§ [The Commons Reasons are printed in italics.]
§ Lords Amendment:
§ Insert the following new clause A—
For the purpose of any rate (other than Poor Rate and the Borough Rate) to be made and levied by the Corporation under the provisions of this or of any other Act within the City at any time after the passing of this Act, all lands used as a railway belonging to or leased or occupied by any railway company and constructed under the powers of any Act of Parliament for public conveyance shall be assessed and liable in the proportion of one-fourth part only of the net annual value of such lands respectively.
§ The Commons disagree to this Amendment for the following Reasons:—
§ Because it is inexpedient to alter in a Private Bill the existing public legislation as is proposed by the said Clause A.
§ Because there is nothing in the Bill which gives any ground for the proposed alteration of the existing incidence of rates in Belfast.
§ Because the said Clause A gives large, exemptions from rates in the case of particular individuals and throws a new and considerable burden upon others.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE)
My Lords, I think I shall save your Lordships time if I endeavour in a few sentences to bring up to date what has happened since you discussed this matter on August 15 last. Your Lordships will remember that Lord Shaftesbury, on behalf of the Belfast Corporation, made a proposal which he trusted might lead to a compromise, and in the hope that negotiations might follow the debate was adjourned. Negotiations took place in Belfast after the adjournment of Parliament for the recess, and have been continued in London since your Lordships met again. I am sorry to say, 102 however, that they have resulted in no agreement—that is to say, the railway companies have not been satisfied by any offer that the Belfast Corporation have felt justified in making to them. All I need say about the actual offer which was made to the railway companies is this, that it went a little further than the offer made in this House by the noble Earl, Lord Shaftesbury, on behalf of the Corporation. I have seen the parties several times since the House reassembled, and I have become convinced of two things as far as my own opinion is of any value. I have become convinced that the offer of the Belfast Corporation as it now stands—that is to say, in the clause which I hold in my hand—is a reasonable one, and I desire to recommend your Lordships to accept that offer. But more than that I am convinced that the Belfast Corporation are not willing to extend that offer—in fact, that if this offer is not accepted by your Lordships the result will be the loss of the Bill; and on public grounds I. should regret very much the loss of a Bill which has cost a great deal of money in its promotion, and which contains many useful provisions which have no connection whatever with the point now before your Lordships. In the circumstances I would ask Lord Welby, who was Chairman of the Committee which considered this Bill, to concur with me in recommending the House to adopt the insertion of this proposed clause as the decision of your Lordships in this matter. I understand that the noble Lord is prepared to concur with me in making that recommendation, and I understand that the noble Earl opposite who represents the Belfast Corporation is prepared to confirm what I am now saying as to his offer. I would suggest that the most convenient course would be that I should move the adjournment of this debate until Wednesday next, in order that the actual words of the clause may be printed and circulated. If the clause then meets with the approval of your Lordships I shall be prepared, on behalf of the noble Earl, who has to leave the country on duty, to move its insertion in the Bill, and in that way, if your Lordships accept the clause, the Bill will, I hope, be saved and receive the Royal Assent in due course.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned until Wednesday next.—(The Earl of Donoughmore.)103
§ LORD WELBY
My Lords, the Committee to whom your Lordships referred this Bill had a very simple object before them. It was this. They endeavoured to put Belfast on the same footing exactly as the majority of other towns in Ireland. That was their object, neither more nor less; and they believed that the clause which they proposed for the purpose accomplished that object and no more. As the noble Earl has just stated, the consideration of the matter was postponed from August 15 last in order that an agreement between the parties might be arrived at, but, unfortunately, that has proved impossible. I admit, however, that the Corporation has made a concession of some but insufficient value. After hearing what the noble Earl said and being alive to the responsibility of the loss of the Bill, which might happen if the clause which your Lordships' Committee inserted were insisted upon, as far as I am concerned and much as I regret the loss of the clause I feel that the proper course to take is to defer to the advice of the Lord Chairman and insert in the Bill the clause which it is his intention to move. For that purpose the best plan would be to adjourn the debate in order that the clause may be printed and circulated and adequately considered.
THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
My Lords, I am very glad, as representing the Belfast Corporation, that the noble Earl the Chairman of Committees thinks that the offer made on behalf of the Corporation was a fair and reasonable one. The Belfast Corporation, as the noble Earl said, have done all they could since the adjournment to arrive at an agreement with the railway companies, but unfortunately, partly due, perhaps, to the generosity with which your Lordships' Committee treated the railway companies, they have been inclined to hold out for everything they could get. I have to thank the noble Earl the Lord Chairman for the view he has taken, and I feel confident that your Lordships will, when you have seen the proposed clause, adopt his suggestion and insert it in the Bill.
§ LORD MACDONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, I intervened in the debate on the last occasion from a public point of view. I was not interested on behalf of the Belfast Corporation or on behalf of the railway companies, but I was interested in securing that the questions of public 104 policy which are incorporated in the Acts should be properly considered, and that in the administration of the Acts no sort of violence should be brought to bear on one party or the other. I do not desire now to obtrude myself upon the debate further than to say that I regret that in the arrangements which may be come to these questions of public policy and of the inviolability of legislative provisions passed for public guidance stand in great danger of being forgotten. I think it would have been in the public interests if the whole question had been fully debated, and then your Lordships would have been in a better position to know what would have been suitable for the particular interests concerned and also for the wider interests of the State.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Wednesday next.