HL Deb 04 July 1893 vol 14 cc784-92

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

LORD PLAYFAIR, in moving the Second Reading, said, there was only one other town in Scotland—Edinburgh—which was a county of a city, though in England there were many such cases. The County of Lanark, in which Glasgow was situated, had a population of 1,100,000, of which that city contained 660,000. The Lords Lieutenant of Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, both being interested in the matter, were quite satisfied that Glasgow should be converted into a county of a city. Two Petitions had been presented against the Bill in that House; but it met with no opposition in the other House of Parliament, where it went before a Hybrid Committee and was passed unanimously in one day. Practically, he believed, notwithstanding the two formal Petitions against the Bill, there would be no opposition in their Lordships' House.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Playfair.)


said, he thought before the Bill was read a second time some explanation was desirable. He had no objection to the City of Glasgow being made a county, and there were, indeed, strong reasons for wishing to put the Local Government of Glasgow, with its large urban population, great business, interests, and wealth, on a more satisfactory footing. He thought this ought to be effected by a private Bill, such as was brought in six or seven years ago, of which he moved and carried the Second Reading after a Division, but which failed upon being referred to a Committee of the House. The decision of that Committee caused considerable dissatisfaction and disappointment. This should have been a Private Bill, as great interests were concerned which should have a full opportunity of being heard. There had been a great deal of secrecy with regard to the present measure, and no means had been taken to make known in Glasgow what was really proposed. It was, in his view, a sham and a fraud to call this Bill a measure for making Glasgow a county. It did nothing of the kind. It pretended to do so, but it did not effect that purpose. The points made in the Memorial of the Glasgow Town Council, upon which this Bill was said to be founded, had reference to the extension of the city to the whole urban area of which it was the centre, completing the incorporation of the city and bringing the civil and criminal jurisdiction under one Sheriff, and were not carried out in the Bill, which also omitted all mention of the Sheriff's Court, where there had been a great block of business for years past, owing to the Sheriff having to do the business of the whole of Lanarkshire. It was futile to attempt to pass a Bill for Glasgow which did not deal with the scandal of mercantile men being unable to get their cases tried. There ought to be a separate Sheriff for the whole urban area of Glasgow properly defined. As a county it ought also to have control of police, main drainage, and roads and bridges; but not one of these matters were mentioned in the Bill. The 5th clause in the Bill could not, surely, be seriously intended. It was a most extraordinary clause. The Secretary for Scotland was to be allowed to make whatever Orders he pleased for bringing the Act into operation, and thereby modify any enactment in this or any other Act, whether general, local, or personal. Did anybody ever hear of such a power as that being given to any Government Department? NO safeguard was provided—no attempt whatever was made—to fetter the Secretary of Scotland, in his roving Commission, to enact anything he pleased affecting Glasgow. It was hardly credible that such a clause would be put forward, and that their Lordships would be seriously asked to adopt it. The Bill did not follow the precedent of Edinburgh, as had been urged in its favour, for the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Glasgow was to be nominated by the Secretary for Scotland. Other things done by the Bill were, on the face of them, done in a wrong way. One was the provision dealing with the appointment of Justices of the Peace. They were told that the precedent of Edinburgh was being followed; but it was certainly not so as regarded the Lord Provost, who, in this, the second city in the Empire, would be superseded by the Lord Lieu- tenant. Some further explanation would be required if that was intended. He had no objection to a new Commission of the Peace being formed for Glasgow; but there was no reason why the Justices of Lanark and Renfrew should be placed in a worse position than those of any other county in Scotland: for if that clause were passed, they would be prevented performing the simplest act, such as taking a declaration, or having an affidavit sworn before them in Glasgow. Many of the most prominent men in Glasgow lived in those counties; and if put upon the new Commission of the Peace they would be unable to do the simplest acts which might be done by any other Justices of the Peace in Scotland. That could not have been intended; but, if so, a Bill so drafted should hardly have been brought before that House. It should have been a Private Bill, which would have been carefully examined with the aid of counsel and witnesses, so that all interests might have been heard. If these defects were not cured, and the Bill made a complete measure, so far from being a wise and good step to take, it would stand in the way of reforms for which Glasgow had been long and justly crying out. On those grounds he hoped the Bill would not be allowed to pass as it stood. As it bad passed the other House of Parliament, he had, out of courtesy to that House, not given notice to reject it on Second Reading. But, though dealing with matters of private concern, it had been brought in as a Public Bill, and he hoped that steps would be taken to have the Bill thoroughly investigated, in order that those who felt themselves aggrieved by the method adopted might have the opportunity of putting their case before a fair and impartial tribunal.


said, this measure was in the anomalous position of being a Hybrid Bill; and, therefore, not only would it go through that House, but, if opposed, and he was informed that it was opposed by two Petitioners, it would be referred to an ordinary Opposed Bill Committee next week, and after it had passed through that ordeal it would return to their Lordships' House. In his opinion, Clause 5 would have to be carefully examined; for though it might sufficiently protect Local Authorities, it did not, as drawn, sufficiently protect private individuals.


said, he entirely concurred in the criticisms made on the 5th clause; hut he hoped their Lordships would pass the Bill with the Amendments they considered necessary, so that Glasgow might become a county as well as a city. The question of boundaries was one of difficulty. However advantageous it might be to include a much larger area within the county of the City of Glasgow than the Bill proposed, that course was not a plain one, but might, in some cases, give rise to well-founded opposition; and he was not prepared to say that the Bill erred in respect of the boundaries it laid down. As for its alleged incompleteness in making Glasgow a county, the difficulties had, he thought, been overrated. They had the example of Edinburgh, and Glasgow would not cease to be a burgh because it became a county. In Edinburgh the county was rarely spoken of; it was always the burgh and the burgh administration. Glasgow was at present equipped with sufficient powers for her own government, and within her own boundaries this Bill would not add much to them. In one respect only, as regarded the Commission of the Peace, it would make a difference. On the erection of the city into a county it must necessarily have its own Commission of the Peace, and the change would, he hoped, be beneficial. A burning question, though not necessarily connected with the subject of the Bill, was the administration of justice, not in regard to the lower, but in the higher Courts, and arrangements for judicial business might have been added to the Bill. In appeals to the Sheriff Principal delays of six or eight months are said to occur in trifling cases, sometimes only upon questions of procedure, rather too long a time in these modern days for cases to be hanging over. But the two questions of the constitution of the Courts and the constitution of the county were quite separable. He should have preferred that there should have been a statutory enactment by the three Estates, providing that the Lord Provost of Glasgow for the time being shall be the Lord Lieutenant of the County of the City. Edinburgh had been created a county of a city by Royal Charter at a time when the Constitutional power was entirely vested in the Sovereign; and instead of a series of appointments issuing on the recommendation of the Secretary for Scotland, the Bill ought to provide that the office shall pass from one Lord Provost to his successor in office immediately upon his election. That had been the system, from time immemorial in Edinburgh, and there was no reason why it should not work satisfactorily in Glasgow. Even though it were not in the form he desired, he would rather see the Bill pass subject to those alterations.

LORD HAMILTON, as this Bill affected his county, felt bound to say it entirely met with his approval. As regarded the Judicial Authorities of Glasgow, there was nothing in the Bill which would prevent the necessary reforms being carried out in the direction of two authorities being created. There was nothing in this Bill to prevent the creation of one Sheriff's Court for the county and one for the city.


said, he agreed with the criticisms which had been made. If this, being a Hybrid Opposed Bill, would, in the ordinary course, go before the Opposed Bills Committee, it would, no doubt, be considerably altered, for from the remarks which had been made it was clearly not a perfect measure. That being the case, would it not be better for the Government to withdraw it and bring in in its stead a complete Bill? It was desirable to give to the Corporation of Glasgow full powers over this area; but if their Lordships proposed to alter the Bill it would be unfair to private persons to put them to the expense of appearing before a Select Committee with reference to a measure which they agreed was not a perfect one.


I think the proposal of the noble Earl would make matters much worse. This Bill has passed the House of Commons, and it has been before a Committee there. It would be a most unusual course to adopt the suggestion of the noble Earl to withdraw that which has already been got into shape, and to introduce a new one for objectors to appear and oppose it. Such a course would not only be unusual, but would do great injustice. I will not go into the details of the Bill. The points which have been raised by previous speakers are fitted for Committee, but not for discussion on the Second Reading stage. I should not have risen at all but for the suggestion of the noble Lord (Lord Balfour), that this ought to be a Private Bill. I can only say that if ever a Bill of this kind appears as a private measure I shall protest against it. A Bill which proposes to create a Commission of the Peace and to make judicial arrangements ought never to be a Private Bill. I have constantly set my face against such a measure being dealt with otherwise than as a Public Bill. I am myself most strongly of opinion that if a Bill of this sort is to be introduced at all, it ought be as this is, in the form of a public measure.


said, he entirely agreed that the proposal of the noble Earl opposite would be impossible under the circumstances. As he had himself appointed the Commission to inquire into the boundaries of Glasgow silence on his part might be misunderstood. He had long desired that the districts surrounding Glasgow should be included with the city in one county; and, therefore, he was glad that the Bill had not been refused a Second Reading. But he was not sure that the time had come when Govan, Partick, and all the large burghs around, would be ready to be amalgamated with the City of Glasgow. The Bill seemed, on the whole, to carry out the desires of the Municipality of Glasgow, their wish being, no doubt, that their city should be placed in exactly the same position as Edinburgh, the Lord Provost of which was invariably Lord Lieutenant. How that first came about he had been unable to trace. If that state of things (Could be brought about in the case of Glasgow without interfering with Her Majesty's prerogative, it would be a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the question. It would be exceedingly inconvenient to have two authorities; one the Lord Provost as the magisterial head, and the other the Lord Lieutenant as the head of the county and city. He would like to see the Bill referred to a Select Committee of that House, when its whole minutiae might be more fully considered. He entirely concurred in the principle of the measure.


said, he hoped that the Bill would be subjected by the Committee to very careful consideration and searching examination, and that if the Bill came back from Committee in anything like its present shape their Lordships would have no difficulty in rejecting it. The only other instance in Scotland of a county of a city was in Edinburgh, and that he understood was created under a very old Charter of the time of the Stuarts. If Glasgow was to be created a county of a city by Act of Parliament, similar claims would probably be made by Dundee, Aberdeen, Perth, and other large cities of growing importance. The House and Committee should, therefore, have it before them that the provisions of this Bill would be used as a precedent. It had been stated that this Bill had passed through its stages in the House of Commons in one day. One would think it had passed through in the shortest possible time, because Clause 5 alone was enough to excite amazement: for by its terms the Secretary of Scotland would have power by a stroke of the pen to destroy the enactments of Acts of Parliament. He hoped the analogous case of Edinburgh would be carefully inquired into and followed, and especially that, as in Edinburgh, the Lord Provost should ex-officio be Lord Lieutenant. As regarded the judicial business, he concurred in every word Lord Balfour had said. He agreed with Lord Watson that it would be difficult to graft an improvement on the Bill in reference to the Sheriff Courts; but sooner or later—and the sooner the better—that matter must be taken up. The delay in the administration of justice in Glasgow was a scandal, arising simply from the fact that the Government only provided one Judge to deal with the cases. That would be remedied by having a Sheriff for the City of Glasgow and another for the County. He hoped the Committee would thoroughly investigate the subject before the Bill was reported to the House, for if it came back in its present shape, or anything like it, he should have no difficulty in supporting a Motion refusing to pass it into an Act at all.


said, he was afraid this discussion had partly arisen from his fault in having purposely made his remarks as few as possible, as he was not aware that anyone wished to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. There were many precedents in England for making counties of cities, though only one existed in Scotland—Edinburgh. The Marquess of Lothian was really the author of this Bill, not, of course, of its details, but it was his Commission which recommended that Glasgow should be made a county of the city. As regarded Govan and other neighbouring districts not being ready for amalgamation, it had been found in England that in the case of large towns, if the step were delayed of making them counties of cities until all the little neighbouring places around joined, it would never be taken at all. If they wished to come in arrangements could be made. As the Bill must go before a Committee he did not think that it was necessary for him to say more with regard to it.


asked whether, as this was a Hybrid Bill, it would be sent to a Hybrid Committee?


said, that the Hybrid Committee was an unknown body in that House, and he had never heard of one being appointed.


said, he thought, in the circumstances, an opportunity was afforded for inaugurating a new procedure.


said, the Bill would go to an ordinary Bill Committee, and then come back to the House, and go through the stages of a Public Bill.


said, there was one stage through which it would not go; that was where it was thought expedient to refer the Bill to a public Committee. Therefore, this might be an opportunity for adopting a new procedure, and it might be well if their Lordships copied the procedure of the other House.


said, the difficulty was that two Petitions had been presented in their Lordships' House against the Bill.


aid, then they could be heard.


said, the matter would be considered.


said, the Bill would have to go before the Standing Committee, which would have the opportunity of considering the clauses.


said, he thought counsel should be heard upon the clauses of the Bill, which would be impossible in the Standing Committee.


said, it was understood that the noble Lord would take the matter into consideration.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed: The Committee to be proposed by the Committee of Selection.