HL Deb 19 October 1909 vol 4 cc1-11


Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I desire to ask your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this very small Bill. It is indeed a very modest and unpretentious measure, and had I not seen the notice of opposition on the part of the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees, I should have thought that it was impossible to find anything to object to in it. It is simply to enable local authorities in Ireland to strike a rate and to spend a very small sum of the ratepayers' money in advertising in other parts than in Ireland the advantages and the amenities of their health resorts and watering-places. I do not think I can do better than read a few lines from a memorandum that has been drawn up, and, I think, sent to your Lordships regarding the objects of this Bill— The desire to encourage visitors to Ireland is strongly felt by all classes in that country, but the difficulties in the way of making known the beauties and attractions of various districts there among the British public are very great owing to the great competition with Switzerland and other countries where the development of tourist business has been a national question, and where large sums are expended by the public authorities in those countries in advertising for and attracting the British tourist. This is a question in which not only the local authorities are interested, but also the railways and carrying companies who have expended, during recent years, enormous sums in the improvement of transport and intercommunication between England and Ireland … The towns in Ireland most anxious for the Bill are Cork, Queenstown, Killarney, Kingstown, Bray, Killaloe and a number of towns in the North of Ireland. In all of these towns the local authorities have, under the authority of the Local Govérnment Board, borrowed money and expended large sums in improvements suitable and necessary for the accommodation of visitors, and they naturally feel that unless there are powers granted to enable them to bring these advantages before the travelling public they do not receive the full benefit which they might otherwise expect from the large expenditures they have incurred. The sums likely to be expended in advertising are very trifling compared with the interest and sinking fund which has to be repaid in connection with these expenditures. Therefore so far as this is a Bill to protect Ireland against foreign competition it is almost of the nature of a modified Tariff Reform Bill.

I do not know whether your Lordships noticed the names on the back of the Bill. They comprised three Unionist Ulster Members:—Mr. H. T. Barrie, Mr. T. L. Corbett, and Captain Craig; one Liberal Member representing an Irish Constituency, Mr. Glendinning; and seven Nationalist Members. All the Conservative members representing Ireland are in favour of this Bill. It is likewise backed and supported by the whole of the Nationalist members. Ireland is unanimous, so far as its members in the House of Commons are concerned, in support of this Bill. The Government starred it and therefore made it an official measure in order to enable the House of Commons to pass it, and it was assented to by Sir Alexander Acland-Hood, the chief Unionist Whip, on behalf of the Front Opposition Bench. Therefore I venture to claim for it that it comes here with the unanimous support of the House of Commons. It is true that one member in the other House raised some objection, not to the Bill as a Bill but to the Bill as a Government measure, because he said, being a Unionist, that no Government measure ought to be allowed to pass. That was Mr. Claude Hay, and he was requested by the ex-Solicitor-General for Ireland, Mr. Campbell, to withdraw his opposition in this phrase— He hoped that Mr. Claude Hay would not prevent Ireland from getting what all Ireland wanted. I understand that the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees is going to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months. I am not clear on what grounds he bases his opposition, but I think I am entitled to anticipate the noble Earl's arguments.

I believe it is urged that, in the first place, health resorts and watering-places either in Ireland or elsewhere ought not to advertise the merits of their wares, as it were, because unhealthy rivalry and competition might spring up and the ratepayers' money be expended unwisely. But I think I ought to point out to your Lordships that this Bill lays it down that the maximum rate that may be imposed in this direction is a penny in the pound; and I am sure your Lordships will recognise that in a poor country like Ireland, where the rateable value of these health resorts is not very great, a penny in the pound will bring in no very large sum of money. Irishmen are as wise in the administration of their financial matters as we are, and I am sure that the local authorities will not unwisely or with any insane degree of recklessness expend the money of the ratepayers. But how are they to make known outside the advantages of their own districts unless they are allowed to advertise?

The second argument which I believe the noble Earl is going to advance is that if this power is granted to Ireland it cannot logically be withheld in this country when any towns come to Parliament and ask for similar powers. I venture to suggest that the noble Earl is entirely wrong, and I think against his contention one might cite almost the whole Statute Book of the realm. The great bulk of Bills before your Lordships' House and of Acts of Parliament that are passed do not deal in similar fashion with England and with Ireland. How many Bills have your Lordships had experience of dealing with Ireland alone; and it is a very frequent matter to find at the end of a Bill this significant clause, "This Bill shall not extend to Ireland." As a matter of fact, one might argue that it is the exception and not the rule when Bills, embodying principles perhaps far more important and more far-reaching than this, do apply both to England and Ireland. Therefore it is impossible to argue that because this very limited power is given to a very poor country which cannot possibly make the merits of its health resorts and watering-places known otherwise than by advertisement, this principle is bound to be embodied in other Bills to which your Lordships' assent will be asked dealing with towns in this country.

I venture to suggest that the principle should be dealt with as far as Ireland is concerned at the present time, and that when other Bills, of which I do not for one moment fear the introduction, are introduced for England, that will be the time for the noble Earl to object. To use the phrase of an Irishman, there is not one whisper of opposition from any corner of Ireland to this Bill, and I do not think any Irish Peer will get up and oppose it. I venture to suggest that the noble Earl does not know better what Ireland wants than the Irish members of Parliament, and, therefore, I hope he will waive his decision and allow the Bill to be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Marchamley.)

*THE EARL OF ONSLOW, who had given notice, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to move that the Bill be read 2a this day three months, said: My Lords, the noble Earl said he was surprised to find that a notice of opposition had been put down to so harmless a Bill, but I think he will agree with me that the best thing I could do if I intended to ask your Lordships to take any exception to this Bill was to give due notice thereof, not only to the noble Lord but also to all members of your Lordships' House, and the result of my doing so has been to give an opportunity to those who support the Bill to take all the steps in their power to ask members of your Lordships' House to give it your support. The noble Lord appealed to some extent to the sentiment of your Lordships. He said that Ireland is a poor country, and surely you might allow it to have this little Bill. We all know that Ireland is the spoilt child of Parliament. Ireland has Acts of Parliament which make the mouths of Englishmen and Scotsmen water when we see the advantages that are extended to that country but which are denied to us. But what I desire to do is to call your Lordships' attention to what this must inevitably lead.

There is nothing really new in the proposal. It is one which is made every year in one or more of the Private Bills that come before your Lordships' House, and it has been the universal practice both of this House and of the other House to refuse clauses which provide that the ratepayers' money shall be spent in advertising the attractions of any particular locality. There are measures on the Statute Book which allow of advertising, but in every case except one—that of Blackpool, where it was allowed by inadvertence—the money is derived from some undertaking which shows a profit and the expenditure is confined to the profits derived from that undertaking. It is confined, in the case of Brighton, to profits from the Aquarium; in the case of Buxton, to profits from the Pump Room; and so on. What would be the result if you allowed all these places to compete with each other in advertising their attractions? There is nothing that I know of to equal provincial jealousy. One small place is more jealous of its neighbour than it is of all the rest of the world. I remember it was one of the greatest difficulties we had to contend with in Australia. There was a Governor of New South Wales who went over to Melbourne and ventured, in an after-dinner speech, to say that Melbourne was the largest town in Australia, which was a truism and the merest commonplace. But he was so hauled over the coals when he got back to Sydney that he made the excuse that the statement was made after dinner and that the champagne was exceptionally good.

Do you not think the same thing will happen in Ireland? We shall have the inhabitants of Killaloe advertising that magnificent outside cars are provided to take people to see the beauties of the Valley of the Shannon, and then we shall have Killarney advertising to the effect that there are no old-fashioned outside cars there and nothing but up-to-date automobiles. I cannot help thinking that if you allow this to take place, the same thing must be allowed to Margate, Eastbourne, and to all the health resorts in England. Your Lordships are probably aware that there is now a large amount of advertising of English health resorts. But how is it done? It is done by voluntary association of those interested—of the railway companies, lodginghouse-keepers, and, perhaps, the fly-drivers and other people to whom tourists bring grist to the mill. The advertising is paid for out of these voluntary funds, and there can be no objection to a course of that kind; but there must be a large number of ratepayers to whom it is of little concern whether the lodginghouse-keepers and fly-drivers derive an increased income from visitors or not, yet a burden would be put upon them by this Bill. I see by Clause 2 that the expenses incurred by a district council are to be defrayed out of any rate or fund applicable to the purposes of the Public Health (Ireland) Acts, 1878 to 1907, and I conclude, therefore, that the expenses would be paid for by the ratepayers in the whole area of that district council.

I do not know what may be the view of His Majesty's Government upon this Bill. I only know what is their view on Bills of a similar character which have been introduced in this House in this and the last session of Parliament. There was a Bill called the Dunoon Bill, which no doubt your Lordships may recollect. That proposed exactly the same thing as is contemplated in this Bill, and the Secretary for Scotland—I regret that the noble Lord is not in his place—said that there was no precedent in Scotland for allowing such advertising, and he strongly urged upon the Committee to whom the Bill was referred that they should reject that clause. Then a Bill was brought in last year by Margate, and the Home Secretary and the President of the Local Government Board both drew the attention of the Committee to whom that Bill was referred to this matter and and strongly urged that the clause enabling them to advertise at the expense of the ratepayers should be struck out of the Bill, and it was accordingly struck out by the Local Legislation Committee in another place. I do not know what view your Lordships as a whole may take of this Bill. I have felt it my duty to point out that it will be creating a precedent, and if your Lordships decide to give this Bill a Second Reading and pass it into law I confess I do not see how it will be possible either for me in your Lordships' House or for the Local Legislation Committee in the other House to refuse to allow English watering-places and seaside resorts to have the same powers in the way of advertising.

Amendment moved— To leave out the word 'now' and to add at the end of the Motion the words ' this day three months.'"—(The Earl of Onslow.)


My Lords, I should like, with you Lordships' leave, to say a few words in support of this Bill. The noble Earl the Chairman of Committees did not mention to your Lordships that it was with the unanimous agreement of every member representing Ireland that the Bill was passed by the other House. He carefully avoided mentioning that important fact. Irish questions as a rule in the House of Commons are not taken in such good part by all parties as was the case with this Bill. With regard to the tourist question I suppose no one has worked harder than myself in regard to it, and the noble Earl the Leader of the House will remember perfectly well the first occasion when we brought forward the tourist question in Ireland. He presided at that meeting, and there is another ex-Lord-Lieutenant here, Lord Cadogan, who will also remember the efforts everyone made, with no object of gain in view, to promote tourist traffic in Ireland.

The noble Earl who has moved the rejection of this Bill stated that Lord Marchamley, in moving the Second Reading had appealed to the sentiment of your Lordships' House. I do not wish in any way to appeal to the sentiment of the House. I wish to appeal to the business instincts of the House. What we want is to be able to advertise these Irish resorts. We are not able to advertise them now in the way that rich communities in England are able to advertise their resorts. The noble Earl drew attention to the fact that when similar provisions appeared in Private Bills they were always opposed. But this is not a Private Bill. It was starred by His Majesty's Government, and was supported in the House of Commons by all the representatives from Ireland. Then the noble Earl mentioned Blackpool, and said the power possessed by Blackpool in this matter was given by inadvertence. Was not that the most lucky thing that ever happened to Blackpool? There is no desert shore in the world that has bloomed forth as it has done into the most wonderful watering-place of modern times. Why, all the flying machines have gone there! But for the power of advertising Blackpool might have remained a shingly beach.


It is all sand.


Well, a sandy beach. Sand and shingle are very much the same thing, so far, at any rate, as the question of flying machines go. I think it was a very lucky thing for Blackpool that by inadvertence they were allowed to strike a rate for this purpose. Then the noble Earl said that if we had this power in Ireland it could not be refused by your Lordships to Margate, Ramsgate, and other places. I do not think that argument was a good one. You cannot compare the huge populations that seek fresh air in this country to the small populations in Ireland who are anxious that English people should come over and at all events see some of Ireland's most beautiful spots. There is something beyond the mere desire to advertise these places. I think it is a most excellent thing that the English people should come over to Ireland and learn the ways of the people there and how they live. But the noble Earl wants to stop them from coming.




We cannot advertise these places in the same way that you can in England. With regard to what was said about the interests of the ratepayers, if there was any fear of the interests of the ratepayers suffering in this matter, I venture to think my countrymen would have taken very good care to protect their interests. As to this principle if granted in the case of Ireland extending to England, I can only say that I think the noble Earl is well able to take the necessary precautions in that matter both in regard to Private Bills and Public Bills. I myself am a ratepayer, like other noble Lords, in Ireland, and I should be sorry if any ratepayer from this side of the Channel should oppose this little Bill. The authorities who would make use of this Bill if passed are Cork, Queenstown, Killarney, Kingstown, Bray, Killaloe, and a number of towns in the North of Ireland. The Northern members in the House of Commons can take very good care of themselves, as the noble Earl knows, and if those members had the slightest suspicion that the ratepayers were going to be up in arms about the matter, they would not have given their unanimous support to the Bill. There is a consensus of opinion throughout Ireland that the Bill should become law, and I hope your Lordships will give it a Second Reading, in which case tie noble Earl will be able, if he thinks it necessary, to move any Amendment in Committee to further protect the interests of the ratepayers.


My Lords, on behalf of His Majesty's Government I have little to add to the arguments so ably put forward by my noble friend behind me and by the noble Earl who has just sat down. The fact that the Bill was supported by all the Irish members in the other House is in itself a very strong argument in its favour, and therefore we shall be glad to see the Bill pass into law. The noble Earl the Lord Chairman objected to the Bill on the ground that there, was no precedent for it. I am afraid it is occasionally my duty, as representing the Irish Office, to introduce Bills for which there is no precedent at all, and I do not see that we should necessarily be deterred on that account from giving the Bill a Second Reading.


My Lords, I think the House will feel that the Lord Chairman was well within his rights when he called attention to the peculiar provisions embodied in this Bill, because it is idle to conceal from oneself that the Bill is a very unusual Bill, and I am afraid I must add is one which conceivably might lead to considerable abuse. It is not difficult to imagine a, case in which a reckless expenditure of the ratepayers' money might take place, not for the benefit of the ratepayers generally, but for the benefit of hotel keepers and other people more immediately concerned in the tourist traffic. Therefore, like the noble Earl the Lord Chairman, I approach this Bill with a certain feeling of suspicion, but I think it is fair to consider the circumstances under which the Bill is brought before the House. It is apparently desired with absolute unanimity in Ireland; it is supported in another place again unanimously by members of Parliament who do not always act together in reference to such matters, and there is also this consideration which may, perhaps, be borne in mind. Development of tourist traffic in Ireland on anything like the present scale is a comparatively modern innovation, and my noble friend who spoke from the Bench behind and others who have been working with him have really within the last few years done an immense deal to bring about a knowledge and an appreciation of the very great attractions which that country offers to visitors. I speak with no particular prejudice in favour of these advertisements, because my attention was called to one the other day in which the enterprising proprietor of an hotel proclaimed to the public that his guests were entitled to free fishing in certain waters which happen to be my private property, and I can conceive an almost indefinite extension of practices of that kind. I think we must allow that in Ireland we are nothing if not illogical, and that a certain amount of indulgence on special Irish grounds may be claimed by the promoters of this Bill to such an extent that some of us who, on principle, are not entirely favourable to the measure, would not perhaps feel justified in going to the length of voting against it on Second Reading.


My Lords, I thought I had a plain duty to perform to your Lordships' House to point out what I think this Bill may lead to. The arguments which have been addressed to your Lordships seem to me chiefly to have been of the kind which was adduced in excuse for Mrs. Easy's baby—that it was but a little one—and that Ireland is entitled to be treated quite differently from any other part of the United Kingdom. That appears to be the general view of noble Lords, and I shall, therefore, not put your Lordships to the trouble of dividing against the Bill; but I trust you will exonerate me if you find this practice spreading throughout the seaside towns and health resorts of England.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Then the original Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly and committed to a Committee of the Whole House Tomorrow.