HL Deb 18 December 1908 vol 198 cc2212-8

Commons reason for disagreeing to certain of the Lords Amendments considered (on Motion).


My Lords, there are two Amendments to which the Commons have disagreed, but they both deal with the same point. The first is in Clause 1, page 2, line 2, where your Lordships struck out the word "ten" and inserted "twelve"; and the second is in line 13, where your Lordships inserted— By the Kent County Council, one; by the Essex County Council, one. I beg to move that the House doth not insist on its Amendments to which the Commons have disagreed. This matter occurred so very recently and has twice been under discussion in the House that it must be fresh in the recollection of your Lordships. The Amendments to which the Commons have disagreed were inserted on the Motion of the noble Earl, Lord Darnley. Your Lordships will remember that two further Amendments were moved, one by the noble Duke opposite, and the other by Lord Desborough, having for their object the inclusion of Surrey and Middlesex and the borough of West Ham amongst the bodies who were to be represented on the Port Authority. I should like to make it clear, which I am afraid I did not do the other day—I have thought since that perhaps your Lordships' action was rather due to that omission on my part—that what the Government are doing in this is not intended in any way as a slight; upon county councils. The Government have the very highest opinion of the value of county councils and of the work they do, and I am perfectly certain that if the constitution of this body had been in any way different these county councils and the borough of West Ham would undoubtedly have been included amongst the bodies who have representation on the Port Authority. The House knows that the intention has always been that this body should be, not of a municipal, but of a commercial character, and it was entirely for that reason that these four counties were omitted. It was stated, in the course of the debate here, that this matter was not considered by the Joint Committee. I do not think that was really the case, and I certainly never thought, during the two long and weary months in which I sat on this Committee, that we should ever be charged with not having given due consideration to any matter. This (indicating volume) is the Report of the Committee. Your Lordships can see that it is a volume of considerable size; and I do not think that any charge of that kind does lie against the Joint Committee. The claims of the two counties which your Lordships did include are entirely of a geographical nature, and the Joint Committee did not think it necessary to hear elaborate reasons for proving those claims. What we considered was this. There were two courses before us. The first course was to give representation to these four counties and to the borough of West Ham, but if we adopted that course we were met by a difficulty. If we wished to maintain the proportion between the elected and the nominated representatives on the Port Authority the inclusion of these extra five nominated representatives would have entailed our allowing nine more elected members in order to balance them. That would have meant that there would have been twenty-seven elected members and fifteen nominated members, making, in all, a body of forty-two members. That we considered would be an unwieldy and unbusinesslike body, and it was on that ground, and that ground alone, that we decided against including these counties. The only other possible course was the one we adopted, leaving out the counties altogether. We never thought for a moment of admitting some and leaving out others, and I think your Lordships will have seen from what took place yesterday that that course was likely to arouse a storm of indignation. The speeches to which we listened from the noble Duke and from Lord Desborough on that subject show how strong the local fueling is against anything of that sort being done; and the Board of Trade have had further proof this morning, if such were necessary, in a most indignant letter which I hold in my hand from the borough of West Ham. They protest, and I think with good reason, that it is unfair that representation should be given to Kent and Essex and should be denied to them. I submit that the course which the Joint Committee recommended, and which was embodied in the Bill as it came from the Commons, was the only course by which the three essential points in this matter could be attained, namely, that we should have a Port Authority of manageable dimensions, that we should maintain the balance of power as between the commercial and the municipal elements on the body, and that we should not do injustice as between the different local bodies. I would appeal very strongly to your Lordships not to insist on these two Amendments. I would ask you to consider that the Board of Trade have used every endeavour to meet all the reasonable objections raised in this House and outside. What we have done in this House may not have been so apparent to the general body of your Lordships, because the Amendments which were accepted were agreed to outside and not on the floor of the House. But these were two very important Amendments agreed to at the instance of members of this House. The first was the Amendment made to Clause 6, where we agreed to strike out of the Bill the power which the Board of Trade asked for to vary the provisions of the Lands Clauses Acts. That Amendment will be in the recollection of your Lordships. I would also point to the other very important concession which was made at the instance of a noble Lord who was a member of the Joint Committee, Lord Ritchie, limiting the Port rates on goods to one three-thousandth part of the total. I think we have shown every disposition to meet reasonable opposition in this matter, and I would appeal to your Lordships not to impair the peaceful passage of the Bill at this late stage.

Moved, "That this House doth not insist on its Amendments to which the Commons disagree."—(Lord Hamilton of Dalzell.)


My Lords, I should like to support the appeal which the noble Lord has just made. I hope your Lordships will recognise that it is with no feeling of hostility to Kent and Essex that I made these remarks. Both of these counties are at the present time represented on the Thames Conservancy Board, and supply good and useful members; but the same thing can be said, with equal truth, of the other two counties whose claims were put forward last night—Middlesex and Surrey—and also of West Ham. I am confident that you would enormously increase the well-founded disappointment of those bodies if you selected only two counties to be represented and disregarded the claims of others having equal right to be represented. There are several ways of creating a new Port Authority, but the system selected by the Government is based on the principle that those who pay the dues should elect the representatives, who, therefore, will be persons well acquainted with the great shipping and trading interests of the port. Wherever we look we see, in connection with ports throughout the country, the municipal element being gradually eliminated in favour of the scientific trading element. It may be objected that although there are eighteen members of the new Port authority who directly represent the trade and commerce of the Port, there are still a large number of nominated members. The nominated members number ten, but these gentlemen will not represent any geographical or sectional interest; they will represent great Authorities whose voices should be heard in a business of the vast importance of the Port of London. Of the ten nominated members the Admiralty will appoint one. It is essential that the Admiralty, which is concerned with Woolwich and the defence of London, should be represented. The Board of Trade will appoint two representatives. The Department takes a paternal interest in this new body, and it is obviously necessary that they should have this representation. Then we come to the municipal element. I do not say whether the London County Council, which will elect two members from their own body and nominate two from outside, are given too many or too few representatives, but I contend that this is not the time to increase the nominated element. Then the Corporation of the City of London are to appoint one representative and nominate another. There is good reason for that, for from time immemorial they have been the Port Authority, and at the present time the Corporation spend £30,000 a year in carrying out the Port sanitary duties. Therefore, I think the Corporation is well worthy of having representation on the Port Authority. Trinity House, again, carry out the duties of buoying and lighting, and, therefore, should have representation. Without the slightest hostility to Kent and Essex I feel that I should not be doing my duty to Surrey and Middlesex and West Ham if I did not attempt to point out that it would occasion a sense of injustice to give to Kent and Essex representation which is denied to the other three, who also have representation on the Thames Conservancy Board at the present time.


My Lords, I shall not detain the House by re-arguing the question, but I think the remarks of the noble Lord opposite ought not to pass without notice. The noble Lord assured the House that the Joint Committee had fully considered all these questions, and he waved a voluminous Blue-book in order to convince us that that was the fact. No one has accused the Joint Committee of not considering the matter; but we know that they refused to give these local authorities any opportunity of stating their case for the consideration of the Committee. I confess that it is a rather peculiar argument to say that the Joint Committee fully considered a matter which they had never fairly stated to them. The local authorities are spoken of as merely having a geographical interest. I do not know what the noble Lord means by a geographical interest. They have the interests of the inhabitants who live along the river in their charge. The noble Lord said he spoke with great respect of county councils. I am extremely obliged to him for his kind remarks, but it would be more practical if His Majesty's Government would show that respect by giving these authorities credit for having something to say in the interests of their constituents and an opportunity of saying it. I daresay my noble friend Lord Desborough is right, that if all these bodies are not represented then none should be; but I confess I think county councils have very great cause of complaint that a Joint Committee of this kind absolutely refused to hear them when they made an application to be heard before the Committee.


My Lords, as a Member of the Joint Committee I should like to support the appeal of the noble Lord in charge of the Bill. I entirely agree with every word he said. We did consider this question, though we did not hear evidence on the subject. I therefore hope the noble Marquess who leads this side of the House may find it possible to give way in regard to these two Amendments.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty minutes before Six o'clock, till To-morrow, Twelve o'clock.