§ Bill read 2a, according to Order.
§ *LORD NEWLANDS
My Lords, I beg to move the notice standing in my name, namely, that this Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons. As your Lordships are aware, the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act only came into force this year, and this is the first occasion upon which any question arising out of that Act has come before your Lordships. By that Act power is given to the House in which a Confirmation Bill originates to grant a reference to a Joint Committee of both Houses in the event of any opponent being dissatisfied with the finding of the Commission appointed under the Act of Parliament to hold a local inquiry into the questions at issue. In this case the County of Lanark is dissatisfied with, and aggrieved at, the finding of the Commission which sat in Glasgow in April last on a question of the rating of a portion of the county of Lanark by the Corporation of Glasgow, and now prays your Lordships to grant this appeal as provided by the Act. I wish to impress upon your Lordships that this is not an appeal from one Parliamentary Committee to another Parliamentary Committee similarly constituted. This Commission was composed of four members, one being a member of this House and one a member of the House of Commons, while the two remaining members did not belong to either House. The latter were, I admit, both admirable men, and one of them, who was appointed Chairman 1338 of the Commission, had formerly sat in the House of Commons. But it was not a Parliamentary Committee, strictly speaking. It was a mixed Committee; and to show that the local enquiry is not necessarily held by a Parliamentary Committee, I need only point out that there is power given in the Act to the Secretary for Scotland to constitute the Commission entirely from the extra-Parliamentary Panel, while the appeal lies to a strictly Parliamentary Committee composed of four Members, two belonging to your Lordships' House and two to the lower House. In this instance the county feels that the point of their case was not fully appreciated by this Commission, that important facts were either ignored or overlooked; and the question is one of such importance and gravity, embodying, as it does, a very important principle, that the county feels that it is absolutely necessary that their case should be reconsidered, as the Act provides. This mode of appeal was specially inserted in the Act of 1899 to meet cases of this sort. It was meant as a recompense for depriving opponents of the power of appeal from one House of the Legislature to the other, which formerly existed, and as a safeguard against errors of judgment on the part of the Commission, and I think your Lordships will allow that Commissions are not always infallible. I trust your Lordships will not permit this valuable safeguard to lapse and to become a dead letter, which there is a danger of its doing in the event of appeals so important as this being refused. It seems to me that very cogent reasons should be brought forward before an appeal provided for by an Act of Parliament is refused. If there is any body in Scotland entitled to have its representation regarded with weight, I think your Lordships will agree that it is the County Council of Lanarkshire, the most important county in the whole of Scotland—most important on account of its industries, its business, its population, and its wealth. The County Council of Lanark are only praying for what last year, under the old procedure—which still applies to all parts of the United Kingdom, with the exception of Scotland—they would have been entitled to claim as a matter of right. I am not going to 1339 trouble your Lordships with details, or to go into the merits of the case more than to explain that under the finding of this Commission the City of Glasgow is empowered to rate a certain portion of the county of Lanark for sewage purification works which have for their object the cleansing of the harbour of Glasgow. This is in the face of an agreement which was entered into between the City of Glasgow and the County of Lanark, and sanctioned by Parliament in 1891. Under that agreement the Corporation of Glasgow undertook the disposal of the sewage of the area in question without payment, as some compensation for allowing the city to annex a certain portion of territory constituting some of the most valuable rating area in Lanarkshire. The agreement has been adhered to ever since 1891, and Glasgow has raised no objection until now, when this claim is made for sewage purification works. Naturally, the county of Lanark feels aggrieved and considers this a breach of agreement. The county has no desire to obstruct this purification work in any way or to hinder it; on the contrary, the county feels that this may be a work of great benefit to the city, although not to themselves, and is quite willing to meet the city in a fair and reasonable manner. The county thinks that if the principle which is laid down in the finding of this Commission be conceded—namely, that the city of Glasgow has power to rate the county of Lanark in all matters connected with sewage purification works which are only for their own benefit at the same rate as is levied on the city itself—a dangerous precedent would be established. I think your Lordships need hardly be reminded that there is no rating question which is more important or more difficult to decide, and which requires more consideration, than the incidence of rating between a large, wealthy, and powerful city and the adjoining rural districts. I submit to your Lordships that in view of the importance of the principle which it involves and of the body which makes this appeal, and also the desirability of showing that the appeal provided by the Act is not merely nominal and illusory, a reconsideration of this question is highly desirable. I can assure your Lordships 1340 that this application is by no means a frivolous one. The authorities of the county are fully aware of the responsibility which they incur in making this appeal, and the more than usually stringent clause in the Act with regard to costs. I trust, therefore, your Lordships will take the view that this application on the part of the county of Lanark is not only reasonable but absolutely necessary, and will consent to the motion which I now move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons.—(Lord Newlands.)
§ LORD TWEEDMOUTH
My Lords, I venture to intervene in this debate because I have a proposal to make which I hope will both save your Lordships' time and also secure an amicable settlement of the matter in dispute. Let me say at once that for my own part I view with great jealousy any reopening of these questions which have been inquired into locally by Commissions under the new Scottish Private Bill Procedure Act. I do not think that these decisions; should be lightly reopened. I think they should only be reopened where some new facts have to be brought forward or where there is some real proof of injustice. But that is a question into-which I need not enter to-night. In this particular case the question at issue is not one of principle. The case is this: A large area round Glasgow, partly in Lanarkshire, partly in Dumbartonshire, and partly in other counties, use the Glasgow main sewers. With the exception of the present area all the other areas which discharge their sewage into the Glasgow main sewers are included; in the very proposal which is made in this Bill, and the same assessment is made upon them for the purpose of these works. In 1898 a portion of the county of Lanark—the district of Ruther-glen—came under a similar obligation to that which this Bill seeks to impose. The county of Lanark are perfectly willing to bear their share of the cost of the purification of this sewage, and the disposal of it after it is delivered to the Glasgow Corporation. The Glasgow Corporation naturally say that it is very hard upon them that they should be 1341 obliged to receive the sewage of these different districts and get nothing in return for treating it after receiving it. On those points, I think, the two bodies are agreed, but the Lanark County Council say that they ought to receive some consideration for coming under this obligation and for coming into the general system, because, after all, it will tend to their becoming to a certain extent chargeable with the whole of the sewage scheme. In the case of Rutherglen, a considerable sum was allowed to the county—a sum of £11,000—with which the Glasgow Corporation is charged, and which they are getting rid of by means of annual contributions to a sinking fund. The county of Lanark, I understand, are quite ready to assent to the proposals of this Bill, provided a similar consideration is given to them in respect to this district; in fact, if equivalent terms were given to them in respect to the Shettleston district as were given in the case of Rutherglen they would agree. The question is, therefore, one of detail and not of principle, and can be, and ought to be, settled by the parties. I would venture to move that the debate be adjourned for a week in order that the corporation of the City of Glasgow and the Lanarkshire County Council may set their heads together and endeavour to come to an agreement on what is, after all, not a very important point.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned till this day week.—(Lord Tweedmouth.)
*THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (The Earl of MORLEY)
As a matter of procedure there is no objection to the course proposed by the noble Lord; on the contrary, I think the House would he glad to give any opportunity to the parties to come to an amicable settlement, and I hope that may be accomplished by the adjournment of the debate for a week. As your Lordships are aware, the question whether a rehearing should take place in Parliament after the local inquiry in Scotland is left entirely to the discretion of the House. I do not wish to be at all understood, in assenting to this motion, to agree with my noble friend that some palpable injustice must have been committed during the inquiry, or that new matter has 1342 arisen since the inquiry to render a rehearing in Parliament either desirable or necessary. Every case, it seems to me, must be decided on its own merits. With regard to the question of the composition of the tribunal who tried the case in Scotland, in my opinion the number of Members of Parliament or Peers on the Commission has no effect whatever on the case. The tribunal is one which is correctly and legally appointed according to Statute, and as such we must accept it, whether it is entirely, or only partially, composed of Members of Parliament and noble Lords.
*THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Lord BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH)
My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees that the best course the House could pursue on this occasion is to adjourn the debate for a week. If there is any prospect, as there seems to be from what the noble Lord opposite has said, of the parties coming to an agreement I think the House would be ill advised if it did not give an opportunity for so satisfactory a solution of the difficulty. I shall not enter further into the merits or the circumstances of the case, but I wish to join most emphatically in the opinion which the noble Earl has just expressed that the question of the composition of the tribunal, whether wholly Parliamentary or not, really does not enter into the consideration of the case at all. The Chairman of this Committee—one of the extra Parliamentary panel—was a gentleman who had been long a Member of the House of Commons. Can it be said that, because he resigned his seat at the last election and did not contest a constituency, he is thereby in any way less aware of Parliamentary procedure or less competent to judge of the facts brought before him? The noble Lord behind me said the points of the case were not fully appreciated by the tribunal. In that I think the County Council of Lanark are only in the position of any other defeated litigant, who generally thinks that the judge who decides against him is incompetent for his post.
§ Motion for the adjournment agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned to Tuesday next accordingly