HL Deb 17 June 1904 vol 136 cc351-4

Moved, "That the Commons Message be considered."—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh)


My Lords, as I had the honour of being Chairman of the Commissioners who considered this Bill, which has been brought forward by the Leith Corporation for the purpose of enabling them to construct electric tramways within their area, I think it is only fair that I should say a few words in defence of the decision to which my Committee came. In the first place, I think I have some right to complain of the suddenness of the attack. It was only yesterday that I read that a Petition had been presented to the other House asking that the decision to which we came should be altered and the question considered by a Joint Committee of both Houses. As the Committee sat about three months ago, it was necessary to refresh one's memory as to what took place, and I spent a good portion of this morning reading the proceedings of the Committee. It appears to me that when a Committee appointed for the purpose of considering Provisional Orders comes to a decision it would be as well, in order that the Members of both Houses should be acquainted with the facts, that a report of the proceedings should be placed in their hands before any discussion takes place; otherwise how can Members be acquainted with the grounds on which the Committee came to their decision?

We were unfortunately placed in this respect, that no Members of the other House were able to serve on the Committee. The Commissioners consisted of two noble Lords and two Members from the Extra-Parliamentary Panel. Naturally, therefore, when this subject was brought before the other House there was no one prepared to defend the decision to which the Committee had come. I think it would be advisable in future that one Member at least of the other House should serve on these Committees. The Bill which we passed, and against which a Petition has been presented by the tramway lessees of the city of Edinburgh, was introduced for the purpose of construct- ing electric tramways within the burgh of Leith. This power was opposed by the corporation of the city of Edinburgh on the ground that they had electri tramways in their district, and that thes tramways went down one street which was part of the burgh of Leith. We did not refuse a locus standi to the corporation of Edinburgh; but apparently the corporation had let the; tramways within the city of Edinburgh, to certain lessees, who undertook to work them and also engaged to run an omnibus service down through Leith.

So far as I can make out from reading the discussion which took place in the other House—I have not seen the Petition —the only objection is that we have refused to these lessees a locus standi in respect of the omnibus service. It is rather a question whether we have not a perfect right to refuse a locus standi to the runners of an omnibus service when a tramway is about to be started; but in this case the omnibuses did not go down the same street. I will quote what was said on this subject by counsel— There is no substance in the objection. The omnibus service is in another district altogether. A tramway company which is-working its system in another territory has no locus standi to appear. So far as the lessees of the tramway within the city of Edinburgh were concerned, we considered that they had no locus standi, and the only ground for their claiming a locus standi was that they had this omnibus service within the burgh of Leith. We heard counsel on both sides and came to the conclusion that it was it a case for a locus standi, and that the corporation of the city of Edinburgh were quite capable of protecting the interests, if any, of the lessees. The first reason for this decision was that the lessees had never been recognised by the Board of Trade; the second was that if there was a lease it was for tramways within the city of Edinburgh; the third was that the corporation of Edinburgh, as proprietors of these tramways, were sufficient to represent all the interests in that respect; and the fourth reason was that the proposed tramways would not trench upon the territory served by the omnibuses. And, notwithstanding the discussion which has taken place in the other House, I am still of opinion that we were quite right in the decision at which we arrived.


My Lords, perhaps it will be convenient, in the absence of any representative of the Scottish Office, that I should state to the House the exact position in which we find ourselves. It is peculiar in this way, that there is no precise precedent, because this is the first occasion upon which either House of Parliament has taken advantage of the provisions of the statute under which these Provisional Orders are confirmed, to grant an appeal and to suggest the reference of the appeal to a in it Committee. With reference to what the noble Lord has said, I hope he will excuse me for saying that I think there is no ground for any feeling on his part that he has been placed in an unusual position by the decision of his Committee being attacked. This is certainly not the first time in the history of litigation—and I am perfectly certain it will not be the last—that the defeated litigant is disappointed with the decision of the Court, thinks it wrong, and would like to take any constitutional methods of again raising the question. There is no real attack upon the noble Lord or upon his Committee. Knowing the noble Lord's experience in these matters I think we may presume, and ought to presume, that the decision of his Committee was a right one; but there is a constitutional method of procedure open to anyone who has this sort of decision against him, and that procedure has been taken.

As to the suddenness with which it is brought forward, there is unfortunately no option in the matter. The provision of the statute is that if, after the introduction of a Confirmation Bill and before the expiration of seven days, any Petition is presented against the Order comprised in the Bill, it is lawful for any Member of the House in which the Bill originated to give notice that he intends to move that the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. This Bill originated in another place. Within the last day or two a Petition was presented, and a Member of the House of Commons moved that the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee. He was successful in that Motion, and the ordinary communication has been sent to this House of the decision come to by the other House. I suppose it would be possible to argue that this House is master of its own procedure and might refuse to join with the House of Commons in the Joint Committee, but I am certain the noble Lord will not suggest the adoption of that course. After the Motion now before the House, which is "That the Commons message be considered," is disposed of, I shall move that the House do concur in the Resolution of the Commons that the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses. I express no opinion whatever on the merits of the case. I know that the noble Lord and his Committee arrived at what they believed to be a right decision; that decision has been appealed against, and the ordinary procedure contemplated in the Act is that an opportunity of raising the question again should be given. I hope the noble Lord will disabuse his mind of the idea that there is any sort of attack on him or on the Committee over which he presided.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Moved, "That this House do concur in the following Resolution communicated by the Commons, viz.: "That the Leith Corporation Tramways Order Confirmation Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons."—(Lord Balfour of Burleigh).

On Question, Motion agreed to, "and a Message ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

House adjourned at a quarter before Five o'clock, to Monday next, a quarter before Eleven o'clock.