HL Deb 12 August 1904 vol 140 cc347-50


Order of the day for the Second Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)


My Lords, I am obliged to detain the House for a moment to say a few words upon this Bill, because it comes up in rather peculiar circumstances. The Bill is one of that class of measure which is called a Hybrid Bill. In other words, it has to go through the procedure necessary for public Bills, but, as it affects privat3 interests, it has also to go through some of the procedure of a private Bill, so that in this House and in the other House a certain number of days have to elapse between the First Reading and before the time for petitioning expires. This Bill gives power to take property compulsorily in several large communities for the service of the Post Office. The notices were served last year at the proper time. The procedure in the other House, so far as petitioning, was gone through, but, owing to the public Bill part of the procedure, the Bill was subject to discussion in the other House, and several blocking notices were put down at various times in its career. The fact, therefore, is this, that unless Standing-Order No. 93 is suspended this Bill cannot become law.

The compulsory provisions of the Bill apply to eight sites, four in the County of London and four in the country, and in some cases it is absolutely impossible to acquire these sites without compulsory power. I have gone into it very carefully with the Postmaster-General and the officers of the Post Office; and I am satisfied that in regard to this Bill there is no chance of injustice being done. Ample notice has been given to the persons concerned, and none of them have shown any indication to oppose. The time would not naturally expire in this House till next week, but they have had eight or nine months, and no appearance of opposition has been given to the Post Office, nor was there any appearance in the other House. But I am bound to tell your Lordships that if Standing Order No. 93 is suspended it will he the first time, so far as I know, that this particular Standing Order has ever been suspended. Its suspension has been objected to by successive Chairmen of Committees. The present Chairman of Committees, Lord Morley, objected in two cases quite recently, and all compulsory powers in those Bills were struck out. One was in regard to the purchase of lands adjacent to the National Gallery, but there is this peculiarity in this case, that although we believe, and are assured, there is no opposition, some of the properties are held under trusts and under conditions which prevent the owners giving consent without the compulsory powers to take and expropriate.

The choice we have is this, we can either stop this Bill and prevent the Post Office getting these eight sites, which I am told are urgently required in the public interest, or we can suspend the Standing Order. I have come to the conclusion, so far as I am concerned, that the latter serious step may be taken. I think it right in the very special circumstances to take it. I am the last to wish to interpose the observances of a merely technical rule if thereby the public. interest suffers, and I think that in this case undoubtedly the public interest would suffer; but I feel that in the temporary position which I hold I am in curring a certain amount of responsibility, and I could not agree to this without telling the House fully the state of matters. I sincerely hope that this will not be regarded as a precedent. I have even hesitation in having gone as far as I have in recommending your Lordships to suspend this Standing Order; but upon the whole I think it would be a right and proper thing to do in the special and very exceptional circumstances. Therefore, I recommend your Lordships to agree to the suspension of the Standing Order.


My Lords, I fully recognise the cogent reasons which have been put forward by the noble Lord the Acting Chairman of Committees why this should not be considered a precedent. If a Bill of this kind is delayed in passing it may be the means, not only of causing very great inconvenience to the general public in those towns and districts affected, but of preventing the Post Office obtaining at the moment buildings which are absolutely necessary in the interests of the public service. I am convinced that in this case there is no injustice to any section of the community. I endorse all that has fallen from the noble Lord the Acting Chairman of Committees. I trust your Lordships will read the Bill a second time, and that the suspension of the Standing Order in this case may not be handed down as a precedent.


My Lords, if the noble Lord the Acting Chairman of Committees had taken objection to the suspension of the Standing Order in this case, I should undoubtedly have supported him; but I have that confidence in my noble friend to believe that he sees distinctly that consistently with the general principles which guide us in these matters, and in the very peculiar circumstances of this case, no mischief will be done to the parties interested or to others by the suspension of this Standing Order. My noble friend said he hoped this would not be made a precedent. I have heard that statement made very often, and I am afraid it is of very little use; but, so far as it may be of any use, I join in saving that I trust this will not be made a precedent.

On Question, Bill read 2a. Then Standing Order No. 93 considered (according to order) and dispensed with. Committee negatived; Bill read 3a, and passed.