HL Deb 27 June 1898 vol 60 cc176-90

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

THE EARL OF CREWE moved that the Bill be recommitted. He said: In asking your Lordships to remit an important private Measure of this kind for further consideration, I am conscious of two difficulties under which one must labour who brings forward a Motion referring to private business in this House. The first difficulty is due to the fact that the House is naturally reluctant to disturb or interfere with the decisions which have been arrived at by the Committees. These decisions are arrived at after full consideration, and a great expenditure of time and expenditure of money to the parties involved. The second difficulty is this—that in any attempt to explain to your Lordships in a full House, a complicated Measure depending often on minute consideration of local topography one has to lose the apparatus and large maps and boundary statistics which help the Committee to arrive at their decision. As to the first difficulty, I quite agree that as a general rule it is undesirable for your Lordships to attempt to reverse decisions which have been arrived at by Private Bill Committees; but it does sometimes happen, as naturally happens in this case, that an important question of principle is involved, and that something may be done which might establish a precedent by which future cases may be affected. I cannot well ask your Lordships to recommit the Bill without some explanation of what the Bill is, and I will endeavour to describe it as briefly as I can. The important Lancashire town of Rochdale seeks powers to take in the usual way water from a separate area situated in Yorkshire; and, without troubling your Lordships as to any possible alternative, one may safely assume that the present scheme affords to Rochdale the easiest, the nearest, and the cheapest method of obtaining what she wishes. This Bill has been opposed, among others, by the Yorkshire town of Todmorden, from whose area the water is to be taken; by the mill owners, whose interests will be affected; by the West Riding County Council, of which I am a member, and by the West Riding Rivers Board, which is composed of representatives of the County Council and the great county boroughs. The West Riding County Council were not able to satisfy the Committee that they had a locus standi. Their locus standi was refused, and the Rivers Board petition naturally disappeared also. The position of the West Riding County Council was this. The Pennine range of hills runs from north to south between Lancashire and Yorkshire, and is a great gathering ground of water for both counties. Of course, that range of hills forms the water shed, and water which is on the Yorkshire side flows down the Calder valley, and ultimately into the North Sea. It is not disputed that this water has its natural flow down the Calder valley and so to the east coast. Now, this Calder valley is a valley 50 miles long, has a population of over 700,000 people—it has doubled within the last 50 years—and a rateable value of something like over £3,250,000. As your Lordships doubtless know, it is a most busy centre of trade. It is the greatest centre of the carpet trade and the heavy woollen trade, as it is called, in England. There are also glass and other manufactures. Many of your Lordships who have travelled from Manchester to Leeds or Wakefield may have noticed that the whole district seems almost like one street. Consequently the amount of water used in that district is something enormous. It would surprise your Lordships to know the immense amount of water used. One factory will sometimes use more water than the whole domestic water supply of a considerable county town. If I had one of the maps I could show your Lordships that this is a valuable collecting area for some of the considerable Yorkshire towns. The real point on which I wish to appeal to the House is this, that the people who live in Yorkshire have a greater claim to ting water than the people who live on the other side of the water shed, and for whose benefit the water is proposed to be taken round and made to run in the reverse direction than that in which it naturally would. I know it is argued that in cases of many great towns, such as Liverpool and Glasgow and Manchester, the water is brought from a great distance, and from districts with which Liverpool and Glasgow and Manchester have no connection. That analogy is entirely a false one, for the reason that the water is brought from districts where large supplies of water are not needed, and are not likely to be needed. With us in Yorkshire the exact opposite is the case. Very nearly all the gathering grounds have been taken up already, and it is undoubtedly the fact that before long some of these great towns will have to go far away to bring water for their needs. Under the circumstances, it seems to us somewhat unfair that one of our remaining collecting grounds should be taken for a Lancashire town. I particularly wish to impress this point: that the quality of the water, its peculiar purity and softness, makes it specially suitable for this trade. It is not too much to say that the existence of this great carpet trade in the valley of the Calder originally depended, and depends still, on the quality of the water which comes from these hills. I am anxious to guard myself from any supposition that this is a matter of jealousy between counties, or anything in the way of a dog-in-the-manger feeling. My noble Friend. Lord Ripon will bear me out in saying that we have been on excellent terms with our Lancashire neighbours, and have had many communications of a friendly character. Now, as regards the circumstances under which the county council petitioned, this area comprises 73 sanitary districts, 59 of which are urban districts, 7 non-county boroughs, and 21 county boroughs. Now, I believe that some 25 of these sanitary districts might have petitioned separately, and it would have been impossible to refuse to hear them. But it did seem better to have them publicly represented by the principal local authority. Consequently, they petitioned the West Riding County Council to appear and represent them, it being clearly understood that the chairmen or principal functionaries of these public bodies would be prepared to come and give evidence. It seemed to us that that was the better plan, on more grounds than one. In the first place, the objections taken to the Bill were of a general character, and consequently could be better put by the county council. County councils can speak with more authority than these bodies taken singly; and there was also the important question of the saving of the cost. We are always being reminded of the cost of private Bill legislation in this House, and we are always being told that some system of removal or devolution has become a necessity. It seems to me a poor encouragement towards economy if it is to be understood that unless each separate body appears in person, there is no chance of these claims being heard by a Parliamentary Committee. The Standing Order, on which the county council relied, reads thus— Where the council of any administrative county or county borough petition, against a Bill, alleging that such county or county borough or some part thereof will be injuriously affected by the Bill, it shall be competent for the Select Committee to whom the Bill is referred, if they think fit, to hear such petitioners or their counsel or agents and witnesses on such allegation against the Bill or any part thereof. That, of course, is a discretionary locus. It is entirely within the discretion of the Select Committee to hear or not to hear. In the other House that is not the case. Any council can absolutely claim to be heard, and I do not know why the practice of this House should differ in that respect, Further, I do not feel sure that if these small bodies appeared they would have been able to present the whole case. Each one would have had to petition on what it supposed affected it separately. That, my Lords, is really the principle on which I wish to appeal to your Lordships. Has not the county council got, by reason of its great number of local authorities, chiefly urban in character, a sufficiently corporate existence to be entitled to state a general case for all these districts? I do not see that the case differs in any material degree from that of the great towns. Under similar circumstances any great town would be heard, though even only one ward in the town were prejudicially affected by any proposed legislation. It is said that the county council is not a water authority, and has no claim to be heard; and that, I believe, is the technical ground on which my noble Friends who sit on the Committee refuse to hear us. The county council is not a water authority in the sense of being responsible for the water supply, chiefly for the physical reason that it would, be inconvenient for the county council to become the supplier of water to the whole community. I imagine there is another reason why the county council should not be permitted by Parliament to undertake the supply of water to the inhabitants in the same manner that a large town does; and certainly, in other respects, the county council is treated as the water authority. Under the Parish Councils Act of 1894 if a parish has not a sufficient supply of water it is the duty of the council to see that it has. There is no standing order giving county councils the power to be heard—that is to say, any special power; but as a matter of fact we were heard against several Bills. We were heard against the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Bill of 1891, and against the Barnsley Corporation Water Bill of 1895. I notice that in reading the evidence the counsel who appeared for the promoters of the Bill said—I forget the exact words—that these county councils were not water authorities, but were anxious to become so. There is the London County Council now anxious to be turned into a water authority. It seems to me that that argument is greatly on our side. As a matter of fact in a case of this kind, although the county council is not the water authority, it would most unquestionably be heard. I think I am right in saying that it has a statutory right to be heard. But it is impossible to suppose that the London County Council would not be given a hearing before the Committee if some other district proposed to take the water for its own purposes. I fully understand that nothing can have been further from the mind of the noble Lord who presided over the Committee and his colleagues than in any way to stifle any discussion on this Bill. They conceived themselves bound by the practices of the House, and by the terms of the petition were presented, which was purposely presented in a general form so as to enable the county council to deal with the case on broad lines. I think they acted in some haste. They heard the reasons of counsel as to why locus standi ought not to be granted, and the net result was that very material consideration escaped their observation. I appeal to your Lordships to take a broad view of the matter, because I cannot conceive that it is anybody's interest that, in an important matter of this kind, the interests should not be represented on all sides. I appeal to my noble friends behind me as to whether we have given a factious opposition to the Bill. We have taken the greatest care never to oppose unless we saw we had very serious grounds of opposition. But we do consider that we represent an important district. We have a population of 1,500,000, and a rateable value of over £7,000,000; and therefore we do think that if there is a case in which the discretion of the Select Committee to hear county councils may properly be exercised this is a case in point. A great number of your Lordships are yourselves interested in county councils, and I wish to remind you that this action of the Committee might be used in future as a precedent considerably to the danger of other county councils. I should also like to ask my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees, whose opinion on any matter of this kind is of course received with far greater attention and respect than that of anybody else, whether ha does not think that practical injustice may have resulted from the somewhat too strict construction of what the noble Lords believe to be the technical rules of the House, and I should like to ask him whether he will not assist us in obtaining a reconsideration of the entire question. I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.


I think my noble Friend who has made this Motion is somewhat under a misconception as regards what took place in the Committee over which I had the honour to preside. The Committee did not refuse locus entirely to the West Riding County Council. They gave them a limited locus; and beyond that they intimated that with regard to the petition of the West Riding Rivers Board, which was running on much the same lines with it—in fact, they had the same counsel—they intimated that they would probably be able to hear them on that matter. Counsel declined to take advantage of it, and withdrew; and I think your Lordships will see that it was no fault of the Committee that those petitioners were not heard on that occasion. My noble Friend has mentioned the Standing Order. That Standing Order 110 c which he had just read is entirely of a discretionary nature; it leaves the matter entirely to the Committee whether they will or will not hear the county council in a case like this. The county council is net a water authority. They claimed on this occasion to represent a number of local authorities—some 72 or 73 in number—but there was not one word of that in their petition. I think your Lordships will see that we were bound to keep them to the terms of their petition, and not let them have a roving commission on this point. The county council are the sanitary authority under the Rivers Pollution Act, and on points in connection with this which were raised in their petition, and on a question of roads and bridges the Committee intimated that they would give them a locus. They declined to take that, and they withdrew. I really do not quite understand why the Motion which has been made should be brought before your Lordships at this time. What would result if the House were to decide that this Bill were to be recommitted? I imagine that the petition could not be amended; they would have to stand or fall by the terms of it. I can only believe—and I think it most probable—that any five other Members of your Lordships' House would give precisely an identical ruling to that given by us. I am not going to follow my noble Friend in discussing the merits of the Bill. We decided the point on a technical ground; and I trust that your Lordships will uphold the decision of the Committee, and will allow this Bill to pass its Third Reading. I may say, in conclusion, that the Committee were very much impressed with the great need for an additional water supply to this place; I only say in passing that it was very urgent, and that any delay might have very serious effects if we should have one or more droughty summers in prospect. I trust your Lordships will give this Bill a Third Reading.


The noble Lord who has just sat down has replied very shortly to the statement of my noble Friend. He did not tell us very distinctly what was the nature of the limited locus standi which the Committee were willing to give to the West Riding County Council, but I understand it was a locus standi mainly confined to sanitary matters. But the question seems to me very much wider than that—whether it is for the public interest that the county council should be excluded from being heard in regard to Bills which propose to take water from their districts. The West Riding County Council has given a great deal of attention to this question of the supply of water, and has taken various steps in regard to it, which I venture to submit have been distinctly of public interest, not as regards sanitary questions in the ordinary sense of the word, but in regard to the adequacy of the water supply which would be left for the districts from which it is proposed to take water for the purpose of other districts. We have in the West Riding many large towns which are always desirous to take water from the country districts, as necessarily they must. But the West Riding County Council has particularly devoted itself to the work of seeing that the water so taken does not materially injure the districts from which it is drawn. It was by the efforts of the West Riding County Council that the Standing Order which is now among your Lordships' Orders was passed—the Standing Order which provides that, wherever water is taken for purposes of our large towns, there shall be maintained in the districts through which the river runs a continuous flow of water, as far as possible, throughout the year. That was a new proposal. It was fought by the West Riding Council in the case of Bradford, and fought successfully; and it has been of great advantage to the district I do feel that it is a serious interference with the rights of county councils to say that they are not to be heard on behalf of our own local districts. I have been told that the local districts, mostly urban districts, interested in this question have asked the county council to make representations on their behalf to the Committee. It was surely to the general advantage that that question should be represented by a single body—a powerful body like the county council, a body able to incur the expense necessary for the purpose—rather than that these 72 smaller bodies should come before the Committee and urge their views fragment by fragment at very considerable cost to themselves. Surely it was the object of the Standing Orders which regulate locus standi that the Committee should have before them the best information on the subject with which they have to deal. In order to exclude persons who have no right to be heard, you shut out an important body like the county council, dealing with a river like the Calder, which passes through a great industrial district. Surely it is to the advantage of the Committee that they should have the benefit of knowing what is the opinion of the body which represents the general interest. It is on that ground I venture to hope that your Lordships will recommit this Bill. I hope that it will be recommitted to the same Committee. I do not wish to enter into any argument on the general merits of the question; but I do not see why the county council should be excluded from being heard before the Committee on the ground that it is not a water authority. I venture to think that your Lordships will be taking an unwise course by unduly excluding county councils from the exercise of functions which specially belong to them, and thus really preventing your Committees from having the fullest and best information they can obtain.


I regret that my first venture on a Committee of your Lordships' House should entail that I should ask you to hear me for a very few minutes. Our feeling in regard to the county council was that it had no locus to come before us, and it was the feeling of the Committee that they would be establishing a very bad precedent if they recognised that the county council had anything whatever to do with the water; and, as regards local authorities, we would like to know why they were not mentioned in the petition. Then, with regard to having sufficient evidence, we had before us the Corporation of Dewsbury, and also all the local millowners. I hope, my Lords, that in this case you will support the ruling of the Committee. The ruling was given after careful consideration. We feel not only that the county council had no locus, but we also felt that we should be acting wrongly in establishing a precedent, and also that it remained entirely in our option whether we heard the county council or not.


The noble Lord who made this Motion before the House appealed to me, and I am bound to answer his appeal. It is quite clear, as he stated, that the Standing Order on which the Committee acted in this case is entirely discretionary in that respect. It is unlike the Standing Order in the House of Commons. There are two in the House of Commons, one of which gives the Court of Referees the right to hear the county council, and the other gives it an imperative locus to hear the county council. In this case the Committee exercised their discretion in limiting the locus which the county council applied for. I think, my Lords, in the first place, it would be very dangerous if your Lordships now reviewed without the assistance of all the arguments which the Committee heard, without the assistance of the maps which they had before them. It has not been alleged that the decision at which they arrived was wrong, nor is it alleged that any injustice was done by the decision; for, though they did not hear the county council on questions which the council applied to be heard upon, it is quite clear that they did hear the towns of Dewsbury and Todmorden, both of which are interested in the supply proposed to be taken for the town of Rochdale. On these grounds I hope to ask your Lordships hot to recommit this Bill. There may be a strong case where the Committee would be much helped, and where injustice might be caused by the county council not being heard; but it seems to me that those cases must be taken on their merits, in each individual case. Therefore, though I should be far from wishing to exclude county councils on the ground that they are not water authorities, I think it would be introducing a new principle into water legislation—namely, that the watersheds of the different counties should be the absolute boundaries of supplies of these counties. That is a principle that has never yet been adopted, and I should myself deprecate very strongly the adoption of any such principle in our legislation. I quite agree with my noble Friends that county councils have a good reason to be heard, and that there are cases in which it would be an injustice not to hear them; but I should be sorry to fetter entirely the discretion of the Committees in this respect. In this particular case it would be somewhat dangerous for the House, after hearing what is practically an ex parte statement, to review the decision arrived at by the Committee unanimously after hearing all the arguments.


I do not want to go over the point which has been presented to this House, nor do I wish to argue the technical point; but I cannot agree with the noble Lord in the general principle laid down, and that it is not desirable to adopt the same course as is adopted in the House of Commons. To me it is extremely important that in those questions of interest to the public we should give lo such important bodies as our county councils the power of obtaining a hearing. It is far better that large bodies of that kind should appear and state the case generally, than that it should be left to small bodies. I think it would be for the protection of all interests that county councils should be authorised to take steps of this kind; and I also think, without wishing to impugn the decision come to by my noble Friends behind me, that it is not at all a matter to be delegated to sub-Committees. Committees will differ very much, and they may often come to the decision to exclude county councils where the general sense of the House might be of opinion that quite another course ought to be adopted. Therefore, I do not think the responsibility ought to be put upon the Committee. This is not so much a matter of argument as a matter of general policy. With the highest respect for the opinion of my noble Friend at the table, with all his vast experience, I should look upon it as an improvement if the Standing Order were made the same as the House of Commons.


I have never been more surprised in my life than at the course which has been taken in regard to the Standing Order. I understood that the Standing Order of the Lords was practically that the county councils were always to be heard, and have locus standi unless there were some special reason why they should not be heard. I have not heard that there is any reason for excluding them. On the contrary, they are defending their county from being deprived of water. We in Surrey fought for that Standing Order, because for years and years they had been draining the county of Surrey of water, and the county council of Surrey were rightly afraid that great injury would be done to that county if more water were taken out of it; and yet the next time we come before the Committee we will be told that we have no right to be heard. I trust your Lordships will confirm the proposal that the county councils should be heard, except in the most special cases.


My Lords, I do not know whether you intend to proceed to a Division or not, but if we are I presume the point is whether you are going to substitute an inflexible Order for a flexible one. I see a good many people here who are not perhaps on the Chairman's list of the Committees, but who are on the Committee, like myself. This decision is as to whether, assuming that the decision goes against the change in. the Order, Committees are to be guided by sentimental or by technical considerations in the question of locus standi. The noble and learned Lord said just now that he had not heard a word of any special reason why the West Riding County Council should not have its locus standi. I live, and to some extent I prosper, under the West Riding County Council, and I quite agree with the noble Marquess below me when he said that the West Riding County Council has done a great deal for the water of the district. But it is not technically what is known as a water authority. We give them a limited locus under the Rivers Pollution Act; we fully admit that. Another thing I would like to ask is this—is a county council, even as prominent as the West Riding Council, to be allowed to be quite free upon other technicalities? We have heard a great deal about the 72 authorities these people represent, yet there is no sort of mention of those people in their petition. There is only one other point. I have got the petition in my hands. As a question of geography I should say that this water does fall in Lancashire. I can only agree with my noble Friend in saying that I hope the House will not recommit the Bill. I agree that it should be taken on the merits of the case, and be dealt with to the best of our discretion.


I cannot support the Motion of the noble Earl that this Bill should be recommitted; but it seems to me, after what has fallen from Lord Kimberley, that there are good reasons for the alteration of the Standing Order. In Hampshire we had to consider the question of the water supply affecting different districts. I think it would be a serious matter if the county council is not able to put forward representations on behalf of the inhabitants of the county, and to support them by petition in both Houses of Parliament. There is another reason in favour of altering the Standing Order. By doing it we should have a Standing Order in both Houses to the same effect.

On question whether to agree to the said Amendment:—Contents 13; Not-Contents 68.

Ripon, M. [Teller] Spencer, E.
Carrington, E. Burghclere, L.
Chesterfield, E. De Saumarez, L.
Crewe, E. [Teller] Monkswell, L.
Feversham, E. Thring, L.
Kimberley, E. Tweedmouth, L.
Wandsworth, L.
Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor) Morley, E.
Mount Edgcumbe, E.
Devonshire, D. (L. President) Northbrook, E.
Onslow, E.
Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal) Rosse, E.
Stamford, E.
Stanhope, E.
Richmond, D. Waldegrave, E.
Lansdowne, M.
Salisbury, M. Bangor, V.
Falkland, V.
Bandon, E. Falmouth, V.
Camperdown, E. Knutsford, V.
Cranbrook, E. Llandaff, V.
Craven, E. Portman, V.
de Montalt, E.
Denbigh, E. Winchester, L. Bp.
Dudley, E. Aldenham, L.
Egerton, E. Bagot, L.
Hardwicke, E. Balfour, L.
Mar, E. Belper, L.
Mayo, E. Bolton, L.
Minto, E. Boston, L.
Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery) Manners of Haddon, L. (M. Granby)
Brassey, L. Methuen, L. [Teller]
Churchill, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Colchester, L. Norton, L.
Crawshaw, L. Poltimore, L.
Crofton, L. Ribblesdale, L.
De Mauley, L. Shute, L. (V. Barrington)
Greville, L.
Harris, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton)
Hawkesbury, L. [Teller]
Heneage, L. Stalbridge, L.
Herries, L. Stanmore, L.
Kenry, L, (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl) Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway)
Kinnaird, L. Ventry, L.
Lawrence, L. Zouche of Haryng worth, L.
Leconfield, L.

The Bill was then read a third time and passed.