Act, though it has not been very judiciously worked, it has, I think, done a great deal of good; but to adopt the principles of these two Acts for private undertakings is, in my opinion, entirely wrong, and therefore I must join with the noble Earl opposite in asking that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
THE EARL OF MAYO
If your Lordships will permit me, I wish to disassociate myself entirely from any connection with the Shannon scheme. The Bill was brought forward without reference to the Shannon scheme, and I myself know nothing about the Shannon scheme beyond what I saw in the newspapers.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
I should like to point out to my noble Friend that 922 there is no scheme in Ireland at present working carbonide of lime by means of electricity. I have no doubt he knows nothing whatever about it, but there is a company which claims to have the sole power of producing carbonide of lime, and that is evidently the object with which this Bill is brought in. It appears to me that its object is for the making of carbonide of lime, and I should really hope that, although the Bill is perhaps of enormous importance, the principle of it is very objectionable, and it is a principle which should never, in my opinion, be admitted at all. As the noble Earl opposite has alluded to legislation which may possibly come before your Lordships' House, may I express my opinion for what it is worth—it may not be worth very much—that that legislation must lead within a few years to a demand for local government, and if your Lordships are not prepared to grant this demand, it surely would not be wise to weaken your powers of resistance by passing this Bill and giving powers to the present Local Government Board that have never been given or used up to this present time.
§ THE EARL OF DENBIGH
When this Bill came up before your Lordships last year, I pointed out that it came up from the House of Commons in no way as a Government Bill, but that it had the sympathy of the Irish Government, inasmuch as the Irish Government is naturally anxious to see industries promoted in Ireland, where, for so many years, industries have been deplorably lacking, and I think that all noble Lords in this House, including the noble Lord who moved the rejection of the Bill, are equally in sympathy with that desire. I think that the speech which came from the noble Lord opposite is rather in favour of the suggestion which I would make to your Lordships, and that is that you should send this Bill to a Select Committee. Although the noble Lord said that his main argument against the Bill was one of principle, still, I think the principle could be got over to a certain extent by the Select Committee, because I think that it would be still open to the Select Committee to suggest to your Lordship's House that any action by the Local Government Board should be 923 confirmed by Parliament, and also, I am quite sure, that it would be open to the Select Committee to suggest that this Bill should only apply to small undertakings, and not to such large undertakings as those mentioned by my noble Friend Lord Inchiquin. Such schemes as that should undoubtedly come before Parliament as a private Bill. Such, my Lords, I think would be the best course to take, and, while admitting that the Bill has many novel suggestions about it, I think that the promoters of the Bill have made an honest endeavour to remove many of the objections which were urged against it last year, and I think that if it were sent to a Select Committee of this House, safeguards might be introduced which would effectually prevent any of the mischiefs which some of your Lordships seem to anticipate.
§ * THE EARL OF WEMYSS
My noble Friend used a phrase which is very well suited to the methods of present-day legislation. He said that there was a great principle in the Bill, but that this principle might be got over to a certain extent by sending the Bill to a Select Committee. That is a phrase most suited to the times in which we are legislating. For my own part, I take a much broader view of principle. A principle is either sound or unsound. If it is sound it ought to be maintained, and not to be whittled away by a Select Committee. This Bill in principle is the same as that brought in last year, and what became of it? Why, my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees tore the Bill into shreds and tatters, and left it on the floor of your Lordships' House. I shall certainly vote with my noble Friend who moved the rejection of this Bill unless I hear that the principle is absolutely changed from what it was in the last Bill, and that the objections which were urged to the principle last year have been met this year. I hope that your Lordships will not go in for this new principle of whittling away principles, but will stand by the decision you came to last year unless you clearly see that the principle involved in this Bill is absolutely different to the principle involved in the Bill of last year.
THE EARL OF MORLEY
I ventured on the last occasion when this Bill, or 924 a similar one, was brought before your Lordships to make some remarks on the principle of the Bill. I am bound to admit that in its main principles the Bill now before your Lordships is the same as the Bill of last year, in that it abrogates from Parliament in certain cases the power which Parliament now reserves to itself of granting these powers of compulsory purchase, in that also those powers are granted to persons who are not public companies or local authorities, and in the last place, in that it grants these powers without any absolute assurance that a public benefit will be obtained. I am also bound to admit that this Bill is in its details, and something more than in its details, a considerable improvement on last year's Bill. One point especially of last year's Bill is removed, which alone vastly improves the Bill. In clause 2 there are certain conditions laid down which are to operate before the Local Government Board can grant these powers, and in last year's Bill at the end of that clause there was a power on the part of the Local Government Board to dispense with any, or all, of those conditions as they thought fit. It seemed to me that that dispensing clause almost entirely nullified the preceding part of the clause, and gave to the Local Government Board an absolutely free hand in the matter. The removal of the dispensing power does meet one of the objections that I had to the Bill of last year. As I said before, undoubtedly the principle of the Bill is the same, but we hear now more fully than we heard last year that under the Bill it is supposed that Irish industries will be encouraged and established by the operation of the Bill which could not be encouraged and established under the present condition of things; one of the reasons of that being that the land is so largely subdivided in Ireland that it is difficult to get all the consents that are required for obtaining water power, which is spread over a large area of the country. I thoroughly appreciate the vast importance of doing all we can to encourage both large and small industries in Ireland, not merely as contributing to me wealth of the country, but also as contributing to the prosperity of the districts, agricultural or otherwise, in which they are placed. At the same time I 925 think it is desirable that a case should be made out. We have heard of one or two industries, and reference has been made to the report of the House of Commons Committee. The Committee only examined one witness and confined its attention to one single industry. Is that sufficient justification for this House to abandon the position it has always held as regards the principle of the compulsory purchase of land? I am bound to say that I think that any such sacrifice requires consideration and requires justification. I must admit that I do not desire to put myself in absolute opposition to the Bill, but as I think that this Bill requires strong justification, I would venture to suggest that it might be left to a Select Committee, as suggested by my noble Friend on the Government Bench, and I think that the Committee should hear evidence as to what justification there can be for this Bill, and whether it is worth the while of Parliament to give up its control over the compulsory purchase of land with a view to benefiting Ireland. My noble Friend who moved the Second Reading, suggested that we should deal with Irish measures under Irish conditions. I am very much afraid that in Ireland sometimes the principles of legislation are sacrificed to expediency, and if that is so in this case it will not be an exceptional case. But, as I said before, I do not wish to stand in the way of what may be thought a necessary investigation in order to see whether this Bill can be made a useful one, and whether it will be for the benefit of Ireland. I said last year that if your Lordships decided to send the Bill to a Select Committee that there were several points that required careful consideration—points of detail as well as the actual principle of the Bill. One of those points is whether, assuming as I do that the great object of the Bill is to establish electrical industries in Ireland, some provision should be made by which the promoters who obtain these exceptional advantages should not come under an obligation to supply consumer; where required within a given district I throw this out as a suggestion, because there is always a risk of industries once established and obtaining a monopoly of the water powers of a considerable portion of the country turning it to 926 little or no account, because then instead of being a benefit the water power would be absolutely wasted. Another point is, whether, as on the face of it electricity is the object of this Bill, it should not be obligatory and not merely optional on the part of the promoters to incorporate certain parts of the Electric Lighting Acts which include the option of purchase by the local authorities after a certain number of years of the industries which are created. A further point has been raised in the course of this Debate, as to whether it should not be limited in its operations in some way, so that such large schemes as that shadowed out by my noble Friend—the Shannon Electrical Company—should be dealt with by Parliament itself. With these limitations, although I cannot look with greater approval upon the principle of the Bill than I did last year, I for one will not stand in the way of having its clauses and objects subjected to the searching examination of a Select Committee.
I am very sorry to hear what has fallen from the noble Lord, the Chairman of Committees, because everything that falls from his lips we must take with great respect. The noble Lord began well and objected to the principle of the Bill, but he ended badly by wishing the Bill to be referred to a Select Committee. This is all a part of the sentimental legislation for Ireland which has helped to ruin Ireland almost more than anything else. Naturally, Her Majesty's Government, who do everything in their power to injure Ireland, are prepared to accept the principle of this Bill. I could mention scores of industries in Ireland that have begun with great flourish of trumpets which have pined away for want of natural support. At the present moment there is in many parts of Ireland immense water power laid on, if I may say so, running to waste. There are mills possessing this water power which might be turned to much use absolutely unoccupied. That, I think, is an argument against this Measure, for if such things as mills are standing idle, what is the use of going to wild and barren and mountainous country to institute electricity. I do not know what the noble Earl proposes 927 to do with, electricity in the wilds of Connemara—perhaps he would light up the rocks and the heather with it. At any rate, it seems to me to be a very wild scheme. I think the noble Earl who moved the rejection of this Bill will, if he carries the rejection, not only have done a great service to Ireland, but to legislation in general.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I agree very much with what fell from my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees; perhaps he went further than I should in condemnation of the principle of the Bill as applied to Ireland, but I entirely agree with him that the Second Reading of the Bill should not be passed in its present form, except upon the distinct understanding that it is to be referred to a Select Committee, which is to have large powers of inquiry as to the necessity for the Bill, and as to the reasons for its adoption. If that is agreed to, I shall vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, and I hope that the Committee will consider that it is empowered to inquire into those several points mentioned by my noble Friend, besides the matters mentioned by the Bill. There is one point which, to my mind, is of some importance. I understand that this Bill proposes to establish reservoirs at high altitudes—that is the expression of the Bill. Now, my Lords, we all of us know, and some of us have had very serious experience, of the dangers which may result from reservoirs of any considerable size established high up in the hills, unless proper securities are taken that the banks of those reservoirs are made sufficiently firm and are kept in proper order. Unless that is so they may break, and cause the greatest evils to the country below. If this Bill is referred to a Select Committee, I hope that some provision will be introduced into it distinctly making it the duty of the Local Government Board in Ireland to consider that question of public security.
THH EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
May I point out that the phrase "high altitudes" is not to be found in the Bill, it is in the memorandum.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
There has been a great effort on the part of legislation in this country to bring about certain conditions in Ireland on which principles were established, which have necessitated almost a continued progress upon bad lines, and in this case I cannot help thinking that it is absolutely unnecessary that we should pass this Bill in order that we should get power for examining the details which are contained within it. If we pass the Second Reading, we shall have accepted the principle, and in every future argument upon the subject we shall be taunted with the statement, "You agreed to the principle with your eyes open, with the Chairman of your Committees telling you plainly that this Bill was as bad in principle as that which you rejected last year." Why on earth should we do this, and what purpose should we serve? Is it because you think that this Bill, if it passes its Second Reading, will be immediately carried? You know perfectly well that if you refer it to a Select Committee, there is not the slightest chance whatever of its being carried this year. Why, therefore, should we lay down a principle and commit ourselves to that principle, when we know that by so doing we are sending to a Select Committee for discussion a Bill which cannot come into operation this year. If the noble Earl wishes to have this question investigated, let it by all means be investigated by a Committee, not on the Bill but on the subject, and we shall be adopting a proper course, and one which will enable us to arrive at some definite conclusions, but if it comes to a question of voting on this Bill, the principle admittedly being a bad one, I think there is nothing for it, but for us to vote against that principle, and so put an end to it.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I am only going to say a word or two, because there has been such a unanimity of condemnation on the principle of the Bill. I do not feel so completely satisfied that the principle of this Bill is unquestionably bad. As I understand it is said to be bad because it never can be right to allow land to be taken compulsorily for any purpose, however beneficial for any part of the country, excepting after consideration by Select Committees of the House at Commons and of the House of Lords.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I quite agree. That contention, if it means anything, means that there is no tribunal that can be of sufficient protection for the landowner, or the owner of any other species of property, excepting a Select Committee of these two Houses; that the system at present in vogue is a perfect system; and that, unless you go through the enormous expense of an inquiry of that description, it is to be impossible to acquire land compulsorily, even although the object of it is to stimulate Irish industries to any extent. That is what is said to be the principle for which we are to vote in voting for the rejection of this Bill. I am not prepared to vote for the principle contained in this Bill. I am not at all satisfied that an inquiry by the Local Government Board in Ireland, with an appeal to the Privy Council, and with any further restrictions you may please, is necessarily a tribunal less fit—less able I should rather say—by local inquiries on the spot, to determine what ought to be done than a Committee of this House, and with the witnesses who will be brought up at a very great expense. It may be, perhaps, that some further restrictions should be placed upon these two tribunals; but I do feel that in small cases, as many of these in Ireland must necessarily be, to assert the principle that you will not give to anybody for the purpose of promoting Irish industries the power, however beneficial it may be, to compulsorily take property, excepting through the Committees of the two Houses, is going further than is necessary for the protection of the public, and may be going so far as to prevent the establishment of very useful industries which would be of the utmost benefit to the country.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I think we can all agree that the Debate we have listened to, especially on such a small Bill as this, has been most interesting and most useful. I feel, however, that the sense of the House is against me in this matter, and in order to bring it to a conclusion, I think I must fall in with what Lord Cranbrook has said, that it should be referred to a Select Committee to deal with the subject. This is the second time that the Bill has been with- 930 drawn by me, and we are thrown back another period in Ireland. As I said before, circumstances in Ireland are very different from what they are here in England, where industries flourish. I beg, with your Lordships' leave, therefore, to withdraw the Bill, and I may here announce that it is my intention, with your Lordships' leave, to adopt Lord Cranbrook's suggestion, and ask for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the subject.
§ Bill, by leave, withdrawn.