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Parliament—Private Bill Legislation—Question

Volume 217: debated on Thursday 17 July 1873

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asked the President of the Board of Trade, in reference to the Resolution unanimously agreed to by the House on the 22nd of March 1872 in favour of the reform of Private Legislation, Whether he remembers that on the 25th of April 1872 he expressed the hope that the Government might be able to submit a proposal on the subject before the Session concluded, and that on the 17th of June 1872 he assured the House that the subject was under consideration and would not be allowed to drop; and, whether he will state the steps which Her Majesty's Government have taken and propose to take in order to give effect to that Resolution?

said, he would ask his right hon. Friend, in return, whether he remembered what the subject was with respect to which he (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) spoke on the 17th of June last year? What he said on that occasion was that he would remind his right hon. Friend that the share of responsibility he undertook in this matter was mainly to ascertain whether the system of Provisional Orders could be improved and extended. He was carrying on that inquiry and was in communication last Session with other Departments of the Government which were as much interested in the system of Provisional Orders as the Board of Trade. If his right hon. Friend had asked this Question in the beginning of the Session he could have informed him that he had failed to discover any method of extending the system. This year the Board of Trade had issued more than its former number of Provisional Orders; it had made 53 and submitted 46 of them to Parliament. The Local Government Board had increased its number from eight last year to 51 this year; and the number of Orders under the Education Act was sure to be increased. In Ireland a recent Act had begun to come into operation, and when the advantages of Provisional Orders came to be better known, he hoped the Act would have a much larger operation. He was far from saying that nothing could be done to extend the system of Provisional Orders. The Board of Trade might very well extend the system by enabling local authorities to obtain Provisional Orders for the erection of gas and waterworks, instead of their being compelled to proceed by way of Bill. That was a point he would not lose sight of. This did not cover the main subject which his right hon. Friend had in view, and he (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) had reluctantly come to the conclusion that so far as the Executive Government was concerned the power of framing Provisional Orders could not be seriously extended; and if the great and serious question of Private Bill legislation, involving large interests, were to be dealt with outside the walls of Parliament, that could not be properly done through the instrumentality of the Departments of the Executive Government, but a tribunal of a permanent and judicial character would have to be created for that purpose.

said, that his Question had not been clearly put, and he would repeat it in a plainer form.