§ (Mr. Ritchie, Mr. William Henry Smith, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Matthews, Mr. Long.)
§ SECOND READING.
§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.] [SIXTH NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."39
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
said, when the debate was adjourned last night, he was endeavouring to ascertain what was the precise nature of the objection to the Bill on the part of hon. Members who spoke on the proposed Amendment, and, as far as ho could gather, their objection was founded upon the fact that the parish was not the unit on which the County Council was to be built up. That was the argument of the hon. Member for South Glamorganshire (Mr. A. J. Williams), and the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Sussex (Mr. Stevenson) directed nearly the whole of his speech to that point. The hon. Member addressed some language to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer of a rather strong character, on account of his having changed his opinion on that head. He said the right hon. Gentleman wore his consicence on his sleeve, and that it had considerably suffered by the exposure. Were hon. Gentlemen really ready to make the parish council the unit, according to the proposal of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1871? [Cries of "No, no "] Then he ventured to say that they would find no other way; it was the best method which could be adopted, if the parish was to be the unit of county government. The right hon. Gentleman proposed in 1871 that parochial boards should be established and the county divided into petty sessional divisions. The Chairmen of the Local Boards within a petty sessional division were to elect from their own number so many gentlemen to represent the division on the Central County Board, on which there was also to be a number of magistrates, including the Chairman of Quarter Sessions. That was the plan for making parochial governments, and for making the parish the unit of county government; but it involved the very objectionable principle of indirect representation, as any plan with the same object must. When they came to consider that there were upwards of 15,000 parishes in England and Wales, most of them with a population of from 300 to 1,000, and many of them of only 50 with an area of 50 acres, it would be seen to be absolutely impossible to carry 40 out the proposal contained in the Amendment of the hon. Member (Mr. Steven son). That was his proposal. If it were not so, why did he take the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to task for having changed his mind? It might be said that parishes could be divided or grouped together; but, if that were done, they would lose their sentimental aspect, and the result must be unsatisfactory; for any peasant that you met in the county of Devonshire could tell you his parish, and to say that he was to be put into another parish, so to speak, would be very objectionable from his point of view. Few people would be willing to destroy the names and boundaries of parishes. It might be, however, that all that the hon. Member (Mr. Stevenson wanted was a simple reform of the vestry; and if that was his object, by all means lot the matter be cleared up. But if it was desired that the parish should be the unit, let that be known, and known clearly. The hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. E. Ellis) had said that some historical sympathy might have been shown by the Party opposite with this time-honoured unit of government. No doubt, the Party opposite would like to show such sympathy, but they could not avoid realizing that things had changed greatly since the parish was the active unit. Parishes formerly were more isolated and not interdependent, and they were concerned with many matters which wore now things of the past. They had, for example, to provide for the hue and cry in case of crime; they had to provide cucking stools for scolds, and weapons in case of emergency. Now even the parish pound and parish stocks were becoming obsolete. But what he might term historical sentiment could be preserved under the measure of the Government. If the County Councils would consent to call their District Councils hundreds, a man who lived in the time of Henry I., supposing him to revisit the earth, would find that there had been many changes, but that the area of the Government proposal was the same as the area was in 1100. He had looked into the Provincial newspapers recently, and was surprised to find the character of the speeches that were being delivered with respect to this Bill. It was said that it would do nothing for 41 the agricultural labourers, but would maintain the ascendancy of the parson, the squire, and the publican, and that, as far as the labourer was concerned, the Bill was regarded as utterly worthless; it was also said that the Bill was extremely valueless and invidious, and the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk had characterized it as a wolf in sheep's clothing. He (Mr. Collings) thought there was great responsibility attaching to those hon. Gentlemen who had used that language. He did not understand that Bob Acre's style of procedure. It was surprising that, if the Bill was such an insidious measure as it was now represented to be, hon. Members who entertained that opinion had not the courage to move an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading. He had his own opinion, however, as to the feelings that were actuating certain hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. There were some hon. Members who were conscious of the huge promises they had given in 1885 with regard to this matter; they remembered perhaps that they had an opportunity of fulfilling those pledges, and that the opportunity was neglected, and the pledges cast aside; and they were also, no doubt, conscious that, if the present Government were to be overthrown, and the Party to which these hon. Gentlemen belonged came into power, this question would have to be again set aside in favour of another question to which he should not allude. The labourers, however, were wise enough to prefer a bird in the hand to two in the bush, preferring an Allotments Bill, though imperfect, and a County Government Bill, though incomplete, as this was acknowledged to be, to mere promises that were never kept. Having regard to the other Business which the Government had expressed their intention of proceeding with, the time available for this most intricate measure was decidedly scant. There was now only about a working month before June was reached, and there would barely be time left to pass the Bill. He hoped the Government would give a pledge that under no circumstances would they refrain from getting the Bill through. The history of the Allotments Bill of last Session should not be overlooked. Compared with this measure, it was simplicity itself; yet it was only saved by two 42 hours. The affection of some of its pretended friends was such that it was almost throttled in their embraces. He hoped that dangers of that kind would be guarded against by the Government. He earnestly trusted that the Bill in Committee would not be handled in any Party spirit, and that hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House would give the Government a generous assistance in their arduous task. There were some Amendments, no doubt, which would have to be brought forward; but there were others which he thought it the duty of hon. Members not to press, or even to propose, because the Government had told them that it would be unwise to overload the machinery at starting. No doubt, Municipal Councils at present exercised powers which the Bill did not at once confer on the County Councils; but those powers had only been gradually acquired, and he believed that if the Municipal Corporations had, when originally established, been given all the powers which they now possessed, they would have broken down under the weight. But even Municipal Councils had no control over education or the Poor Law. From the speech of the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk, and from other speeches that had been made, he was sorry to gather that it was intended again to raise these points in Committee. So also in regard to the matter of assessment, upon which the Government had now declared their views, they hoped to see the time when the Chairman of County Finance would prepare a budget for the whole county; but they must remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the intricacies of Imperial finance were simplicity itself, as compared with the intricacy of local finance, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had spoken of it as a question which demanded a measure by itself. It would be most undesirable that time should be occupied in re-opening the question, which could lead to no immediate results. Similarly, with regard to the parish question, they ought to rest satisfied with the admission of the right hon. Gentleman, that the vestries required amendment. As had been pointed out by the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), the passing of this Bill and the establishment of 43 County Councils would render the reform of the vestries much easier. All these things would follow naturally in due course, and the Council would gradually get the whole county business into its own hands. The only question was whether all this work should be thrown upon the Councils in such a volume and weight as would stifle and crush them, or whether the work should be put upon them by degrees. The latter was his view of the question. The Bill established a system capable of full and genuine development. In proof of that, they might take the clauses which provided for other work being put upon the County Council simply by Order in Council. Further, they must remember that the County Council would be a great legislative as well as administrative Body; it was to have power of making bye-laws, which, he believed, would be of a very inclusive character as time went on. In fact, the Bill had been accurately described by the Secretary to the Local Government Board as a great democratic measure. For these reasons, he thought they would do well in assisting in passing the Bill and confining their Amendments to what was in the Bill, and not to extend them to other subjects which were not dealt with. Should the Bill be lost, or endangered in any way, by contrary tactics, then he said that a very grave responsibility would rest upon those who introduced them. He was one of those who had always held that no substantial progress could be made in the welfare of the people in the rural districts until they had reform in the direction in which they were now going, and, accordingly, he thanked Her Majesty's Government for this bold and genuine measure. As far as the country squires went, he was sure they had no cause for apprehension. [Ironical cheers.] Hon. Members seem to follow the lines of a person called Jack Cade, who, in the 15th century, was an advocate for popular suffrage. They came down to the House and said that this was a bad Bill; that they would have done this and that if they were in power; that there should be seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; that a three-hooped pot should have 10 hoops, and that they would make it felony to drink small beer. That was the argument they frequently heard from Members who, when they got into Office, 44 cast their promises aside and said no more about them. He said that one great result would follow the passing of this Bill; not only would there be the creation of political interests and an interest in public life in the rural districts, but, he believed, the Bill would directly lead to the improvement of the social and material condition of the rural population. The power given to the County Councils and the scope of the measure were such as to legitimately invite the most able men to take part in the county business, and one great result of the Bill would be, by improved intercourse, to put an end to those prejudices and antagonisms amongst classes in the counties which sprang mainly from mutual ignorance. It would be found that these would be done away with, and although there might be less room for Jack Cades in future, yet there would be more hope of the achievement of reasonable reforms. There would be on the Councils men to bring such reforms about as could be reasonably asked for, and thus the Bill would effect one of the greatest reinvigorations that had been seen in the present day in the rural districts. It was a measure which some hon. Members on that side of the House had waited for too long when they defended on the promises of their own Party.
§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said, he must congratulate his hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) upon the moderate tone which he had adopted in the second chapter of the speech he had commenced last night. It was true that the hon. Gentleman had called his opponents unfair; that he said those sitting round him had no courage, and were dangerous; that he called them "Bob Acres," and even said they were Jack Cades; but he could assure the majority of the Members now present, who were not in the House on the previous night, that it was only the somewhat limited body of Members who had the felicity of sharing the company of the hon. Member (Mr. Jesse Collings), in his midnight revels at the previous sitting of the House, who could appreciate the moderation of the hon. Member's present utterances. The speech he had just made was, no doubt, owing to the depressing effect of the morning's reflection following upon those revels. Last night the hon. Gentleman repeatedly praised the present Government. [Mr. 45 JESSE COLLINGS: Hear, hear!] He did not find fault with the hon. Gentleman for that, because no doubt his very political existence depended on the breath of their nostrils. Then the hon. Gentleman denounced in unmeasured terms his own Friends and Party. That was probably only a natural consequence of his present position; but what was perhaps the most, he would not say violent, but most enthusiastic portion of his speech, was his denunciation of the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk. He first found fault with the hon. Member because he moved his Amendment; then he reviled him because he did not move his Amendment. His hon. Friend the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, seeing on both sides of him such tempting and alluring morsels for a speech, seemed to be placed in the historical attitude of a certain animal between two bundles of hay. Some of his hon. Friends had been found fault with on account of what was called the changed position they had been supposed to adopt with regard to the Local Government Bill now before the House. It would have been strange indeed if, on a closer examination of this great and important measure, they had found nothing to criticize or condemn. It had been said that the measure was received on both sides of the House by many Members with unreserved approval. He (Mr. Gardner) would rather say that it was received with unreserved admiration, and he would use the word "admiration" in the strictly classical sense. They gazed upon the picture which the President of the Local Government Board drew in his able and attractive—if he might venture to say so—most able and attractive speech, as rustics gazed upon a fair, staring open-mouthed at a representation of some giant depicted at a show. Since then they had been inside the right hon. Gentleman's caravan, and they found that this giant, like a good many other giants, had uncommonly ricketty legs, and his thews and sinews were stuffed with straw. Although there was much to criticize in the Bill, there was also much to praise, and ho ventured humbly to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman upon the broad and liberal spirit in which he had approached the subject. He also congratulated the House upon the non- 46 Party spirit in which it had considered and discussed this great reform of the administration of the country. But, unfortunately, there had been two eminent exceptions to this show of non-Party spirit—the speech of the right lion. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the hon. Member who last spoke. It was most unfortunate and regrettable that these two hon. Gentlemen should have shown such a bitter Party spirit, particularly when it was remembered that the particular portion of the Party, over whom they emptied their vials of wrath, were Gentlemen representing agricultural divisions, and trying to do the best they could in their humble way for their constituents. He should have thought that if there were two hon. Gentlemen in the House pledged to assist in measures for the benefit of the agricultural labourers, it was the Member for West Birmingham and the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. He (Mr. Gardner) had sought in every direction for an explanation of their conduct. With regard to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham he (Mr. Gardner) could only conclude that, having persistently absented himself during this debate, except upon the solitary occasion when he came into the House to make his speech, he was unaware of the conciliatory spirit in which the House had received this measure, and, in rising to speak, thought it necessary to pursue the usual course (which his connections now-a-days prescribe him) of using every weapon he could find to beat his old friends and old party. He thought that the action of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham explained the speech of the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. The action of these two Gentlemen reminded him of Sheridan's play, with the direction, "Enter Tilburnia mad, in white satin, followed by her confidante mad, in white muslin." There was another explanation of the conduct of the hon. Member (Mr. Jesse Collings), and that was that his ideas had changed since 1885. In 1885, the hon. Member was an apostle of the poor. What had been since heard of the measures he then advocated? What had become of his free education? What had become of his graduated Income Tax—and what had become of his mea- 47 sures for reforming the oppressive taxes on the poor? He seemed to have abandoned the championship of the unfortunate Lazarus, and become content to pick up, with gratitude, the crumbs that fell from Lord Salisbury's table. He (Mr. Gardner) referred to the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham because that Gentleman quoted from a speech delivered by himself (Mr. Gardner), and seemed to derive much gratification from the supposed differences which existed amongst Members of the Opposition and their Front Bench — differences which existed only in his own perfervid imagination. The right hon. Member attributed a phrase to him which he (Mr. Gardner) had never used. He could hardly expect that so prominent a politician as the right hon. Gentleman would read the speeches of a humble individual like himself; but if that statesman used his speeches as weapons to beat his own Party with, he ought to verify those statements. Having said that much on that personal matter, he would address himself to the Local Government Bill. It seemed to him that they were not justified in finding fault with the Government for what they had done in the Bill, but rather for what they had left undone. There were many parts of the Bill to criticize, and some to condemn. He was sure many Members would have liked to have seen the Bill deal with simplification of areas, and of local bodies, and the consolidation of rates. The Government said the simplification of areas would come in the future; but this was not their opinion. They first put the Bill forward last year with a great flourish of trumpets, they sent forth a Royal Boundary Commission, upon whose Report they were going to frame this Bill. What had become of this Boundary Commission? The right hon. Gentleman had thrown over the Boundary Commission, and took credit for having done so; because, he said, it was in obedience to the feeling of the county. If the Government had adopted the Report of the Boundary Commission, they must have dealt with the Boards of Guardians, and their not doing so, he (Mr. Gardner) thought was a much better reason for throwing over the Boundary Commissioners than any deference to county feeling. The question whether the parish should be the unit of 48 area was a point upon which people might hold their own opinion; but such a change could not be effected, as the Bill was drawn, without serious risk of losing the measure, and that was a risk, in his opinion, they ought not to run. Had the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jesse Collings) read the Amendment? If he had, he would have found that the parish as a unit of area was not mentioned. The hon. Gentleman seemed to have invented this bogey for himself.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he had simply stated what everyone acquainted with the Procedure of the House knew—that the Amendment, if carried, would kill the Bill, and that those who supported the Amendment would incur a very grave responsibility.
§ MR. H. GARDNER
said, that an Amendment, to be carried, required at least to be moved; and the Amendment had not been moved. But whatever opinion they might hold about the unit of area, he would say to all—"Reform the parish." The parish could be reformed without in any possible way endangering the passing of the measure. The reform of the parish and Vestry, he held, and many high authorities shared his opinion, could be done by the insertion of a few clauses in the Bill before the House, and unless many hon. Members were false to their pledges it would be done. He and those who thought with him would use every means in their power to get these clauses inserted. This Bill had brought about county enfranchisement, but he wanted to have village enfranchisement. In 1885, the Government made a step in the right direction by enfranchising the labourer politically; but he wanted them, by the Act of 1888, to enfranchise him socially. What the agricultural labourers wanted was to have some interest and some share in village affairs and the immediate surroundings of his own life. It would be a great educational factor in his existence, and so fit him for those more important duties which he might be called upon to undertake hereafter; thus, eventually, benefiting the country at large. These clauses, including the reform of the Board of Guardians, might very easily be included in this measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had challenged them to say distinctly what powers they wished to 49 give to the parish. In the first place, he wished to preserve for the parish the ancient privileges of the Vestry, which they had enjoyed for years past, and not for them to be absorbed in the District Councils; then he wanted to make the Vestry a real body, and not the sham one it was at present, by reform on the principle of one man one vote and the ballot. They wanted, also, to reform the Vestry by allowing a certain number of ratepayers to summon a meeting, if necessary, and also that the meeting shall be held at an hour when the working classes could attend, and that the meeting should have the power of electing its own chairman. He thought the meeting should be held in any schoolroom which was in receipt of a Government grant. He wanted also to give to the Vestries limited administrative and executive power as to certain defined subjects and deliberative power as to matters specially affecting the parish; to hand over to the Vestry the election of the Allotments Committee, and not leave them, as now, in the hands of the Board of Guardians—a body whose relations with the agricultural labourers had not always been sympathetic. He, himself, preferred that those who lived in small districts, and knew what was going on in them, should have a word to say on the question. They wanted to give to these Vestries some representative character, also, as to charitable trusts. Ho believed that the Charity Commissioners, in their last Report, put forward some recommendation, or expressions of desire, that representative bodies should be created in villages, in order that they might have oversight of these trusts. There was a very good reason for the constitution of such bodies, because it was well known that there were a number of trusts of small character which were, however, very beneficial to the villages to which they applied, but which had actually been allowed to lapse for the want of being looked after. They might be sure that if the people who were affected by these trusts had the management of them there would be very little fear indeed of their lapsing. His hon. Friend (Mr. Jesse Collings) had said that he was prepared to leave over this matter of the reform of the parish vestries and the Boards of Guardians for future legislation to deal with. Personally, however, he (Mr. 50 Gardner) entirely refused to leave over this subject until somewhere about the Greek Kalends. These matters would never, as a matter of fact, be dealt with by future legislation, because they would be turned over to the County Councils. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) had pointed out that the matter of the Board of Guardians would be so handed over. The question of the boundaries had certainly been handed over to the County Councils, and it was a remarkable feature of the Bill that the question of the county boundaries was left absolutely permissive, so that if the County Councils chose to leave things in static quo there was nothing to prevent them. It was easy to say that these things should be handed over to the County Councils, but it must be remembered that the County Councils might be composed of practically the same people as the Court of Quarter Sessions, so that the old style of administration would go on. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), who always interested the House, made a speech the other night on this Bill, and he listened to him with a great deal of attention, because he recognized that the hon. and gallant Baronet was speaking as the direct representative of what had been called "disestablished squire-archy." The hon. and gallant Baronet did not receive the Bill with open arms or with unqualified approbation, but he did receive it in a spirit of honest resignation. He had thought when the hon. and gallant Baronet commenced, that he was going to sing the song of the dying swan; but he found instead that his effort was more in the nature of the Phœnix rising from his ashes. If that was the feeling of the rest of the squire-archy there was no doubt they would fill the same position on the new Councils that they had at Quarter Sessions. He (Mr. Gardner) did not deprecate that. It might be the best solution of the matter or it might be the worst, but under the probable circumstances he preferred, in the interests of the agricultural labourer and village artisan, that these subjects of the Reform of the parish and the Board of Guardians should be effected in the present Bill. With regard to what had been done in the Bill for the labouring classes, he 51 would point out that the Bill swept away the administrative qualities of the Quarter Sessions, about which as to economy of administration much might be said, and retained their judicial qualities, which were the real cause of the popular outcry against "the great unpaid." It was those latter qualities that agricultural labourers most wished to see reformed. He welcomed the elective principle which the Bill introduced into county government, but if reform of the Vestries and the Guardians was not included in the measure, they on that side of the House could only, if they were true to their pledges and principles, regard it as an instalment of a future measure, which it would be the duty of future Parliaments to perfect and make better.
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
said, as a Representative of agricultural labourers as well as the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, he understood that they would have the privilege of voting for the County Council, and that the franchise would be the same as the Parliamentary franchise. He could not, therefore, see why the hon. Gentleman should complain of the franchise which had been proposed in the Bill, seeing that he had been returned to the House to represent the agricultural labourers by the franchise which had been already conferred upon them. He had visited the country districts since the Bill had been brought in; he had consulted with his rural friend, and found there was a point in the Bill which was of very great interest to agricultural labourers, and he believed his right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) would give him credit for being very earnest in stating it. He referred to the payment of 4d. per head for indoor paupers. He knew that the villagers had the greatest objection to being driven into the workhouse, and that was a spirit which they ought to try to encourage. There were two classes of paupers who found their way into workhouses—the lazy scamp, of no use to himself or his neighbours, and he (Mr. Gray) would be the last to propose that he should be supplied with a feather bed to lie upon—and the de-serving, honest, struggling poor, who had done all they could to keep away from the stigma of pauperism. Now, he hoped the House would do nothing to minimize such a feeling as he had indicated amongst the villagers. If the 52 poverty-stricken man, who wished to work as long as he could, was forced to break up his home and sell his goods and chattels, he had scarcely any chance, in case he should come out of the workhouse, of getting on again in life. Ho wanted the Bill to be a success just as much as his hon. Friend opposite; but if it was to become one its provisions must work out satisfactorily and beneficially to the class ho had spoken of; but if one provision in the Bill had the effect of driving honest persons into the workhouse, as far as that provision was concerned, his inclination would be just the opposite. With regard to another point, he believed in the policy which did not go away from firm ground until one knew where he would next place his foot. They all agreed that the magistrates had conducted police affairs in counties in the most admirable manner, and that their administration had been economical. Would it be ill-advised to leave this proposed alteration in the management of the police in abeyance for a short time? Though the Bill was a very long one, there was no reason whatever, as time went on, why there should not hereafter be further legislation of the kind. He, for one, hoped they should have much more important local reform than the Bill contained, and that measures of a similar nature to the present would be added to the Statute Book. The police had acted well under the authority of the magistrates; but if they suddenly handed them over to the Councils before they understood their work, it seemed to him that they were likely to get into an unenviable position. Finally, he had referred to the expense connected with the working of the County Councils, and if they were not very careful he thought they might find. themselves let in for a very expensive system of machinery. As far as the rural districts were concerned, he was quite sure that they could not bear au expensive form of machinery. He knew that hon. Members opposite who represented towns, always laughed at the idea of saving expense to purely rural districts, and they seemed to think that it did not matter how rates and taxes were piled upon the rural districts, because they believed the burden would fall only on the shoulders of the landlords. But he wanted hon. Members to understand that in taxing the rural districts they 53 were taxing the raw material of the country which provided food for the people. He wished the Bill every success; but, at the same time, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman in charge of it would give his special attention to the point in connection with the payment on account of indoor paupers.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
said, it had been stated that this Bill had met both in and out of the House with cordial approval. It was not the Bill itself which had been re-received with a chorus of approval; it was the very astute, able, and ingenious speech with which it had been introduced. The Bill differed very widely from the speech. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) said that he approached the question "in no spirit of distrust, but in a spirit of confidence in the sense and judgment of the people." When we came to examine the Bill we found, however, that it was full of distrust of the people from beginning to end. Once you got beyond the wide democratic franchise you found distrust everywhere. That there were to be selected councillors, a thing not contemplated 50 years ago in the original scheme of Town Councils, that casual vacancies were to be filled up by the universally condemned principle of co-option, that a free people were not to have a free choice of the Chairman of the Council, but were to find a man with a property qualification—all that showed a spirit, not of trust. but of distrust. If Town Councils had the administration of the police given to them 50 years ago, why should not the County Councils have it given to them now? There was also in the Licensing Clauses of the Bill an absence of "the spirit of confidence in the sense and judgment of the people." He lived in a district where the landlord forbade the establishment of a public-house in order to make his property more valuable. Why should the Government refuse to give to the people of a district the right which the landlord possessed? He had said outside the House that the Bill was not a democratic measure but a democratic sham, and he had given some reasons for thinking it so. Lord Salisbury at Oxford said he wanted in county government less of Whitehall and more of the counties, but when the Bill was introduced he said that to talk of Radicalism in it was all 54 nonsense. He quite agreed with Lord. Salisbury. This Bill, if framed in a truly democratic spirit, ought to contain the means of bringing life and activity into every small village community, that it might be stirred by the spirit which had done so much for the small towns and larger boroughs. This Bill would have very little effect upon the labourers in the villages, except to give them an opportunity of voting for a member for the County Council. The villager came into contact with the magistrates, but the Bill did nothing to reform the existing system of appointment. He would be glad to see this altered. It was not in accordance with the democratic notions of our time that the appointment of magistrates should rest solely in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant of a county. The villager was also interested in the Vestry, but there was no attempt to reform that Body. They wanted the labourer in the vestries not only to take charge of certain matters which came home to the healthiness and efficiency of village life, but also to have control over the charities administered by certain irresponsible trustees in his village. The people had a notion that they were robbed in regard to their charities, and in nearly every instance when the thing came to be investigated that suspicion was found to be based on solid grounds. It was known that the property of the charities had in many cases been misappropriated, and in some had been lost to the district to which it had been left. Again, the villager came in contact with the Poor Law; but that Bill did nothing to reform the Poor Law, either as to its methods of administration or as to its elections. The Government had failed to seize the opportunity presented to them for doing away with the causes of popular discontent with the existing system. Although the Poor Law Guardians endeavoured to do their duty conscientiously, yet the administration of the Poor Law, as it affected the poor, was not a credit to the country, but in some respects a disgrace. It was not always administered with kindly tenderness, but oftentimes with hardness, severity, and unkindness unworthy of the present age. Now, that Bill proposed to give the Guardians another incentive to driving the people into the workhouses, and he belived that that was, in the long run, one of the most expensive and de- 55 moralizing methods in which Poor Law relief could be administered. A wise expenditure in outdoor relief saved many a humble household from being broken up, and enabled men to go through their times of difficulty and hardship, without losing their own self-respect or forfeiting the good opinion of their fellows, by having become inmates of the workhouse. It should be remembered that many of those poor people were placed under economic conditions in which they had to work for wages which gave them no means or opportunity of putting by for a rainy day. They had a right to the tenderest regard on the part of the State when they were in misfortune, instead of which they were oftentimes forced into the workhouse, a place which some would rather die than enter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had once described the existing system of local government as a chaos of conflicting authorities, but this Bill would not mend that chaos very much. He hoped that when that scheme came to work it would prove a more simple machine than it looked on paper. The County Council did not meet the requirements of the labourer, who wanted to get his hand on institutions nearer his home. As regards the villages, the great blot of the Bill was that it did not attempt to reform the vestries. Again, while it did not go deep enough down to reform and revivify village life, it would have a very serious effect on the smaller boroughs of the Kingdom. They had hitherto enjoyed municipal independence, and had used it efficiently and carefully, but they would now be placed in a secondary position in regard to the County Council. He hoped that during its progress through Committee the Bill would be considerably modified in this respect. There was another point in the-Bill to which he would like to refer. The future boroughs of this country would be at a disadvantage. If hereafter any rising manufacturing district desired to form itself into a borough, it would have to apply to the County Council, and would be under the control of its own neighbours as to whether it should become a borough or not. That was not an encouragement to municipal life. The County Council was, in fact, made a barrier to the development of municipal life in growing places, and it was also 56 likely to be a check to the vigour and independence of municipal life in existing boroughs. What the Bill would give them would be a quasi-Parliament in each county instead of a Town Council in each district. There was only one way of creating a democratic government, and that was by commencing at the bottom and allowing a thorough system of government to grow up. They must commence with the people and deal with small areas, and then the larger Councils should be controlling rather than executive. In the Bill the County Council was the executive. They had, in fact, a small Local Government Board placed in every county far removed from the daily wants and thoughts of the people whom it governed, instead of a number of small bodies, well in touch with the wishes of the people. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) had spoken of the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk (Mr. F. S. Stevenson) as an attempt to kill the Bill. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division seemed to sniff murder in the air; but that was frequently a habit of uneasy consciences, which heard, saw, and feared things which others knew had no real existence. That Amendment was placed on the Paper with no desire to interfere with the second reading of the Bill, but only in order to introduce a discussion that would bring home to the agricultural population the true character and defects of the measure. Although the Bill technically gave the villagers a right to a voice in local affairs by giving them the franchise, yet the right was not one. that came home to their very doors, and they would consequently be disappointed because of its inefficiency. Hon. Gentlemen on his side wished it to be known in the country that they had raised their voices in that louse to say that they believed the Bill to be defective because it did not go deep down into rural life.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R Ripon)
said, that the principle of the Bill had been received with unanimity by the country, and he should say nothing with regard to it. The question he wished to deal with was one which, though of vital importance to the measure, he did not hear much about in 57 the able statement of the right hon. Gentleman the, President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie)—he meant the working expenses of the Bill. In connection with that was the question of the register. As it stood in the two Bills he apprehended there were to be three registers—one for Parliamentary elections, another for County Council elections, and another for District Council elections.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was not contemplated there should be more than one register, but different lists.
§ MR. WHARTON
said, he was glad to have elicited that fact. The cost of the registers was a very serious matter. He had got information on the point from the West Riding of Yorkshire, and he found that the annual cost of the register was over £3,000 a-year. If the ratepayers of the West Riding were asked to pay £9,000 instead of £3,000 they would feel it very much, and he was therefore very glad to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. In another way the working expenses might be very much reduced. He would like to see the period between the elections lengthened, and instead of having a triennial election to have an election once in five years. In the West Riding the cost of the election of the two Councils would be about £10,000, or an annual cost of £3,300. If the period between the elections were lengthened to five years, the annual cost would be reduced to £2,000. Another object of still greater importance would be obtained by lengthening the existence of the Councils—namely, they would get a better class of men on the County Councils. In the County of Durham the squirearchy, as it was called, scarcely existed, and. the County Magistrates consisted of men of business possessing influence and property. They now devoted a considerable part of their time to county business, but they would be hardly likely to submit to the worry and loss of time of a triennial election, and the county would thus lose their services. A great deal was said outside the House by Radicals about annual elections, but he would like the ratepayers to consider what they would cost. He quite believed that what was often said was true—that the Radicals did not care a rap about the ratepayers. With respect to 58 the police, he had a suggestion to make which he hoped the Government would consider. He would like to see the direct administration of the police left in the hands of the magistrates. Judicial power was left to Justices, and it was so connected with the administration of the police that he thought it would be an evil day when they were separated. He quite agreed that the ratepayers should have some purview of the costs, and he suggested that the administration of the police should be left in the hands of the magistrates, but that there should be a committee—not a hybrid committee, but one solely taken from the County Council—which should have the whole cost of the police submitted to them and the purview of the accounts on behalf of the ratepayers. In the event of any difference arising, between the two it would be easy to submit it to the Home Office Inspectors, whose decision should be final. In that way all difficulty between the magistrates and the County Council would be avoided. Another point to which he wished to draw attention was that of the borrowing powers in the Bill, which he looked upon with considerable apprehension. The borrowing period was no less than 60 years; that he should like to see halved. The borrowing powers of County Councils would be enormous. For instance, the West Riding of Yorkshire would be able to raise no less than £14,000,000. The present indebtedness of the West Riding was £245,000, mainly caused by extraordinary expenditure on a new asylum. When they came to dealing with the question of harrowing powers, ho trusted that the period of duration of the loans would be decreased and the amount which the local bodies were empowered to raise would be considerably diminished. Otherwise he was sure that in a few years they would hang a millstone round the necks of the ratepayers, which was far from being contemplated at the present time. He wished to see the Bill pass, and he also desired to diminish the cost of the new system to the lowest possible figure.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
said, that he had been taunted by the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings) with having mistrusted the intentions of the Government in regard to the Bill; but the fact was that 59 that mistrust was shared by the hon. Member himself, and as the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Granby) had told his constituents in asking to be excused from saying anything about it at his recent election, on the ground that the draft of the Bill had been so much altered that he hardly knew it, he thought it extremely probable that in its original form the Bill was even less satisfactory than it was at present. No doubt the Bill was very different from that first submitted to the Cabinet.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
As that statement has been made more than once before, my noble Friend has authorized me to say for him, that he was misunderstood when he was supposed to say what the hon. Member has mentioned, that, as a matter of fact, he knew little or nothing about the contents of the Bill, and that if he was understood to say that the Bill had been considerably altered within his knowledge, then he has been wrongly understood. I can only add for myself that there is no foundation for the assertion.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART
said, he accepted the explanation that had been With respect to the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, hon. Members on the Opposition side resented the dictatorial remarks of the hon. Member as to what attitude should be taken up by hon. Members on that side of the House towards any Government Bill. If the hon. Member wanted to give his advice, let him give it to the Party with which he was now associated, and not stand upon the Opposition Benches and dictate to the Members who sat there. He (Mr. Stewart) objected to the hon. Member setting himself up as tutor to a Party which was no longer identified with him, and with which he now had no affinity and no relationship. Besides, the hon. Member had contradicted himself, because last night he told them the Bill would remedy the chaos of rates and areas, and now he had said that the chaos would still remain. The Government might very well adopt, with regard to the Bill, the course which was taken on the Allotments Bill—show a conciliatory spirit and accept Amendments in Committee. There was no reasonable ground for derision, in the 60 fact that an Amendment had been placed upon the Paper by his hon. Friend the Member for the Eve Division of Suffolk (Mr. Stevenson) for the purpose of expressing an opinion, and had been withdrawn because the question was to be discussed at a later stage in Committee. The last speaker (Mr. Wharton) seemed to regard a Parliamentary election as a nuisance, and to think that County affairs would be better managed in proportion as they were attended to by men of wealth and of leisure. But the Bill was a popular Bill, and its popular basis ought to find expression in the return of persons of all classes to the Councils. He (Mr. Stewart) did not despair of seeing agricultural labourers oven on the County Councils, although the Bill was not framed in such a way as to make it hopeful that they would find a place there. Even the Secretary of State for War was afraid it would be difficult to get elected members to the places of meeting. The way to avert that kind of danger was to decentralize and to take from the County Councils duties which could be discharged by District Councils without the authority and supervision of the County Council. Hon. Members did not seem to appreciate how much the Bill took away from the dignity and honour of the small towns of England. It took away from them powers they possessed, and subjected them to the County Council, even in such a matter as taking the initiative in re-arranging the wards of a borough. Yet the franchise was to be given to the agricultural labourer, and with it ought to be given the power to administer affairs close to his own door. The extension of the political franchise to agricultural labourers had enlarged their lives, and had given them an interest in politics which they never had before; and they would receive an analogous educational benefit from being permitted to manage the affairs of their own localities. Such affairs included the maintenance of free libraries and reading rooms, children's playgrounds, public halls, meetings in schoolrooms out of school hours, the appointment of churchwardens and parish trustees, and the control of local charities. It was also necessary that the vestry, or some similar body, should have control over the Allotments question, as to which he was sorry to say that the Act of last Session had been practically 61 inoperative, and had failed to provide them on anything like the scale necessary. In his own Division, 1,300 applications had been made for allotments, and up to the present hour not one acre of land there was hold under the Act. Therefore, if they did not look upon Tory Government measures with the same magnificient expectations as the Liberal Unionists regarded them, they might be forgiven. The labourer had already been fitted for local government by the various organizations, political and otherwise, which were to be found in every parish, but the one thing which he wanted—namely, a voice in the management of the workhouse—the Government were refusing him. He (Mr. Stewart) saw no reason whatever why the agricultural labourer should not be able to send the man he had confidence ill to sit upon the Board of Guardians.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, it seemed to him that the fundamental and backbone principle of the Bill was that they were to establish in every county, and in every district of a county, a Body which was to be elected on the broadest and widest basis, a Body which would have at the present time a great deal of power of local government, but which was destined ultimately, as he conceived, to eat up all the other powers which existed in the county, and to become practically the sole authority in all matters of local government. That seemed to him so vast, so important, and so far-reaching, that if the Bill simply consisted of that one provision it would be one of the greatest measures which had been laid before Parliament for many years. The Bill would throw a local life into county districts which there had never been before, and he could not understand hon. Gentlemen opposite objecting to the Bill simply because it did not immediately hand over every duty and function in the districts to the County Councils. He considered that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), in introducing the Bill, proved conclusively that if they were to attempt to put everything upon the County Councils at once, the County Councils would literally be choked by a plethora of food, which it could not digest, and the country would not so soon secure what this measure would ultimately 62 give it—a real Home Rule scheme—in the true and proper sense of the phrase -by which the House would be relieved of a great deal of its present local functions. The Bill contained a great many other principles, and as a Metropolitan Member he desired to dwell upon a few of them. In the first place, he must say a word or two upon the subject of licensing. A great part of this debate had been a licensing debate, and although he should be very sorry to suggest that the subject of licensing was not worthy of a great deal of discussion, he thought, perhaps, it had had an undue importance attached to it. He had been strongly opposed by the Local Optionists because he had ventured to assert that they did not wish the locality to settle licensing; they wished to settle licensing in their own particular way, but they did not wish or intend that the localities should have power not only of closing public-houses, but, if they wished it, to open public-houses. It must be clear that if Parliament was going to hand over the power of licensing to a Local Body, that Body must not only have the power of closing, but also have the power, if it thought proper to exercise it, to open additional houses. He was not a lawyer, and he really cared very little for the legal criticisms that had been advanced as to the vested interest in a public-house. Whether the one side was technically correct or the other seemed to him to be altogether beside the mark. The practical question was whether they could by any possible means reduce the number of public-houses in districts where they ought to be reduced unless they gave proper and reasonable compensation. He maintained that it was impossible to think of it. He had sat on the Bench for a good many years, and many Members of the House had done the same, and they all knew that, as a matter of fact, it was absolutely impossible, however technically correct it might be, to take away a man's licence unless he had committed something against the law, simply because they wished to reduce the number of public-houses. He had hail a great deal to do with the working people; he had visited them much, and he was quite convinced that if there was one thing wanted in this country it was a reduction of the number of public- 63 houses in the great cities. He held that this licensing clause afforded a fair and reasonable means of reducing the number of public-houses. He could not be a party under any circumstances to interfering with a man's trade, which had been legally established, because the sentiments of the day had happily changed, and it was thought desirable to abolish it. He maintained, as one who was keenly interested in the reduction of drinking, and in the reduction of the number of public-houses, that the expenditure which might be incurred in effecting this object was a great and most desirable expenditure, and he would willingly pay his share towards any expense incurred in the matter. He could not understand how persons who professed such a keen desire to reduce drinking should hesitate to agree to a plan which would enable them to do this in a reasonable manner, and certainly in an effective manner. But, while he said this, he desired very much to draw attention to another part of the licensing question; and that was the question of the powers of the Licensing Committee. The Bill gave the Licensing Committee great powers. It gave them the power of closing public-houses on Sunday—a power which, in spite of the opinions expressed to the contrary, was a very proper power to give them, because if there was one question which was local more than another, except the one he would refer to in a moment, it was the power of closing public-houses on a Sunday. There were many districts which felt this keenly. He objected altogether to the election of a Body ad hoc simply for the purpose of licensing. He thought they would get a much fairer, a more impartial, and a much better Body if it was elected in the way proposed in the Bill. Candidly, he confessed ho was rather suspicious of a body of "faddists." The question of licensing was a question of local government, and it should be treated as an item in local government. It should not be treated as a thing in itself, and localities would get much fairer and better adjudication by Bodies formed for local purposes generally. But, whereas the Bill went as far as handing over to the Licensing Committee certain powers as to the closing of public-houses on Sundays and other days, it did not give 64 them power, as he thought it should, to settle the hours at which public-houses were to be open. If Parliament had never interfered with the hours during which public-houses were open, he should say it was a matter which might be left alone. But Parliament had decided to what hours these houses should be kept open, and he maintained that the settling of the hours in which this business should be carried on in the different districts should certainly be left to the Local Authorities. There were many districts in London which he believed, if appealed to, would say that public-houses should not be open until half-past 12 o'clock; while there were other districts in London which would say that such places ought to be open until that hour. If there was any question more local than another it was that of deciding to what hours public-houses should be open; and if any hon. Member moved an Amendment providing that this question should be handed over to the Local Authorities he should be extremely happy to support it. He was convinced that if hon. Members could adjourn, after the meeting of the House, for a few nights to various places within a mile of where they were now assembled, and see what went on in some public-houses which were kept open as late as they were now, for no legitimate need except for the worst purposes of public-houses, there would be no two opinions in the House that public-houses were now kept open to too late an hour. He, therefore, hoped that they would be able to put a clause in their Bill to give the Licensing Committee the arrangement of the hours to which public-houses in each district should be kept open. He was persuaded that this would be a very great step in the promotion of temperance and of thrift. He agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester that it was a question open for discussion whether they should not fix some limit of time for the Compensation Clauses. He was very much struck with that suggestion, because he thought it was a reasonable one, and one which would meet the views of a great number of hon. Members.
But there was another thing of very great importance which was referred to in the Bill, and which had hardly been mentioned, or only very slightly mentioned, in the discussion which had taken 65 place, and that was the very great subject of State emigration by the Local Authorities. He thought that very few hon. Members had really grasped the great power which the Bill gave in this direction. This power was introduced simply by a parenthesis. Sub-section (f.) of Clause 66, page 56, provided—For making advances (which they are hereby authorized to make) to any persons or bodies of persons, corporate or unincorporate, in aid of the emigration of inhabitants of the county, where there is reasonable cause to believe that the amount so advanced will be repaid by the emigrants, and that either with or without any guarantee for such repayment from any local authority in the county, the Government of any colony, or any other persons or person.Now, he considered that that was a very startling and very serious proposal to introduce into the Bill, especially to introduce it in a parenthetical way. He himself did not share the views of many hon. Members in respect to the system of State emigration. The clause itself was worded very oddly, because it enabled Local Authorities to borrow money in order to transport any persons who were agreeable to be emigrated, with or without security for the repayment of the cost. This sort of State emigration could not really be a solution of the surplus population difficulty, though, no doubt, it was a very tempting way to get out of a difficult problem. He was sure that those who had gone into the subject must see that they could not possibly alleviate in any wholesale manner the congested labour market by any such clause as this. It was known that the population increased at the rate of about 1 per cent per annum. That meant that 350,000 additions were made to the population every year. From the emigration tables, however, ho found that for the last 35 years the average number of emigrants had been about 250,000 a-year; so that our population at the present time was increasing, notwithstanding all the emigration we had had during the last 35 years. In addition to that, it must be remembered that they had to take into account the immigration of persons into this country. He thought the system of trying to promote in a wholesale manner the State emigration of paupers was a most dangerous thing to put into the Bill. It was an artificial emigration; it was not a real and boná fide emigration of men who would do good when they went out; but 66 if it did secure that this class left our shores in large quantities, those, he asserted, were the very men whom it was well to keep at home; and if they were to send out paupers they would only get into hot water with the Governments of the foreign countries to which they were sent. He, therefore, thought that the power of promoting emigration, as proposed, was a dangerous power to give to the Local Authorities. It was especially a dangerous power if the Local Authorities were to be enabled to borrow money for the purposes of promoting it, for it then amounted to authority to borrow money in the hope of reducing the population and so raising wages.
Now, there was another matter of very great importance which had been referred to by many hon. Members, and that was the subject of making local contributions dependent upon indoor relief. He yielded to no man in his desire and anxiety to promote the well-being of the poor. He had had a great deal to do with the poor, and he asserted that it was not true to say that the Guardians, as a body, were hard and drastic, as had been asserted by hon. Members opposite. He believed that, especially in our great cities, there had been, during the last 20 years, an immense improvement in the quality of Guardians, and a very great deal done by Guardians to endeavour, on the most scientific, the most humane, and the best possible plan, to alleviate poverty, and to train men and women to become more careful, more thrifty, and better citizens. He believed that the principles that had actuated Guardians to serve as Guardians had been conducive of immense benefit to the people themselves. He was quite sure of this—that nothing was more unkind to the poor themselves than to give them an easy system of Poor Law relief. Those who had studied the Poor Law question, not only in the superficial manner which he ventured to say one hon. Member opposite who had recently spoken upon the subject appeared to have studied it, but those who had really traced the history of pauperism in the country, and gone back to the introduction of the Poor Law, and seen its effect on the poorer classes—those who had a practical knowledge of its working— 67 were certainly of opinion that the system of wholesale outdoor relief was not kind to the poor, and did not tend to make the poor happier or better, but, on the contrary, tended to demoralize them, to make them worse citizens, less happy in this life, and calculated to lead them to end their lives in great misery. It was no true kindness to hold out outdoor relief as the natural retiring pension for old age. The only true measure of pauperism was that which was in the workhouses. There were many deserving cases of people who, without any fault of their own, without any drinking or the indulgence in other bad habits, had come to grief and sorrow, and he was sure that the spirit of the charitable public would be to hand such persons over not to the Poor Law, but to the charitable organizations which were being established on a proper basis. He maintained that this proposal in the Bill would tend largely to develop the schemes of real, organized charity which were being founded in many parts of the country, and which, although they were often abused by superficial workers in charity, were doing real good in alleviating, and, at the same time, elevating and making more self-dependent, the great mass of the people. He, therefore, entirely differed from some of those who had discussed the subject; and in the real interest of the poor themselves, not because one form of relief was cheaper than the other, he contended that the proposed system of allocating this part of the local contributions was not only right and proper, but would tend largely to alleviate the sufferings, and to train the poor in habits of industry, thrift, and self-reliance.
There was another question that had been touched upon a good deal. He was one of those who had been keenly alive to the importance of reform in London. He believed that this Bill was the first great step of a most important change. The establishment of a County Council for London would do an enormous amount of good. It was perfectly true that it was only a beginning; but he ventured to say that this beginning was broad and solid, like the basis of the pyramid. The Council was to be formed on the broadest suffrage, and all that had to be added to it would be added from time to time 68 with comparatively little difficulty. They would create in London a Body really elected, and having the sympathy and the support, and the confidence of the great mass of the people; they would establish this Body with great powers at present, but eventually invest it with still greater powers. It had been said that the control of the water and gas supplies, and other matters, ought to have been given to the County Council of London. He quite agreed that the Council should have such control; but he was sure his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board would have been most foolish to have put these powers in the present Bill. To have put in these powers would have wrecked the Bill. The Water Companies knew perfectly well that when this Body was established, in course of time all the powers which had been suggested would be handed over to the County Council as a matter of course. What they wanted was to bring out the local statesmanship of the different parts of London. If he might criticize the measure concerning London alone, he must candidly say he was doubtful whether in respect to London—he said nothing about the counties — the system of selected members would work. There were many arguments against it; there were many in favour of it; but his judgment, as a Londoner, was rather opposed to the system. He was very doubtful whether they would get better men by the system of selection. He was afraid that it would become the fashion for the better men not to put up for election, because they would imagine they had a right to be selected. That would tend rather to lower the whole Council than to elevate it. This was not a Party question in any way, and he was sure he rightly interpreted the feelings of the Government, and especially the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, when he said that their first desire was to make the County Council of London the best Council that could possibly be created. If it was generally thought that it would be better for all the members of the Council to be elected, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would very gladly agree to such a system. Speaking for London only, he thought the principle of selection would be found to be a mis- 69 take. By the system of election they would bring out in all the districts that local talent and that local feeling of self-importance which was the real backbone of local government. They had not got sufficient of this feeling at present, and he was sure that this step of promoting local government in London was likely to tend, more, perhaps, than anything else, to make London what it should be—the great central power and leader of local government.
Now, the last matter he should refer to was the great question of borrowing and local finance. This was one of the subjects in which he was keenly interested, and he ventured to say that the borrowing powers of the Bill, and, indeed, the whole subject of finance, was the rock on which—if this Bill ever failed—it would fail. He regarded with great apprehension the powers given by the Bill for borrowing. Looking at the statistics, he found that in 1874 the Local Debt of England and Wales was £93,000,000, while in 1885 it was £173,000,009—that was to say that in 11 years it had increased £81,000,000, or by nearly double. During the same period the National Debt of the country had only decreased £28,000,000. The tendency of the Bill must be to increase expenditure. There was so much work to be done, so much legitimate work; but all that work had to be paid for and looked after very carefully. They would get on the Councils a number of ambitious men, lawyers, architects, surveyors, and engineers, all of whom would be anxious—very properly and earnestly anxious—to promote the wellbeing of their county, and many of the works they would do would, no doubt, be good works. If the works were to be paid for immediately out of the rates, he should not object to the Councils doing whatever they liked. If people were going to pay everything at once in hard cash he did not think there was much fear of their over-running the constable. If people were returned to the County and District Councils with the idea that they were going to spend money out of the current rates he saw no harm that could accrue, for those who ordered them to spend would pay the bill. It was altogether different, however, when they came to borrowing, because in borrowing they were pledging the future. In borrowing, the 70 present members of a Board had the amusement and the delight and the pleasure of spending money, while they left the burden of repayment to those who were to follow them. This was a special danger at the present time, because money could be borrowed at so low a rate of interest. He di not say that in respect of bonâ fide things which were really wanted—such as important draining and gas works and water works, many of which were remunerative—money should not be borrowed; but he maintained that the tendencies to and the dangers of borrowing had developed very much of late. He went further, and said that the tendencies, in spite of the watchful eye of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, had been to meet current expenses out of borrowing. Twenty or 30 years ago the Railway Companies were always adding doubtful items of expenditure to their capital, and it was not until their capital was closed, and their expenses paid out of the current rates, that anything like a prosperous condition of the railways was brought about. Now, if he might be allowed, he would refer for a moment to a Parliamentary Return which was granted upon his Motion last year. He thought he should be able to show that, in spite of the vigilant eye of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie), the tendency of late had been to pay current expenses partially out of borrowing. He found from this Parliamentary Return that a large town like Crewe borrowed in 1885 £500 simply for the purpose of erecting lamp columns. That was an expenditure which ought fairly to have come out of the current rates. The sum was to be repaid in 10 years. The Corporation of Derby borrowed £500 for a steam roller, and the sum was to be repaid in 10 years. That, surely, was a current expense. The town of Eastbourne borrowed £350, to be repaid in 10 years, for public lamps. Surely that, again, ought to have come out of current income. East Grinstead borrowed for 20 years £135 for hydrants. Surely that was a current expense. There were cases without and of this kind which he might quote, but he did not wish to weary the House by referring further to the Return. Anybody, however, who liked to look through the Return would find that this 71 state of things had gone on for some years. Even last year, in spite of attention having been called to this matter, he found that the same state of things occurred, because Bangor borrowed last year £95, to be repaid in 10 years, for carts, and a road roller. Surely he was right in saying that showed that things which ought to be paid for out of current rates were being paid for out of borrowed money. In other places money was borrowed for water carts, for wood paving, and one of the last and worst cases was that of the town of Hartlepool, which had borrowed £4,500, to he repaid in 30 years, a large part of which was for the cost of obtaining Acts and Provisional Orders. That was saddling posterity with the law costs of the present day, and surely that was a most dangerous and wrong principle to go upon. He submitted that they must be very careful as to the borrowing powers included in the Bill. The Bill enabled County Councils to borrow to the extent of two years' rateable value. It enabled the County Council to borrow one year's rateable value without much difficulty, and two years with a little more difficulty. Now, the rateable value of England and Wales at the present time was something like £150,000,000, so that the Bill enabled the County Councils to borrow to the extent of £300,000,000—pretty nearly half the National Debt. He did not think there was any limit as to the amount that could be borrowed by the District Councils. Considering what was going on in the borrowing line, they could not be too vigilant and careful in this matter. He agreed also with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Ripen Division of York (Mr. Wharton) that the number of years for which money could be borrowed ought to be reduced—60 years was too long. Thirty years was one generation, and he did not think they had any right to saddle more than one generation with the borrowing for any purpose. However good the purposes were, 30 years would make a great difference in the estimation in which the work might be regarded. When they looked back 30 years and saw the many improvements in sanitation and other things which had been carried out at great cost, they constantly found that, in consequence of the researches of science and other advantages of know- 72 ledge, many things on which they had spent large sums of money had fallen into disuse long before 30 years had passed. Therefore, he hoped the Government would agree to limit the period for which money might be borrowed to 30 years for permanent purposes, and to 15 years for the smaller purposes. Certainly, for steam rollers and things of that kind, which really ought to be paid for out of current rates, the Bill ought to lay it down clearly that five years should be the maximum time within which any sum borrowed for such a purpose should be repaid. He himself should prefer that no such loans were allowed at all. They must remember that in saddling posterity in this way they were running a great risk. In the present state of our trade, and with possibly our coal running short, and in view of other matters, it was a serious matter to hamper posterity with enormous debts. He believed that if there was one danger ahead in the future of England it was that the people were being saddled with such a debt that would cripple them very greatly in the competition with other nations. He hoped that he had not wearied the House. He was anxious to make one or two remarks upon the Bill, because it concerned the people of London so very greatly. He rejoiced very much, indeed, that the Bill was being promoted, and he was extremely glad that the Government now in power had introduced it. Many of them had been agitating for this sort of thing for many years. They believed this was a bonâ fide measure, and they trusted the Government would persevere with it. They certainly felt that if a sort of passive resistance prevented the whole measure being passed this Session, which he sincerely trusted would not be the case, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would, by passing simply the clauses creating a Body in every district, elected on the broadest basis—practically by universal suffrage—established a claim to be ranked amongst the greatest social reformers of the present generation.
MR. SIAGG (Burnley)
said, the Bill had already had a some what remarkable career, and it had a still further remarkable feature about it with regard to the attitude of the country respecting it. It was introduced by the right hon. Gen- 73 tleman (Mr. Ritchie) in a speech which was universally admitted to possess very great merit. In many respects it was a brilliant effort, and brilliant also were the expectations which it raised in the minds of hon. Members—expectations which, he felt bound to say, had not been altogether realized. It had been stated privately, at all events, if not in public, that the discrepancy between the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill and the actual measure might be due to the circumstance that the measure was not in a state of completeness when the right hon. Gentleman addressed the House.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I cannot allow that statement to pass without contradiction. There is not the slightest foundation for such a statement.
§ MR. SLAGG
said, he would, of course, accept the explanation and withdraw his statement, which, however, if not founded on the facts, had, at least, some degree of probability. No doubt, a large section of the community were in favour of the Bill, and greatly admired it; it; but, at the same time, there was an extraordinary wish on the part of vast bodies of the population to escape entirely from its operation. A considerable amount of possible opposition had been destroyed by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman had withdrawn large areas of population from the operation of the Bill; but he knew perfectly well that many other communities desired equal good fortune for themselves. Yesterday there waited on the right hon. Gentleman an influential deputation from several important boroughs; and, as one of the Representatives of those communities, he was sure he could say on their behalf that they desired no better luck than to be left out of the provisions of the Bill, and he believed that if the wish of all those urban authorities in Lancashire who desired to escape from the Bill were gratified, the measure would not apply to more than about two-fifths of the people of the county. He desired to enter a word of protest against the principle of selected members. The House had, by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman when introducing the Bill, been led to believe that no such principle as this would be contained in it.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had distinctly stated that there would be selected 74 members, and he had mentioned the proportion of selected to elected members.
§ MR. SLAGG
said, the right hon. Gentleman had, as an illustration, stated that there was only one way of getting into the House of Commons, and similarly there ought to be only one method of entering the County Councils. The House was thus led to believe that the County Council was to be based upon the representative principle. That turned out not to be the case; but he (Mr. Slagg) must be allowed to express surprise that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who once posed as a Radical, had, nevertheless, come forward to support that proposal of selected members, which was in direct conflict with the representative principle. Ho could only suppose the right hon. Gentleman was preparing his few remaining Radical Friends for his accession to the House of Lords. It was urged by hon. Gentlemen opposite that there was among Members of the Opposition a desire to oppose reasonable compensation being given to the holders of licences who might be deprived of them under the operation of the Bill. But the proposal in this Bill made no reference to "reasonable compensation." What was objected to was the proposal to recognize, by Act of Parliament, an absolute right to a vested interest in the licensee. He would not venture, not being a lawyer, to say whether they had or had not such a right under the present law; but he was quite certain there was considerable doubt and ambiguity about the matter, and what the Bill proposed was to settle the question in favour of the publicans once and for all time, and impose an enormous expenditure on the community. In the name of his constituents he strongly protested against this proposal. He quite agreed with the lion. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid) that the licence-holder should be left to his own remedy to get what he could out of the Courts. The hon. Member who had last spoken (Mr. Bartley) said that the speakers on the Opposition side were opposed to "reasonable compensation." What was reasonable compensation? An elector wrote to him (Mr. Slagg), saying—I want compensation for the disaster and destruction caused in my own family by those 75 men whose trade has inflicted such enormous injury on the community;and added—I want compensation for the death and destruction of seven of my own brothers through the influence of this traffic which it is new proposed so richly to endow.If such right already existed at law, there was no necessity to provide for it by the Bill. He believed that no such right existed, and that its creation would cause an enormous amount of injury to the community. He also objected to the emigration provisions. The subject had nothing to do with the main lines of the Bill, and seemed to be quite unnecessarily lugged into a measure wholly foreign to the subject. On what principle, he asked, did the Government propose to confer on the County Councils the power to grant aid in this matter? He disputed the necessity for any step of the sort. It surely could not be on account of the statement of the Royal Commission on Depression in Trade, which reported only a short time ago that the working classes, as a rule, desired no relief of the kind, and were, on the whole, in a fairly comfortable position. In 1846 there was great distress and lack of employment. But that distress was much relieved through the removal of the taxes on food; and he thought the Government would proceed with greater regard to logic and political economy, and with greater probability of success, by taking in hand the freeing of the land in a larger degree to the use of the people than by stimulating artificially the export of the best labour of the country. This proposal, moreover, appeared to him to conflict with existing emigration societies, many of which were doing their work fairly well, and he saw no reason why they should run a sort of opposition shop at the expense of the ratepayers. It ought always to be borne in mind that the result of such a scheme would inevitably be not to emigrate the really poor and decrepit, but the young and strong members of the labouring population and the skilled artizans. The arguments which applied to towns of over 100,000 inhabitants, and led the right hon. Gentleman to turn them into counties by the Bill, applied with equal force to towns of 50,000, which had hitherto governed themselves by means of their own local institutions, and with perfect satisfaction to the rate- 76 payers, The effect of the Bill would be to submit these towns to the jurisdiction of the County Councils and to cause interference in many matters over which they at present had complete control, such as tramways, electric lighting, market tolls, and main roads. [Mr. RITCHIE expressed dissent.] As regarded the provisions relating to contributions in respect of main roads, these boroughs would be disadvantageously affected by the Bill. Outside the boroughs the counties might make miles of roads to which the urban districts would have to contribute. On what ground were these important communities interfered with? Further, as regarded the financial aspects of the question, he said that, so far as he could see, the balance of the contributions would be against the boroughs. ["No!"] That was what they all thought; and they would be greatly relieved when the right hon. Gentleman produced figures to prove they were mistaken. Many considerable boroughs were not counties, and it was those who might suffer from county extravagance. These boroughs were quite capable of managing their own affairs. He had heard the Town Clerk of York say that he considered that city would be some £6,000 or £7,000 a-year worse off. Those boroughs thought that they should spend their own money in their own areas, and in their own way. His own borough of Burnley was in that unfortunate position; and the power of resistance was immensely weakened by the fact that Blackburn, Bolton, Oldham, and other large towns had been made counties under the Bill. He urged that all boroughs of 50,000 population should be constituted counties. They were quite capable of governing themselves, and they would be greatly relieved to hear that the Government proposed to place them in that position. The right hon. Gentleman had fixed the limit of boroughs which had a population of 100,000 at the last Census. Was there any reason why boroughs which had not 100,000 inhabitants in 1881 who in future attained that population should not enjoy the same privilege? There were many towns of 80,000 or 90,000 inhabitants, and which would soon have 100,000. When they did reach 100,000, would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to place them in the position of 77 counties? He thought the request was a most reasonable one. So far as the towns he had in his mind were concerned, he believed they would be greatly relieved by such an announcement, and that they would submit with much better grace, provided they knew they would be emancipated when they reached the dimensions the Government had laid down. For his own part, he did not take a Party view of the Bill. He was thankful for good things, from whatever quarter they came. He only wished the Bill was a little more Radical than it was, and more in conformity with the description which in some quarters bad been given of it. He trusted that the Government, which was all-powerful just now, would also be merciful and generous, and open wide the door to the improvements that were necessary to make the measure really complete and satisfactory.
§ MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
said, he hoped the House would extend its indulgence to him on the occasion of his first attempt to address it. His apology for intervening was that he himself had discharged a variety of functions in regard to local affairs. He did not think the country would grudge the time which had. been occupied in the second reading of the Bill, especially since they now reading it on the authority of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) that the Bill might be correctly described as a revolutionary measure, and as it certainly would affect the welfare of the country more intimately and more permanently than any measure of purely political change could possibly do, and he thought the House ought to assure itself that this would be a revolution favourable to the best description of local administration and vitality. They understood that the main object of the Bill was to reduce the number of Local Authorities, and to simplify them, and. to simplify and consolidate the rating and borrowing powers which were exercised in the interests of local administration. But he failed to see, from the Bill itself, in what way that expectation had been met. The number of independent rating and borrowing powers which would exist under this Bill was certainly not favourable to the very great and important consideration of economy, and this was 78 of importance; because, though in the urban districts it had been possible to levy an increasing taxation upon assessment value, he ventured to say that in the counties it would be found impossible to do so. They had on every side the land passing out of cultivation, and the one chance which remained. for keeping farming alive in many parts of the country required forlits success that there should be an increased expenditure of capital upon the land. No one could venture upon that increased expenditure of capital on the land in the face of a certain increase of local taxation. He submitted that the House was bound to obtain security for economy. No doubt, complaint was made of the extravagance of the existing Urban Authorities; but the House must remember that Urban Authorities had been placed under the control of the Local Government Board, and that was the worst thing ingenuity could have very well devised. The extravagance, the enormous expenditure of many of the present Urban Authorities, really must be said to frighten the country. What he, from his experience, thought was that the restraint which it was possible for the Local Government Board. to exercise did. not operate in the direction of economy. He knew this—that in his own parish, against the wish of an enormous majority of the inhabitants, they had been forced under the powers of the Public Health Act to become a Local Government district, and also immediately afterwards, again, against the wishes of a very large majority of the inhabitants, they were forced to undertake a large but unwise scheme of resewering, the consequence being that they were now saddled with a debt amounting to £100,000. That disastrous expenditure would have been saved to the parish if the parish had been allowed to have its will, and if it had not been for the direct intervention of the Local Government Board. He would also point out that the limit of two years' rateable value which was fixed in the Bill for loans would be found illusory, because, no doubt, many ambitious authorities, having that power of expenditure before them, might be anxious to enter upon many schemes which they might think of benefit to their district, but when they had exhausted that limit it would not be possible for the Local Go- 79 vernment Board to deny them the power of obtaining money for works that might be of the utmost importance for the population of the district; and, therefore, he thought that the regulation could only be said to be a paper regulation, and not one upon which reliance could be placed. There was one other matter upon which he should like to be allowed to say a word. He was aware that the Parties on both sides of the House were seriously anxious to ameliorate the condition of the agricultural poor. But they could not do it; their legislation must inevitably be useless, unless it was administered by men who had sympathy with it and thoroughly understood it. The House must take into consideration the fact that, in the areas of representation in agricultural districts, they would have as representing local feeling practically the same class of men as at present constituted Boards of Guardians. Well, the success of this class with the administration of such provisions of Parliament as the payment of school fees under the Public Elementary Education Act, and the administration of the Allotments Act, had not been such as to encourage the House in entrusting to them legislation which had for its purpose the amelioration of the condition of the agricultural poor. What he thought the House should grasp was that they did not do all that could be done in simply making provision for the election of people to do things which the public in many cases could do for themselves, and he thought that the only useful resource for the agricultural poor would be such meetings of the inhabitants of a district as used to be held in the Vestries. The power of the Vestries had been very greatly reduced, but they would do a very valuable work if those powers were increased. Parish committees could be formed for almost every purpose; the duties falling upon them could be undertaken and discharged by those in direct contact with the local conditions. Parliament could group the parishes as much as they pleased for electoral purposes in connection with the County Councils, but they could not group them for local administration. Parish boundaries were marked out frequently by differences of conditions which had established themselves, and not by the edict of any autho- 80 rity foreign to the local habits of the people, and he must submit that they would have in parish committees, fairly elected in open Vestry, a superior administrative body than they would possess at a parochial board, for instance, because the very best men would be procured. The very best would consent to serve on parish committees for some particular purpose, and that only, and would be available, though they would not consent to be elected on a parochial board for a fixed or long term. He must say that he thought the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), that the parishes were too dead for any successful resuscitation, was not a statement borne out by the facts. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that, having listened very attentively to his speech. He (Mr. Stephens) submitted that every man living in a country district practically was attached to his parish and his county, and if it had been possible to invest the parish with any considerable administrative faculty, he thought that all classes of the community would have been benefited. They would have had that local knowledge which was so desirable before action was taken in matters of local administration. By this means, with, of course, reference on all questions of great importance to the County Council, they would have been able to obtain a far simpler form of administration than that which would exist under the present Bill. It was a matter to which the traditional feelings, and he might say the affections, of the people of the county would attach themselves with much greater force and intensity than they ever would do under the numerous, and to them strange, authorities and areas which would be constituted under this measure.
§ MR. T. ROBINSON (Gloucester)
said, he did not intend to detain the House very long, because other Members were desirous of speaking, and in the few remarks he should feel it his duty to make it was not his intention to offer opposition to the second reading of the Bill. He approved of its main principles, giving ratepayers in the counties the management of their local affairs; but he did not think the representative principle was carried far enough in the Bill, and he hoped the Government would consent to make it complete in 81 Committee. There were several other objections he had to the plan and method the Government had adopted to give effect to the principle of the Bill. Some of the matters had been alluded to by previous speakers, and he would, therefore, reserve anything he had to say upon them till the Committee stage of the Bill, There were, however, two subjects he desired to allude to, and the main point to which he would call the attention of the House was the case of boroughs of under 100,000 inhabitants, which he considered were not fairly dealt with under the provisions of the Bill. The public were satisfied with the way the boroughs had managed their affairs, and were looking for a Bill to extend municipal government to the counties; but this far-reaching proposal affected every town and county in England and Wales. The Government were not content with disestablishing boroughs of under 10,000 inhabitants and crushing out their municipal life, but proceeded to interfere with all towns between 10,000 and 100,000 inhabitants, throwing them into the counties for certain purposes. Ho appealed to the Government on behalf of all those boroughs, and expressed a hope that as far as possible they might be allowed to retain their privileges; but he would make a special appeal on behalf of the City of Gloucester, which he had the honour of representing, and the seven other places which were now cities and counties in themselves. Their claims for consideration were much stronger than those of the other boroughs alluded to. Gloucester was working under a very old Charter which was given her many years ago, for good conduct and the interest then taken in her good government. One might almost say that in these cities Local Government originated, and they could not be surprised that they were not willing to give up their independence—they might call it sentiment if they liked, but the people of Gloucester would not willingly give up the liberties handed down to them by their forefathers. He objected also to the financial arrangements in the Bill. He admitted the distressed state of agriculture, and that some relief in taxation should be given to it; but there was also great depression in towns and much depreciation of property, equal to 50 per cent in some 82 cities, and that, coupled with the higher taxation in boroughs, made their claims equally strong for their fair share of the allowance for relief of taxation given under the Bill. They had had some experience in the allowance Parliament had previously granted for the repair of the main roads of the country, and the largest amount Gloucester—with a population of nearly 40,000, and a rateable value of, say, £150,000—had received in any one year was only £84. He was, therefore, in great doubt as to the share boroughs would receive of the taxes and licences proposed to be allowed for Local Government under the present Bill, so many demands had to be satisfied before they got anything; and he feared that their share would not be anything like equal to the extra tax they would have to pay to the County Councils for the repair of all the main roads of the county, many of which were much inferior to the city roads and footways. It must also be borne in mind that the County Councils would have power to contribute to roads in the county which were not main roads, and, altogether, large demands might be made upon the borough rates which would be far in excess of any contribution they would receive. He admitted it would be a good thing to settle the vexed question of licensing; but he submitted that legislation was undesirable unless the proposal held out the prospect of a fair and final settlement of the question. At the present moment neither the licensed victuallers nor the Temperance Party were satisfied with the Licensing Clauses of the Bill, and he thought the Government would be well advised if they withdrew the clauses altogether, and allowed the matter to stand over until a nearer approach to agreement could be arrived at. He was the more anxious that that should be done in order to avoid the matter being mixed up with the first County Council elections, because it might prevent the best men being chosen in all cases. There would be plenty of work for the County Councils to do without the licensing, and those duties could at any time hereafter be given to them if thought desirable. He thought the President of the Local Government Board was desirous of dealing fairly with all constituencies, and he appealed to him with confidence to allow all 83 cities that were now counties in themselves to be treated in the same way as were the large boroughs alluded to in the Bill.
§ MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, it was not his intention to add any very lengthy remarks to the debate, but he thought that no one who had considered the question of county government could have failed to see that they had a multiplicity—an endless multiplicity—of authorities in connection with such government; that the areas were of a complex and complicated character, and that, at the present moment, the local rates were not, as they would like to see them, consolidated. When they read through the clauses of this Bill, and remembered that in the immediate future it would become law, they would see that they would then have the germs of a system by which they could diminish the number of Local Authorities, simplify the areas, and consolidate the rates. He had listened with some attention to the debate, and if there had been any remarks made antagonistic to the scheme as proposed by the Government, they had mainly been to point out that the measure began from the wrong end. Now, he ventured to say that the measure did not do so in any form or shape. Hon. Gentlemen opposite contended that they should have commenced to build up this system from the old parishes throughout the length and breadth of the country; but, as had been said by many other speakers in the course of the debate, the parishes of the country were very numerous. There were, he believed, no less than 15,000. Now, the work of re-arranging all these parishes must be a work of very great length and very great complexity, and he thought the Government had acted with wisdom and discretion in first establishing a grand system of County Councils throughout the length and breadth of the country, giving them ample and sufficient powers, and enabling them to simplify the local districts as might be found most desirable. He would now say one or two words as to the clauses in the Bill dealing with the question of police. Objection had been taken that the police were not, as they had been heretofore, placed under the magistrates. Other hon. Gentlemen had contended that it would be desirable to have jurisdiction placed in the hands of the 84 County Councils. He thought the Government had hit the mean between the two extremes, and had done it in a very satisfactory way. On the one hand, the magistrates were to continue to have legal jurisdiction in the counties, and necessarily, from that fact, they would be brought greatly into contact with the police. On the other hand, the police would have to make some reports to the County Councils, who would have certain administrative duties to discharge, and he thought the Joint Committees of the Magistrates and County Councillors would work satisfactorily. Why did he think so? Because he found that under the Poor Law system the Boards of Guardians were partly composed of magistrates and partly of elected representatives of the people, and they worked very satisfactorily. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, he was speaking on this matter from practical experience. He found also that this system of joint action had worked well in connection with the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. Joint Committees had been formed partly composed of magistrates and partly of farmers, and those Committees had done very valuable and satisfactory work. He should like to say one or two words in regard to the police in the Metropolis. He held that the Government had acted, if he might say so in all humility, very rightly and wisely in determining that it would be indefensible to take away from the Homo Secretary authority over the police in the Metropolis. In London there was a population of 5,000,000, or nearly, and the Home Office had under its jurisdiction a body of about 15,000 police; and when one took into view the advantages and disadvantages of giving the control of the police to a popularly selected assembly, one could not but remember that the force in such a place as the Metropolis would not be able to act with that promptitude and decision which was desirable if controlled in that way. No Government worthy of the name would have given up the power which the Home Office had so well exercised in connection with the police of the Metropolis. He had listened with great interest to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickers-gill), who, with great care and trouble, 85 had gone into questions relating to the Poor Law system of this country. The hon. Member had contended that it would have been desirable in the Bill to have dealt also with the Poor Law system. He (Mr. Webster) totally disagreed with the hon. Member on this point. No doubt, in the future, reform of our Poor Law system would be necessary, and, no doubt, also in the future it would be desirable to alter the system known as the Metropolitan Asylums Board; but they must not load their machine too much at first. Everyone who had sat on the Poor Law Beards knew the vast amount of work that the machine had to do from time to time, and he thought that until they had got their new Boards fairly working it would be undesirable to add to their duties work in connection with the Poor Law system of the country. And now a word with regard to the mode of electing these Councils. Hitherto, in the remarks he had had the honour to address to the House, he had used nothing but words of praise in reference to this most important measure which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had brought in; but as to the mode of electing these now County Councils, he should like to say that he found there were to be two different Bodies. There were to be gentlemen elected directly from the ratepayers, gentlemen who were to be called "elected Councillors," and there was to be another body of selected Councillors, which answered precisely and identically to the present selected Aldermen of borough Corporations. Now, the name was nothing. If he were to be a selected Councillor, it would be nothing to him if he were called an Alderman or a selected Councillor; but it seemed to him very strange that a Conservative Government should do away with a name such as "Alderman," which, he believed, had been in use in this country ever since Saxon times. But with regard to these new Bodies that were to be partly elected and partly selected, let them see what the state of things under the Bill would be in the new County of London. They had not got the number of Councillors that wore to be sent from the Metropolis to the Central Council; but he trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government 86 Board would give them that information on the earliest possible occasion. But, presuming that London sent to the new Central Council 60 elected Councillors, and that there were added to that number 20 selected Councillors, supposing —which was not improbable—that the first election was fought upon the question of rates, or of licensing, or—as he hoped might not be the case, for up to now they had had no politics infused into political life in London—on political lines, if 31 members were returned by one party and 29 by the other, the majority might have the whole of the 20 selected Councillors. Now, they must look at facts as they were. What would be the result of this? The majority of 31 would add 20 to their number, which would give them an enormous majority on the Council, not only for three years, but in all probability for six years. So that, instead of having 29 on one side and 31 on the other, they would have 29 and 51. He had heard the valuable remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney), and although he (Mr. Webster) did not go so far as the right hon. Gentleman with regard to proportional representation, he would venture to suggest that it would be inadvisable to allow the majority of elected Councillors to have full power of selecting men of identically the same views as themselves. He would, therefore, venture to suggest that, presuming the number of selected. Councillors to be 20, out of every five of them an elected Councillor should only be allowed to vote for three. The result would be that, presuming the majority of elected Councillors to be 31 and the minority 29, the majority would have the right to return 12 selected Councillors and the minority eight. Now, he could not understand why, contrary to the principle pursued in connection with all Municipal Corporations in the country, and to their declaration that they were aiming at unity in their system of local government, they should have done away with the plan by which one-third of the Body retired annually. Of course, the objection would be raised that it was undesirable to have the trouble and fuss of a contested election every year. There might have been something in that objection when they had what was called "open elections;" 87 but now, under the Ballot Act, he ventured to say that even during a contested Election they could go through South-wark, and, except that they might see a few bills about and notice a few carriages with the names of the candidates on them rattling about the streets, would not know that anything unusual was taking place. Therefore, he could not help thinking that, having gone so far in the direction of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the idea of one-third retiring annually might surely be retained. There was another point on which he was, perhaps, more averse to the views of the Government than on those he had mentioned, and that was as to the idea of co-optation in the case of a vacancy. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall had said—and he (Mr. Webster) believed he was quite correct in his statement—that the London School Board had co-optated gentlemen from time to time of the particular views of those whom they succeeded. But that system had been departed from on a very recent occasion. In Marylebone, which included the whole Parliamentary Division of Hampstead—that was to say, in a district which returned no fewer than nine Members to the Imperial Parliament—a member of the School Board either died or retired, and what did the School Board do? They did not go into the district of Marylebone, where they would have found a population of no less than 600,000 individuals to select from, but they went outside and selected someone—some unknown man—whose views were totally contrary to the previous member of the Board. What was the sequel? Why, on the very first occasion that a School Board election occurred this gentleman was sent back to his pristine obscurity, and a gentleman was elected who was known to the ratepayers. That showed that the co-optative system had failed. If this measure had a serious fault in it, it was this. The Government had totally lost sight of the fact that the districts of London had practically very little in common. Take London as a whole, what did the people of Westminster know about the people of Rotherhithe; and what did the people living in St. George's, Hanover Square, know about the people of Whitechapel? In the scheme there was no continuity between 88 the Central Body and the Local Bodies. Under the present system—be that system good, or be it bad—the individuals who represented London on the Central Body had to go down from time to time and report to the Local Bodies, and had to be thoroughly in touch with them. Under the co-optative system they might have a district for four or six years unrepresented. It appeared to him that it was very desirable that they should make the whole include the part, and should say that if a man was elected to the Central Council of London he should de facto become a member of the Local Council of the district in which he happened to reside. Otherwise he (Mr. Webster) ventured to say that on many questions where there was to be a certain amount of in-working between the Central Body and the Local Body they would get the members in collision on questions of main drainage, arterial drainage, and minor drainage, of the parochial system, of main or arterial roads, of Building Acts, and many other Acts. Unless they did something to keep the Central and Local Bodies in touch, he ventured to say there would be a great deal of friction in their working. He would not longer intrude upon the time of the House at this stage of the Bill. He would do everything in his power to support the measure as a useful and valuable one; and he sincerely hoped that when the new Council was formed they would get what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board expected—namely, useful and valuable men serving on that Body. He did not think, as a matter of fact, that at the present time they had altogether an unsatisfactory body of men serving on the Central Governing Body of London; but that was merely a personal expression of opinion. Ho ventured to say—and this should be one of his concluding remarks—that it was no fault of the members of that Central Body that they were indirectly elected. The Body existed as the House of Commons formed it 33 years ago. The House of Commons had formed it, and had ordered it to carry out gigantic improvements from time to time. It had thrust on the shoulders of the members the carrying out of some 200 Acts of Parliament, and those gentlemen had done their duty to the best of their ability. If in the past one or 89 two officials had failed in their duty, the House should not judge of the working of a great system by a few isolated instances. Those who went to Spring Gardens to their administrative work did so with the consciousness that they had the interests of a population of half as much as the whole of the Municipalities of England and Wales to attend to; and from the mere statement of that fact hon. Members would see how much work the Central Governing Body of London had to perform. Not only would the new Central Body have the duty of carrying out the Building Acts, the Parks Acts, the Fire Brigade, and many other Acts, which had been thrust on the Metropolitan Board of Works by Parliament, and not only would they have to spend 30 or 50 hours a-week at such work, but they would also have to perform a vast number of administrative duties now performed by the magistrates of Middlesex—including licensing and work in connection with tramways and electric lighting—and many duties now discharged by the Government Departments. He hoped that for this work the best men would be found.
§ MR. A. THOMAS (Glamorgan, E.)
said, he regretted that the duties of the new Councils would not include the administration of the Poor Law and the control of board schools. Something, however, was to be said as to the danger of overloading the Bill. Perhaps those duties would be allotted to the Councils at some future time, for certainly, as he understood local government, it included authority over the administration of all local expenditure. In regard to the Licensing Authority, he regretted that the first time the principle of allowing licensed victuallers compensation when the renewal of a licence was refused had been recognized in a Government Bill. The elected Body might, he believed, have been entrusted the same power of renewing or refusing licences as the Justices. Whether the Justices had authority to refuse renewals was a point in conflict between legal authorities on either side of the House; but he had known cases of refusal, and the new Body might well have been entrusted with the power untrammelled by compensation. So far as his experience went, popularly elected Bodies were not prone to rush into extremes, and he did not share the fear that there would be 90 anything like an epidemic of fanaticism in the new Body, or that they would act otherwise than as reasonable men. He approved of the power to close public-houses on Sunday; and as to such an action leading to the establishment of bogus clubs, he referred to the experience of Welsh towns, where the Sunday Act had had a fair trial. No doubt, at first, there had been many bogus clubs. Six months ago there were many such in Cardiff; but the powers of the law were quite sufficient to deal with such irregularities, and the prosecutions by the Inland Revenue had reduced such clubs to a very limited number. To the principle of selected members ho was opposed. Having been a member of a Town Council for 10 or 12 years, he believed no worse policy could be pursued than that which was proposed in the Bill. All members should be elected directly by the people. It was their duty to see that those who were to be entrusted with such important duties should have the confidence of the people. If those Councils were to be kept free from jobbery, there was no other way by which it could be done than by public election. He would, however, support a proposal to elect a certain number for six years, believing that there were many men whose presence on the Council would be of great value, but who would not undergo the ordeal of election for a shorter period. He did not like the principle of making doles from the Central Authority for the relief of indoor paupers, and feared it would act as an encouragement to indoor relief. He was glad to hear that the system of tolls in South Wales was to be abolished, otherwise the Bill would act very unjustly. Other minor points he took exception to, but they were such as were to be discussed in Committee, and it might be his duty to support Amendments then; but to the second reading of the Bill he gladly gave his support.
§ MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
said, that the Bill failed to grapple with the question of Local Government, as it merely proposed to transfer the powers which had hitherto been exercised most effectually by the Local Government Board to the new County Councils. The proper name for the measure would have been "A Bill for transferring to the County Councils the local powers now exercised by the Local Government 91 Board and the Quarter Sessions." He did not believe that the Bill would effect any real improvement in our system of Local Government, In fact, it did not attempt to do so. He approved of the measure as far as it did not propose to deal with the Poor Law administration and left it under the control of the Poor Law Guardians and the Poor Law Board. What he wished to point out to the Government was, that there was a very effectual system of Local Government already in existence. In the first place, there were the Municipal Corporations, having the control of the Local Government of boroughs, and he had not heard in the course of the discussion any complaint that those Corporations had been remiss in the discharge of their duties, or any assertion that it was necessary to supersede them. Our present system of Local Government was established by the Act of 1875, which was based upon the experience of the Acts of 1848 and 1858. The Local Government in the country districts was under the control of the Rural Sanitary Authorities, checked by the Local Government Board. By means of these Bodies they governed the whole area of England and Wales; there was no part of England and Wales that had not got them. They might talk about popular government, but, in fact, everything they had put into the hands of the new Bodies either was or might be put in the hands of the Local Boards or the Rural Sanitary Authorities, and in that way they might have everything that was required in the form of Local Government transacted by Bodies actually in existence. What was there that could not be done by these Local Boards or Rural Sanitary Authorities if there were a disposition on the part of the Legislature to increase their powers? They had already almost everything that was requisite for the management of the police in the Local Boards of Health or the Rural Sanitary Authorities. Did they want to regulate the line of buildings? The Local Board had power to do that under the Act of 1875. Did they want to supply a district with water? Did they want to sewer, to pave, to flag, or to cleanse a particular district? All the powers ordinarily exercised by Municipal Corporations were already vested in the Local Boards of Health or the Rural Sanitary Autho- 92 rities; and if there were any deficiency in the execution of those powers, if there were any real call for amendment in the Local Government system, he should. have thought the Government would have addressed itself to the grievances which Corporations in towns, Local Boards in urban districts, and Rural Sanitary Authorities in rural districts had failed to recognize. In this respect the Bill was utterly powerless. It did not even attempt to remedy any deficiencies in the administration of those Boards. Those Boards might be efficient or inefficient. If they were inefficient, their inefficiency would remain after this great Bill had been passed, because there was nothing in the Bill which in the slightest degree tended to remove those inefficiencies. If the Boards were efficient, ho failed to see what was the object of the Bill; because it really did not touch our local system of government—our proper system of what he called Local Government. If there were any deficiency in the system, he thought it was the general opinion that it had arisen from the fact that the Local Boards did not confer upon their members sufficient distinction to attract the distinguished and the more valuable residents in the districts as members, and the same observation applied to the Rural Sanitary Authorities and the Boards of Guardians. Of course, he knew, and the House knew, that the Guardians of the Poor were, in another capacity, the Rural Sanitary Authority, and the Bill in so far as the Guardians were the Rural Sanitary Authority proposed to operate. But did it meet the objection he had pointed. out? It did nothing of the kind. The real objection was the want of status in the members of the Local Board; the want of real dignity in the members of the Rural Sanitary Authority; the want of interest also in the people who elected those members, and sent them as their representatives. He asked the House, and he candidly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) who introduced the Bill, because he was as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman was that the Bill should be a success, and that it should do real good, instead of doing mischief, which, in his opinion, it was calculated as at present constituted to do—he asked the right hon, 93 Gentleman if he thought that by subjecting the Local Boards of Health and the Rural Sanitary Authorities to the control of a County Council elected by the same class of constituency, he would perfect the organization of the Local Boards and Rural Sanitary Authorities, which, for convenience, he(Hr. Ambrose) might call the real Home Government? What was the County Council? It would be elected probably upon the question of the liquor traffic. It was impossible to disguise the fact that, when they came to elect County Councils, the question as to whether or not men were fit for the management of county business would be altogether subordinate to the question of the day—namely, whether or not brewers should prevail, or the Temperance Party should prevail. Men would be elected not because they had much experience in the management of county affairs, but because they were willing to pledge themselves to the teetotallers on the one hand, or to the brewers on the other. Now, he asked, what would be the position of local members of the Rural Sanitary Authorities in connection with such an authority as that? Why, on every question material to the interests of the district the Local Boards and Rural Sanitary Authority would be controlled by the votes and opinions and the authority of the County Councils. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Slagg), in the observations he made a short time ago, put it to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that the District Councils would be fettered and degraded by the control of the County Councils, and thereupon the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) said that would not be the case, adding that it was only in case the Local Board wanted to borrow money that there Would be any necessity to put themselves under the control of the County Council. But that only confirmed him (Mr. Ambrose) in the view he formed when he read the Bill—namely, that the draftsman had not realized what ho intended to confer on the County Council. He (Mr. Ambrose) found that the work intended to be conferred on the County Council was composed of two parts. First of all, they had the jurisdiction of the Justices at Quarter Sessions other than the judicial duties—he thought they were called in 94 the Bill ministerial duties. That formed one part of the duties that were to be performed by the County Council. As a matter of fact, it was an utterly ridiculous jurisdiction, because those duties had hitherto been admirably performed by the Justices. He spoke for Lancashire, of which he had actual knowledge and experience. Ho believed that there they set apart one day of the year for the discharge of those duties. Of course, there was a Finance Committee to attend to matters of finance; but the whole of the ministerial duties which had to be transferred to the County Council were in Lancashire discharged by the Justices in Quarter Sessions assembled at Preston. The draftsman, no doubt, felt that it would be an idle thing to create a County Council for the mere purpose of discharging such duties as those; so he had gone on to provide for the transference to the County Council of duties hitherto discharged by the Local Government Board in London—duties which he (Mr. Ambrose) would point out, if he were not wearying the House, were expressly of an appellant character, or of a quasi judicial character, requiring the skill and experience of an expert rather than the qualities which were supposed to be incident to any popular assembly. Might he call attention to the duties which were intended to be transferred to the County Council in connection with the government of a district? He would only call attention to three or four, because they were all exactly of the character he had described. He had already pointed out that the originating work in connection with Home Local Government was vested in one or other of the Bodies he had mentioned. It was thought proper by the Legislature that there should be some sort of check upon Local Boards in the exorcise of their powers, and, accordingly, certain powers were vested in the Local Government Board, composed, as he believed, of various Ministers of the Crown, presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. He had had considerable experience during the last 25 years with regard to local government business, and during the whole of that time ho had never known any real complaint made against the Local Government officials in respect to the exercise of the administrative duties de- 95 volving upon them by virtue of the Local Government Acts. Let him call attention to one or two of the duties of the new Council, which he assured the House were, as far as his judgment went, fair samples of all the duties. Of course, his remarks would not affect the second reading, which would be carried as a matter of course; but when they got into Committee he should have some Amendments to propose, in order to raise the questions which he had ventured to ventilate. Under the Bill there were transferred to the County Council certain powers, duties, and liabilities in connection with the Baths and Wash-houses Act of 1846—as, for example, the approval of the adoption of that Act in a parish, and the approval of a resolution of the Vestry for adopting the Act. Under the Sanitary Law Amendment Act of 1874, power was conferred on the County Council to declare, as respects the Metropolis, a hospital to be within a convenient distance of the district of any authority, and under the Public Health Act of 1875 the County Council was empowered to sanction the adoption of name for "Local Board." The Local Board, when it adopted a name, was to have the sanction of the Local Government Board for that name, and it was actually proposed that the granting of this sanction should be transferred from the Local Government Board in London to the County Council. Then, again, the 28th section of the Local Government Board Act of 1875 provided for—Sanction to the communication of sewers of one authority with those of another, and settlement of disputes as to terms and conditions of such communication.He particularly asked the attention of the House to these different Acts; they were a very fair sample of the rest. Suppose a Local Board having control of a certain district proposed to communicate its sewers with those of an adjoining district. It could not very well establish a system of sewers, unless there was some connection with the adjoining district. Of course, that was a matter of terms, generally speaking. If one district had established a system of sewers, it would be very hard on that district that another district should be able to avail itself of the advantages which the sewers afforded, except upon terms of payment which would be really 96 equitable as between the two districts. The Act of Parliament very fairly and properly said that it should be lawful for the Local Board of a particular district to have the right to avail itself of the adjacent sewers, or the adjacent system of sewers, upon terms, which were to be settled by the Local Government Board. Now, could the House conceive the absurdity of transferring a duty of that kind from the Local Government Board, with its staff of proper officials, having experience, having the traditions of office, having the rules of thumb by which they had already acquired certain experience and practice in relation to these matters—could anything be more absurd and ridiculous than that the terms upon which one district should avail itself of the opportunity of communicating with another district's set of sewers should be settled by an appeal to the County Council? A County Council which, he was told, might be composed of something like 60 or 70 members! If he was wrong, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would set him right.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the number of Councillors would, of course, vary with the size of the county.
§ MR. AMBROSE
said, that, assuming the county to be of average size, probably the County Council would consist of from 60 to 70 members. But he did not care whether there wore 40 or 50 or even more members. What he particularly desired to ask the House was, whether it was reasonable that questions such as he had mentioned should be settled by such an assembly as a County Council? A County Council would be altogether unfit for the purpose. Such questions would be determined, not by justice or fairness, or calculation, or in any judicial manner in which they ought to be, and in which it was intended, when the power was given, they should be settled, but they would be determined by various considerations altogether foreign to the real issue. And so they went on in the list of duties which were to be conferred on the County Council. The very next duty in order was that under Section 42 of the Local Government Act of 1875. That section gave power to require Local Authorities to "undertake or contract for the removal of refuse, cleansing of earth 97 closets, privies, ashpits, and cesspools, and cleansing of streets;" and it further related to the sanctioning of a supply of water by one Local Authority to another, and the determination of the reasonable cost at which the owner of a house could be compelled to obtain a supply of water. Could anything be more ridiculous than the question of what an owner should pay for a water supply in his own district should be determined, not by the Local Authority of his own district, but by the County Council, a body composed very largely of men who were en-tire strangers to the districts? He asked the House before they parted with the Bill to look through the Schedule of the duties intended to be discharged by the County Council, for they would find that nearly the whole of those duties were of a judicial or a quasi-judicial character, utterly unfitted to be discharged by a County Council or by any popular assembly whatsoever, though absolutely proper and right to be discharged by responsible officials such as those now employed by the Local Government Board. There was a further consideration in connection with the matter, and it was that County Councils who were to discharge these duties would be composed of men three-fourths of whom, at least, would be absolute strangers to every locality except their own from which they were sent as representatives. Take, for instance, the great county of Lancashire. What would the people who lived North of Preston know of the affairs of the people who lived South of Manchester or in the neighbourhood of Manchester? If a question arose between a proper local Governing Body of a district and this new-fangled County Council, which was to be created he really knew not why, why should the majority of the county be able to determine the question against the wishes of the representatives of the locality? He could see no reason. In the case of the Lancashire County Council, in all probability the representatives of South Lancashire would outnumber the representatives of North Lancashire. He failed to see why in purely local affairs—on the question of the management of streets, for instance, or on the question of whether a Local Board should purchase land for the making a now street—there should be a right of appeal to the County Council. Suppose that a Local Board 98 at Lancaster, or in some rural district just outside Lancaster, determined that it was expedient to make a new street, and that land should be purchased for the purpose, would anybody say there should be an appeal to the County Council, and that the matter should be settled by representatives from Salford, from Warrington, from Eaton Norris, and from Manchester, who knew as much about a particular district North of Lancaster as he knew about Timbuctoo?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was sure his hon. and learned Friend did not wish to misinterpret the effect of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman put a case in which a Local Authority wished to acquire land for the purpose of making a new street, and he said that the authority would have to appeal to the County Council. Nothing of the kind. If money had to be borrowed for purposes of that kind, the Local Authority would still have to come to the Local Government Board. If the Authority wanted to purchase compulsorily and required a Provisional Order, they would have to appeal to the County Council.
§ MR. AMBROSE
adhered to what he had said. He called the right hon. Gentleman's attention to his own Bill, with which he did not seem to be very well acquainted. On page 104 it was shown that one of the powers which was to be transferred from the Local Government Board in London to the County Council was "sanction to purchase by Urban Authority of premises for making a new street." There was nothing there about borrowing. That was wholly irrespective of the question of borrowing. A Local Board or a Rural Sanitary Authority was not authorized to purchase land for any purpose, but only for purposes within the Act of Parliament. When they proposed to purchase land for the purpose of making a new street, the Legislature had said, by virtue of the Act of 1875, there should be some check upon them. That check was vested in the Local Government Board. Before the Local Authorities used the ratepayers' money for the purpose of purchasing land for a new street—whether they borrowed the money, or whether it was the ratepayers' money originally raised by taxation—they must, at present, obtain the sanction of 99 the Local Government Board. Under the new Bill they would require the sanction of the County Council. He was much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the interruption. He really thought, when he read these clauses, that the right hon. Gentleman had not realized what it was he was putting upon the County Council. He had risen with much pain and a great sense of responsibility to make these remarks, and he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would do him the honour and the House and the country the justice to reconsider the powers which he was transferring from the Local Government Board to the County Council. He could not help feeling that the proposed transference would create considerable mischief. Take his own Division of the county of Middlesex. There were there two Local Boards—one at Willesden and one at Hendon. He did not think those Local Boards, or the inhabitants, would relish the idea of being controlled in any matters affecting local government by the opinion of the people of Uxbridge, of Enfield, of Ealing, or of any of the other outlying districts of Middlesex. So far from improving and developing Local Government, the Bill practically introduced another species of central government—not central in London, it was true, because they were transferring it to the County Council. What was proposed was foreign to real Home Government, foreign to real Local Government, and he hoped that, when the proper time came, the House would put its veto upon anything of the kind. As to the duties which it was proposed to transfer from the local Justices, he should have thought that, so long as the Justices were doing their duty fairly, honestly, and efficiently, that was a sufficient reason for leaving well alone. That question had been discussed, however, and he was anxious, on the present occasion, not to discuss anything which had been discussed before. He merely expressed his opinion with this observation that, as he understood it, it was proposed to have a joint committee of the Justices and the County Councils, and they must take it—just as they knew the great power the House of Commons had acquired by reason of its possessing the power of the purse—however the Government might think they were compromising the matter by 100 appointing a joint committee, within a very short time, whether Parliament liked it or not, it would be found that where the power of the purse was, there all other powers would be drawn after it. The Justices, who were the conservators of the peace according to ancient usage, would find themselves at the mercy of the County Council, and would be required to preserve the peace without having the management of the police necessary for the purpose. They would be liable to indictment if they did not quell riots and exercise their authority as Justices, and so on. Yet they would not have the power of really controlling the police, but that power would be vested in another Body altogether. He was anxious to get to another topic; but he would point out that the great bulk of the duties to be transferred from the Justices of Quarter Sessions were strictly administrative in character, such as passing accounts which were similar to those of the Local Government Board in London, which duties would be better discharged by a committee of two or three members when the County Councils were established. There was another point which he should like to bring before the House which underlay the whole matter. They had, as he had pointed out, their Local Boards, which were to be the new District Councils, and they were based on the old principle of the Constitution—namely, representation according to taxation. It was proposed by the Bill, with great show, that the new scheme should be built upon a popular basis—nay, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had even used the phrase that this was to be an "enfranchising Bill." Well, was this an enfranchising Bill? He challenged the right hon. Gentleman, or any hon. Gentleman, to tell him one single individual who would be admitted to the franchise under the Bill who was not already entitled to a vote in every branch of our municipal life—for our Municipal Corporations, our Local Boards of Health, or our Rural Sanitary Authorities. Everybody who paid rates, whether the amount were small or great, and whether he paid them in fact or constructively in point of law—which was not paying them at all—[Laughter]—yes; by paying a weekly rent, where the landlord was 101 called upon to pay the taxes. In every case of that kind, at the present time, every man who paid a weekly rent of a mere room was entitled to vote at all elections, whether for Municipal Corporations, Local Boards, or Rural Sanitary Authorities. Then, he wanted to ask, where was the extension of the franchise and the enlargement of the basis of our local government legislation? He failed to see it. There was nothing of the kind in the Bill; but he would tell them what there was. There was a disfranchisement of those who paid the rates. Under the present system they had the practice of voting according to the rates paid. A man who was assessed to the extent of £50 had one vote; a man who was assessed for a second £50 had a second vote, and for every additional £50 a further vote up to £250. In that way they had taxation and representation going together. They had representation in proportion to taxation. He ventured to submit to the House that that system was perfectly fair, and that no honourable or honest working man could object to it. He had never yet heard the slightest objection on the part of any working man to that principle, because he had not yet discovered that working men wore at all anxious to over-reach their neighbours and obtain more power than they possessed at present. He wished to know why, when the principle of our Constitution was that taxation and representation should go together—why, when the principle was a vote for every £50 of rating, a man who got to the second £50 was not to have a second vote? He could see no principle in that. He should like to quote to the House an authority on that point, and it was one which he thought would be recognized by both sides of the House. John Stuart Mill, the venerable and eminent Radical philosopher, had laid it down—That representation should be co-extensive with taxation, not stopping short of it, but also not going beyond it, was in accordance with the theory of British Institutions.Commenting upon that, he (Mr. Ambrose) would say that when they destroyed, as they proposed to destroy, by this Bill the vote of the man who paid rates on a second or third £50, they took from him a part of his right—they enabled the man who paid rates only in respect of a sum under £50—it 102 might be upon an assessment of £10—to vote with as much power as the man who was assessed at £100. Mr. John Stuart Mill went on to say that there were the same strong reasons for a plurality of votes. But these were not the only points the Bill dealt with. Everybody knew that if there was one class of our community interested in our rural districts more than another, particularly in the rates of those districts, it was the owners of property, because it was possible to have the inhabitants of a district actually driven out of that district by excessive rates. Cases of that kind had occurred within his own experience, and he was sure that they had also occurred within the experience of other hon. Members; yet, would the House believe it, that though the rates would be paid by the owners, and though owners of the present time were entitled to vote at the election of the bodies levying the rates, yet, under this enfranchising Bill, the Government deprived the owners of any vote whatever? He did not call that enfranchisement, but disfranchisement. It was a thing for which the country bad not boon prepared—namely, to find that this Bill, instead of being an enfranchising Bill, was a disfranchising Bill. And there was another matter still stronger in regard to owners, and it was this. If the Local Authorities took it into their heads that the sewers were not right, they had power to see them put right at the expense of the owners. What was the result? Why, in many instances, they had had Local Boards exercising powers of that kind most arbitrarily, and when questions had been raised about these things before the Courts of Law, the answers had been that the owners were represented on the Local Boards, because they had the power of voting. The Legislature had intended to give owners representation in that way. But, under this Bill, an owner might be subjected to all these expenses, and to a fine of any sum from £50 to £2,000, in respect of paving and severing the streets, when such works were not required at all, merely by reason of the action of the Local Councils, in the election of which he had no power whatever. He (Mr. Ambrose) ventured to say that that was not the true principle of government. If they were going to 103 reform and improve their Local Government, they ought to have something more fair than that. He knew it was said—" Well, but you have done this in elections for Members of Parliament." Yes, but the question was wholly different in connection with those elections. In Parliamentary elections questions of life and death arose, questions of liberty, and questions of the highest importance affecting the future of the country, and if he was told that the principle had been applied satisfactorily in the case of the boroughs, he would remind the House of the statement in regard to this matter by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), who had pointed out, in regard to the expenses of administration, that in the Municipal Corporations whore they had the system of one man one vote, the increase during the past 30 years had been 67 per cent, whilst in other towns it had been 59 per cent, and in the rural districts, where there was a plurality of votes, it was only 12 and 11 per cent. When they came to the Boards of Guardians, they found that the rating had decreased considerably, whilst no one had ventured to assert that the administration of the Poor Law had been in any way defective. He had thought it necessary to make these observations. He apologized to the House if he had spoken at undue length. He had done his best to curtail his observations; but he did feel that it was of the highest importance that our Local Government Boards should be placed upon a sound basis. He warned the House that if they altered the existing system, making the Local Government franchise the same as the Parliamentary franchise, practically they would be introducing politics into our Local Government system, so that when they had a crisis in a Liberal Government there would he at least an interference with the administration of Local Government affairs, and the whole state and condition and satisfactory character of the management which had hitherto been adopted would be altered.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
It is really almost refreshing in the course of this protracted debate to have heard for once a speech which goes root and branch against the Bill, condemning it stock, lock, and barrel. I think 104 we may all of us take credit for the character of this debate. I have never known a debate upon a great public question which has been upon the whole conducted in a manner so free from anything like factious or Party spirit. There have been, as the hon. Member for the Saffron Walden Division of Essex (Mr. Herbert Gardner) has said, only two remarkable exceptions, and they both came from the same locality. They hail from the latitude of Birmingham; and there has been thunder lately in that particular locality which seems to have turned the milk rather sour. We have had every kind of question lugged into this debate. We have had the Irish Question and the Unionists and everything which has nothing whatever to do with the subject under discussion. There was an attempt—I do not know for what reason—to import into this debate the bitterest elements of Party controversy. I think that is to be regretted. I do not complain at all that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) should have pronounced a panegyric upon the measure of the Government. That is easy to be understood; indeed, it was natural, because he explained to the House that the plan was his own. I have observed that my right hon. Friend is always given to the most unbounded admiration of the plans which he himself has originated, and the most unbounded criticism of the plans of anybody else. He said that three years ago it was his duty to propose a Bill. He said his own draft was, in its main principle, in entire agreement with the Government Bill. Then the Government Bill is a mirror in which he sees his own face, and, seeing his own face, he naturally falls down and worships it. There are some defects, it is true, in the Bill, but then I suppose they are only due to flaws in the mirror. My right hon. Friend did, indeed, criticize the Bill on as many points as it has been criticized by hon. Members on these Benches, but perhaps not on so many points as it has been criticized on the Government Benches. But that, ho thinks, is his exclusive privilege. He may say what he likes about the Bill, but we are to say nothing. He condemns everybody who spoke before him, and after he has himself spoken he disappears, but his henchman is left behind to denounce 105 everybody who may speak after him. All is faction that is opposed to a Bill which has been adapted to his own model. We are accustomed to that sort of thing. His relations to the Government are of a conjugal character, and a man very often thinks himself at liberty to find fault with his own wife when he allows nobody else to do so. I leave him to settle that with the Government. I have no right to complain of his attitude towards the Government; they are his plagiarists, but he has forgiven them; but he falls foul of us. He administers his doses in different degrees. It is always treacle for the Government, pepper for the Liberals, but he gives the sourest vinegar to the Radicals. We have heard recently of the diplomacy the right hon. Gentleman has shown on the other side of the Atlantic, but I am sorry he has left those great qualities behind him there. It reminds me of what was said of the witches and the warlocks of old—when they crossed the water their powers of enchantment ceased. If the right hon. Gentleman would only apply to us the qualities which he exhibited elsewhere, I think he would be more successful in carrying out the object he seeks to attain. But what is the head and front of our offending? He says that some years ago we overlaid that promising infant, his draft Bill, and it never came to the birth. Well, as this has something in connection with the Irish Question, I think that that is permissible. But he says that this celebrated draft Bill was never completed or submitted to the House because the Government of the day thought it right to throw it aside with other items in order to take up the new programme on which the country had never been consulted. Now that is our fault. We ruined that embryo measure because we took up the Irish Question, and that is the crime which he lays to our charge. He is never tired of repeating it. I should like to know who was the man of all others who insisted that the settlement of the Irish Question should be advanced before any other question. He was the man who in 1885, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was out of Office, proclaimed throughout the country that so bad was the local—aye, the Imperial—Government of Ireland that the first duty of the new 106 Parliament was to undertake the reform of that government. We all remember the speeches about Austria in Italy and Russia in Poland. What was that for? That was not all. He took part in turning out the Government of Lord Salisbury, knowing that it was to make place for a Government which would settle the Irish Question, the first and foremost of all questions. He actually addressed his own constituents, and he told them that he was at the head of the Local Government Board. [An hon. MEMBER: Question:] We have been attacked by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and now we are not to speak; our mouths are to be shut if we say a word in reply to the right hon. Gentleman. I claim the right to show what our reply is. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham took Office, and he said ho was the head of the Local Government Board, and he hoped to introduce a Local Government Bill. He said he was a Member of that Government, and he was more in agreement with his Colleagues in that Government than they had been with the Gentlemen who had been unable to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone)—he meant my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (The Marquess of Hartington) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen)—and that the result of the General Election in Ireland had made it imperative that the attention of Parliament should be directed to the state of that country. He spoke of its unsatisfactory condition, and he said—He was convinced that it would be necessary to concede to the Irish people much more extended control of their own domestic business.And this is the Gentleman who comes forward and charges us with having set aside. Local Government in order to take up the Irish Question. But it is not we on this Bench who are the great sinners; it is those Radicals below the Gangway that he falls foul of, the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) in particular, and he says that these Radicals actually had the audacity to hold a meeting to consider this Bill. That was one of their great offences. Just fancy the Radicals desiring to have an opinion of their own. We have heard before of Liberal Unionists meeting in Devonshire House to tell the Go- 107 vernment what to do when Bills were introduced, but for the Radicals to meet in the National Liberal Club, that is a terrible thing indeed; it is a thing which ought not to be permitted; and so he said, in original and elegant language, "The tail wags the dog." Yes; but if it happens to be a high-bred tail from Devonshire House there is no objection at all on the part of the dog; that is all right; but as for the Radical tail—a low Radical tail—that is most deplorable. Yet I do remember that in the days of old, in the golden ago of Parliamentary life, there was a tail, a Radical tail, below the Gangway, which used very rudely to wag the dog upon these Benches. That poor dog was my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale. Then he was declared to be deposed; he was told that ho was "the late leader"; and yet we are reminded of the tail wagging the dog. What have the poor Radicals done? They have demanded that there should be a full discussion of the Bill. And here I feel bound to say that the Government have been much more reasonable in the matter than their Allies. I have no right to complain of their conduct; they have felt the responsibility of men who are in charge of an important measure; they know perfectly well that a measure of this kind must be and ought to be fully discussed. Something has been said of the Amendments put down to the second reading of this Bill. Why, it is one of the best understood proceedings in Parliament to put down Amendments in this way by Members who desire to call attention to a particular point in order to have the attention of Parliament fixed upon it. That does not involve, and even it is not intended to do, any injury to the Bill or to destroy it. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Stevenson) has been attacked most unjustly on that point. He was perfectly entitled to fix attention on a particular part of the Bill to which he attached special importance. But, Sir, according to your ruling, if this Amendment had been pressed, the debate would have been confined and restricted to that particular point, and not desiring so to restrict it and the liberty of Members, it was not pressed. My hon. Friend spoke on the point to which he attached particular importance. Therefore I, for my part, contrast the course which the right hon. 108 Gentleman in charge of this Bill has taken with that of these champions who have infused a Party bitterness into it—a bitterness, however, which has been confined to only two Members. I hope I may say only two Members; I hope I shall not have to add the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have been told—the paper yesterday contained no less than six important speeches—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was extremely wrath at the protracted debate on this subject—that he said the debate was a great sham, that nobody attended it, and that nobody said anything worth listening to. I do not share that opinion. He knows a great deal more than I do; he has nothing to learn from any debate in the House of Commons. I well remember an observation of Lord Beaconsfield. He said—" I never understand a great subject which is brought forward until I have heard a long debate upon it in the House of Commons." And I will say a more instructive debate than that which we have listened to on this Bill, I have not heard for many days. I have heard Gentlemen speak who are thoroughly acquainted with the subject, and their speeches have been of the greatest advantage and utility to Members of this House and persons out of this House. Now, it is said that after a long debate you do not mean to throw out the Bill. On the second reading of a Bill it is the province of Parliament to make itself acquainted and to make the country acquainted with the great subjects which such a Bill as this includes, and to call attention to these points. It is said, Why not wait until you come to the Committee? But then the mind of the House and the country is not prepared for these points when they arrive. Now, this Statute has illustrated that very well. There are a great number in this Bill of very important principles. The attention of the country and the House has been called by various Members to the importance of these points, and I believe when they come on in Committee it will be a great advantage to have had illustrations of these points. Now, take, for instance, the question of the police. I do not wish at this stage of the Bill to express any very decisive opinion upon this subject. We have heard opinions on the one hand that they should be left entirely to the magistrates, and on the other that they should be left entirely to 109 the County Councils. We had an opinion on this subject expressed. by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who said that ho was in favour of giving the control entirely to the County Councils; and he added these remarkable words. He said—I am in favour of giving the control—that is, the absolute control—of the police to the popularly elected bodies in Ireland as well as in England. I believe the adoption of such a course would have a good effect, and that the responsibility we should thereby throw upon elected bodies would conduce to good order and peace in Ireland.Well, it was quite worth while that he should make his speech in order to utter that sentiment. Well, I think I traced something of the earlier manner of the right hon. Gentleman in these sentiments, and I think we may contrast them with the declaration of the First Lord of the Treasury, that Ireland cannot have any form of Local Government at all until a condition prevails very different from that which now exists in Ireland. I call attention to that opinion expressed by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, because I confess I am utterly unable to understand how a statesman who entertains the opinion expressed in that sentence can support and maintain the present system of government in Ireland. Now, as regards this Bill, with the exception of the last speaker, everybody approves of the popular franchise which the Government have given. That is the great and central merit of the Bill. I hope it is not going to be tampered with in Committee. I believe it is important not only in itself, but for the effect upon other franchises. I think if it establishes this popular democratic franchise you will be utterly unable to maintain the limited and indefensible franchise for the Poor Law Guardians and the other parts of Local Government. I would especially call attention to this matter, because there have been requests made that the register of the county should be adopted instead of having a separate register for the County Councils. But I warn Gentlemen of one of the consequences of that, which must be carefully considered. It is not the franchise which is proposed by the Government in the counties. If you are going to introduce the county register with the county franchise you introduce the property 110 vote, which has been excluded from this proposal. Therefore I hope that that demand is not intended to affect the franchise proposed in this Bill. There is another head of this Bill. Of all the matters in the Bill there is hardly one more important than that which has been insisted upon in the very able and. convincing speech of the hon. Member for the Malden Division of Essex (Mr. C. W. Gray)—namely, the effect of this Bill upon outdoor relief. There was also a very able speech on the other side of the House by the hon. Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. A. W. Hall), who pointed out, as I think with great effect, as one of the weak parts of the Bill, that it will have the unintended but, as I believe, the indirect effect of putting pressure in favour of indoor relief as against outdoor relief. Now, I do not join altogether with the hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division of Derby (Sir B. Walter Foster) with regard to the Poor Law of this country. I think, on the whole, it has been fairly and well administered, considering all the difficuties of the case. There has been struck on the whole, as far as I have been able to observe, a fair ratio between the amount of outdoor and indoor relief. In the country parish in which I live there is a small amount of indoor relief and not a large amount of outdoor relief. But the outdoor relief is greater than the indoor, and I believe it is fairly and well bestowed. It is bestowed upon all industrious people who cannot support themselves. It prevents the home being broken up, and has great advantages. I believe it would be a great evil if this grant of indoor relief should have the effect of compelling people to go into the house. That is one great use of a debate of this kind. It calls attention to the operation of the Bill in that respect. I am bringing no charge whatever against the Government in this matter. If the effect—the unexpected effect—of the Bill were to put a severe pressure upon the poor part of the population to go into the house, they would resent the operation of the Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman who has so ably conducted this Bill—and I tender him my acknowment as to the manner in which he has conducted it—if he will allow me to make a criticism, I should say it is drawn with that complete knowledge which he has of the wants of the Metropolis rather 111 than with an experience of the rural districts. In the great towns, especially in London, it is indoor relief that mainly prevails, and in the rural districts the opposite is the case. This will operate harshly against the poor of the country, because the greater amount of the grant. will go to the towns where indoor relief prevails, and a much smaller, where it is much wanted, to the rural districts, where outdoor relief prevails. That is a matter of great importance. I will I not discuss it at great length and it is one of the points which this debate has brought out. There is another point—that of the selected councillors, whom the right hon. Member for West Birmingham chooses or wishes to have called aldermen. I do not care very much what they are called. An alderman by any other name might smell as sweet. But I do not think the name of alderman is a Liberal idea, because we are familiar with the way in which the aldermen sometimes defeat the popular vote, so that when the majority of the Town Council exists by a majority of the people, by the machinery of the aldermen the minority often prevails. That is a false principle, and I hope will be abandoned in the Bill. There is another subject, in itself sufficient to have occupied the whole of a measure, and that is the question of London government. That question was very ably dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. J. F. B. Firth) in a speech full of valuable suggestions. He dealt with it so fully and so ably, that I will not say much upon London government. It was once a favourite study of my own, and if were as fond as some people are of their draft plans, I might have some satisfaction in finding that they have been adopted by the Government. There is an irony of fortune which makes it peculiarly appropriate that this plan of London government should be proposed by the President of the Local Government Board. When I proposed a plan for the Government of London, I was met by an Amendment to the second reading. The person who moved the Amendment was the President of the Local Government Board, and the object of that Amendment and of the able speech made upon that occasion was to demonstrate that it was in fact impossible that they could treat London as a whole. He objected, he said, to the creation of 112 a great central municipality. There are people who live and learn, and it is well that people are sometimes wiser as they grow older. He was joined by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), who advocated the favourite plan of separate civic centres. We hear no more now of London as a whole, and of the plan of separate civic centres having been abandoned by the Government. I am glad of it. I do not reproach them, and I can promise them that I will do all in my power to support them in the adoption of this plan. That, again, is a great topic upon which you cannot say that a few days upon the second reading has been wasted. There is another subject to which I should like to refer, and that is the one which relates to municipal boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware by this time that the municipal boroughs of England do not desire to be mixed up with the counties in the manner in which this Bill proposes to mix them up. It is not only the Representatives of boroughs sitting on this side of the House who have urged that fact upon him; it has been urged upon him with equal force by the Representatives of boroughs sitting on his own side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has, however, said—"Oh, but the boroughs must bear their share of the county burdens." But the right hon. Gentleman has cut the ground from under his own feet in this matter, because he has excluded Birmingham, Nottingham, London, and all the largest boroughs from the operation of the Bill in reference to this matter, and he now turns round upon the middle-sized boroughs and says to them—"You must bear your share of the county burdens, which will be I greatly increased by my excluding from the operation of the measure the larger boroughs." Such a view of the subject is absolutely indefensible, and I am afraid that he will find himself opposed on this point by a phalanx of borough Members who will compel him to offer them more reasonable terms than those contained in the Bill. I know the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman has to contend with. The right hon. Gentleman says—"It is necessary for me to pay Paul, and therefore I must rob Peter." I have no doubt that Paul will be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, but we who represent Peter must protest against it; 113 and we must ask from the Government that these great municipalities, some of whom have for centuries, and all for the greater part of a century, conducted their own municipal government independently of the counties in which they are situated, shall not be forced into contribution with the counties, but that the rates which are collected within their own boundaries shall not be given to other districts. The last subject to which I shall allude, is, perhaps the most important—it is that which relates to licensing. I fully admit the difficulty and the importance of that subject. It has been said that the proposal of the Government embraces the principle of Local Option. For a good many years I have advocated the cause of Local Option, and, therefore, I am perfectly willing to support its principle. From the speech which Lord Salisbury delivered the other day wo might fancy that he also had been in favour of Local Option for a long time; but we cannot forget that in the Parliament that was dissolved in 1885, whenever Local Option was proposed to be granted, the Tory Party as a body—I do not say as a whole—were opposed to it, and that it was resisted in every form, especially by the then Sir Richard Cross, who, when Sunday Closing Bills for Cornwall and Durham were before the House, did his best to throw them out, on the ground that we ought to have the same law for the whole country. However, the year 1885 brought about a partial conversion of the Tory Party on this question, and now a great authority, the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) has told us that Local Option is embalmed in this Bill. No doubt that may be so, but there is a preliminary process to embalming. Before a body can be embalmed it must be eviscerated. That is exactly what has been done with Local Option in this Bill. The noble Lord, with a frankness which I may almost call cynicism, says he would have and he would not have Local Option—that he would have it in theory but not in practice; and he pointed out that the compensation clauses would so frighten the ratepayers that they would not dare to withhold the licences, and that they would consequently never exercise the power of Local Option which it is proposed to confer upon them. And the 114 same thing was said by Lord Salisbury, although not quite so frankly. The Local Option contained in this Bill is a sort of Free Trade Protection; it is a declaration in favour of free imports coupled with prohibitory duties. That is the sort of way in which Local Option is dealt with in this Bill. You have conferred upon you the Local Option to close public-houses, but the penalty upon the exercise of the option is so great that you will not be able to exercise your power. Then we are warned by the right hon. Member for Birmingham to accept this solution of the temperance question. I really thought in former days that the right hon. Gentleman was on our side on this question. The right hon. Gentleman who has charge of this Bill says that the Church of England Temperance Society approves of this Bill.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
What I said was, that the hon. Member for Manchester (Sir William Houldsworth), who was a prominent Member of that association, approved of the main principles of the Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Well, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that I had a telegram yesterday from the conference of the society to the effect that the compensation clauses of the Bill had been rejected by a majority of five to one; and I presume that the hon. Member referred to by the right hon. Gentleman was the "one." I hope that the Church of England Temperance Society has not taken the view held by the hon. Member, or else it is scarcely likely to maintain its influence. In my opinion the proposal of the Government, in spite of the Bill embracing the principle of Local Option, will leave us much worse off than we are at present. I should like to state my reasons for that belief. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham told us that more than one Government had been advised that the publicans had a vested interest in their licences. All I can say is that no Government with which I was connected had ever such advice given to them. Certainly, Mr. Bruce, the first Lord Aberdare, did not hold that opinion when ho proposed to give the publicans a vested interest for 10 years in their licences. I undertake to say that 115 the Solicitor General can point to no opinion given to any Government in the sense that he gave it the other night. The present Government have also a Unionist Law Officer, and I should like to hear him on the subject. I should like to know when the Solicitor General arrived at his present opinion on the matter. I am going to tell him when he did not hold that opinion; afterwards he shall tell me when he did. In 1883 the Solicitor General, in demurring to a statement I made, said that the magistrates had no absolute discretion to withhold the licences, because they were bound to take into consideration the wants of the neighbourhood. That was different from saying that there was something personal to the holder of the licence.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL (Sir EDWARD CLARKE) (Plymouth)
said, the right hon. Gentleman, speaking as Home Secretary in 1883, said that magistrates had absolute discretion to refuse the grant of a licence, and that opinion he (Sir Edward Clarke) then challenged. The opinion as to vested interests now held was given by the Attorney General and himself in the early part of last year.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is exactly what I said. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not then say anything about the personal conduct of the holder of the licence, and, therefore, the Solicitor General could not then have held the opinion he now holds.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
If the hon. and learned Gentleman had then formed such an opinion, he had reserved it for the present Government to suggest. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who had a Draft Bill on this subject, does not tell us that it contained Compensation Clauses.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I never was challenged on the subject, but if the right hon. Gentleman now challenges me I will tell him that it did contain Compensation Clauses. The Bill is in print, and I can show it to the right lion. Gentleman. The Bill contained a clause for compensating the publican whose licence was removed without fault on his part.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have got an answer. I assure my right hon. Friend that I should be very glad to see the Bill, but neither I nor any of his Colleagues saw that Bill nor any of its clauses.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
We never did see it. Well, then, it must have been very personal to my right hon. Friend, because it was in exact contravention of what he said when challenged on that subject. I have seen it stated in the newspapers that we have changed our views upon the subject of compensation. That is entirely untrue. The Government which was in Office in 1883 had to deal with this question, and they dealt with it as a Cabinet question. It fell to me to make the statement on behalf of the Government, and I then said that there was an unquestionable power in the magistrates—a discretion, no doubt, judicially exercised, but not confined to the personal conduct of the holder of the licence—to refuse the renewal of the licences without any reference to compensation whatever. That was the solemn declaration made upon deliberate consideration of the Government of which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham and the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) were Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian got up in the course of the debate to give to that statement his own authority. That was the position of the question in 1883, and that was the position to which we have ever since adhered. The Solicitor General has undertaken to rest this question of compensation upon vested interest.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It is his strongest ground. Is it true? It is thus clearly stated in Mr. Pattison's book on the Licensing Laws—The joint effect of this section of the Act of 1874, Sec. 26 (the section referred to by the Solicitor General) has not cut down the absolute discretion of the Justices to refuse the renewal of a licence.The Solicitor General has made a new discovery in law, in which, however, lie is entirely at variance with Mr. Justice Lush. I leave the hon. and learned Gentleman to the glory of his discovery; 117 but for myself—malo errare cum Lushe. As the matter is going to be decided by the Court of Queen's Bench, I will not have the presumption to express any opinion upon it. If the Solicitor General is right, he will have all the glory of his discovery; but if he is wrong, I think he will be in a rather unfortunate position. What is the effect of this doctrine of vested interest which the Government desire to hang round the neck of this nation? Why, it means £100,000,000.Hundreds of millions of pounds. There are, I believe, 180,000 licensed houses. Will anybody say that the average public-house would not be worth;£1,000? If you once pass these Compensation Clauses, you never can do anything in the future in the direction of temperance. You are much better off as you are now. You have only got to convert the Justices of England with their present jurisdiction. They have the power if they will only exercise it, and I am happy to think that day by day they are doing their duty in this respect more than they have done it in the past, for it is in consequence of the laches of the Justices in giving licences in excess, and in refusing to take them away when there were more than enough, that we have found ourselves in our present position. But if you give these Compensation Clauses you will, it is true, place this power nominally in the hands of the County Council, but you will place it under conditions in which it will be impossible that it will ever be effectually administered, and I do hope that the Liberal Party will adhere to the course which the Liberal Government of 1883, upon careful consideration, adopted, and support Local Option without the Compensation Clauses. Apart from the question of law with regard to the vested interests of the publican which the Solicitor General has raised, is the doctrine of what is called the equity of the case. It may be that these people have not a strict legal claim, but it is said that they have an equity which you cannot refuse to recognize. It is very curious that within the last few months a very important pronouncement has been made on this subject—namely, by the Supreme Court of the United States. In the Constitution of the United States there is a provision that any infringement of property by a State Law is unconstitutional and may bo set aside.
118No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of any citizen of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.Therefore, if a law is made which attacks property it will be set aside as unconstitutional. In the State of Arkansas a law has recently been passed abolishing licensing and public-houses altogether, and certain persons thereby affected appealed to the Supreme Court to get a direction that the law was unconstitutional as being an infringement of their rights of property. The subject of compensation was fully considered, and in an elaborate judgment the Court laid it down that—The power which the State has of prohibiting such use by individuals of their property—as will be prejudicial to the health and morals or the safety of the public is not, and, consistently with the existence and safety of organized society, cannot be burdened with the condition that the State must compensate such individual owners for pecuniary losses they may sustain by reason of their not being permitted, by a noxious use of their property, to inflict injury on the community.That is the view of the Supreme Court, and I hope that Parliament will adopt the view thus expressed. The Court regards, and we regard, public-houses as being in certain cases an evil, and the principle laid down in this judicial judgment is sound, and, I think, should be adopted by us. This matter is, I consider, the most important in this Bill. I desire, as I have always desired, that the localities should have the control of this matter; but I do hope that this House will not allow such control to be hampered and burdened by a provision such as this as to compensation, which would render it illusory and practically nullify its effect. I have desired in the observations I have made to show that there are in this Bill many points which will require careful consideration. I do not think that the debate we have had has been superfluous. On the contrary, it has thrown a great deal of light on several points of importance. We may now, however, allow the Bill to go into Committee, where we shall be able to address ourselves to the important questions which it raises.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF FILE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St, George's, Hanover Square)
The hour at which I rise to make a few observations at the conclusion of this debate effectually com- 119 pels me to carry out the suggestion made at an earlier period of the debate that speakers should study brevity. I regret that the lack of time at my disposal robs me of the opportunity of paying the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) as many compliments as I should otherwise wish to pay him. I should desire, in the first place, to compliment him on the edifying example which he has set in abstaining from entering into Party politics.
§ SIR. WILLIAM HARCOURT
I have said nothing against the Party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I must compliment him upon refraining from that line of controversy in which he so much excels, and in which I think he very greatly delights. As far as the Government is concerned, we have very little to complain of in the tone of the right hon. Gentleman. He attributes to mo great wrath at the length of this debate. He has apparently treated me as I have latterly been compelled to treat him. He has been unable to read my speeches as I have been unable to read his. I expressed no wrath whatever; I merely gave expression—and I hope a perfectly genial expression—to some amazement which I felt at what I believed to be the change from the original attitude taken up by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite towards this Bill. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that some advantage has been derived from this debate. We have received some valuable suggestions, and whether they could as effectually have been made in three nights as in six is a question that I shall not pursue very closely. Light has been thrown, we admit, on several points by the discussion that has taken place; and, in answer to the appeal made at an earlier period of this evening by an hon. Member opposite, I can assure him that the Government will be prepared to listen to suggestions in a friendly spirit, and with the same absence of Party spirit which has, I admit, mainly characterized this debate. With regard to the subject of licences, the right hon. Gentleman addressed some autobiographical questions to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke), and asked him as to the date when ho held particular views. I should now like to say a few words as to the 120 present views of the right hon. Gentleman himself as compared with those held in a former Parliament by the hon. Member for Oxford with regard to the question of licensing. There is no time to inquire into the biography of the right hon. Gentleman, but I should like to ask him when he adopted the views on this subject which he has with so much unction placed before the House this evening?
§ Mr. GOSCHEN
When Member for Oxford the right hon. Gentleman held very different views. It is not for me to follow so great a lawyer with regard to the legal aspect of the case; but it is extremely interesting to note that it was not when the right hon. Gentleman was occupying a legal position as Solicitor General that he held these views, but when he had dropped the lawyer and become Home Secretary. But, it is true, the question of compensation is not a lawyer's question merely. I am not sure that it can even be decided definitively by the tribunal which is now considering it. It is a question which has to be decided by the equities of the case. These were the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in 1880—I should have been better pleased with the matter of the Resolution if my hon. Friend had included in it some reference to the principle of equitable compensation.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I myself am not conscious of any change of opinion between 1880 and 1883; but, of course, I cannot now enter into details.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
My right hon. Friend is not conscious of any change of opinion; therefore, I trust that the opinion of 1880 may still be quoted as the authoritative opinion of my right hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman continued—I do not want my hon. Friend to commit himself upon that point; but I want a frank recognition of the principle that we are not to deny to publicans, as a class, the benefits of equal treatment because we think their trade is at so many points in contact with, and even sometimes productive of, great public mischief. Considering the legislative title they have acquired, and the recognition of their position in the proceedings of this House for a long series of years, they ought not to be placed at a disadvantage on account of the particular impres- 121 sion we may entertain."—(3 Hansard,  363.)These were the views of the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not think that they can be set aside by a decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, because the case does not rest upon the legal decision of a Court, but upon what my right hon. Friend calls the "equities." I will not follow the right hon. Member for Derby into his statistics as to the enormous number of millions that would be required for compensation, because he estimated that all the property of all the publicans would be taken from them. What a change from the time when the right hon. Member only wished to curtail by one or two the number of hours during which public-houses should remain open. The change is remarkable; and I suppose it shows the truth of the statement of my right hon. Friend that wo grow wiser as we grow older. I trust that I have shown that there is high authority for awarding equitable treatment to the great interest whose title was recognized in the quotation I have cited from the speech of my right hon. Friend. Now I come to another point. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby considers that in regard to the government of London our Bill precisely resembles his own, he is perfectly entitled to entertain that most satisfactory view for his own self-esteem. We do not recognize entirely the likeness between the two Bills; but we admit that there is similarity between the two measures, if not to the extent which he claims. Speaking generally, I observe that the Bill has been attacked rather on account of its sins of omission than on account of its sins of commission. One of the former is the omission of a provision for the consolidation of rates and the better valuation of property. I can assure hon. Members that that matter has been considered and embodied in a clause which at one time formed a portion of the Bill itself. We thought, however, finally that it would be wiser to keep this portion of the reform of local government for separate treatment; but we consider ourselves pledged to deal with the question, and we shall approach it as soon as the time of the House permits. Another point which has been raised has reference to the great borrowing powers which have been 122 given to the County Authorities. We have in connection with this matter adopted the clause of the Public Health Acts; but if it should be thought that the powers are too wide our proposal will certainly be open to reconsideration in Committee. We share to the full the anxiety expressed in many quarters that this Bill should neither lead to a great increase of expenditure nor to any abuse of borrowing powers. I do not say that there is no danger that the new County Authorities may be ambitious and may wish to emulate the munificence or, perhaps, extravagance of Municipalities; and it must be the duty of Parliament to diminish the risk of expenditure of that kind. I am prevented by the limits of time from entering upon a most interesting subject, introduced in one of the most striking speeches made in this debate—I refer to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Courtney). It is quite impossible for me to enter upon the subjects which formed the staple of his speech—namely, the precautions which ought to be taken to prevent the swamping of minorities. But he also examined the financial aspect of the Bill, and expressed his disappointment that we had not been able to give counties greater power to initiate and regulate taxation, and that we had not settled more clearly the limits between local and Imperial taxation. I acknowledge that in this respect our scheme is not perfect, and cannot be perfect. Among the enormous variety of suggestions that have been made with regard to the Budget, both Imperial and local, there has not been one single suggestion made in the direction of discovering any such local taxation as my hon. Friend would wish to see placed in the hands of the Local Bodies. The areas of counties in this country are too small; there is too much moving about from one county to another, and there is too much distribution over various counties. You cannot have licences on one man raised in one county which will not run over other counties. Take such a question as the Horse Tax. A man living on the boundary may pay his licence in one county, but if that were exclusively a county licence it would not hold good when he crossed the boundary. While I perfectly admit that it would be more satisfactory if you could give each County Authority more discretion as to 123 the imposition of taxes within its own area, still I think no suggestions have been made which would render it possible to do so; and we defend our solution as the best that has hitherto been made with regard to this complicated question.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that I subsequently claimed, in answer to an observation of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, that I had in my mind an extended House Duty.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That is, no doubt, a valuable suggestion, and my hon. Friend will remember that 16 years ago I proposed to hand over the House Duty to the Local Authorities, but it was discovered that it would be so unequal in the different counties that the proposal did not receive the approval which I, as its author, thought it was fairly entitled to. I am sure, however, that my hon. Friend, if he gives his attention to the matter, will be able to supply important suggestions in the future. This brings me, Sir, to another point on which we have been most severely criticized. Two great criticisms have been made against us in this debate. The one relates to the parish, and the other to our proposal with regard to distribution according to indoor pauperism. With regard to the parish, it has been a very satisfactory thing to myself personally to see that the view I placed before the House in the year 1871, that the parish should be the unit of local government, has been exhumed by hon. Members on the other side of the House, and that they have discovered that in the parish lies the essence and point of local government reform. It has taken a very long time for them to arrive at that conclusion, for during all the years that have passed since 1871 nothing has been heard of the parish. I have frequently read articles and speeches stating that the Bill had been drawn on false foundations; but I have never met with any body of public men who have taken up until now the point that the parish ought to be the unit of local government reform. The great difficulty which has always subsisted in that matter subsists now—namely, the difficulty of the varying sizes of parishes. It was said you would have to amalgamate parishes 124 before you started, and if you began to amalgamate parishes you would destroy the very local life you wish to create. When I heard hon. Members opposite making their speeches tonight, it was some pleasure to me to know they were plagiarizing the speeches of myself, whom they always considered to be a reprobate politician. This proposal has been my dream, and it has been my wish from the very beginning, and I regret the difficulties that have been discovered in the way. At the same time, we do not despair at all that it will be possible so to reform the parish that we may have more interest infused into local life than exists at present. But the plan which the present Government have pursued is this. We have had to create a great structure. We have begun at the top instead of at the bottom, and just as if we had begun at the bottom we could have gone to the top, so having begun at the top we can go to the bottom, and there is no reason why all parts of local government should not be by degrees reformed. We have admitted to local government all ratepayers, and we have given as extended a franchise as hon. Members opposite could wish to see, and having given that extended franchise to the County Councils, I am surprised to see some hon. Members already beginning to depreciate those Bodies before they come into existence. Do not let it be thought that if we have not dealt with the parish we have not exactly the same sympathy with parish life as the bon. Member for the Spalding Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Halley Stewart) has, who spoke to us of all the parish institutions, including the cricket club and the provident society, and asked us why we did not deal with them in the Bill.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART
said, he did not complain of those institutions not being included in the, Bill. He only referred to them as representative of parish life.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
In the manly indignation with which the hon. Member spoke the words, no doubt, slipped from him—"Why do you not deal with them in the Bill." I can quite understand that he did not mean what he said, and that the words slipped out in that warmth of his which I would wish to emulate and with which I sympathize. The real way to create parish life is for every- 125 one to endeavour to create local interest, and that is being done with very considerable success by all classes in the different parts of the country. In conclusion, a few words upon the method by which we propose to distribute the Probate Duty at 4d. per head per diem for indoor paupers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby did us no more than justice when he said it was not intended by this proposal to put any pressure upon Boards of Guardians to drive people into the workhouse. We had to select from various tests. The test of population would have left many of the poorest parts of the country with less assistance than they have hitherto received and are entitled to receive. If we had taken the test of rateable value, many districts that are richest would have received most money. If we had doubled the contribution at present given, those that now receive more than others would have received still more. Accordingly, we selected the method proposed as the best solution we could find and the least dangerous with regard to the apportionment of the money. We do not believe the contribution will have the tendency some hon. Members have suggested. After all, there is something like local opinion; and we do not think this allowance will be sufficient to induce Boards of Guardians to sweep all the paupers they can into the workhouse. It would not be possible, for the accommodation does not exist; and it would produce results which would lead to the intervention of the Local Government Board. In the Metropolis we have had the advantage of experience of the Indoor Common Fund, which has had a remarkable effect upon pauperism. But some rather dangerous doctrines have been uttered on the subject of outdoor relief. We will do our best to remove any controversy as between indoor and outdoor pauperism from the discussions which are to follow; we will endeavour to see what modifications or precautions can be taken to remove this difficulty which has struck the imagination of hon. Members on both sides; but when we hear that going to the workhouse offends the amour propre of the poor, we must also look to it that we do not encourage the belief that there is no loss of amour propre in the receiving outdoor relief. It is a dangerous doctrine to lay down that 126 while the stigma of pauperism attaches to the workhouse it does not attach to outdoor relief. It is a doctrine unworthy of the future of the agricultural labourer. The assistance which we are giving by this Bill would be very soon swallowed up if we were to allow outdoor relief to be looked forward to by the agricultural labourer as a natural provision involving no stigma of dependence. The Bill is large enough without introducing such a controversy as this; therefore we will endeavour to find some mode of regulating the contribution which will not raise this particular controversy. As to the fear that Imperial politics of a critical nature will be imported into those assemblies elected on a broad suffrage, we believed that there is no reason to fear that they will trench upon the proper functions of Parliament. On the contrary, we are convinced that by removing a great portion of our administration from Parliament to Local Authorities, we are strengthening Conservatism in its truest sense, we are interesting a large number of people in the affairs of the country generally, and we shall really strengthen our Imperial by giving this broader basis to our local institutions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.