HL Deb 10 March 1904 vol 131 cc702-4

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.

Moved. "That the Bill be now read 2a."— (Lord Balfour of Barleigh.)


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he really proposes to enforce the Second Reading of this Bill on the present occasion. This is a Bill promoted by a majority, and a majority only, of the Governors of the Trust. The Trust was constituted under the Act of 1882 and has been in force since 1885, and under it the income was divided in certain proportions between education and charity. Nine of the Governors out of fifteen now put forward this Bill, which proposes to alter the application of the funds of the Trust and to do away with the settlement made in 1885 under the public law of 1882. By this Bill it is proposed to allot, to charity a much larger sum than was settled under that Act. The promoters of the Bill are opposed by the other six Governors, and I may observe that they have no power whatever to devote the funds of the Trust to the promoting of a Bill of this hind, which is an entirely ex parte, application of their own. Moreover, they are to be opposed by the School Board, with whom, believe, they made an arrangement a year or two ago, which at that time was satisfactory to the School Board but which the School Board now repudiates. It is currently reported that a Bill is to be introduced in another place dealing with higher and technical education, and it is not improbable that certain alterations will be made in the existing law. That being so, is it desirable at this time to proceed with a private Bill which proposes to upset what was done tinder the public Act of Parliament and in pursuance of the recommendations of the Commission which was presided over by the noble Lord himself? Is it desirable to incur all the expense of an opposition before this House and possibly the other House of Parliament at the present time? I do not move the rejection of the Bill because I think that might be possibly too strong a course to take, but I put it to the noble Lord that it is not desirable to read this Bill a second time at present. It should, at all events, be postponed until we see what are the provisions of the public Act. If, after that, the promoters think it worth while to persevere, that is another matter; but in the meantime I would ask the noble Lord to postpone the Second Reading.


The noble Lord will, of course, understand that I am acting purely in a Ministerial capacity as Chairman of Committees, and that my moving the Second Reading of the Bill implies no opinion whatever either for or against the merits of this particular proposal. The circumstances are that this measure was proposed under the Scottish Private Bill Procedure Act last year, and it was resolved that it should stand over till this year and come up as a Private Bill. The noble Earl has stated the facts in regard to it with which he will easily understand I am perfectly familiar, and I agree that they are facts which should be brought to the notice of the House. But I have not myself, in any way, gone into the merits of this proposal, and I do not intend now to discuss them or to express any opinion for or against them. As the noble Earl knows, and as probably the majority of your Lordships know, I should be in a peculiarly difficult position if I were to do so, because this Bill constitutes an appeal against the decision of a Commission of which I was Chairman. The circumstances may, or may not, have changed; that is a fair matter for discussion before a Committee of your Lordships' House upstairs. The noble Earl has alluded to the fact, which is perfectly well known, that a Bill dealing with Scottish education generally is likely to be presented to Parliament before long, and he very rightly brings publicly to the notice of the promoters of this Bill that perhaps they may be rather uselessly spending money on a contest at this particular time. There can be no chance of this Bill going before a Committee this side of the Easter recess, and I do not think anybody will be prejudiced by a short postponement of the Second Reading. I think that probably the most satisfactory course would be for mo to postpone the Second Reading for a week, and for the promoters to consider in the meantime whether they will press the Second Reading before Easter or wait till a later date. It is not for me to say whether the Second Reading should, or should not, be moved on behalf of the promoters. If it will meet the noble Earl's wishes, I am perfectly willing now to consent to the adjournment of the Second Reading till this day week, to give all the parties a further opportunity of considering their respective positions.


I do not think that a week's adjournment makes very much difference, and I beg to give notice that if it is moved a week hence, I shall take objection to the Second Reading. In the meantime, of course, I accept what the noble Lord proposes.

Second Reading (which stands appointed for this day) put off to Thursday next.

Belfast Corporation (Tramways) Bill [H.L.]. Read 2a (according to order), and committed. The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.

St. Bartholomew's Hospital Bill [H.L.]. Read 2a (according to order), and committed.

Blyth and Cowpen Gas Bill. Brought from the Commons; read 1a; and referred to the Examiners.