§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (3.10.) MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Rushcliffe)
I desire to say a few words, not upon the merits of the Bill, but upon another point. I hold in my hands a copy of a Whip sent out as follows—Croydon District Electric Tramways Bill—As the Government will not allow any discussion on private business to-morrow (Tuesday) the Second Reading of this Bill will be postponed till Monday next." Signed, W. Hart Dyke, H. W. Forster, Vicary Gibbs, Kenneth. Balfour, J. Penn, J. E. Ellis, J. T. Woodhouse.I wish to explain that I was not asked to sign my name, and that its appearance is entirely unauthorised. I have no opinion in respect of the Bill. I have received from Messrs. Sherwood & Co, the following letter—We are sorry that your name has appeared on the notice which has been sent round on behalf of Members interested in the rejection of 913 this Bill stating that the Second Reading would be postponed till Monday. Our instructions were clear that no use was to be made of your name without your express permission, and we can only regret the mistake which the Whip's messenger has made."—Yours faithfully, Sherwood & Co.It is not a slight matter thus to put down the names of Members of Parliament with respect to a Bill. The use of my name was entirely unauthorised, and I must say I do not think this is a satisfactory explanation of theaction of a Parliamentary agent in dealing with the names of hon. Members, and then attributing the mistake to a Whip's Messenger. I think the heads of this firm, whom I have known for many years, should have taken care that the Whip was issued in a proper way.
§ * MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)
As I have been identified with the opposition to this Bill I feel it only right to say a word in explanation of the way in which, as I understand it, the name of the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division was put upon this Whip. I found that a considerable amount of feeling was developed on the part of Members of this House in opposition to this Bill, and as part of my constituency is affected by the Bill, and as representatives of the Beckenham Urban District Council came to consult me as to what steps they should take in order to secure its rejection, I had an interview with the representative of Messrs. Sherwood and Company in the lobby, and gave him the names of the hon. Members which appear on the Whip, except those of the hon. Member who has just spoken, and of the hon. Member for Huddersfield. I suggested to the Parliamentary agent that it would be a desirable thing, if we could, to secure the support of the two hon. Members who sit on that side of the House. Now I come to the way in which the mistake occurred. The Parliamentary agent wrote down on a piece of paper the names of the hon. Gentlemen who had already promised to support me in this matter, and he wrote on the back of the same piece of paper the names of the two hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite, merely as a memorandum. When he handed the paper to the person who had to send out the Whip he omitted to erase from the back of the paper the names which had been placed thereupon, and the clerk who copied it having copied 914 the page intended to be copied, then saw the two names on the back and put them down. I do not pretend that that mitigates what I fully admit to be a very just cause of offence to the hon. Gentlemen, and I can assure him that no one regrets it more than I do.
§ * MR. FORSTER
I thought my hon. friend the Deputy Chairman had something to say. Before I deal with the Bill itself I should like to say one or two more words upon the reason why I object to the Second Reading of this Bill. I object not on the merits at all. I have nothing whatever to do with the merits of the Bill. I do not even know whether it is a good Bill or a bad one. I object to it because it seems to me that there has been a misinterpretation of the spirit of one of the Standing Orders of the House. The Bill proposes to authorise the construction of several lines of tramway, which may be roughly described as three continuous lines of tramway. These lines originate in Croydon, and pass through or into the ad ministrative areas under the jurisdiction of neighbouring local authorities. Standing Order No. 22 provides that where it is proposed to construct a continuous line of tramways which pssses through more than one administrative area, it shall be necessary to obtain the consent of the local authorities having jurisdiction over at least two-thirds of the route proposed. One of these three lines proposed in this Bill starts in Croydon, passes through the district of Penge, and terminates in the district of Beckenham. It lies within the boundaries of the Corporation of Croydon for something like—roughly speaking—3¼ miles, in Penge 1¾ miles, and in Beckenham from 1¼ to 1½ miles. It will, therefore, be apparent to the House that to comply with the provisions of Standing Order No. 22, it was essential for the promoters to bring up the consent of Croydon and one other local authority. When the Bill was before the Examiners it was found that Beckenham objected to the Bill, and Penge consented. Croydon also consented, but in their letter of consent made reference to an 915 undertaking given them by the promoters. The Examiner held that, owing to the form in which the letter of consent on the part of Croydon was couched, it was impossible for him to go into the nature of the undertaking, although he was requested to do so by the objectors. But I maintain that the nature of the undertaking was absolutely vital to the question because it appears, and this is not denied, that the undertaking was given by the promoters to the Corporation of Croydon that no part of this line should be constructed within the boundaries of Groyden. Therefore, you have Croydon consenting to the Bill, and yet objecting to some part of the tramways proposed to be constructed under it. That, to my mind, is very far from carrying out the spirit and intentions of Standing Order No. 22. To my mind the consent ought to have made it perfectly plain on the face of it that while Croydon consented to some part of the tramways proposed they objected to other parts. I do not want to labour the point, but I think it is extremely desirable there should be an expression of opinion in this House that this is a course which local authorities and others ought not to take in these cases in the future. I am informed that the promoters have met the objectors and have undertaken to strike them out of the Bill, thus placing the authorities of Beckenham in the position in which they would have been had the spirit of the Standing Order been more fully complied with. Under these circumstances I have had to decide whether I should be justified in withdrawing the opposition to this Bill or not. On the one hand I am very desirous the House should lay it down that consent understanding Order 22 shall be a real consent, and on the other hand, I am extremely unwilling, now that Beckenham has been placed in the position it ought to have occupied before the Examiner, to deprive these localities of the tramways which they desire to have. I have come to the conclusion under the circumstances that I shall be justified in withdrawing my opposition to this Bill, but I hope that those who come for Parliamentary powers in the future will understand clearly that this House will look with a very jealous eye to the interpretation of the spirit as well as the letter of Standing Order 22.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS (Mr. JEFFREYS,) Hampshire, N.
As an arrangement has been come to between the parties, there is no necessity for me to say more than that the hon. Member has stated with perfect accuracy the facts of this matter. The parties came before me, and I believe there was no intention on their part to evade the Standing Order, although some hon. Members undoubtedly thought there had been. As the opposition to the Bill has been withdrawn, it is not necessary for me to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ SIR. JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
regretted that the hon. Gentleman had withdrawn his Amendment.
§ SIR JOHN BRUNNER
said that although the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means had told them he was convinced there had been no intention to deceive the House or the Standing Orders Committee, his words had not carried conviction to his mind. It was clear that in order to enable the Bill to pass Standing Orders the consent of two of the three local authorities concerned was necessary, but it was equally clear that the consent of the corporation of Croydon was only a nominal consent. The legal Gentleman who acted in this matter could not have done so in ignorance or simplicity, but undoubtedly a trick was played on the House. He would move the Amendment of which the Deputy Chairman had given notice, in order that the House might mark its sense of the gravity of the offence.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'on account of certain portions of the Tramways having been agreed to be struck out of the Croydon and District Electric Tramways Bill, the Bill be referred back to the Examiners to report whether, under those circumstances, Standing Order 22 has been complied with so far as the consents of the local and road authorities have been obtained.'"—(Sir John Brunner.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."917
§ * MR. JEFFREYS
There is no object in moving the Amendment. An agreement has been come to between the parties, and there is now nothing for the Examiners to consider. The passing of the Amendment would only entail unnecessary trouble on all interested in the Bill, and would not safeguard the House in the slightest degree.
* MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
was of opinion that there had been collusive action, which ought to be discouraged. What were the facts? There were three local authorities affected by the Bill. One was an objector, and one assent was only obtained on the understanding that it would be exempted from the operation of the Bill. That was collusion, and the House ought to mark its sense of such conduct. He hoped the hon. Baronet would press his Motion.
§ * MR. FORSTER
said the consent was one thanking the promoters for the undertaking they had given, and it was added—For the purposes of Standing Order No. 22, we consent to the Bill.He understood that that form of consent was general. Having been present at the interview the Deputy Chairman had had with both the promoters and the opponents of the Bill, he had come to the conclusion that he was in full agreement with the Deputy Chairman.
§ MR. HALSEY, (Hertfordshire, Watford)
as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, said that the matter had never been before the Committee, and they, therefore, had no knowledge of any collusive arrangement.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. RITCHIE,) Croydon
My right hon. friend has used the word "collusion." I am bound to say that so far as Croydon is concerned there has been nothing what-ever of the nature of collusion in the sense of intent to conceal or deceive. The consent was given in the usual way. It is not the ease that no portion of the line is to be made in Croydon. There is to be a portion constructed there. The undertaking was given in the most open way, the examiners were duly informed of all the facts, and certainly there was nothing in the nature of collusion.
§ * SIR. JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said that, while he sympathised with the hon. Member for Northwich, he thought they should bear in mind that the Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means had given them certain advice, which they would be unwise not to follow. It was, of course, important that Standing Orders should be honestly and fairly complied with, and possibly what had occurred that afternoon would put Parliamentary agents and others on their guard.
§ * SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER (Wiltshire, Chippenham)
was satisfied there had been no real or serious collusion. In the interest of the locomotion of London, it was desirable not to press the Amendment, the adoption of which would delay for another year the construction of most valuable lines which were needed in Sutton, Croydon, Carshalton, Wallington, and Penge, and would help to complete the general scheme of locomotion in South-East London.
§ SIR W. HART DYKE, (Kent, Dartford)
while asking the hon. Baronet not to put the House to the trouble of a division, wished emphatically to say there was a shady state of proceedings connected with this affair. Standing Orders were intended for the protection of localities and of local authorities, and if breaches of them were allowed that protection would disappear. The whole affair presented a most unfortunate aspect from first to last, but as the Deputy Chairman was confident there had been no intent to carry out sharp practices, the House might rest content with an emphatic protest.
§ SIR JOHN BRUNNER
I think the House will be satisfied with the grave and dignified tone that this discussion has assumed, and with its permission I beg to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed.