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Sheffield Corporation Water Bill

Volume 314: debated on Thursday 28 April 1887

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Third Reading

Order of the Day for the Third Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a " —( The Earl of Derby.)

, in rising to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months, said: My Lords, In pursuance of the Notice I have given, I now move that this Bill be read a third time this day six months; and I may say I have put that Notice on the Paper at the request of several noble Friends of mine who take a deep interest in this question. I should not for one moment have thought of putting such a Notice on the Paper if the Bill had been a Water Bill of the ordinary character; but, so far from that, the Bill comes to us from a Committee of your Lordships' House, recommended, not as a Bill of ordinary character, but recommended to your Lordships' adoption upon grounds of public policy. Now, my Lords, this Bill which is so recommended involves a novel principle, and the public policy which is to be found in this Bill is neither more nor less than this—the substitution of a municipal monopoly in the matter of water supply—the compulsory substitution of a municipal monopoly for private enterprize. Now, my Lords, the Committee do not assert, or in any way say, that the Water Company, which for many years has provided water to Sheffield, has been in any way wanting in its duty. They do not say the Company have been guilty of providing an insufficient supply, or accuse them of overcharges, or of providing impure water. So far from that, in consequence of the way in which this Company has dealt with Sheffield in the matter of its water supply, the Committee of your Lordships' House say that they hope the Company will be liberally treated when it comes to a question as to what sum is to be paid to them if this compulsory power is given to the Corporation. Now, my Lords, I think it is possible that an attempt may be made to induce your Lordships to assent to this Bill, which, I venture to say, contains a very novel and, I think, very dangerous and hurtful principle, on the ground that the purchase of works of an existing private enterprize only applied to a locality—that it only applies to Sheffield—and that, therefore, not being a general Bill, your Lordships may agree to pass a measure. Supposing such an argument is used? It is an argument with which your Lordships, by this time, ought to be familiar. It is an old friend with a new face and with a new name; but still it is the old argument of exceptional legislation. Well, my Lords, we know how—when exceptional legislation is passed in favour of any case—the evil grows. Noble Lords who come from other places besides Ireland know how evil principles introduced into legislation under the guise of exceptional circumstances have spread to Scotland; and they are showing themselves in the Metropolis in reference to leaseholds. Therefore, I wish your Lordships to treat this question—as I think it should present itself to your Lordships—as a great question of principle, and to treat it, not in its local, but in its general application. My Lords, I have very much doubt, if this Bill is passed, whether Sheffield will be greatly benefited by its becoming law. It so happens that other Corporations besides Sheffield have dealt with water, as they have with gas, in the United Kingdom for many years; and although these Corporations have prospered in their dealings with gas, yet they have failed and lost money in their dealings with water. For instance—and I believe they themselves admit it—the Manchester Corporation, who took up the water supply of Manchester in the year 1858, have, up to the present time, lost £110.000. The town of Bury—a town with which my noble Friend who was Chairman of this Committee (the Earl of Derby) is connected — that Town Council also took up the supply of water, and it has lost £3,000 in so doing; and your Lordships must remember that these are losses which came upon the rates generally. They are made up by extra charges on the borough funds, which applies to people who, in many cases, do not benefit by the water. Therefore, my Lords, it is not always Corporations who are successful in their trading, and although they have succeeded in gas, they have failed in water; and I very much doubt whether the town of Sheffield will, under this Bill, be bettor supplied with water than it has been by the private enterprize of the Water Company, which it is now intended compulsorily to abolish. With reference to the trading by Corporations, I should like to ask why they should be confined to gas and water? Gas is not such a necessity of life as bread or clothing; and, that being so, why should not Corporations—if they are to become traders—deal in clothes, and keep tailors' shops? Why should they not keep bakers' shops and butchers' shops, and. deal in anything which is necessary to life? Why should they not keep a great store like the Army and Navy Stores in London? This Bill is brought before your Lordships as a compulsory Bill. My objection to this Bill is that its compulsory character is now for the first time introduced into this kind of legislation; and I ask, if it is to be applied to gas and water, why should it not apply to all other necessaries of life? Then we shall come to this pass, that no man in the City of London, nor in this free country, will be able to live, move, or have his being without being under some sort of government or local inspection as to his private business. That is what it will come to under this proposed system of legislation. But, my Lords, I will admit, for the sake of argument—I do not admit it otherwise—that this Bill will confer a benefit on the town of Sheffield. Even admitting that, for the sake of argument, I still ask your Lordships, on the very ground upon which this Bill is submitted to your Lordships—namely, on the ground of public policy—on these broad grounds, and on that broad principle, I invite your Lordships not to consent to the third reading of this Bill. My Lords, what will be the effect of passing a compulsory measure of this kind? It will entitle the Corporation of Sheffield to take forcible possession—I do not care whether they pay fair compensation or not—it will entitle them to take forcible possession of works which they have not created, but which were created by private enterprize. That necessarily must discourage private enterprize; and what has private enterprize done for this country? Why everything. It is private enterprize that has given us canals; it is private enterprize that has given us railways; it is private enterprize that has given us gas, electric lighting, and the telephone; it is private enterprize that puts, not only part of the country in communication with another by moans of railways and telegraphs, but which by telegraphs put the Empire into connection with the Colonies and our Indian Possessions. All that is the result of private enterprize. At the present moment the greatest engineering work which has ever been undertaken in this age of engineering skill—the Forth Bridge, in which many noble Lords in this House take an interest—that is entirely the result of private enterprize. It was private enterprize which cut the Isthmus of Suez, and which is cutting the Isthmus of Panama; and, above all, do not forget this, that it was private enterprize, and nothing else, which gave us our Indian Empire, and practically our Colonial Empire. Well, my Lords, I say in countries such as ours it is essential that nothing shall be done for the benefit of any local town or for any other reason which can interfere with the great principle of independent and private enter-prize. Macaulay, in the third chapter of his History, referring to the progress that this country had made in the hundred years before he wrote, said it was due mainly to the confidence and security which was afforded to property in this country and that which was created by industry, energy, or by self-denial. Whether that property was created by, and remains the property of, individuals, or whether it is aggregated into the property of Companies, the principle is the same; and I ask your Lordships to take care how you deal with that principle in this House. Above all other Assemblies, your Lordships' House ought to be looked upon as the guardian of the questions involved in this great principle. What is the secret of all this successful private enterprize? It is, as Macaulay says, confidence and security with reference to property. If you take away confidence and security, what hope can there be that there will be private enterprize in the future as there has been in the past? If, whenever a Company is prosperous, a municipality may cast its eye—a covetous eye—upon it, and come to Parliament to buy, even though they are not disposed to sell, there will be an end to all confidence. It has been well said by Sir Frederick Bramwell—the most able engineer, and brother of the distinguished Lord who bears the name— that Government trading, whether local or imperial, was fatal to progress and to the national prosperity. If your Lordships wish for an example how unwise State interference is you have it in a Bill which has passed or is passing through your Lordships' House—I mean the Electric Lighting Bill. In 1882, an Electric Lighting Bill was brought in by the Government of the day, which empowered the Government at the end of 14 years to take possession of the property of Electric Lighting Companies without giving compensation on taking the business on as a going concern, but treating it as an old marine store, and simply at the end of 14 years paying for the plant as old iron. The time was extended when that should happen from 14 to 20 years. That Bill was passed in 1882, and what has happened? All enterprize in electric lighting was absolutely and entirely stopped and killed by these compulsory powers which the Government proposed to take. So last year, electric lighting being at a standstill, a Bill was brought in and submitted to a Committee of your Lordships' House, which proposed to extend the 20 years when the Government could come in to 40 years. The Bill which is now passing through your Lordships' House is based on that extended period. That is a most pregnant instance of the evil of compulsory interference with private enterprize, and it is because I feel that it is in the cause of public policy, it is on the ground—the sole ground—of public policy, that I ask your Lordships to refuse to pass this Bill. There is one point which must have struck your Lordships, and to which I have not referred; and that is that it is always right and customary for your Lordships to support the decision of a Committee of your own House. Now, my Lords, that is a general proposition which no sane man in your Lordships' House, and no sane man in the other House of Parliament, would for one moment venture to dispute. While I was a Member of the House of Commons, and since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, whenever a decision of a Committee has been attempted to be overthrown, I have always given my vote in favour of the decision of the Committee. I think we ought to be grateful to noble Lords who give their time to these Committees, and it is only under most exceptional and most peculiar circumstances that your Lordships, or the other House, should be asked not to give effect to the views of the Committee. Now, if this had been a simple question between two Private Bills promoted by the Corporation and the Water Company in the ordinary course, with no new principle involved, I should not have ventured to have given this Notice, and I should have been considered extremely foolish if I had done so. But this is entirely a different case. Although there were attempts made to prove before the Committee that there was a precedent for this Bill of the Corporation, if I am rightly informed the Chairman of the Committee did not think much of the precedents adduced, and the promoters were advised to go on to other points and not to attempt to prove their case by precedents. It is well they were so advised, for no precedent exists for their Bill. I say this Bill is novel in principle, wholly unprecedented in character, and, for the first time, it imposes upon a Company the possibility—a certainty in this case—that they would have to part with their property at whatever sum the arbitrators chose to fix. This is a question wholly outside any question which is ordinarily referred to a Committee of your Lordships' House. Indeed, my Lords, I say that it never could have been your Lordships' intention that five Members of this House—no matter how able, no matter what their record of Parliamentary experience may be—should, upon the question of a Private Bill, introduce into legislation a great and novel principle which may strike at the very roots of enterprize and the commercial prosperity of the nation, which lives upon the security of property which has been created by private enterprize. I maintain that a principle such as that ought not to be passed in your Lordships' House on the third reading of a Private Bill, but ought, if required, to be taken up by the Government, and take its place in a general measure brought in by the responsible Government. I hope, my Lords, that your Lordships will not pay attention to the arguments about supporting the decisions of Committees, but will support me in my Motion for the rejection of this Bill.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—( The Earl of Wemyss.)

, in rising to support the Bill, said, that neither he nor any of the noble Lords who considered the Bill in Committee had any sympathy whatever with the Socialistic ideas of which his noble Friend on the Cross Bench (the Earl of Wemyss) was so much afraid. They were not enemies of property or of private enterprize. The Committee in question had devoted 14 days to the consideration of the Bill, and whilst he sympathized to a great extent with the noble Earl, he could not forget that there were many undertakings which could be better managed by public authorities than by private enterprize; and this matter of water supply appeared to be one of them. The state of things at Sheffield was as follows. There were two Bills before the Committee, one promoted by the Corporation and the other by the old Water Company at Sheffield, which had for many years supplied the borough. In 1864 it sustained a great disaster owing to the bursting of the principal reservoir, and it then came to Parliament for relief, and obtained power to levy for 25 years an increased water rate. This power would expire in 1889, and the Company, in the Bill which they recently promoted, sought to make it perpetual. Then came the Bill promoted by the Sheffield Corporation, in which they sought to take the water supply into their own hands. They were supported by the great bulk of the ratepayers, the voting having been something like 21,000 for, and 3,000 against. The Committee, after hearing the arguments pro and con in favour of the higher scale of rates, came to the conclusion that the Sheffield Water Company's request was not a reasonable one, and that it ought to be rejected; and the only alternatives were to allow the Company to go on supplying the water on the old rate or to transfer to the Corporation the powers of supply- ing the water. The Committee were influenced in their decision by the fact that the sanitary arrangements of Sheffield were unsatisfactory, and that to be made satisfactory they required to be carried out on a wider scale; and also by the fact that the water supply was in the North of England generally in the hands of the municipal authorities. They therefore resolved to transfer the powers of water supply to the Sheffield Corporation, and made provision upon a very generous basis for the purchase of the Company's undertaking. He had little doubt that the present shareholders in the Sheffield Water Company would in reality be much better oft by the purchase of their property, than they would have been by going on with their undertaking on the reduced scale of rates, which was all they would have been entitled to after 1889.

said, what they had to consider was how their decision would be looked at hereafter. The record would be only that in the case of a Company, absolved twice from the charge of negligence, their works should be sold compulsorily, on the ground of public policy. If he were still at the Bar, and were representing a Corporation, he should know what use to make of that record. He learned in 1864 that the Company had reduced their maximum charges in 1853, believing that their prosperity and that of Sheffield would go on increasing. They said that since that time the great calamity of the landslip and flood had come upon them and upon the town, and on application to Parliament they were granted increased rates for 25 years. The Chairman of the Committee, and he (Lord Grimthorpe) himself, thought that by the end of that period things would have come round, and the Company thought so also. They were all wrong; j and the real fact was that the dividends had been continually going down, notwithstanding the additional rates. There was no doubt that if these rates were stopped the Company would have no dividends at all. They could now prophesy after the event, and it was clear that the Company were asking for nothing unreasonable in asking for the rates, which were still below the original ones, for a longer period than 25 years, and there would be no doubt that if the Committee could have seen in 1864 how things would turn out, that they would be granted a longer period. In his opinion, the present Committee must have miscarried in their calculations, in supposing they were giving fair and liberal terms. If the Company in 1853 had kept up their old rates instead of decreasing them they would never have had to come to Parliament, and would have been able to pay a dividend notwithstanding the calamity. The Corporation had issued a paper of reasons for the purchase of the undertaking. The paper said that it was a generally admitted axiom that water-works should be in the hands of Corporations, as they were more economically worked. That was not the general result of experience. Mr. Burdett, secretary to the Loan Department of the Stock Exchange, read a paper on municipal finance some two years ago, and showed in it that out of 38 Corporations' books it was evident that upon the whole they lost upon their water-works. They borrowed at 3½ per cent, and did not receive as much in return as they paid in interest. It was absolutely wrong to say that Corporations could manage these undertakings more economically than Companies could. The latter paid dividends, and the former did not make enough, to pay the lowest common rate of interest. The noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) said the ratepayers by a large majority were in favour of the Bill. They always were, because they did not understand economics. He admitted that when a Corporation and a Company came to Parliament for rival Bills for water-works, it had been the practice to prefer the Corporation. No harm was done to anybody under those circumstances; but the present case was one of buying on very unfair terms. The only case approximating to it was that of Middlesborough. In that case the Company were charged with supplying very bad and insufficient water, being restricted in the quantity they could take from the Tees. The result was that the works passed out of the hands of the Company into the hands of the Corporation, and that Corporation, which had been so sensitive when they got the Bill 11 years ago, had not done a stroke of work yet, or had done it very recently if at all. That was the only case of straightforward compulsory purchase founded on the alleged misconduct of a Company. At Birmingham the Company agreed to sell their works to the Corporation in 1851. The Corporation went on for 24 years before they thought of acting upon the agreement, and then Mr. Chamberlain persuaded them to purchase the undertaking. They inserted in the Bill a provision for 20 years' purchase. The Committee declined to pass the clause, and eventually 29 years' purchase was agreed upon. Was that a good thing for the town? It gratified the town, and there was no doubt that the time would come when it would be a good thing for the town if the Company were otherwise to go on raising more capital with a high dividend, which, however, could easily be prevented. The Corporation also said, in the paper of "Reasons in Favour of Third Reading" which they had issued, that it was not a fact, as stated by the opponents of the' Bill, that Parliament had ever refused to sanction the purchase of the works by the Corporation, and they enlarged upon that point. They seemed to have forgotten that in their own Petition against the Company's Bill this year they had said exactly the opposite. They said that they had several times endeavoured to effect such transfer. They tried it in 1864, and the Committee were of opinion that the Corporation had not made out a sufficient case for compulsory purchase. The Corporation said, first of all, that they were going to proceed upon particular local grounds, and not on public policy, and then they issued that paper which, from beginning to end, argued the case upon grounds of public policy. A worse case of issuing misleading statements he had never seen. Nobody would suffer in an ordinary ease of purchase by arbitration. In this case the Company would suffer by being ruined, and every shareholder would feel it. The ratepayers would gain by the transfer, because they would get for nothing these works which cost a million and some odd pounds. As to the assertion about public policy, he had shown that every precedent contradicted it, and so does the only public Act on the subject. It would have been perfectly easy for the framers of the Public Health Act to have provided that it should be lawful for any Corporation to buy the water works on arbitration terms. They were authorized to buy water rights—a totally different thing—from the persons possessing them, but they were very carefully excluded from buying water works compulsorily, especially on such terms as these, which practically told the arbitrator to treat the Company as insolvent after 1894. He could not see any grounds for passing the Bill.

said, at one time, in consequence of his connection with the Local Government Board, which he represented, he had had Ms attention called to some provisions in the Bill; but those matters were all arranged. Whilst looking into those matters he was brought into contact with the promoters of the Bill, and had an opportunity of learning how matters really stood. The mistake in the paper of reasons as to Parliament having never refused to sanction the transfer of the works had crept in through the death of the late Town Clerk. It was discovered by a gentleman in the office of the agents who circulated the paper, but too late, as the paper had been sent to all the Peers. He was sure his noble Friend did not intend to imply that the Corporation had made wilful mis-statements. It would not have been of any use to have made an attempt to mislead the House, as the Chairman of the Committee was also the Chairman of the Committee which refused to sanction the transfer, and it would not have passed unnoticed. The noble Lord's contradiction of the statement in the paper proved that this was no new question for the people of Sheffield, and that they had had ample time to make up their minds on the question, and the majority which had been quoted by the noble Earl in favour of the purchase was the more significant for that fact. It was the result of no catch vote, but the deliberate vote of the people of the town. He did not think it was just of the noble Lord to say that the Company could be bought for nothing at the end of a certain number of years. He thought the Company was placed in an exceptionally favourable position for going before an arbitrator, and the Select Committee had gone out of its way to say that the terms should be fair and liberal, and that was a most important point on behalf of the Company when they got before the arbitrator, as he hoped they would do if Parliament passed the Bill. A great deal of discussion had gone on about the propriety of Local Authorities managing gas and water works. They were not there to discuss the general question any more than the Committee upstairs. They had to decide whether the Bill should be allowed to pass. The noble Lord said that the Corporation would not be able to make a dividend — a Corporation ought not to make enough to pay a dividend—if it did, it showed that the water was not supplied at the lowest possible rate; and so far from that being an argument against Corporations purchasing these undertakings, it was all the other way. He was quite sure that he would carry the House with him if he said that if it had not been for the expressions of the Committee about public policy, they would never have known about the matter at all. There was another point he would like to allude to, and that was that the noble and learned Lord behind him (Lord Grimthorpe) seemed to imply that Sheffield was a decaying place. He was, however, informed that so far from that being the state of the case, the population of Sheffield had increased since 1864 by 100,000.

said, that he pointed out that the receipts from water had considerably decreased, and that he, therefore, supposed such was the case.

, continuing, said, the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss) urged that Sheffield would not benefit by the transfer. He (Lord Balfour) wished to point out that the vote taken in the town resulted in 21,936 being in favour of the change, and only 3,785 against—a very conclusive decision as to the Sheffield feeling in the matter. The noble Earl, again, had complained that local circumstances had not been sufficiently stated for the passing of the Bill. Well, he (Lord Balfour) submitted that if they were to hear all the local circumstances, that would be discussing the question upon its merits, which was undesirable in the House. As to the local circumstances, he thought they might trust a Committee which sat 15 days, and have every confidence that the decision arrived at was a just one. In conclusion, he wished to say that if the noble Earl was so anxious that a Corporation should never be allowed to purchase compulsorily under any circumstances, the right time to have stated that would have been on the occasion of the second reading, and not on the third, when the parties had been put to such an amount of expense. If action against the Bill were necessary to be taken now, the proper course would obviously have been to move for its re-committal, and if their Lordships now passed the third reading the Bill would still have to go before the other House, when the objectors to it could again be heard.

said, he could not quite agree with the noble Lord (Lord Balfour of Burleigh) who had just sat down, when in the earlier part of his speech he said that he should vote for it purely as a Local Bill, and not take the question of public policy into consideration. He thought, on the contrary, that important considerations of public policy were involved in the question, and wished to explain to his noble Friend that in the interest of those general and abstract principles of which he was so powerful an advocate, he hoped that House would not refuse their sanction to read the Bill a third time. One contention was that valuable private property should not be taken by Public Authorities compulsorily to the sacrifice of private interests. He recognized the importance of the principle, and if this Water Company had been a great and thriving concern he should not take the view he did. The speech of his noble Friend opposite, however, proved that the Water Company's position was one which might be practically described as one of bankruptcy. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Grimthorpe) stated that it was not in a position to earn any dividend whatever; and, further, that even under the favourable recommendations of the Committtee, the Company would benefit little or nothing by the compulsory sale. But, at any rate, he relieved their minds from the fear which his hon. Friend on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) had sought to instil, which was that they were ex-appropriating a valuable property in Sheffield. The Company, however, unless it obtained new powers, had no valuable property whatever. It came to Parliament and asked for new powers, and surely they had a right to inquire into the matter. They were not bound to give them new powers, and they must look at the whole question as one of public policy as to whether the powers should be granted. That ground of objection had been entirely removed. They wore all agreed in one sense or another, and there ought to be some reform in local government in this country. He confessed, however, he was one of those who had been alarmed at the way in which every community was being stimulated to go in for Home Rule. Heaven only knew—or rather "the other place" only knew—what were the powers which leading politicians would not give to local governing bodies. It looked almost as if the power of life and death, and the power of taxation, were to be given over to local governments. He thought that this was a real danger, and that the public mind ought to be disciplined upon the matter. Looking at it in that light, therefore, he considered that it was of the highest importance that Sheffield should not be refused a privilege which she so manifestly asked for. The Company itself was practically nonexistent, and they had to consider the question as that of a great city desiring the management of its own wants. He could conceive nothing more likely to exaggerate that feeling in favour of local government than Parliament refuting to great cities any of the legitimate powers they ought to possess. He agreed that it was an argument in favour of Corporations having control of water works that in their hands they did not pay large dividends. The use of water was now so intimately connected with, sanitary arrangements that it was most important that the water supply should be in the hands of the Local Authority. Many places had taken over the management of their own water supplies; and Glasgow had done the same thing at enormous expense, but with infinite benefit to its inhabitants, and he firmly believed that such matters derived great advantage by being in the hands of municipal government instead of those of private companies.

said, he felt it his duty to oppose the third reading of this Bill. The case before them—that of a Company with an undertaking—was not like the common case of a portion of land being wanted without which a scheme could not be carried into execution. Everyone would admit that, however reluctant the man might be to have his land taken, it must be acquired on the ground of public policy. This, however, was a very different thing. Here the scheme was completed. The Water Works Company were in possession of their water works, which their Act of Parliament gave them power to construct, and it was now proposed to take it from them and to give them compensation. Well, as to that, the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Grimthorpe) stated that the Company would not be better off when their property was taken from them, and they received the compensation. At any rate, they said—"Let us be the judges, and leave us alone." The first consideration, therefore, their Lordships had to look at was—did they think it a desirable thing when persons had embarked their capital in an enterprize of this description that anybody unless for the most urgent reason in the world should have the right to say to them— "Now, we shall put a value on your porperty and take it from you, giving you that value for the possession of it?" Was it desirable that when any scheme was propounded requiring capital that those subscribing should be told—" You go into this speculation subject to this, that it may be taken from you at a certain value?" It was a singular thing, but if it was so beneficial to the Water Company shareholders, they were a most ungrateful and unwise set, for he did not find that the value of the shares had risen in the market since. He was sorry to differ from the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby); but he understood him to say that from the discussion on the Company's Bill, the Committee learned that they could not carry into execution those matters which were necessary for the welfare of the Company at Sheffield, and the noble Duke who had just sat down (the Duke of Argyll) used the expression that they were coming for further powers. They were not coming for further powers, except to raise their revenue for the purpose of augmenting their dividend, which had been a small one; but they did not admit, and it was not proved, that their situation was such that they could not do everything that the people of Sheffield had a right to expect. He was told that was so, and he believed that in the reasons given by the Corporation it was not suggested that the means of the Company were not such as that they could do everything which the Corporation could do if the property was transferred to them. All the Company asked was something to enable them to augment their dividend. For these reasons, there was no good cause why their property should be taken from them if they were unwilling to part with it. It was urged that the ratepayers were the best judges of what they wanted, and these were of opinion that the service would be better and cheaper. Well, he did not see how the Corporation could work it more cheaply than the Water Company, and if they paid the Water Company a fair price, it followed that the ratepayers would have as much to pay for their water as they were now doing. It was obvious that if the Corporation could work the affair more cheaply, it would have to pay a fair price, and they must in time charge the ratepayers accordingly. It was said that a great many Corporations had the control of the water supplies. Well, a great many more, on the other hand, had not, and he did not understand that those who had not were worse off than where the power rested in the Corporation; and, he felt perfectly satisfied that it was impossible, in concerns of this sort, that they could be managed as well as by private enterprize. In conclusion, he asked them in a case such as this, where the promoters of an undertaking were unwilling to part with it, whether it was in accordance with public policy to ask Parliament to pass a Bill to compel them to sell that undertaking?

said, from the position he held in the House as the Chairman of Committees, he desired to say a few words, as questions might arise whether the decision of a Committee of their Lordships' House had been given in accordance with the merits of the case placed before them, or whether considerations had been brought in which were not involved in the case before them. He happened to preside over a Committee in 1864, before which the Sheffield Water Company promoted a Bill, and in which they were authorized to make certain charges for 25 years. The 25 years had nearly expired; but at the time the Bill passed, neither the promoters, nor the Corporation, nor the Committee could foresee changes which in such a time had come over Sheffield, nor the expenses which would come on the Water Company. Now, in the pre- sent Session of 1887, two Bills had been promoted and placed before a Committee. That Committee had negatived the Preamble of the Water Company's Bill, the principal point of which was to perpetuate the charges which, in 1864, had been limited to 25 years. The Committee had, on the other hand, passed the Preamble of the Bill promoted by the Corporation for the compulsory purchase of the Water Company's rights. The Committee, in announcing their decision, had placed on record certain reasons which influenced them in that decision, and it was practically only the statement of those reasons which had caused the debate on the question as to whether the Bill should be read a third time. There was no doubt that many who read the decision and the statement of reasons given by the Committee might consider that, bearing in mind the failure to prove improper management on the part of the Company, as stated by the Committee—they might think that the Committee had travelled beyond their province in negativing the Company's Bill upon the question of public policy. There was no doubt that it was of the greatest importance that there should be full confidence in the decisions of the Select Committees appointed to consider Private Bills. That confidence, he believed, existed universally; but occasionally, no doubt, questions might arise, as had arisen that night; and if the decision to be given that night was a final decision, if that was the second House the Bill had been before, instead of the first House, it might have been a question whether it would not be well to recommit both Bills and refer them to another Committee. But in this case it was not a final decision which the House was asked to give that night. If the Bill was read a third time it would be submitted to "another place," and be subjected there to close scrutiny. Before a Committee of the other House both parties, for and against the Bill, could take full advantage of the questions which had been raised before the Committee of their Lordships' House, and the discussion that night in their Lordships' House. The decision of their Lordships' Committee or of their Lordships' House could be reviewed, reversed, or altered in any way which, in the view of the Committee of the other House of Parliament, the justice of the case might require. In view of the fact that the decision that night would not be final, and that the Bill—if read a third time— would go down to be carefully investigated elsewhere, he certainly thought their Lordships would do well to read the Bill a third time, and pass it on in the ordinary course for further investigation.

said, he must confess that when he came to the House, having only seen the reasons which the Committee gave for passing the Bill, he felt very strongly in favour of the Amendment of the noble Earl (the Earl of Wemyss). The decision of the Committee, as stated in their reasons, appeared to be based entirely on questions of public policy, which it seemed to him should be decided in a general way and not on a Private Bill. But the noble Earl on the Front Bench (the Earl of Derby) had based the defence of their decision entirely upon local and special grounds, which had been ascertained after careful inquiry, and on that ground he should be unwilling to dispute the decision at which the Committee had arrived.

said, he felt no hesitation in voting against the third reading of this Bill. No blame had ever been cast on the management of the Water Company, which, living near, he would certainly have heard of. The promoters of this Bill promised cheapness and a supply for water-closets; but the Company's Bill would last on to 1890, and, as to cheapness, nothing could be worse than creating sewer-gas by water-closets. The death of the Earl of Chesterfield, at Scarborough, and the dangerous illness of the Prince of Wales were caused by it. Inquiry should be made as to the Chinese system and the Flemish plan of manuring, and as to the Rochdale system, instead of expensive manures being bought to maintain fertility of land without permanently enriching it. He would not pass the Duke of Portland's Bill for artificial manures, as described by The Nottingham Journal, on large farms on Sherwood Forest, on any consideration. He believed over-peopled countries could be fed by our restoring to the earth what we took from it.

said, he was satisfied with the protest he had made, and would not divide the House, but would ask leave to withdaw the Amendment.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Original Motion agreed to.

Bill read 3a ; and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Tithe Rent-Charge Bill

( The Marquess of Salisbury.)


Bill read 2a (according to Order).

, in rising to move that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, said, that he did so wishing to submit to their Lordships whether the questions which were dealt with in it did not require more information than their Lordships were probably in possession of, and whether important interests which were involved in the changes proposed in this measure did not demand more attention and consideration than could be given in the ordinary course of a Bill in passing through that House. He believed he was not wrong in saying that it was not unusual in such cases to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. This Bill was not one of an ordinary character. In the first place, it involved great and fundamental changes. The principle of tithe, as their Lordships knew, was that it was a charge upon the produce of land, and the same principle was adhered to by the commutation of 1836, when tithe in kind was commuted for a rentcharge depending upon the average prices of corn, wheat, bailey, and oats in the last seven years. But this Bill instead of dealing with the tithe rent-charge as a liability upon the produce of land made the owner of the land personally liable for it, so that he "may be sued for such arrears as for a simple contract debt." This was a fundamental change of very serious importance entirely altering the nature of tithe or tithe rent charge as a tenth of the produce of land, and converting it into a debt for which the landowner was personally liable, instead of the owner of tithe rent-charge having as now the power of distress upon the occupier of land. Instead of this, if this Bill passed, he would have power through the Law Courts to seize any personal property of the landowner. Then he would further beg to call their attention to the fact that in this Bill, so far as he could see, there was no provision whatever for a re-adjustment of the tithe rent-charge in consideration of the great fall in the value of agricultural produce since the commutation in 1836. The tithe of an acre of corn land about that time would have been worth probably not less than 40 per cent more than it was at the present time. The commutation of tithe into rent-charge was made upon some such basis. About that time also we were growing in this country about 16,000,000 or 17,000,000 quarters of wheat annually, while according to the reports of the harvest of 1886 the quantity grown was only about 7,000,000 quarters. He could not see in this Bill any recognition whatever of facts such as these. Then they had to consider what would be the effects of this Bill with regard to existing contracts of tenancy. It was true that there was in this Bill a clause (5) dealing with this question, and it might be easy to say, as in this clause, that the "tithe rent-charge shall be added to the rent." But he thought their Lordships would understand that at the present moment of almost unprecedented depression this was more easily said than done, and that while they were, perhaps, relieving the tithe-owner from the difficulty of collecting it they would simply be throwing the burden upon the landowner, whose only remedy would be to increase the rent in proportion, and thus the tenant occupier would be in no way benefited. Then there was the question of redemption. It was true that there was a clause (7) for allowing redemption at 20 years' purchase, but it did not afford any facilities for doing so. He believed that by a well-considered scheme of redemption the value of land would be raised, and the landowner would therefore be better able to make easy arrangements with his tenants until the land, after a term of years, became entirely freed from the rent-charge. He trusted that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) would, by consenting to the appointment of a Select Committee, afford the opportunity of a fuller consideration of the question—which was already one of no little friction and uneasiness—the diffi- culties of which, would not, he believed, in any way be removed by the Bill in its present shape or by Amendments in a Committee of the Whole House without further evidence and information.

Moved, "That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee."—( The Earl De La Warr.)

(The Marquess of SALISBURY)

said, his impression was—and it had been increased by the speech of the noble Earl (Earl De La Warr)—that this was not a simple Bill. The matters dealt with in this Bill, such as whether the liability for tithe should be placed on the landowner, whether the question of the original valuation of the tithe should again be raised, and other points, involved questions of principle which could best, he thought, be discussed in this House, and if the Bill was referred to a Select Committee, as the noble Earl suggested, there would, he feared, be a danger of that occurring which occurred with regard to the Church Patronage Bill, that was, that when the Bill came back the House might take an entirely different view from the Committee. Some words which his noble Friend dropped seemed to indicate that he intended not a Select Committee in the ordinary sense, but a Select Committee which should receive evidence. This would mean that the Bill could not possibly be proceeded with further this Session. In view of the earnest expressions of desire for the passing of the Bill which he had received from the clergy in various parts of the country, he should be loth to do anything to deprive them of such hope as they could cherish of getting the Bill passed in the present year. He quite admitted that they might not be successful, because Business had not proceeded with great rapidity in the House of Commons. Still, they ought to do all they could; but if they referred the Bill to a Select Committee to take evidence, their chance would be very small. Therefore, so far as his own opinion went, he should not consent to the Bill going to a Select Committee.

said, he thought the clergy owed the noble Marquess a debt of great gratitude for the care and skill with which he had endeavoured to meet the very great difficulties raised by the Bill. He should be glad to see those difficulties minutely examined; but, at the same time, he was most loth to propose anything "which might in the slightest degree impede the progress of the Bill or run counter to the judgment of the noble Marquess as to the best way of discussing it. He had seen it stated that there was great opposition to this Bill on the part of the clergy, but he had no knowledge of such opposition: on the contrary, he had received much favourable criticism upon it, and that very afternoon he had received from an excellent body that gave great attention to matters of this kind —the Church Defence Association—an intimation that they would consider it little short of a disaster if the Bill were hindered or dropped. Though perhaps more suitable for discussion in Committee, he desired to mention two points on which he had received a great number of communications. The first was contained in Clause 2, which provided that an allowance of 5 per cent was to be made to the landowners who paid their tithe punctually within three months. He did not think that would he a fair arrangement. There were many landowners who had always themselves, and not through tenants, paid their tithe in full, and who did not desire that 5 per cent should be handed over to themselves. At present he knew of many more who were already making arrangements to pay their own tithe without any thought of discount. In none of these cases could the simple withdrawal of 5 per cent from its owners be a just act. Again, a large number of the clergy collected their tithe in full without any cost to themselves. The reason assigned for this deduction of 5 per cent by the landowner was that it would compensate him for his risk, trouble, and expense. But the landowner's risk ought to he nothing, and it could not be computed. The trouble was only the trouble of paying his just debts, and the expense would be much less than the expense incurred in its collection by the tithe-owner, since the landowner could collect the tithe with his rents. Nor did he think that such reduction of 5 per cent would be any inducement to unwilling owners to pay their tithe in time. There was a general impression that the number of the tithe-payers was very much greater than the number of the land- owners, and that it would therefore be a great saving of trouble to the clergy to collect it from the latter instead of from the former. An investigation had now been held on this point. Two parishes in each of five counties had been taken, and in these ten parishes it was recently found that whereas the tithe-payers numbered 883, the landowners were 704; so that the difference was not nearly so great as had been commonly supposed. He hoped to be excused for dwelling for a moment on this point, as, besides its immediate bearing, it had a general interest. In order to verify the above result, which excited some surprise, six other counties were similarly examined, and with the same results. He might state as a still more general expression of the facts, and in corroboration of the minor inquiries, that for the total amount of tithe rent-charge paid to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, the tithe-payers numbered 58,000 and the landowners 37,000. Of course, in considering the pacific effects of this measure, which he trusted would be very considerable, it must be taken into consideration that a great many of the tithe-payers were also landowners. The second point of difficulty to which he desired to call the attention of the House was the 7th clause, which made it compulsory upon the tithe-owner to surrender his tithe rent-charge to the landowner at 20 years' purchase. It was not well, he thought, to draw this hard-and-fast line, for the value of the tithe rent-charge was determined by variable elements—namely, the corn averages, and also the rating, which in different places varied from 7½ per cent to 25 per cent. These and other circumstances made great differences in the number of years' purchase which would represent the value of different rent-charges; for example, compare Norham, where there is one owner and one payer, with Haxsey, where there are 804 payers, and where there would be 428 payers if owners paid, it is evident that Norham is worth many more years' purchase than Haxey would be. He suggested that the Bill should be amended by the insertion of a proviso that the payment far the tithe should be "not less" than 20 years' purchase. He believed that if it were determined that not less than 20 years' purchase should be given the question of the purchase of the tithe by the landowner would in most cases be settled amicably. For land owners and tithe owners who should be unable to agree between themselves simple arbitration ought to be established by reference to the Land Commissioners. But to fix once for all a certain price to be paid to the lithe-owners on all estates in all parts of the country, whether payers were many or few, and without regard to such varying elements as rating and corn charge, would be as fallacious as it would be to fix now the price of Consols 10 years hence.

said, he did not see any necessity for the Bill being referred to a Select Committee. There were points in the Bill which could be better dealt with by the House than by a Select Committee. The matters to which the most reverend Prelate (the Archbishop of Canterbury) had drawn attention would, he hoped, receive careful consideration. The Act of 1836 clearly made tithes a charge upon the landlords, but by contract the tenants in many cases, if not generally, had paid them. It was clear, in point of reason and justice, that the clergy ought not to be prejudiced in their rights in consequence of the contracts between landlords and tenants which had changed the mode of defraying the charge, and that the clergy ought not to be forced into deplorable collisions with their parishioners merely because landlords had made certain arrangements with their tenants and the tenants misunderstood the whole position. The question between the landlord and the tenant was merely one of rent, with which the clergyman ought not to have anything to do; and it was unreasonable that his only remedy for a charge which the law had laid upon the landlord's interest in the laud should be by distress, or for want of a sufficient distress, upon the goods of the tenant. There was one additional point to which he desired to direct attention. The power of distress was taken away by the Bill. That he considered a good thing. But it was necessary to provide some substitute, and he suggested that in cases where the tithe could not be otherwise obtained some simple means should be provided of getting from the County Court an attachment upon the landlord's rent due, or to become due, from the tenant. The tenant would simply be served with notice of the landlord's default and directed to pay so much of the rent to the titheowner. This, he contended, would be a simple way of doing justice unaccompanied by any annoying circumstances.

said, with reference to the clause providing for the return of 5 per cent to the landlords who made prompt payment, the remedy which the law had given to the tithe-owner was the power to dis-train on the land on which the tithe rent-charge was fixed, and if the landowner was made personally liable, something was given to the Church which it had not before, and something ought to be paid by the Church for the privilege. The tithe-owner ought not to obtain this advantage without paying something for it. He did not attach much importance to the redemption clauses. Tithe had fallen to 85, and many competent judges thought it would fall still lower, to 75 or even 70. Thus the inducement to landowners to redeem was not very great. All turned, it seemed to him, upon a question of policy-—was it or was it not to the advantage of the Church to promote those redemptions? If it were thought to be of advantage to promote those redemptions, unless they offered liberal terms they would have no redemptions. He was inclined to think that there were parts of the country whore redemption would be advantageous to the Church. There were other parts where he was not aware that any difficulty had yet arisen, and therefore the Church might feel easy with regard to the tithes. They had, however, all seen in some parts of the country what seemed to indicate much more serious difficulties hereafter; and, therefore, he thought the Government had done well in putting into the Bill what they thought were the terms of redemption likely to be accepted, though he himself doubted whether those terms were likely to be accepted.

said, it should be remembered that if something was to be given to the Church, something was to be taken away from it, because, although they might say the remedy of distraint was of a very odious kind, yet there could be no doubt it was exceedingly effectual, as proved by the rareness with which it had been found necessary to resort to it. As to the remedy against the owner, he might be found very difficult of access, whereas there was no difficulty whatever in finding out where to distrain and what to distrain upon. There was a large amount of land charged with tithe in the diocese of London which was rapidly becoming building land, and 25 years' purchase was readily given by the owner for the tithe. In such cases it would not be fair that the incumbents should lose five years' purchase of their tithe. The Bill gave the landlord power to redeem at any time, but no corresponding power was given to the titheowner. Of course the landowner in these circumstances would choose his own time for redemption, while the titheowner had no such choice of time. If there were a power of compulsory redemption, some other mode should be adopted than that of fixing a hard - and - fast rule of 20 years' purchase. Some experienced body, such as the Land Commissioners, should have power to decide.

said, that it was the intention of the Act of 1836 to make tithe a landowners' question. But the remedy being given by distraint against the tenant, landlords invariably made arrangements with their tenants to pay the tithe. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment (Earl De La Warr) said that the effect of the Bill would be that landlords would have to raise their rents. But with respect to existing contracts the landlord would be entitled to add the tithe to the rent, and no fresh contract would have to be entered into. The landowner ought to be considered as well as the tithe-owner. If this Bill passed, the remedy would be not against the goods on a particular farm, but against all the estate, real and personal, of the landlord, and therefore he thought there should be some quid pro quo given up by the tithe-owner. As a rule the landlords of England were at the present time far too impoverished to be anxious to redeem the tithe rent-charge at 25 years' purchase. Only in rare cases was a landlord in a position to find the money for the purpose of redeeming the tithe rent-charge, and it would be hard to compel him to find with great difficulty a considerable sum of money for the purpose of redemption. He believed this measure would have the effect of smoothing away a very serious difficulty. It gave a simpler remedy against a more solvent person, and it removed, at the same time, a great many hardships.

said, he felt bound to say, in the interest of many of those who were loyal supporters of the Government, and who were as anxious as the noble Marquess to see this Tithe Question settled, that the Bill failed in many respects to meet their wishes. Many of the provisions of the Bill would require very serious consideration in Committee. He contended that in dealing with the question of tithes, they ought to go on the basis of the value of produce, and not on the basis of the value of the land. The views which he wished to put before the House were shared by many who, like himself, were supporters of the Government. They considered that a 5 per cent reduction would not meet the exigencies of the case, and they likewise considered that 20 years' purchase of the average tithe would not in any way render it possible for the redemption to take place. The present net annual value of the tithe was £64, and it was impossible to suppose that any landowner would buy at 20 years' purchase. The only prospect of success for such a measure was that some scheme of gradual purchase should be rendered possible. The agricultural interest would certainly not be satisfied, and it was evident that some modification would be required not only in the interest of the landlord, but also in the interest of the tenant. There was no protection to the tenant that he would not be forced to pay the tithe, in case the landlord defaulted; on the other hand, there was no protection to the landlord that if he paid, he would be able to recover his rent in the case of annual tenants.

asked leave to withdraw the Motion to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. He desired to add two words respecting the Bill. In his opinion, it was most desirable, in the interests of the Church, that tithes should be paid directly by the landlord. Had time allowed of it, he could have pointed out how easily teinds were paid in this way in Scotland, and also under what Acts these payments were regulated. As to the recovery of tithes, he thought that if the remedy of distress were given up, there was no alternative but that of giving the tithe-owner a right of personal action. Three years ago, he (Earl Stanhope) had brought forward a Tithe Bill which was founded on this same principle, because there seemed to be no other ready means to promote the object in view. As to redemption, he should prefer an easier means provided by which the principal and interest of the rent-charge might be discharged in a certain number of years. In the 7th section of the Irish Church Act Amendment Act, there was a Proviso to this effect, and he now begged to give Notice that he would move a similar clause when the Bill went into Committee.

desired to confirm, to the fullest possible extent, what had been said by the most rev. Prelate as to the view taken by the clergy of this Bill. He had the honour of presiding that day over a representative body of clergy and laity, and a resolution was passed by it unanimously—

"That the Government Bill now before the House of Lords is recognized as a friendly attempt to meet the difficulties of the present crisis, and while regarding the Bill as capable of improvement in points of detail, it considers it deserving of the support of Churchmen, and earnestly trusts that every effort may he made to pass it without delay."
With regard to the remission of 5 per cent to landowners, he thought that some better reasons than he had as yet heard should be given for it. A large number of landowners in the North of England now paid the tithe, and he did not see why they should receive a remission of 5 per cent for doing that which the Act of 1836 always contemplated that they would do. This Act had been for many years favourable to the landowner and he must take the rough and the smooth together, and be prepared at the present time to make some sacrifices. He hoped the Government would persevere with the Bill as a fair solution of a difficult question.

heartily thanked Her Majesty's Government for bringing in the Bill. It would be a great relief to the clergy to be freed from bickerings connected with the present mode of collecting the tithe.

hoped their Lordships would be able to come to some agreements in Committee. He was glad to find that the House had generally agreed to accept the measure, though several points of detail, no doubt, required to be carefully looked into. The 5 per cent raised a thorny question; but he was not without hope that some adjustment might be found. He should be glad to facilitate advances for tithe redemption, which undoubtedly could not be carried out without some assistance of that kind; but, whether in the present state of the national finances it could be done, he did not know. At all events, he should be glad to facilitate it. With regard to the question raised by the noble Duke (the Duke of Marlborough), he had a distinct opinion that the landowner had no case whatever. His impression was, that if anyone had to complain it was the tithe-owner. The whole fall had been in the price of grain, and he very much doubted if there had been any fall at all in the price of green crops, or of stocks. That made it all the worse for those who came into the arrangement of 1836. If there was any case at all, it was on behalf of the clergy, and not against them. That, however, was a matter which could not be mixed up with the present Bill. If it was to be dealt with at all it must be by a separate measure.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Friday the 13 th of May next.

Supreme Court Of Judicature (Ireland) Bill—(No 63)

( The Lord Privy Seal, Earl Cadogan.)


Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a ." —( The Lord Privy Seal.)

, in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day six months, said: If the creation of more than four Courts became necessary, after the abolition of Chiefs, he hoped that, at least, each Court might have separate entries of causes—to begin at No. 1 in each, only to be transferred to other numbers, when each list might be finished. On Circuit two Chiefs often went together, and took part in the general business. And there was no need to abolish the Courts of Common Pleas and of Exche- quer. He (Lord Denman) had been associated by statute — as a man of knightly degree—to the Lord Chief Justice of the Courts of King's Bench and of Queen's Bench, and the days of sitting could not be named till his appointment was known. At first, it took two years to bring a cause into Court—remanets produced an enormous income. The late Marshal and Associate had boxes made for the parchment records, and called them his "corn-bins;" whilst, since then, his successor, from his predecessor's determination to clear off arrears, became so great a loser, that if ever he had a horse which he had improved, he could not keep him or sell him, and was obliged to give him away. The noble Lord on the Woolsack had a horse at livery standing next to his, and both owners gave away their animals. He had not been able to put horses together lately with the noble Lord; but he hoped by August 5, when the Women's Suffrage Bill would come on, to have his continued support.

Amendment moved, to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day six months.")—( The Lord Denman.)

On Question that ("now") stand part of the Motion?

Resolved in the affirmative.

Original Motion agreed to.

Bill read 3a accordingly, and passed.