§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BUXTON
, in moving the second reading of the first of two Bills on this subject which stood on the Notice Paper, the Municipal Corporation Metropolis Bill and the Corporations of London Bill said, the object of the two Bills that he hold in his hand was nothing less than this—their aim was to get rid of that state of almost anarchical confusion by which the administration of the metropolis was at present disgraced, and to bestow upon her 3,000,000 inhabitants a well-balanced, well-organized system of representative self-government. That might well be thought a somewhat herculean task, and with that fooling he had for some time shrunk from taking part in it; and it was only at the earnest and repeated request of those who had been making great sacrifices of labour, time, and money for many years in this cause that he had accepted the duty they wished to impose on him. It must be matter of great regret to those who were interested in that subject that it should have lost the services of Mr. John Stuart Mill as its leader; but, in truth, the time was ripe for a revolution of that kind in the government of the metropolis. Public opinion was rapidly maturing to it, and it mattered little how inadequate its advocates in Parliament might be; flint reform must, before long. be carried through. He had referred to Mr. Mill, and he should not be content to pass over in silence the services of his coadjutors, Mr. Ludlow and Mr. James Beal, who must not be confounded, as he sometimes was, with Mr. Beales of the Reform League. Mr. Beal had laboured most strenuously for many years at that undertaking, and if it was carried through, his fellow-citizens ought not to forget his disinterested and persevering exertions on their behalf. Now, he was well aware that no private Member could indulge the hope of carrying through such a revolution as mat with his own hand. All he could do was to submit to Parliament a scheme which certainly had been prepared with infinite, pains and care, in the earnest hope that Her Majesty's Government, who were, he knew, fully alive to the necessity of ac- 1940 tion upon that point, would take up the case themselves, and during the next Recess Mould examine carefully into the scheme, comparing it with the rival schemes which had been suggested by others, and then that, in the course of next Session, they would propose to Parliament whichever plan was found to be most likely to conduce to the welfare of the metropolis. He had spoken of rival proposals, and he thought he had better briefly, but he hoped candidly, describe some of those that were coin-petting for favour with the one that he had the honour to bring forward. One of the plans that had been propounded was that advocated by the Metropolitan Board of Works, who very naturally wished the vestries and so forth to remain as they were; that the boroughs should not be endowed with municipal functions, but that the powers of the Board of Works itself should be enlarged, so that it should become the supreme authority over all the affairs of the metropolis. There was one fatal disadvantage in that scheme—namely, that it took no account of the existence of the City Corporation, which would not consent to that supremacy of the Board of Works; whereas, the City had actually reported in favour of the first of his two Bills, and would merely seek to protect their interests with respect to the second. But even if that difficulty were got over, the suggestion of the Board of Works, though it might supply a strong government for London as a whole, would do nothing whatever to introduce order and good government into the chaos of conflicting jurisdictions in the several parts of London. Then came the proposal that emanated from the present Lord Fortescue, when Member for Marylebone. That noble Lord proposed a series of bodies governing the whole of the area, but each devoted to one great work, such as works, police, lighting, drainage, and improvements. That scheme was highly ingenious, but he need not discuss it now, as it was not pressed forward. Then there was the proposal made, he thought, by his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), who recommended that they should simply take the City as a nucleus, and then divide the rest of London into wards, which should elect their aldermen and councillors like the wards of the City proper, thus sim- 1941 ply adding then on as bees might add new cells to a honeycomb. No doubt there was an air of simplicity about that arrangement which was very attractive. In ancient times the City generally added one ward after another, and if that system of inclusion had not been stopped, by this lime the City would have absorbed the whole of London. It was clear, however, that there were fatal difficulties in the way of adopting the proposed arrangements. For example, if the new wards were of the same size as the old ones, there would be such a multitude of them, and, consequently, such a host of aldermen and common councillors that no building could, contain them. On the other hand, if the new wards were a great deal larger than the old ones, there would be great said well-founded dissatisfaction; if, for example, Westminster were only put on the same footing as one of the smaller wards in the City. Well, then, there was another proposal which found favour with the Committee over which his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Ayrton) presided. The proposal of the Committee was, in fact, a revolutionary one. It altogether ignored the existence of the City Corporation, and started off as if they had a tabula rasa, with nothing already in occupation of the ground. He could not think that proposal was characterized by statesmanlike prudence. It would be very unwise of them to add so enormously to their practical difficulties, as they would if they attempted to sweep away a system so ancient, so venerable. so powerful as that. The Corporation of London was already engaged in the work of its own reformation; but it would be utterly unreasonable to make a reform of the City a necessary stepping-stone to the creation of a constitution for the metropolis, with which it had no necessary connection. And now he would endeavour to delineate the scheme which, in. his opinion, was a more practicable, a more conciliatory, and. at the same time, a bolder and move efficient one than any of those to which he had referred; the scheme, in fact, contained in these two Bills. The object being, as he had said before, to confer a complete system of representative self-government on the metropolis, the mode by which, they propose to carry out that idea was by the creation of what he might call a 1942 Federation of Municipalities. Their proposal was that each of the Parliamentary boroughs already existing should be converted into a municipal borough. Each of those boroughs was to have a complete machinery for self-government with respect to its local separate interests. Then, for the government of the metropolis as a whole, these ten municipal boroughs were to be united in a common Representative Assembly, and a common executive administration, thus forming a corporation for the whole of London. The nine new municipalities, in addition to the City proper, that would thus be created, were as follows; —Westminster, which would retain its prescriptive title of City, containing at the present moment, in round numbers, 260,000 persons; Chelsea, 200,000; Marylebone, 473,000; Finsbury, 423,000; Hackney and the Tower Hamlets, containing together 710,000; Lambeth, 320,000; Southwark, 204,000; and Greenwich, 193,000; and then there was the City with 130,000; making ten boroughs, with a population averaging 300,000 in each, and in the aggregate amounting to all but 3,000,000 of people. Each of these would have its separate corporation, consisting of mayor, aldermen, and burgesses; its council, with the usual powers of such bodies; and also with all the powers of vestries and other district bodies under the Metropolitan Local Management Act; its justices of the peace, invested with the usual licensing powers; its salaried police magistrate and police court; its town hall and its borough rate: in fact, each of these metropolitan boroughs would be treated exactly as if it were a borough in any other part of the kingdom. That would be their first step. Each separate portion of London would be provided with a perfect system of self-government to administer the separate affairs of that locality. But the second of these Bills went a great step further. After London had been thus divided into ten municipal boroughs, they proposed that London as a whole should be formed into a corporation, with 134 councillors elected by all the rate-payers, simultaneously with the election of their local authorities, and with aldermen, and a Lord Mayor, not of the City, but of the whole metropolis, chosen in the usual manner. That corporation would, in the first 1943 place, become invested with all the functions of the present Metropolitan Board of Works; but the present Chairman. Sir John Thwaites, who had so admirably clone his duty in that position, would not be deprived of it, but would become Chairman of the Standing Committee of that new corporation—an office of great dignity and importance. The special functions of the central government would be to have control over the police, should the city not refuse consent, and over the whole administration of justice; over all sanitary measures, over the improvement of streets and public works of all kinds, including sewage, gas. bridges,; over gaols and asylums and so forth. It would be seen that the scheme was not a revolutionary one. It pro-posed to develop, to enlarge, to create, but not to destroy. In fact they proposed to make the ancient Corporation of London the basis of the scheme. It would absorb the City Corporation, just as the Kings of England in building the Tower of London incorporated the ancient White Tower, instead of razing it to its foundation, and laying out the ground afresh. The only change it proposed to make in the City Corporation was that; its mayor should no longer be called the Lord Mayor, but the Deputy Lord Mayor. The Lord Mayor ought to be the head of the whole coloration of the metropolis, and the mayor of the City Corporation should be called the Deputy Lord Mayor, so that in the absence of the Loud Mayor he should, ex officio, sit in his place, and thus they would give the City that precedence to which it had an unquestionable claim. With that one exception, the City would retain, its privileges, its precedents, its property, and its organization unaltered and it would stand at the head of the other corporations which it was proposed to create. The greatest pains, in fact, had been taken to conciliate all those who might naturally be alarmed by that proposal, so as to smooth the way for its adoption; and it would be found that if the plan were carried out no one would suffer by it cither in purse or in position; but that, on the contrary, those who already held offices in the metropolis would, he thought, in every case have the opportunity of taking places analogous to that which they now filled, but of far greater importance, and in most cases of greater emolument as well. 1944 The details of the two Bills were, of course, extremely voluminous, but he wished to confine himself strictly to the main ideas on which they were based; and he would not trouble the House by describing their specific; features. Now, the fact that the population of the metropolis amounted to 3,000,000 of persons was, in itself, an ample proof of the importance of making provisions for her self-government. That importance, however, was immensely enhanced by the position which London occupied as the centre of this great Empire, as the heart of their body politic, through which every current of life flowed without ceasing. Every year the metropolis occupied a more and more important position in relation to the rest of the community. Every year their whole political and social system became more and more thoroughly organized, and therefore every part was drawn into more and more intimate relations with the centre. And looking to the future, it was evident that Middlesex would ore long contain what might be characterized as a powerful nation. It was calculated that ere this century closed she would contain a population of from 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 of people. One might well have expected that the metropolis of such a country as ours would have itself exhibited, though in a smaller area, that wonderful power of organization, that wonderful aptitude for self-government, and that resolute determination to manage its own affairs which had so eminently distinguished the English people. Strange to say, the very opposite was the truth. Strange to say, there was not, he believed, in all Europe a metropolis— there was not in the whole of this kingdom a town or city—whose system of administration was in a state of confusion so preposterous as that in which the capital of the Empire was plunged. No one who had not gone deeply into the subject could believe the state of things which now existed. It was chaos itself. It might fitly be described in the words in which John Bunyan described the Valley of the Shadow of Death,— namely, that "It was every whit dread-fid, being utterly without order." As Mr. Beal observed in one of his very able speeches on that subject—"The humblest corporate town has had powers conferred upon it which are denied to the metropolis of the Empire." "Nothing," 1945 said the Edinburgh Review of last January—Is more discreditable than the anarchy of London and its circumjacent cities; nothing more unworthy of a nation which professes to govern distant umpires than the fact chat the government of its own capital is in the hands of a mediæval corporation, and of parochial Boards, all at war with each other.And it proceeded earnestly to advocate the establishment of a complete system of municipal government in London and the introduction of an effective control over the whole system of local taxation. It added—A municipal government of the metropolis being established on a proper footing, the great questions of pauperism, crime, police, public works, water supply, markets, sanitary improvements, and local taxation would, of course, be dealt with by it.The Quarterly Review and many leading newspapers had written in the same sense. What the Edinburgh Review called the "anarchy of London" came mainly from this, that instead of its being cat into certain defined parts, and each portion being complete in itself for the administration of all its local affairs, new districts seemed to have been formed for carrying out every new purpose that had at any time arisen. Thus, London was divided into thirty-nine districts for one purpose; into sixteen for another; ninety for another purpose; fifty-four for another; besides a multitude of other divisions. It was differently divided for the police and for the police courts, for the County Courts, for duties under the Registrar General under the Building-Act, for postal, militia, revenue, water, gas, and Parliamentary purposes; and those districts crossed and interlaced each other in a manner almost reminding one of Dr. Johnson's definition of network— that it was "a decussated reticulation, with interstices between the intersections." At the present moment more than 100 Acts of Parliament were in force for the government of London; and there were no less than 7,000 honorary officials: there were about the same number of guardians of the poor, besides a host of paid officials. He need hardly say that this variety of authorities and of divisions and subdivisions overlapping and crossing each other, the confusion of their powers, and the cross purposes of those endowed with them, involved the rate-payers of the metropolis in a vast amount of needless expense. It had led to much 1946 litigation; and, above all, such a state of anarchy not only implied extravagant outlay, but extreme inefficiency as well. They paid heavily, and they did not get any adequate return for their outlay. As an illustration of the extravagance of that system he might mention that evidence was given before Mr. Ayrton's Committee that to spend £10,000 in the Strand district cost in mere friction £3,000. They had in the two cases of Marylebone and Westminster a signal illustration of the economy that resulted from the consolidation of powers. It was shown before the Committee that Westminster, from its numerous subdivisions of vestry action, expended £10,000 more than St. Marylebone in administering an equal sum—£200,000 —collected in rates. Now, nearly £3,000,000 of money is collected and expended by these local powers. Which would be most economical—to have thirty-nine staffs for one purpose, or ten; to have a multitude of authorities, acting without concert, or to have all powers consolidated into ten administrations, complete for ail purposes? He put it to hon. Gentlemen present who were residents in the metropolis what their own personal experience was with respect to its government. Was there one among them who knew anything about the administration of their local affairs? For his own part he could only say that, although he had considerable interests in the West, but still more in the East of London, he had not the faintest idea when he paid his rates—which he scorned to be always doing—who those were by whom he was governed, how or why they had been chosen to govern him; on what grounds they had imposed upon him that expenditure, or whether it was or was not a reasonable and wise one. The system had no real publicity. It was worked almost in the dark. In fact, they knew nothing. They did not govern themselves; they were governed by others, without practically their being in any way consulted. Now, what he wanted was that every rate-payer in London should be the citizen of a borough, choosing those who were to administer the whole of the local affairs in which he was interested, and that those thus chosen should administer them under the eye and in the presence, as it were, of their fellow-citizens. In what he had just been saying, however, he 1947 did not mean to find any fault at all with the vestrymen, the guardians, and the other existing officials. It was not the men, it was the system that he blamed. On the contrary, he thought that all had great reason to feel sincere gratitude to those who made such sacrifices of time and labour for the benefit of the neighbourhood in which they lived, and who in many eases did their work so well. Nor did he want to oust them from their functions. He wanted to consolidate their powers and to give them so complete an organization that there should be no waste of such valuable force. In every way it could not but be an evil that the administration of affairs should be thus cut up into pieces, and be conducted on so small a scale, instead of the whole of the local affairs of each large division being conducted by one governmental machine. Very small government was rarely very good government. It was almost impossible, as Mr. Mill had well observed, to have a highly-skilled administration, on a minute scale. It could neither be paid enough nor watched enough to make it first-rate. Government on a large scale had always a more vigorous life. It was more powerful, more rapid, more intelligent. When local administration was too much broken up into fragments there was always great danger of its getting into the hands of men unfit to take part in any work of the kind, and the very obscurity of its operations acted as a powerful encouragement to jobbery, to parsimony, and that which was the twin-sister of parsimony—absurd extravagance. Now, it seemed unaccountable that hitherto the people of the metropolis should have been content to remain floundering in that condition of chaotic anarchy, while new towns, such as Adelaide or Chicago, founded by English emigrants, had a system of self-government as perfect as any the world had seen. It was the more extraordinary because one portion of the metropolis had, for so many centuries, had a very complete organization. He alluded, of course, to the City proper, which occupied so conspicuous a position in this country, and yet, in reality, it was the merest fragment of the metropolis itself. The contrast between the two was most striking. The area of the City consisted of 723 acres, while London covered more than 80,000 acres. The 1948 resident population of the City by the last Census was 130,000, as against 3.000,000 in London itself. The assessment of the City was, in round numbers, £2,200,000 per annum, as against £17,000,000 for the metropolis as a whole. Yet that small portion of the metropolis was the only part which had a definite self-contained administration. Now, if each of these ten boroughs were supplied, as he proposed, with a complete machinery for self-government, and then above and beyond that they had a corporation of the whole metropolis, a council formed from the élite of the municipal councils—were that scheme carried out who could doubt that they would then secure the services of a very superior class of men for work of such great interest and importance? He should not. he hoped, be misunderstood if he said that he wished to see London governed by her aristocracy, not, indeed by an aristocracy of mere wealth and rank, but that she should be, as the word really meant, under the rule of her best citizens; that the ablest, the most honourable among them, should aspire eagerly to take a share in the control of her affairs. And there was no man resident within her borders, whatever his social position, who might not well think it a worthy object of ambition to be the head, or to be one of the chief rulers, of a capital of such transcendant dignity and importance. Why, if for a moment they could look on London as separate altogether from England, and think of her rather as Athens, or Rome, or Florence, tinder the Medici, as a community by herself—was there ever yet seen on the face of the earth a city so truly the first of ail cities, in wealth, in power, in art, in science, or in literature, in the vastness of her enterprise of every kind? Again, if they took her as the head and centre of the British Empire, was there ever a city whose sons bore sway over the destinies of so great a multitude of nations? Was there ever a city so truly the foremost loader in the progress of mankind? Why was it that those who lived in such a city—in a city in many ways so fitted to kindle enthusiastic love and admiration—why was it that they felt no touch of that civic patriotism which had always in other illustrious cities characterized their children? At present a Londoner scarcely dreamt of looking 1949 upon London with interest and pride and affection, as his own mother city, with whose life his own was bound up. He had no feeling of intimate connection with her. The population of London was a more aggregate of so many individuals; but was not organized as one great whole; they were not, as it were, members of a body politic, and that, undoubtedly, was owing to their having no system of self-government among them. If they had an organization of the kind that he ventured to propose, it would call forth the faculties and the virtues of citizenship; it would at once kindle their dormant interest in the well-being of their capital, and it would be found that men of business, leading tradesmen, merchants, manufacturers, Members of either House of Parliament, men accustomed to handle the machinery of government, would be as ready, as Englishmen had invariably shown themselves, to sacrifice their leisure for the delight of doing work so worthy to be done; and there would revive among them that feeling of pride in that mighty city by which, in the middle ages, her citizens were marked; and while standing and looking on the roofs and towers with which even the banks of that, river would before long be crowned, they could once more speak of London asUrbs speciosa situ, nitidis pulcherrima tectis,Grata pciegnnis, deliciosa suis.He hoped the Government would look favourably upon the scheme; would give it their careful consideration during the Recess; and if it were found, as he thought it would be, a reasonable and a practicable scheme, they would then bring it forward on their own responsibility. He would not trouble the House further, beyond saying that what he sought was that every rate-payer in London should have a share in choosing the men by whom he was to be governed; should have a voice in the employment of the funds taken from his earnings; should know upon what ground he was required to part with them. His aim was—and he never would rest till he had secured it—to substitute in the government of the capital of the Empire order for confusion; clear and codified laws for the tangled mass of more than 100 Acts of Parliament; to substitute defined and well-marshalled powers for the swarm of disconnected authorities; 1950 to substitute publicity for obscurity, economy for extravagance, liberality for meanness, force for inefficiency—he aimed, in short, at bestowing the priceless been of a complete and well-organized system of representative government on the 3,000,000 inhabitants of the metropolis, forming a community which even in mere numbers already exceeded some of the nations best known to history, but, at any rate, a community second to none in greatness, in dignity, and in power. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ MR. MORRISON
, in rising to second the Motion, said, he could not help remembering that this was the 16th of June, and that at so advanced a period of the Session it was impossible for any private Member to hope, to carry a Bill like the present, which affected large interest?, and was extremely complicated. He should, therefore, regard this debate not as a pitched battle, but rather as a reconnaissance en force, having for its object more serious operations in the future. He would even venture to recommend his hon. Friend (Mr. Buxton) not to press his Motion to a division, but rather to withdraw the Bill, and rest content with the discussion which he would have evoked. Everyone must feel assured that this was a question that would not be allowed to sleep, and though some persons might grumble at the slowness of its growth, he was not surprised that several years should be occupied in dealing with a matter involving such vast interests. All parties were agreed that reform of some sort was necessary, and the thing to he decided was, the shape reform should take. There was a general belief in the metropolis that the rates were unnecessarily high and that the large expenditure might be greatly reduced by more efficient management. Indeed, it was only necessary to point to the numerous conflicting authorities referred to by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton) in order to show that there must be enormous waste in the mere cost of administration. There were only two alternatives in reforming the system. It would be necessary either to establish one gigantic corporation for the whole metropolis, like that which existed at Manchester, or to adopt a scheme similar to that proposed in the present Bill. He 1951 owned himself a remit convert to this scheme. He was not prepared to defend the City of London in all things, but. having become acquainted with the working of the Corporation, he was struck with the ability displayed in the management of its affairs; and in his judgment we ought to be extremely tender in dealing with an institution which he firmly believed gave general satisfaction to the people of London. If one gigantic corporation were established for the whole of the metropolis, that which was now the peculiar evil of all local institutions in London would be increased—namely, the absence of that corporate life and public spirit which characterized the inhabitants of such towns as Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Londoners knew comparatively little of their vestries and parish boundaries, or of their representatives on the Metropolitan Board, and thus a loophole was opened for mismanagement and corruption. But if they did not know their parishes or vestries they were at all events thoroughly acquainted with the division of the metropolis into Parliamentary boroughs, and he thought he could perceive in his hon. Friend's proposal to make the municipal corporations co-extensive with the Parliamentary boroughs the germ of a satisfactory settlement: of this difficult question. If that Bill passed into law the greatest possible importance would attach to the first elections under it. No doubt the affiliation of corporations was new, but he should have great confidence in the result if they once got the machine into good working order. He had heard, with the greatest delight, the declaration of the Secretary of State for the Home Department that the Government intended to deal with the question; and he felt assured that if the right hon. Gentleman were next year to introduce a measure which was an improvement on the present one nobody could be more rejoiced than his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey. In conclusion, he begged to second the Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Buxton.)
said, he rose to move that the Bill be read again upon this day six months. The scheme was 1952 precisely similar to that which was introduced last year by Mr. Mill, and rejected by the House when he (Mr. Bentinck) brought forward an Amendment similar to that which he had now placed upon the Paper. He regretted that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton) should, at so late a period of the Session, have raised a discussion which must be fruitless in its results, more especially as his hon. Friend had obtained a declaration, more or less definite, from the Secretary of State for the Home Department that at the earliest opportunity this important subject should occupy the attention of the Government. With regard to the Bill two propositions might be laid down, which he thought were quite clear to all the world—first, that London was about the worst governed metropolis in the world; and, secondly, that the remedy proposed by his hon. Friend would be utterly unproductive of any good results, and even mischievous in its operation. Some persons seemed to be labouring under the delusion that Mr. Mill was the originator of this measure, but the truth was that the question of municipal reform for the metropolis came into practical existence long before Mr. Mill's political existence as a Member of the House of Commons commenced. In fact, Mr. Mill was merely the mouthpiece of Mr. Beal and other persons outside the House. There was a Committee appointed which investigated the subject during two entire years, and examined witnesses at great length. That Committee condemned, in 1865, the principle of the Bill, and nothing more was heard of it till 1867, when it was revived by Mr. Mill. It was brought forward as a species of election squib in order that Mr. Mill might make himself more popular with those who had supported him at his election. The Committee he had just referred to, which was presided over by his hon. Friend the present Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Ayrton), reported in substance that there should be over the whole of the metropolis a central governing body, the members of which should not be elected by one class alone of the inhabitants, but that by it all the inhabitants of London should be fully and adequately represented. Last year this question was again revived by Mr. Mill, who made a most elaborate speech, which, though ostensibly in favour of 1953 the scheme, told in point of fact against it. In that speech three principles were laid down—first, that of skilled administration; secondly, that the value of the representative body should be measured by the value of its permanent officers; and thirdly, that there should be an entire consolidation of all districts for the purpose of the government of the metropolis. The present Bill, he maintained, did not fulfil any of these conditions. With regard to the opinions of the constituencies themselves, he showed, on a former occasion, that the great mass of them were against it. But the real objection to the Bill at present was that this was a subject that could not be properly discussed unless it were made a Ministerial measure. The Secretary of State for the Home Department, iii replying to a deputation, had already partially pledged himself to introduce a Government measure on the subject, and he trusted that, before this discussion came to a close, a further pledge would be elicited from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government would be prepared next Session to settle it in a manner which would be satisfactory to all parties interested. As he objected to the principle of the Bill he should persevere with his Motion, which was that the Bill be read a second time upon this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words '-'upon this day three months."—(Mr. Bentinck.)
§ SIR HENRY HOARE
said, that in this matter metropolitan Members were in considerable difficulty as to how they should act, and as a metropolitan Member he rejoiced that the Government would grapple with the question. To show the necessity of some such measure, he might state that a few years ago he took a residence in a, metropolitan suburb, and he used to pay rates for lighting, cleansing, and paying, but the road was neither lighted, cleansed, nor paved. he confessed, however, he found a great objection existing among his constituency to altering the present state of things. The vestry of Chelsea, he believed, carried out all the duties with which they were charged. The words of the present Prime Minister, who expressed a hope that there might be a larger application of the principle of self-government than at present, as it 1954 was now filtered through so many media that it lost its original character, pointed to extended legislation. He would suggest that they might adopt the permissive principle, and carry incorporation out to a certain extent, enabling largo districts to avail themselves of it if they chose, by an independent vote of the rate-payers; while, if they were not disposed to adopt it, they might retain their existing institutions.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, he thought this Bill would be very wisely withdrawn. It appeared to him that "the project before the House was of a very complicated nature, and could not be considered properly until they had first discussed an important Bill that stood lower on the Paper—the Corporation of London Bill. He would remind the House that if any of these districts of the metropolis were desirous of being formed into a corporation, they had the power under the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act, to ask the Crown to confer that been upon them. He was not aware, however, that any Petitions of importance had been presented in favour of this sweeping scheme for the establishment of no fewer than ten corporations in the metropolis. He did not believe there was any desire in the metropolis for this measure, and the evidence of it was, that this Bill was introduced not by a metropolitan Member, but by one of the Members for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton). On the last occasion when a similar measure was introduced—by Mr. John Stuart Mill—for the erection of seven municipal corporations, that hon. Gentleman stood almost alone in his advocacy. The expense of these corporations was a most important consideration. The Corporation of London had ample funds to lavish on hospitality, but if these new corporations were to adhere to the traditions of the City the cost of their banquets would fall upon the rate-payers. A witness examined on this subject before the Select Committee, and who was a member of the Corporation of London, expressed his opinion that it was a sine quá non that hospitality should exist in the new corporations, and estimated that in Marylebone it Mould entail an expenditure of about £5,000 per annum. He (Mr. Locke) was a member of the Committee, and it appeared to him that London did not want this Bill, but that some peculiar legislation was wanted for the metropolis. He proposed that the 1955 present Corporation should he extended to the whole metropolis, and with certain modifications he thought it would in many ways be extremely beneficial to London. The machinery of the Corporation— their staff of officers, who were capable of much more work than they had—would be available for the whole of London; and the funds of the Corporation might be utilized for the same purpose. Then the Corporation had, under a charter of Edward III., the power of altering their own laws, and extending their system of local government—a privilege which they had often before acted upon, and always with great benefit to the public. He had advocated this plan on a former occasion, when he was supported by the worthy Alderman, one of the Members for the City, and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester. He recommended the plan to the Secretary of State for the Home Department as one that would be much more beneficial and satisfactory to the public than the creation of ten corporations that would always be overshadowed by the old Corporation of London. If such a corporation were created the most eminent men would feel it an honour to be members of it.
§ DR. BREWER
said, the reason why municipal matters were not so well attended to in the metropolis as in country-towns was that in London men did not attend so much to their social duties; there was a want of sympathy between members of the same Boards. In the administration of the Poor Law they ought to have a small area; but it was necessary to have an extensive area for finch matters as paving, lighting, and sewage.
said, the subject under discussion had not received, and it was impossible that it could tinder the circumstances of the case have received that fall consideration from the Government which its importance demanded. He at once admitted that, in his opinion, a subject of such magnitude could be satisfactorily dealt with only by the Government of the day. He wished, at the same time, to express the obligations which were their due to those public-spirited men who had so laboriously and with so much public spirit cleared the way for the solution of the question, by placing before the House their views of what was required for the efficient dis- 1956 charge of the duties of the municipal administration of the affairs of this great metropolis, Hon. Gentlemen might be inclined to agree with them or not, but he thought they could not deny that the two Bills brought before the House this day displayed great care and great ability, and were a proof of the public spirit of those who had taken this subject up. Having said thus much, he would join in the appeal which had been made to his hon. Friend the Member for East Survey (Mr. Buxton) by the hon. Gentleman who had supported his Motion (Mr. Morrison) that he would not press the second reading of his Bill. He hoped also that his hon. Friend who had moved the Amendment (Mr. Bentinck) would withdraw it. It might be asked why the two Bills which stood on the Paper in reference to the metropolis should not be allowed to proceed if they contained in themselves a satisfactory solution of the difficult question of municipal self-government. Without committing himself or the Government—it would be wrong for him to do so on a question which had not been fully con- sidered—he thought the House would perceive that there were very great doubts as to whether the particular modes of dealing with the question proposed in those Bills were the best which could be adopted. Hon. Members on both sides of the House concurred in thinking that London stood in need of the concentration of its powers of self-government, and that the necessary central authority could not be obtained without the sacrifice of part of those exclusive powers which the great Corporation which managed the affairs of the City possessed. Much difference of opinion, at the same time, prevailed as to the subordinate governments which should be established in a population so large as this. It was impossible, he thought, to divide London into ten corporations, each armed with full powers such as those which were possessed by provincial corporations. Corporations such as those of Manchester and Birmingham managed nearly all the local a flairs of those whose interests they represented. They managed the local police, and dealt with the important questions of drainage and water supply. Nobody, he believed, would contend that any of the subordinate corporations which might be established in the metropolis ought to have such powers placed in its hands. What- 1957 ever differences of opinion might exist as to matters of detail, no one, he presumed would advocate the proposal that the management of the police force of a great city like London should be sub- divided under ten different authorities. As things at present stood, the disadvantage of having the police under two distinct authorities was felt, and the inconveniences of that state of things would be far more than proportionately multiplied if such a subdivision of authority as was proposed should be carried into effect. Again, the supply of water to the metropolis was surely a matter which ought to be managed, by a great central authority. The minor operations connected with drainage might be con-ducted, as now, by vestries or local Boards; but any great undertaking, such as that which had been so successfully executed by the Metropolitan Board of Works, could only be carried out by a central authority. Then, on such matters as the cattle plague, there must be one authority to over-ride the subordinate bodies. That being so, he would ask whether there remained other duties of sufficient importance to justify the establishment, in the metropolis for their discharge, of a number of corporations modeled on those which existed in the provinces, with their mayors, aldermen, and common councilman? Without ex-pressing any decided opinion on the point—he had merely indicated doubts —he must at least express his concurrence with those who maintained that there existed a necessity for a reduction in the number of the bodies by which the metropolis was now governed. But there was a great difference between nine bodies and thirty-eight. One advantage arising from a reduction in the number would, in his opinion, be that we should be able to secure the services, to manage the affairs of the larger districts which would thus be created, of a class of men different from those who now presented themselves to transact the business of the local Boards. The extension of the area presided over would give increased dignity to those by whom its affairs were managed, while it would, he believed, be conducive to economy. He did not, he might add, concur with the hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill in doubting that the change would lead also to increased efficiency. The larger bodies would be disposed generally to employ more skilled 1958 and able men, and there would be less jobbery, for hon. Members well knew how private influences might be brought to bear on vestries with the view of inducing their members to do that to which they ought not to assent. Then, again, in the discharge of such duties as the looking after education, the institution of libraries, and other matters of that kind, large were, he believed, likely to be found more efficient than small bodies. But, while in principle he looked upon the concentration of power in large districts as generally sound, he must say That, so far as details were concerned, he had failed to derive much advantage from the discussion which had arisen. He concurred in the opinion that we should avail ourselves, as far as possible, of existing powers, and he hoped that when the Government brought forward a measure dealing with the subject they would have the assistance' of the metropolitan Members, and, above all, of that great Corporation which at present wielded such extensive authority, which numbered among its members so many able men, and which derived so much influence from its traditions, so intimately connected with the history of this country. Without such assistance, any attempt to legislate upon the question would be beset with difficulties. As to the course which the Government were prepared to take, he could only say that it was no secret that they were pledged with respect to the business of this Session; and also, to a considerable extent, with respect to the business of the next. No one could tell what might be the fate of the Bill which had lately occupied so much of the time of the House, or whether the Government might not find it necessary to bring that Bill again before the House next Session. They were also pledged to deal with the land question in Ireland—a question surrounded by equal difficulties. Then there was the question of education, which must lead to much discussion, besides the question of licensing and that of local taxation. These were subjects of great complexity and pressing importance, and he might add that every day convinced the Government more and more of the necessity of thoroughly considering, not simply with regard to the metropolis, but in reference to the whole country, the present system of local administration. His right hon. Friend the President of the Poor Law Board had already submitted his 1959 views to the House, with respect to the best mode of dealing with the poor in London, while the sanitary condition of the country was the subject of inquiry. There might, therefore, be some advantage in delay, so far as taking up the question under discussion, was concerned. He could not, at all events, undertake to say even that a Bill with respect to it would be introduced next Session; but he would assure the House that the subject would receive the attentive consideration of the Government, and that it would be with great pleasure he would introduce a measure with a view to its settlement as soon as he found himself in a position to do so.
§ MR. BUXTON
said, that after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he was prepared to withdraw his Motion.
said, that, as the House was taken by surprise, in consequence of the refusal of the hon. Member to withdraw the Amendment, he should vote for the Motion.
said, he must deny that, the House had been taken by surprise. He had distinctly stated that he intended to press his Amendment.
§ Question, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and negatived.
§ Bill withdrawn.