§ Clause 2 (Composition and election of Council and position of chairman).
In page 2, line 5, after paragraph (d), to insert—"(d.) Every councillor shall be entitled to claim a sum in payment of the expenses, if any, actually and reasonably incurred by him in travelling to and from the place of meeting of the council."—(Mr. Arthur Acland.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."153
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, he need hardly state that there was every sympathy on the part of the Government with the desire given expression to by the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for the Rotherham Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland). The Government desired that every facility possible should be given to those who desired to become members of the County Council. But the proposal of the hon. Gentleman was one which was more far-reaching than even he (Mr. Ritchie) anticipated. The Government thought that the facility which he desired should be afforded to certain people to attend the County Council ought to be made as it was made under other circumstances, privately rather than from the rates. So far as he knew, there was no precedent whatever for a proposal such as that which the hon. Gentleman made, and they felt that if it were assented to at all, it ought not to be dealt with under an Amendment in connection with this Bill, but by means of some general measure. Even if Her Majesty's Government could agree to the principle, it would certainly be most undesirable to accept the principle of the hon. Gentleman's Amendment in the Bill now before the House. It was impossible, if such a proposal were accepted, that it would stop at the County Council; it would be demanded that the same principle should be carried out in all local matters, in the case, for instance, of Poor Law Guardians. They knew quite well that persons had often to travel as much as 10 or 15 miles in order to reach the place of meeting, and that, with very few exceptions, the workhouse was as accessible as the town in which the County Council was likely to meet, and, therefore, sometimes expenses would be incurred by members of the Board of Guardians in reaching the scene of their labours. Again, the meetings of a Board of Guardians were very much more frequent than those of the County Council would be. Then there were the Highways Boards and the Burial Boards. The members of those Bodies were often put to no inconsiderable expense in fulfilling the duties of their office, and there was no means of providing the expenses necessary for 154 the fulfilment of their duties when they were carried out within the area of their election. But not only, in his opinion, if this principle were accepted, would it have naturally to be applied to most other local institutions, but it would also form a very strong argument in favour of its application to Members of Parliament. ["Hear, hear!"] That cheer which met his observation only showed its great importance; it was clear that hon. Gentlemen who supported this proposal were prepared to carry it out very much further, and the argument he used was, therefore, very much increased in force. Clearly this was only the thin end of the wedge by which the burdens ultimately to be borne by the ratepayers and the taxpayers would be increased. If there was one thing which many hon. Members feared with reference to those County Councils, and the proposal to extend municipal institutions throughout the country, it was the extravagance and expense which might possibly result. That he believed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) the other day admitted when he said that in all probability the new plan of the Government would be attended with more expense. But if this principle was to be accepted, he thought the legitimate fears of hon. Gentlemen would be greatly intensified, and that a prejudice would be created against these County Councils which ought not to be set up. Therefore it was not only the question of payment of expenses of members going to the County Councils, but also of expense connected with all local institutions. Again, it was unfortunately perfectly clear that the difficulty of working men coming to the House of Commons was greater than it was likely to be in the case of members going to County Councils. It might be said that the original proposal was a very moderate one, and that only those who were willing to accept payment of their expenses should receive such payment. But it was impossible, if the principle of this Amendment were acknowledged, to say that a member should go in formâ pauperis to claim payment of his expenses. Therefore the legitimate outcome was that every member should be entitled to be paid his expenses. [An hon. MEMBER: Why not?] He did not himself believe that the ratepayers 155 of the country were prepared to do that, and he believed, further, that if ratepayers were to think that these institutions were to be made the means of inflicting increased burdens on the rates, they would lose their interest in this measure. Believing, as he did, that this appeal was to be met, not out of the purse of the ratepayers, but by other arrangement which could easily be made, the Government were not prepared to accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Rotherham.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he could understand the right hon. Gentleman objecting that the Amendment proposed was bad in principle. But, on the contrary, he understood him to say that it was right in principle. [Mr. RITCHIE: No, no!] He was going to say what he understood, and to explain why he understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that it was right in principle that working men elected to the position of Councillors or as Members of the House should be indemnified for expenses, or even remunerated for the services which they rendered. To use the right hon. Gentleman's own words, however, it was proposed that the expense should be met by private arrangement. The right hon. Gentleman did not say that the principle was wrong; he only objected to the thing being known and done openly.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE)
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I expressed the fullest sympathy with those who desire to see facilities given to gentlemen to attend the County Councils, but I did not recognize that the principle of payment out of the rates was right.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he understood that the right hon. Gentleman recognized the principle of payment if it were done privately. If he did not mean what he said, it was unfortunate, that he had said it. But what other private arrangement could be made which did not involve private payment? He could understand the right hon. Gentleman objecting to any kind of payment, whether or not thrown upon the rates, but words ought to have some meaning, and the words of the right hon. Gentleman were that the expense should be met privately rather than out of the rates. He (Mr. Bradlaugh) said, 156 that any payment made should be made publicly. Private payments were unfortunate payments; payments made by societies of men to those who represented them in the House of Commons or on the County Council were retainers to the people who were paid, whereas he maintained that those who sat in that House should represent the interest of the whole of those by whom he was elected and not the interest of the men who made private payment for the purposes suggested. He said that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman was an immoral suggestion. It might be said that his (Mr. Bradlaugh's) suggestion was immoral; but, then, he was not ashamed of his views, although he found often that the right hon. Gentleman was ashamed of his when they were put to him in clear language. There might be a local objection to the payment of members, but the effect of non-payment would be to exclude from the County Councils, as it had excluded in a great measure from that House, a number of men who might be of great service to it. He had always thought that Members of Parliament, or of any Public Body, ought to be paid for the services rendered to the public who elected them. He did not believe that many Members worked for nothing. He thought they all worked for some object; with some it might be personal ambition, more or less praiseworthy, or it might be the desire to have a place in the Government, which he thought a laudable aim for any man to seek in politics. But he put it, that to exclude from these Councils, which they were trying to make representative, men who could not, on account of the expense, reach the place where the Council was to be held was wrong. And, moreover, it was not correct to compare these County Councils with Boards of Guardians, school boards, and other institutions meeting close to the homes of the members. The very essence of this matter was that men must come from a long distance to the centre where the County Council met, and if they excluded all kinds of indemnity for the expenses of the persons elected, they limited the candidates to one class of men only—namely, that which could bear the expense of attendance. He did not shrink from accepting the consequences of this Amendment. He admitted that this 157 was the assertion of the principle that men who were ready to give their services to the State in various forms should be indemnified not in a fashion which laid them open to a sneer. The proposal was a rough and ready way of meeting a difficulty which at present prevented poor men from sitting on the Councils. There was no dishonour in private payment, but it was an objectionable mode of proceeding; and, as he had said, payment should be made openly. The right hon. Gentleman said it was undesirable to raise the principle of the Amendment now. Why? It must be raised at some time, and it was undesirable now only because the right hon. Gentleman would have to face the discussion on this Bill instead of leaving it to be faced on some other. That was the only objection. The right hon. Gentleman thought that private payment was moral, but he (Mr. Bradlaugh) thought it immoral, and it was for that reason he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham, and should not shrink from the consequence of doing so.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, he was glad that the Government was going to resist this most dangerous proposal. No one who was conversant with public business could doubt that, whatever might be the mode of administration by County Councils, there would be very great increase of expense. It was admitted that the present system had worked well on all hands, and a Minister of the Crown had stated that it had been most admirable and most economical. He could not help thinking that there were some who viewed this Bill with very great misgivings, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was accurate when he said that these misgivings were due to the fact that they foresaw a great addition to the burdens on the rates. It appeared to him that, if this Amendment were passed, it would only be a sample of what they might expect in future. [Cheers.] That cheer undoubtedly forshadowed that this proposal, if carried, would be followed by another to pay members not only their expenses, but for their services on the Councils. He saw that there was already on the Paper Notice of an Amendment, the object of which was the payment of the Chairman. But if the 158 Chairman was to be paid, why not the County Councillors? Undoubtedly the effect of this Amendment would be greatly to burden the rates, and further greatly to increase corruption and jobbery. He trusted the Government did not intend that this point should be reserved, and he hoped they would put down their foot against it in order that a settlement of the question might be at once arrived at.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, that he had no difficulty in understanding the position the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had taken up, and the feeling on the opposite side of the House which he now represented with regard to the Bill as a whole. The hon. Gentleman said that he viewed this Bill with great misgiving; that being so, it was perfectly natural that he should resist a proposal, the effect of which would be to make the Bill what the framers had expressed their desire that it should be—namely, an effective means of bringing into the County Councils representatives of all classes. He was amused at the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman sympathized entirely with the object with which this Amendment was framed; but he opposed it because it was the thin end of the wedge. He (Mr. John Morley) wondered whether any proposal had ever been brought before the House or the country, however beneficent and wise, which had not been condemned, especially by the Party opposite, as the thin edge of the wedge. He did not discuss whether it was, or it was not, the thin edge of the wedge; but the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was no dissuasive from supporting the Amendment. The question was not whether Members of that House should ultimately be paid. That question was one which, no doubt, would be raised one of these days, probably an early day, and when it came before them they would know how to deal with it. The present proposal was a very much smaller one. It was not a proposal to pay members of County Councils for their services; it was merely a proposal to enable a certain class of men, whose services the Government admitted they desired to have on these Councils, and whose knowledge would be a public ad- 159 vantage, to enable them to take part in the government of their districts. There were considerable bodies of men interested in these proposals, miners and labourers, and there were, he thought, in some of the poorer counties, considerable bodies of farmers to whom it would be a consideration and a real object to be spared the expense of going three or four times a-year from their own localities to the place were the County Councils were held. Again, there were in many counties ministers and clergymen of the Church of England, whose services the Government had admitted they were desirous of having on these Councils, to whom these travelling expenses would be undoubtedly an object. If the Government were to be consistent in carrying out the principle of the Bill he could not see how they could fail in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. A. H. Dyke Acland). The right hon. Gentleman had said they did not pay the expenses of members of Boards of Guardians, School Boards, and other Local Authorities. However right that may have been formerly, they were now creating Bodies of much wider scope and importance; and what might have been a very wise and necessary exception in the case of smaller Bodies might be perfectly unwise and undesirable in the case of the Bodies which they were now about to create. His hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham had already stated, with reference to his Amendment, that there might be one or two additions that might be made to it. He (Mr. John Morley) thought it might be desirable to limit the concession of travelling expenses to the journey strictly from the place where the men resided to the seat of the County Council—he meant that the members should not be entitled, if they were in London, for instance, to claim expenses for the whole of the journey to the County Councils. But all these were matters of detail, which he believed his hon. Friend was willing to meet, and it only remained for him (Mr. John Morley) to say that if his hon. Friend went to a Division he would cordially support the Amendment.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
said, there was one matter in connection with this subject on which the Committee were left in doubt— 160 namely, the fund out of which this payment was to come. They were not told in the Amendment whether it was to come out of the rate of the whole county, or whether it was to be met from the rates of the particular district for which the County Councillor was returned. He thought this a most important consideration, and that the matter ought to have been set forth clearly on the face of the Amendment, because it seemed to him monstrous to suppose that a body of the ratepayers at one end of the county should be asked to support a County Councillor who came from another part of the county, and who might represent a very different interest indeed from that of the main body. He could not imagine a proposition which would be more distasteful to the main body of the ratepayers than this. He was only too glad that the Government put down their foot firmly against this proposal. They had been plainly and honestly told in the course of the debate that this was but the beginning of what hon. Members opposite hoped to come about in the end. Hon. Members had shown that this was clearly the thin end of the wedge, and that they were only to look at this as the beginning of the proposal, and that if the principle were admitted not only County Councillors but Members of Parliament would have to be paid for their services. He trusted that this would be distinctly understood, not only inside the House, but that every ratepayer throughout the country would know what was going on. [Cheers.] He was glad to hear those cheers, because at every public meeting which he had addressed he found that the ratepayers had taken a very considerable interest in this question of payment of expenses, and because this was only one of the Amendments out of many which, if they were carried, would add enormously to the expense of the working of the Bill. They had in that House at the present time Gentlemen who had been sent up by some of the great trade bodies in the North, and if it should be the case that the great Trade Unions in the North should wish to send members of their body to the County Councils, he knew that the County Councils would most gladly welcome them. If those men were sent they would be paid for by those whose special interest they repre- 161 sented. In that case, why should this claim be made on their behalf? He, for one, agreed with the Government in resisting the Motion, and he protested against the attempt to cast this burden on the ratepayers.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he feared that hon. Members opposite did not really understand the object of the Amendment. The object was to diminish the burdens borne by the ratepayers by enabling them to send poor men to the County Councils; the idea being that poor men would scrutinize the expenditure which rich men were prone to sanction. He must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board on the speech he had just made. It was conceived on fine old Tory lines. It was precisely that kind of speech they so often heard in that House from Tory Ministers when Liberal measures were proposed. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by expressing his strong sympathy with the objects of the proposal; he then said, "but,"—and he (Mr. Labouchere) then know perfectly well what was coming. He had heard the argument used again and again. The proposed change, the right hon. Gentleman intimated, was not a change which ought to be introduced at that particular moment. "Bring in a Bill dealing with the subject generally," the Representative of the Government always said on these occasions, "and then we will consider it." Would the Government give facilities to him to bring in a Bill to enable every Member of Parliament to be paid his expenses during the time the House was sitting? If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, he would engage to bring in such a Bill; but he knew then that the counter argument would be used. The Government would say then—"We must learn by experience what would be the effect of the change, it will be better to try it in a single case, and then we shall see the result." That was always how Her Majesty's present Ministry met any proposal which might be brought forward on the Liberal side of the House, either in Committee or in general discussion on a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no precedent for such a proposal as this. Was the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in times gone by—those fine old times Conservatives 162 were so fond of alluding to—in times gone by Members had received payment for their expenses up to London and for their expenses while in London, and, what was more, they did not receive it from the Imperial Exchequer, but received it, as suggested in the present Amendment, from the local rates. Therefore, there was no new precedent in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that a Member of the House of Lords had got a right, a legal right, whenever he came to fulfil his duties in Parliament, to step aside into the New Forest—probably the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) occasionally saw Peers strutting about the New Forest—a Member of the House of Lords had a legal right, on his coming to Parliament, to step aside into any of Her Majesty's forests and to kill a buck. He and his hon. Friends merely wished to apply to the case of the poor men who were sent to County Councils a principle which applied to the Peers of the Realm. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to him not to have read his own Bill, for he said—"You will have to extend it to other cases, to burial boards, and highway boards." Why, did the right hon. Gentleman not know that his own Bill did away with burial boards and highway boards? The right hon. Gentleman finished by protesting against what he called "extravagance and expense." He seemed to think extravagance and expense were entirely identical; that as this would involve expense, it would, therefore, involve extravagance. He (Mr. Labouchere) admitted it would involve, primarily, expense; but the great object in view was to enable people to send men to the County Councils who would prevent extravagance.
§ SIR CHARLES LEWIS (Antrim, N.)
said, he desired to draw the attention of the Committee to the singular fact that this Amendment was vague in the extreme. They might believe it was intended to be vague; it provided that—Every Councillor shall be entitled to claim a sum in payment of the expenses, if any, actually and reasonably incurred by him in travelling to and from the place of meeting of the Council.Nothing was said about the meetings of the committees of which there would be very many. It seemed to him it might well be within the terms of this Amend- 163 ment that members of the Council coming to and from the Council upon any public business might claim their expenses. So far with regard to the vagueness of the language of the Amendment. With regard to the principle of the Amendment, he thought that all of them must be glad that in this country we had hitherto avoided the dangers and corruptions from which municipal institutions in the United States, had suffered. The whole difference between the practice in the United States, and in this country was that public men in England had hitherto always been distinguished by the fact that they had given their services; whereas in America the contrary rule had prevailed, members of public bodies being paid for the services they rendered. It had been freely admitted that those who were the strongest supporters of this proposal desired that there should not only be a payment for expenses, but also a payment for loss of time. The payment of members would, in his opinion, sap the foundation of political and municipal life, and, therefore, he should give to the proposal his strenuous opposition.
§ MR. BURT (Morpeth)
said, he did not know whether the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Lewis) had been remarkable for the characteristic of desiring always to work for nothing. However, he (Mr. Burt) wished to say a few words on the general question now before the Committee. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. A. Acland) had done good service by bringing the subject forward. The proposal seemed to him to be a very moderate one, and the hon. Gentleman stated very clearly and strongly the reasons which induced him to make it. Now, he (Mr. Burt) did not consider that the Bill they were discussing was in any sense a Radical measure. It professed to be so, but many of its provisions were calculated rather to diminish than to extend direct popular representation on municipal bodies in the country. He felt that unless some provision of the kind suggested was inserted in the Bill, the Bill would go very far in the direction he had indicated. For instance, his hon. Friend the Member for the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland (Mr. Fenwick) pointed out that at the present time workmen had direct representation on Local Boards and Town Councils and 164 school boards. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board laid stress upon the want of precedent. But there was a precedent, although it might be a small one. He believed it was the case that Boards of Guardians had the power to pay the representatives whom they might send to conferences upon Poor Law questions. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the case of Local Boards and Town Councils and Boards of Guardians. He (Mr. Burt) was bound to point out that in the case of Town Councils, and in the case of school boards also, the members lived within a comparatively short distance of the meeting place, but the membership of County Councils would necessitate a very considerable amount of travelling and a good deal of expenditure. His one very decided feeling was that the representation would be in a very large measure confined to the well-to-do classes unless some such Amendment as that under consideration were adopted. Very kindly and friendly references had been made to the workmen who had Representatives at the present time in the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ripon Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Wharton) declared that the Trades Unions of the North had their Representatives here, and he was good enough to say that the Members of the House were very glad to welcome those Representatives, and to have them amongst them. [Ministerial cheers.] He was very glad to hear that assenting cheer, for it quite accorded with the treatment he himself had received during the whole period he had had the honour of a seat in the house. But the Trades, Unions were not represented. The Members who were called labour Members were elected, and they came into the House of Commons exactly on the same footing as any other Member. They came as politicians; they appealed to the electors as politicians, and whatever might be their connection with, and, however, qualified they might be to represent the workmen on special labour questions, not one of them would be here if it were not for his political opinions. The other arguments which had been addressed to the Committee had been so completely dealt with by his hon. Friend the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) that he did not need to enter upon them. 165 In conclusion, he had only to say that if there was not a precedent, as the President of the Local Government Board said there was not, the time had come when a precedent should be made. He quite agreed that they were, to a large extent, endeavouring to assert a new principle. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might depend upon it that this was a proposal which would be made in the House again and again until it was, as it would be before long, carried to a successful issue.
§ MR. MILVAIN (Durham)
said, he objected to the spirit and the principle of this Amendment. The expense of the representatives going to the Council meetings had been referred to as only a moderate expense, and that, therefore, they might get in the thin edge of the wedge. But he objected entirely to admitting the thin edge of the wedge when they ought not to admit the thick end of the wedge. What he maintained about the principle of admitting paid representatives to any representative assembly was that it would create so many individual prizes for the ablest and most unscrupulous demagogue who could catch what he believed to be the popular vote of the mob. Upon that ground alone he objected to the principle of the Amendment. The immediate Amendment before the Committee was, according to the professions of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. A. Acland), to enable working men and lower-class tradesmen to take a greater interest in politics and the affairs of their county. He asked, assuming they were not paid their travelling expenses, was there anything to prevent their taking that interest in the affairs of their county and of their country by voting for men whom they thought fit to represent them on the County Council? He thought not; and what was more, he believed that, no matter what it was—insignificant or not insignificant—the expense of going to and returning from the County Council would not deter a man of honour and virtue from seeking election and obtaining representation. He denied altogether that this matter had been placed before the electorate yet. He denied that there was any demand for the payment of representatives; and he maintained—and he was prepared to be judged by his words—that where there had been such a demand, 166 the demand was rapidly diminishing. He asked, why were we to pay the members of County Councils, or of any other representative assembly, when they could get the services of men of equal honour, of equal ability, and of equal education, who were prepared to do the work without a single penny of remuneration? The services rendered by the County Magistrates up to the present time in conducting the financial business of the counties had been rendered gratuitously, and no one would deny that that business had been conducted with efficiency and economy. What more could they expect from hon. Members who sought to be paid for their services upon County Councils? Let him put before the Committee the case of two persons seeking election to a County Council. Let them suppose that the men were of equal honour, equal ability, and of equal virtue—that one was prepared to do the service gratuitously, while the other sought to be paid for his services. Why, he asked, were they to saddle imperatively upon the ratepayers the additional expense of paying for the performance of services when they could be equally ably, equally efficiently, and equally economically performed by a person without the payment of his expenses? What was the foundation of the Bill—upon what principle was the Bill formed? The principle of the Bill was that taxation and representation should go hand-in-hand; and the ratepayers believed, and the counties believed, that if they had their representatives upon a Council supervising the expenditure of the revenue of the county, it would be conducted with greater economy than at present. But why, if economy was the object of the Bill, were they going to begin by saddling the ratepayers with a rate for the payment of the travelling expenses of the representatives? This Amendment would defeat the very object of the Bill from an economical point of view; and, furthermore, he maintained that paid representatives were not representatives who were calculated to conduct the business of counties with efficiency.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
thought the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Milvain) had made it very obvious why he opposed the principle of this Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman approved entirely of the 167 existing administration of counties by magistrates, which, he said, was gratuitous. But the object of this Bill was to remove the administration of the counties from that particular class of which the hon. and learned Gentleman entirely approved, and to throw open the administration of the counties to all classes of the community. Yet the hon. and learned Gentleman objected to an Amendment which was absolutely necessary in order to admit every class of the community into that administration, so, in point of fact, what he objected to was that the Amendment would not keep up such a condition of things as would confine the administration of the counties in the future to the same class of people who had monopolized it in the past. The hon. and learned Gentleman had made quite plain the real basis of his objection.
§ MR. MILVAIN
said, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him for interrupting him. He did not say, neither did he infer what the right hon. Gentleman had attributed to him. What he said was, that the necessary expense of coming to and from the County Councils would not deter any man of honour and virtue from seeking a seat.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he had the highest opinion of honour and virtue, but he did not see that they defrayed travelling expenses; but he would not pursue that point. The hon. and learned Gentleman put a suppositional case; he said there would be presented to the ratepayers two men for election, they were to be of equal honour and virtue and of equal capacity, one of them could pay his own travelling expenses and the other could not. Surely, it was for the ratepayers to determine which they would elect. This Amendment would not compel the ratepayers to elect a man of honour and virtue who could not pay his own travelling expenses; it left to the ratepayers the option. [Mr. MILVAIN: No, no!] Yes, it did.
§ MR. MILVAIN
asked the right hon. Gentleman to forgive him, the right hon. Gentleman was not present when this Amendment was moved.
§ MR. MILVAIN
said, he begged the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, he did not think he was present. Anyhow, the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division 168 (Mr. Fenwick) seconded the Amendment, and also insisted upon the payment being imperative, as was shown by the Amendment which followed the present one.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that he was speaking to the present Amendment, and the present Amendment did not make it compulsory that everybody should receive payment. It would be perfectly well known to the ratepayers whether the person they elected was or was not a person who would be likely to require to make a claim for payment. The ratepayers, therefore, had a free choice whether they would incur this expenditure or not. If they incurred this expenditure, and paid the cost of the travelling of a representative, when they might take a man who would not require his travelling expenses to be paid, it would be because they believed that the poor man would answer their purposes better, would represent their opinion better than the richer man. Therefore, this question of saddling the ratepayer against his will with unnecessary expense was one of those bogus arguments which were always raised against reform. The ratepayers would be perfectly able to judge, and they would be perfectly competent to judge whether or not it was worth their while, and convenient to their interests to elect a man whose travelling expenses they would have to pay. That was all the present Amendment proposed. He thought it was a perfectly reasonable Amendment; he thought it was an Amendment entirely in conformity with the professed object of the Bill—namely, that the representatives of all interests should come upon these County Councils, and he for one would give it his cordial support.
said, he did not wish to occupy the time of the Committee more than a few minutes, but he desired it to be distinctly understood that he did not second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. A. Acland), but that he had put down an Amendment to that Amendment. He was not sure whether he would be in Order in moving his Amendment now. In his opinion the Amendment of his hon. Friend did not put the question sufficiently forcibly—to his mind, at least—before the Committee. What he 169 wished was that it should be imperative upon each member of the Council to receive payment. He was sure no Member on the Opposition side of the House would charge the hon. and learned Member for the City of Durham (Mr. Milvain) with being a demagogue or with in any way attempting to catch the vote of the mob. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed, however, to insinuate that some of the Members on the Opposition side of the House were in the habit of doing such a thing. He (Mr. Fenwick) uttered his most unqualified protest against any such insinuation. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Ripon Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Wharton) asked them why, if a Trade's Union was disposed to force one of its members upon a constituency, another portion of the community should be compelled to pay the expenses of that member? The answer was very simple—namely, that the other portion of the community would propably have a member of its own whose opinions were different from those of the members of the Trade's Union who sent a working man to the Council meeting. The Trade's Union, as the hon. and learned Gentleman was pleased to term it, would have to pay, under this Amendment, a portion of the expenses of the representative of their opponents. The burden, therefore, would be equally divided. The President of the Local Government Board had said there was no precedent for the payment of such services, but the hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that we paid the members of Royal Commissions their travelling expenses when they were called upon to perform services in the interests of the nation. The services of the County Councillors were analogous to those which Royal Commissions were called upon to give. He very much regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had met this Amendment with a non possumus, because what was asked for was a very moderate concession indeed. As he pointed out in the course of the debate the other night the effect of the Bill without the Amendment would be practically to disenfranchise a large number of working men who now served on Town Councils, on Boards of Guardians, and on school boards. Let him instance the case arising in his own Division. There, probably, half of the 170 members of the Local Board were working men. That was in a purely working class constituency, and if the Committee did not accept the principle of his Amendment, they would certainly debar these men from taking any part whatever in the Local Government of their own district. Though the working classes were five-sixths of the population they would be compelled to take as their representative a man whose sympathies were not in harmony with their own. He regretted exceedingly that the President of the Local Government Board had not seen his way to accept the principle of this Amendment. If he was in Order he would move his Amendment now.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 199; Noes 243: Majority 44.—(Div. List, No. 149.)
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY (Kent, Medway)
said, he rose to move the insertion at the end of the clause of the words—(e.) The Members of Parliament for the Division of the County, and of the boroughs therein, shall be ex officio members of the County Council.He knew there was a great objection, as there had always been, to there being ex officio members of any board; and he, for his own part, had always had a certain sympathy with that objection, and on Boards of Guardians, wherever he found the elected members taking a strong part, he had always hesitated to offer any opposition to their wishes. But with regard to the provision that Members of Parliament should be members of the County Council, he did not think the statement that they were to be ex officio members was quite a true statement. As a matter of fact, they were elected by the ratepayers of the county for the very highest office it was in the power of the ratepayers to appoint them to, and there could be no doubt, he thought, that if a person who was a member for the county, or for a division of the county were to come forward as a candidate for the County Council he would be elected. With regard to this Amendment he was able to say what the mover of no other Amendment probably would be able to say. He would have the practically unanimous opinion of the Committee that Members of Parliament 171 were, at all events, fit and proper persons to sit upon the County Councils. He took it that there was no Member of the Committee who had not that confidence in his own abilities to think that he was competent to sit upon a County Council. He (Mr. J. S. Gathorne-Hardy) thought a Member of Parliament was not only a fit and proper person to sit upon a County Council, but one who ought to sit upon such a Council; and it was an extremely hard matter in these days that a person in that position should be forced to fight two contested elections in order to obtain two positions for which he was eminently qualified. He had heard that the opinion had been expressed that this Amendment might be accepted were the Member to sit upon the County Council, but to have no vote. He did not at all agree to that proposition, for, in his opinion, it would be an extremely mischievous one. The fact that a Member of Parliament was entitled to sit on the County Council without voting would very much militate against his being elected, if he thought fit to come forward as a candidate for any division. Voters would say he had already got a seat on the Board, and they might refuse to vote for him if he came forward as a candidate. Under such circumstances, Members of Parliament would really be put into the position of servants of the County Councils rather than of efficient members of it; therefore, he could not assent to any such suggestion. He earnestly hoped the Committee would take this Amendment into serious consideration. He was sure that, unless hon. Members were very different from himself, there were not many of them anxious to fight more contested elections than they were obliged to. He was confident hon. Members would agree with him that County Members and the Members for boroughs were fit and proper persons to sit upon the new County Councils, and that, indeed, they ought to be on the Councils. He thought that when a man was elected by the ratepayers to the highest position in which they could place him, he might be relied upon to represent them fairly upon the County Council.
In page 2, line 5, at end, insert (e) "The Members of Parliament for the divisions of the county and of the boroughs therein shall be ex
officio members of the County Council."—(Mr. J. S. Gathorne-Hardy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
said, that the great charm of this Bill in the opinion of everyone was, he thought, that from beginning to end there were to be no ex officio element under it. Personally, he was very glad to find from what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), in explaining the Bill, had said that there was no loophole by which any ex officio element might be introduced. To his mind, it was a question whether Members of Parliament would make the best members of County Councils; there would be a great deal of work to do, and he knew that a Member of Parliament who attended Westminster regularly could not also attend regularly to county business. If he were to put himself forward, and to be elected as a County Councillor, it would be a question with him whether he could be of more use in the House of Commons or in the County Councils; certainly he could not discharge both duties efficiently. He did not wish to detain the Committee on this question; but still, as this suggestion had come from the Ministerial side of the House, he desired to say that, as far as he was concerned, the suggestion of the hon. Member was one which ought not to be entertained, because he believed mischief would arise if any ex officio element were introduced into the County Councils in any shape or form.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he hoped that his hon. Friend (Mr. J. S. Gathorne-Hardy) would not press this Amendment. He entirely agreed with what his hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Mr. Llewellyn) had said—namely, that it would be most inconvenient, if they were to accept this Amendment, to give an expression of their opinion that there should still be retained the ex officio element upon these Councils. He felt very little doubt that Members of Parliament who were the Representatives of counties could very easily become members of these Councils in the proper way, if they desired to do so; but it would be an invidious distinction to say that certain gentlemen should have the right to be members of County Councils. 173 He did not think it would add to the efficiency of the Councils, neither did he think it would really tend in the direction his hon. Friend (Mr. J. S. Gathorne-Hardy) desired. He therefore trusted his hon. Friend would not press the Amendment.
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY
said, that, of course, after the remarks of the President of the Local Government Board, he would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that, no doubt, to the Amendment, as drawn, there was considerable objection, because it was quite possible to conceive that men would become members of Councils in counties in which they had no stake whatever. Of course, it frequently happened that a man was elected to represent a county or a division of a county or a borough with which he was in no way otherwise connected. If his hon. Friend would consent to the insertion of the words "and otherwise qualified" after the word "therein," he (Mr. Chaplin) must say he could not for his own part agree to the objection which had been raised to the proposal. Everybody desired that the best men in a borough or a county, as the case might be, should become members of the Council. He thought it was very exceptional indeed if a man, who had undergone a hotly contested Parliamentary election, were willing to undergo, immediately afterwards, another equally hotly contested election for the County Council. He was told it would be impossible for Members of the House of Commons to do their duty upon these Councils; but what did they see in the House? Over and over again they saw among county Members men who were the most regular attendants in the House, men who never missed a Division, but were always in their place, yet, somehow or other, they managed to attend Quarter Sessions also. He could name Gentlemen who attended here most regularly, but who had never missed a Quarter Sessions in their lives. He supposed, however, that there was no use in arguing the matter if the Government were not willing to accept the proposal.
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY
said, he had no objection to withdraw it; but he totally differed from the opinions 174 expressed in regard to it. It was one thing to have ex officio members appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and a totally different thing for the electors of the county to elect their own ex officio members of the Council.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)
said, that the object of the Amendment he had put upon the Paper was to endow County Councillors with the functions of Justices of the Peace, and he proposed it because he believed it would, at all events, afford a partial remedy for what was, at the present time, a very great grievance. The present system of appointing Justices of the Peace was unsatisfactory to those Gentlemen who had an honourable aspiration to attain such a position, and it was also unsatisfactory to the people at large. That dissatisfaction had frequently found expression at the meetings of the Trades Unions Congresses, and it had also found expression, from time to time, in the House of Commons. It was very desirable that all classes should have confidence in, and respect for, our Courts of Petty Sessions; and he held that in order to secure that, Justices of the Peace should be men of all classes. The present system of nomination and property qualification was a system by which class was set against class, because it inferred the idea that there was a class of rich men who were entitled to rule, and that there was a class of poor men whose fate it was to be ruled over. That, he maintained, was entirely inconsistent with our present democratic institutions. What was the result of appointing only men of property and nominees of the Crown to the magistracy? It was this, that offences against property were dealt with with a severity out of all proportion to the measure of justice which was meted out for offences against the person. Every day one observed in the newspapers reports of the extraordinary sentences which were given for trivial offences against property, and the attention of the House was frequently called to them. He had made a collection of these reports, and he believed they had been published in a pamphlet; they were certainly most striking. He tried to ascertain whether 175 there was any rhyme or reason for these sentences. He did not wish to enlarge upon them; but the calculation at which he had arrived was that the average cost of indulging in the luxury of kicking one's wife, and blackening her eye, or pouring hot water over her, or biting a piece out of a policeman, was about 10s.; whereas, on the other hand, the cost of stealing a pocket-handkerchief, or a cotton shirt, or any similar article, was a term of imprisonment, varying from two or three months to five years penal servitude; and should, by any accident, a labouring man be found in possession of a dirty rabbit net he had better be tried by a court martial at once than by a bench of rural magistrates. He knew that the objection which would be urged against his Amendment was that it would be a system of elected magistrates; but the system was nothing new in this country. Mayors of boroughs were elected at the present time; in Scotland the baillies were elected; moreover, coroners were elected officers, and were ex-officio magistrates, and there were places where the Aldermen and Portreeves were also elected, and also exercised the functions of magistrates. At the present time Magistrates were elected, not by the people, but elected by a small clique of wirepullers. Most hon. Members knew how these gentlemen were elected; the Party wirepullers of those who were in power at the time selected, generally from among themselves, some gentlemen whom they wished to endow with the dignity of magistrates, and they sent up the names of these gentlemen through what was termed the ordinary channels to the Lord Chancellor, and then the Lord Chancellor went through the farce of sending to the Town Council to know whether the gentlemen nominated were acceptable or not to them. If the Town Council happened to say that they objected to these gentlemen, and to suggest anybody else, then the Lord Chancellor said that they were going outside their province; and he, in fact, snubbed them. This sort of thing had taken place over and over again; it had taken place within recent times at Winchester, West Ham, Poole, Wrexham, Hanley, Bradford, and other places. And then, to wind up this comedy, some Gentleman generally got up in the House and asked a Question of 176 the Home Secretary, and that right hon. Gentleman was content to use the tu quoque argument, that it had been done by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he did not see why they should not do the same thing. If he (Mr. Seale-Hayne) were to endeavour to touch upon how magistrates were elected in the counties, he might perhaps be proceeding beyond his depth. A portion of the county magistracy might be regarded as hereditary. Some of the county magistrates had no claim to a seat on the Bench other than that their fathers had sat there before; others had acquired the dignity by purchase, as it frequently happened that if a gentleman came into the county, and bought a large estate, he was straightway put on the Bench, irrespective of any personal qualification. Other gentlemen got on the Bench simply because they happened to be of the same political complexion as the Lord Lieutenant; they merely took the position because it gave them a certain amount of social position, and got them into the charmed circle of county society. Now, he could not believe that this was a satisfactory way of appointing gentlemen to exercise the important functions of Justices of the Peace. Then, let him say a word in regard to the general objection that those who exercised judicial functions should not be elected. He was perfectly ready to admit that it would be a great evil if the Judges of the land were elected, because they had to deal with large pecuniary interests, and because it was necessary they should have great legal learning and experience.
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
rose to Order, and asked the Chairman whether the hon. Gentleman was in Order in discussing the present method of appointing magistrates?
said, that inasmuch as there was a provision in the clause respecting the Chairmen of County Councils, he was not prepared to say that it was not permissible to discuss the proposition that members of County Councils should also be ex-officio Justices. But the hon. Member was certainly supporting his proposition with arguments a long way beyond the necessity of the case.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE
said, he bowed to the Chairman's decision. He had been merely enlarging upon the question of the existing evils, and he had started 177 by saying that he advocated his Amendment because it afforded a partial remedy, as he believed, for those evils. Now, Judges were in a different position also to Justices of the Peace, because they had, on matters of fact, a jury to assist them. Justices of the Peace, on the other hand, had to be both Judge and jury in their own Courts. He held, therefore, that the two cases were entirely different, and that the same arguments did not apply to them. The objection might be urged that these elections might degenerate into a Party fight. Well, he had no doubt that that might be so in some instances, but he did not think it would be of such frequent occurrence as hon. Members in the course of this debate had assumed. His answer to that was this. Were not nominations at the present time—especially of borough magistrates—entirely political, and if there was to be a political fight over the appointment of Magistrates, was it not better that that fight should be carried on in open day, and not on the backstairs of the Lord Lieutenants and in the back parlours of the wirepullers in the boroughs? He believed that in these elections of the County Councillors, if they were endowed with the dignity of Justice of the Peace, it would bring out far better men. It might be said—"What evidence have you that the elected magistrates will be as good as those who sit on the Bench at the present time?" Well, his answer was that no evidence was required. His position was this—that if the decisions of the elected Magistrates were bad, at the end of six years the ratepayers would be able to get rid of them, and that, under the existing system, if the decisions of nominated Magistrates were bad, there was no means of getting rid of them. The people were saddled with them for all time. He (Mr. Seale-Hayne) felt convinced, speaking on this subject with some knowledge as a county and borough magistrate, that if the Government would confer upon elected Councillors the dignity of justice of the peace, not only would better men come forward as candidates, but they would do much to strengthen the hands of the law by giving more confidence to the people in the impartiality of our Petty Sessional Courts. He begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
In page 2, after line 5, to insert—"(e) They shall, by virtue of their office, be justices of the peace for the county."—(Mr. Seale-Hayne.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the Chairman had stated that in his opinion both the Amendment and the speech in which the hon. Member had put it before the Committee came very near being outside the Bill, and certainly, under the circumstances, he (Mr. Ritchie) should not inflict any lengthened remarks upon the Committee with reference to this question, which, to his mind, was altogether outside the four corners of the Bill. He would appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite, whom he believed were desirous of passing this measure, or a measure of the kind, to limit somewhat their observations and their Amendments to what might fairly be considered to come within the scope of the provisions of the Bill; because it was evident, if they were to discuss on the Bill such fundamental changes as those sought to be introduced by the hon. Member, there would scarcely be any limit to the period of time necessary to spend on the measure. He need hardly say that the Government could not assent to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. He regarded it as not only a thing bad in itself, but, as he had said, outside the provisions of the Bill altogether. The Chairman had told them that there was a provision in the measure which gave colour to the Amendment—the provision that the Chairman of the County Council should be a Justice of the Peace—but in that the Government had followed strictly the analogy of the Municipal Corporations Act. The Chairman of a Town Council in that case, that was to say, the Mayor of a town, was a Justice of the Peace. That was the analogy the Government had followed; but to propose that County Councillors should also be Justices of the Peace was a suggestion altogether outside the analogy to the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act. He would appeal to the Committee to be good enough not to spend any lengthened time in discussing the matter, which was clearly beyond the scope of the measure.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not think it necessary to press this Amendment to 179 a Division, although I am bound to say I think he is perfectly justified in placing it before the Committee. I am very willing to take this opportunity of saying that, whether in this form or in some other form, it is absolutely necessary that a change should be made in this matter as affecting both boroughs and counties. The present system is simply a scandal. Magistrates in boroughs, and still more so in counties, are appointed without the smallest reference to their fitness for their judicial duties. They are appointed simply out of political considerations—
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
I rise to Order, Sir. I wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in the observations he is making?
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The system is perfectly indefensible. I dare say the noble Lord and his Friends do not like to hear these things; but, if he will allow me to say so, that is exactly why I state them. In my opinion, it is clear that a reform must come. It will come, I believe, through the County Councils. I would not recommend my hon. Friend to press his Amendment on this occasion, because I feel quite certain that when these County Councils are formed, they will ultimately demand that they should have a voice, and a potent voice, in the appointment of the Magistracy. It is quite impossible where a power like this Council Council is established, which is to be representative of the public opinion of the county, that they will any longer tolerate the administration of Justice in counties being dependent on the nomination of the Lord Lieutenant. That power has been, and is at this time, so grossly abused that it must be reformed. [A laugh.] The hon. Member who laughs I dare say is himself a magistrate appointed by a Lord Lieutenant. Doubtless for that reason he has a very high opinion of the nominations. But I have observed this matter, and I have some means of knowing about these appointments, and the manner in which justice is administered under them, and I would, therefore, ask my hon. Friend to rest content with the certainty that in the future, when this power which we have been frankly told is to be a democratic power, is estab- 180 lished under this Bill, one of the effects, which I hope will be beneficial effects, will be a complete revolution in the system of appointing magistrates both in counties and boroughs. Under the circumstances, I would ask my hon. Friend not to press his Amendment to a Division.
§ MR. A. J. WILLIAMS (Glamorganshire, S.)
said, that considering the observations of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he could not refrain from expressing his entire approval of the spirit of the Amendment before the Committee. He (Mr. Williams) had ventured himself to put upon the Notice Paper an Amendment which would have involved the principle which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir William Harcourt), with a truly prophetic spirit, declared would be adopted as soon as they got these County Councils into working order. He had put upon the Paper an Amendment in the spirit of the clause in the Act of 1835, which proposed to give—and he was sure they would soon have it—the power to nominate justices for the county to direct representatives of the people. He ventured to rise on this occasion because there was no part of the United Kingdom in which this scandal was more disgraceful than in the Principality of Wales. He had taken some pains of late to find out what was the composition of the Bench in the various counties of Wales. He need not say that there was only one class there. He looked in vain amongst the magistracy in some counties for members of the Nonconformist Body, and he looked in vain for members of the trading classes. He should have liked to have seen some chance of pressing this Amendment to a successful issue—he honestly confessed he should have liked to take part in such an attempt. What would be the state of things under this Bill in his division if this Amendment were passed? Why, in the division for which he was a Member, and in which he was a justice, he would, at all events, have the satisfaction of finding one or two farmers, certainly one or two tradesmen, sitting by his side on the bench. He was not at all sure that they were wise even at this stage in refraining from pressing the Amendment to a Division.
§ MR. W. A. M'ARTHUR (Cornwall, Mid, St. Austell)
said, he desired to say a 181 word to the Committee, not for the purpose of delaying the discussion on the Bill, but merely to state that he sympathized to a great extent with what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman behind him (Mr. Seale-Hayne), and that he agreed that the present method of appointing magistrates was a crying scandal; but he should, however, feel himself bound most strongly to oppose the Amendment, if the hon. Member sought to force it to a Division. He could not imagine anything that would be more likely to have a disastrous effect upon the respect of the English people for law than the proposal to submit those who were to administer the law from time to time to the turmoil of contested elections. He should very strongly support, and he hoped very shortly to have an opportunity of supporting an Amendment which was to be moved by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare), which would give the County Councils about to be appointed the power of nominating the magistrates, or, at any rate, of recommending magistrates for nomination; but he should feel it impossible to support the proposal that magistrates should be appointed by popular election.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington S.)
said, he was glad the Government had determined not to assent to the proposal before the Committee, because he would point out that, if they had done so, they would have given a preference to the County Councils over the Town Councils, which would have been most invidious. For the Amendment did not contemplate giving to Town Councils the appointment of justices, which it would accord to members of County Councils. He would also point out that the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was a good one—namely, that as a general rule, they should endeavour to follow the main lines of the Municipal Corporations Act. He thought on that ground, therefore, the attitude the right hon. Gentleman had taken up was eminently satisfactory. He was glad to hear the protest of the hon. Member for St. Austell (Mr. W. A. M'Arthur) that in this country the people were determined to adhere to the principle that our Judges and Justices of the Peace should not be elected. The hon. Member had spoken of his experience of one 182 part of the world, and he (Sir Albert Rollit) had had experience of another. No one could become aware of what took place in those countries where elective Judges existed, without a lively knowledge of the fact that not unfrequently people went into politics to get a Judge made in order that he might afterwards decide a certain case. Such a principle as that was not one which this country was likely to yield a ready assent to. It was pointed out that this principle of making an elected Councillor a magistrate was carried out in the case of the chairman of a Town Council—that was to say the mayor of a borough. He ventured to think on that matter, that if there was one point on which the Mayors of boroughs had been less successful than another, it had been in regard to the performance of their judicial duties. He had heard of one Mayor who, at the very commencement of his term of office, declared that during the period he sat on the bench, it should be his constant endeavour neither to be partial nor impartial. He (Sir Albert Rollit) did not know whether that effort succeeded or not, but that was his that extraordinary declaration, and he (Sir Albert Rollit) did not think it would be difficult to find other illustrations of the peculiar fitness—or unfitness—of elected gentlemen to perform the delicate functions of the magistracy. The borough magistrates were, it was true, appointed in a manner to which some exception might occasionally be taken. On that point, at some other time—though he knew in saying this, he should lay himself open to the retort on the part of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt), that some of them on that (the Ministerial) side of the House were always prepared to do something or other, but never made an effort to begin—something no doubt should be done, as there was room for considerable improvement. But he would remind the Committee that even now improvement was taking place in the shape of the appointment of the Stipendiary Magistrates, though that system only existed in the boroughs, and had not been extended to the counties.
§ MR. RITCHIE
desired to appeal to the hon. Member (Mr. Seale-Hayne) as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby had appealed to him, not 183 to push this Amendment to a Division. It seemed to be the general wish of the Committee that the Amendment should be withdrawn, and he would therefore appeal to hon. Members, either to permit that course to be adopted, or to go to a Division at once, so that they might get to the consideration of questions which were of very great importance.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, that although the hon. Member for the St. Austell Division (Mr. W. A. M'Arthur) might not move his Amendment, he trusted that the suggestion of the hon. Member would not fall stillborn, but that there would be an opportunity given to the Committee for considering this question again before the Committee stage was disposed of. It seemed to him (Mr. Illingworth) that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board should rather receive with favour than otherwise the proposal to entrust new duties to this grand creation of his, the County Councils, because by the announcement he had already made, he would be depriving them of such a large amount of work that they would really have very little to do. From a very wide experience in the North of England, he (Mr. Illingworth) could say that there was no scandal in connection with justice in this country so great as that with reference to the appointment of the magistracy in our boroughs and counties. In his own neighbourhood, magistrates had been put on the bench at the age of 21, merely because they happened to be the sons of prominent members of the dominant class, while leaving men on the other side in politics to be passed over. He spoke on this matter disinterestedly, and, therefore, he claimed some weight for his opinion, because he was neither a magistrate for a borough nor a county. It seemed to him that the work of the administration of justice in the country would be greatly improved, and that a much better feeling would be created throughout the towns and boroughs with regard to Courts of summary jurisdiction, if the Amendment proposed were adopted.
§ MR. WARMINGTON (Monmouthshire, W.)
said, that before this Amendment was withdrawn, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board wished to press the 184 analogy of the Municipal Corporations Act, he should like to know whether the County Councils were going to be consulted with regard to the appointment of magistrates in the same way as the councillors or corporations were consulted with regard to the appointment of borough magistrates? And before the Amendment was withdrawn, allow him to say this—He did not think that there was any matter which people in the counties regarded as more important than that of the local administration of justice. There was no matter in regard to which people in the counties felt that a greater scandal existed. There was no doubt that there were many counties in England and in the Principality of Wales in which the people were entirely without a representative of their way of thinking upon the magisterial bench. If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would say that the appointment of Justices of the Peace for the counties would henceforth be dealt with on the same lines as the appointment of the magistrates in boroughs, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman might then gracefully ask the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Seale-Hayne) to withdraw his Amendment; but until they had some such guarantee as that, they certainly had a right to complain of the present system and to endeavour in this Bill to bring about a more satisfactory state of things.
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, he desired to say that after the expression of opinion they had heard from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), he hoped that the Amendment would not be pressed to a Division. He trusted, however, that they would have some guarantee from the Government other than that to which allusion had been made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. What he (Mr. Cremer) hoped Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House would contend for, and if necessary divide the House upon, was that power should be given to County Councils not merely to nominate, but to elect the magistrates. He thought nothing short of that would satisfy the people out of doors.
CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, that as his name had been mentioned in the course of this discus- 185 sion, he desired to be allowed to say just one word. He was entirely in favour of the Amendment, and he thought the hon. Gentleman who submitted that Justices of the Peace should be elected was entirely right in his contention. He, however, was perfectly well aware—especially after the recommendation which had come from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby—that it would be perhaps better tactics on their part not to press the Amendment to a Division at the present moment. The hon. Member for the St. Austell Division (Mr. W. A. M'Arthur) had done him (Mr. Conybeare) the honour to refer to an Amendment which he had on the Paper, No. 126, which was as follows:—In Clause 2, p. 2, at end, to add—(6) From and after the passing of this Act every Justice of the Peace should be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County upon the recommendation of the County Council, and every parish should be entitled to nominate, and through the elected representatives on the County Council, to demand, the appointment of one or more of such persons as they may deem fit to act as resident Justices of the Peace for the said parishes. And the selected councillors should in every case be taken from among the local Justices of the Peace so nominated and appointed as aforesaid.He certainly concurred with the hon. Member in charge of the Amendment in his withdrawal of it, on the understanding, however, that it should not be summarily dismissed, or shut out by the Government from being again considered on his (Mr. Conybeare's) Amendment. He was not going to discuss that Amendment now, and he only wished to say in regard to the statement of the hon. Member for St. Austell that he did not concur in the sentiments he expressed as to its being a bad thing to elect people as Justices or "injustices" of the Peace. At any rate, the electing of magistrates could not place things in a worse condition than they were at present, because nothing could be more disgraceful and scandalous than the manner in which these functionaries were appointed at present.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
said, that before the discussion closed, it ought to be made clear that he and his Friends did not share in the grave attack made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby as to the administration of justice by the county magistrates. 186 The right hon. Gentleman for a long time had held the Office of Home Secretary, and was largely responsible for the appointment of many of the magistrates whom he attacked. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Government to which he belonged had ever proposed to make any change in the mode of appointment of those gentlemen when in Office, but now in these later days apparently the right hon. Gentleman had become so accustomed to make attacks on the administration of justice in the Sister Island that he could not keep his fingers off the magistrates of this country. It was not, however, for him (Viscount Cranborne) to reprove the right hon. Gentleman, but he really thought that, considering the high office the right hon. Gentleman had held, he ought to think twice before, in the course of a debate like this, he levelled an attack upon the whole administration of justice throughout the country districts of England in the way he had done. Let it be clearly understood—and in saying that he was quite sure he spoke for all hon. Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side of the House—that they did not share the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, but entirely and absolutely repudiated them.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
Perhaps it may relieve the anxiety of the noble Lord to inform him that I neither intended to, nor did I make an attack upon the administration of justice, though I attacked most strongly the method in which the county magistrates are appointed.
§ SIR. WILLIAM HARCOURT
I will state what I did say, or what I intended to say. I intended most strongly to attack the method in which the county magistrates are appointed.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
The right hon. Gentleman will pardon me. He not only attacked their appointment, but he spoke of many gross decisions they made.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I never said that, nor anything like it. I am quite certain that the noble Lord did not hear what I said.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE
said, that in deference to the expression of opinion from that (the Opposition) side of the 187 House, and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, by the leave of the Committee he would withdraw his Amendment. He hoped, however, that at the same time he might be permitted to say this. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board complained that the Amendment travelled outside the scope of the Bill, and he (Mr. Seale-Rayne) would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he had a Bill before the House at the present time dealing with this special question, and that, therefore, if he withdrew this Amendment, he was entitled to have some facilities given to him for going on with that measure.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
said, the next Amendment stood in his name, and was as follows:—in clause 2, page 2, after line 5, to insert, "Provided, that in the London County Council there shall be no selected councillors or aldermen." As he understood that it was considered that that Amendment could be more conveniently taken when the provisions dealing with London generally were discussed, he would, by the permission of the Committee, ask leave to postpone the Amendment until they came to Clause 36.
§ MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
said, that on this matter, he hoped that before the hon. Gentleman postponed the Amendment, the Government would give an undertaking, or give the Committee to understand that the whole question as to London, so far as it was affected by the clause, would be left open. He (Mr. Firth) hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would on this question take the opinion of hon. Members interested in London. Could the right hon. Gentleman say that the whole question as to Aldermen, who were not wanted in London—they cherished the few they had, but did not want any more—would be left open?
§ MR. WARMINGTON
said, he now begged leave to move the Amendment which stood in his name—that was to say—in page 2, line 5, at end, to insert— 188(e.) No person shall be capable of being elected as a member of more than one County Council.This Amendment was in accordance with one which had been accepted by the Government, and moved by the hon. Member for one of the divisions of Somerset—
said, that the Amendment was in the same category as that of the hon. Gentleman (Sir Roper Lethbridge), and would come more conveniently on Clause 38. He could not say, if the hon. and learned Member persisted with his Amendment, that it would not be in Order, but he would point out that in that case the subject could not be again gone into on the 38th clause.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he did not insist upon the discussion of his Amendment; but it seemed to him that as a matter of courtesy it should have been suggested to him either that he should move his Amendment, or that he would be out of Order in moving it, or that it would be more convenient for it to be postponed. In that case he would have withdrawn it, without a word.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, he had an Amendment in the same terms upon Clause 36; but he understood the Chairman to say that the subject was to be raised on Clause 38.
§ MR. WARMINGTON
said, the next Amendment stood in his name, and was as follows:—Clause 2, page 2, line 5, at the end, to insert—(e.) No person shall be capable of being elected as a member of more than one County Council.This Amendment was placed on the Paper before some decisions at which the Committee had arrived, and after those decisions it seemed to him that it would be better to move the Amendment in this form:—(e.) No person shall be capable of being a member of more than one County Council.He would move the Amendment in that 189 form. It had been now decided by the Committee that it was not necessary in order to qualify a person for a seat on a County Council that he should be a resident within the county. He might not be a resident within the county at all. If he had what was called the property qualification, he might be elected as a member of the Council. They knew perfectly well that there were many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen and others who had property and were rated in many counties, and he submitted that it would not be well for the good working of the Council itself that a member of one Council should also be a member of another. The County Council would be an important assembly, and each Council ought to have an important individual and separate influence, and it would detract from that power and influence of the Council if one of its members was a member of another Council. As those persons who were likely to be members of both would have considerable property, he ventured to suggest that it was desirable that each Council should be self-contained, and not number amongst its ranks those who were members of other Councils. It seemed to him that a Council would lose force if it possessed a member in common with another County Council, and that it would give to individuals an influence which they ought not to possess.
In page 2, after line 5, to insert the words, No person shall be capable of being a member of more than one County Council."—(Mr. Warmington).
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG) (Wilts, Devizes)
said, that some of the Amendments on the Paper seemed to show that fear of the people which hon. Members opposite declared the Government showed. Above all things that which could be and might well be entrusted to the electors was the choice of the men who, in their opinion, ought to be elected, and it should be left to them to decide whether they should elect as Members of their own Council gentlemen who were qualified, though they might be members of adjoining Councils. Those who were engaged in County Business know very well that 190 gentlemen living on the boundaries of two counties were most valuable members of Quarter Sessions. Such gentlemen were frequently of the greatest assistance in the administration of the affairs of the two counties. He submitted that that was a point which should be left to the Councils themselves. There was no reason to think that the work of the Councils would be imperfectly done through the clause remaining as it stood, or that any inconvenience would arise to the ratepayers. The Government, therefore, would be obliged to resist this Amendment.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he did not think it would be well to trouble the Committee with any remarks upon the Amendment in the present state of the House. It would be more pertinent, perhaps, to call the Chairman's attention to the fact that there were not 40 Members present.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
said, he presumed the present Amendment would meet with the same fate as other Amendments from that (the Opposition) side of the House. He thought the Government might, however, accept the Amendment, seeing that they had rejected the very reasonable proposal made just now as to the payment of the travelling expenses of the County Councillors. By the rejection of that proposal, the choice of the electors had been very much restricted, and the chances of persons possessed of property being elected on the County Councils had been greatly increased. They were entitled to ask that this clause should receive some consideration from the Government, seeing that they (the Government) had admitted the property qualification. It was quite possible that a Councillor under the circumstances, might be a candidate for one county under a property qualification, and might seek election upon another Council because he happened to be a resident in the county. It was a very wholesome and very wise and very useful proposal that was made by the hon. Member, and he sincerely hoped that the Government would give it their serious consideration.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 173: Majority 51.—(Div. List, No. 150.)
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
said, he wished to propose the Amendment on the Paper, No. 70—that was to say, in page 2, after line 7, to insert—"(a) Every borough shall return at least one Councillor." He would appeal to the Government to constitute every municipal borough a separate electoral area, for the purpose of returning a Councillor. Within the last few hours they had been furnished with a proposal as to the number of Councillors the Government proposed should permanently form the County Council, and according to that, in the main, the suggestion he made in this Amendment was conceded. There were some exceptions, however, which would be made, and they would be in the case of small but ancient boroughs. He hoped that, inasmuch as this Paper which had been circulated was not considered the final decision of the Government, the appeal he now made would be favourably considered, and that a consequential Amendment a few lines further on would be also conceded. He begged to move the Amendment in his name.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, after line 7, to insert the words, "(a) Every borough shall return at least one councillor."—(Mr. Woodall.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. LONG
said, he need hardly assure the Committee that the Government fully understood and appreciated the reasons which the hon. Member had adduced for proposing this Amendment—namely, that some of these boroughs were very ancient boroughs, and had for a very long time so successfully exercised their rights and privileges that they deserved separate representation. He might point out that the Amendment would not fall within the lines of the Bill. If it were adopted, the result would be that every town, which was a municipal borough, whether ancient or not, and no matter how small its population, would be entitled to have separate representation, whereas those large urban sanitary districts of great importance and with enormous populations, which did 192 not happen to be boroughs, would be left to the Quarter Sessions. He had not the least doubt that the representation accorded to the boroughs would be fair and sufficient, but it had been thought by the Government that those of them which had not a sufficient population to entitle them to special representation should be left to the Quarter Sessions. He would remind the Committee that the subject was not a very important one, and did not necessarily involve a very large issue. There were only 30 boroughs in England and Wales which would be affected by the Amendment, and their populations varied very much, some of them falling as low as 900. When it was laid down that the representation on a County Council should only be one in 5,000, 6,000, 7,000, 8,000, or 10,000 it hardly seemed in accordance with the principles of the Bill that a borough having a population of only 900 or 1,000 should possess a representative. A place with a small population should not receive a privilege merely because it was ancient, whilst a new place with a large population was denied it. Those were the reasons why the Government could not accept the Amendment, and, in stating them, he had no wish to condemn the views of the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the proposal, nor to say anything derogatory to the position of the small boroughs. The Government must adhere to the clause as it stood, and, if necessary, must divide the Committee against the Amendment.
§ MR. WOODALL
said, he did not propose to press the Amendment to a Division, and, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Member, who had just spoken, he still hoped that there would be some concession made—at any rate with regard to some of those boroughs which were not at present provided for. He urged that because the boroughs in question were important and useful for many purposes—for registration for instance, and for rating. They would continue to have separate existence, for it was not proposed to interfere with their rights to self-government and with the privileges they had enjoyed for centuries. He ventured most respectfully to urge that it would considerably improve the prospect of the successful working of the Bill, if the Government accepted his Amendment, and the 193 boroughs were allowed to be, so far as separate representation on the Councils was concerned, separate areas instead of being merged in large districts.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
said, he should like to point out to the Mover of the Amendment and to the Government that there were a few populous places of the magnitude of boroughs, which had been allowed under Improvement Acts to constitute themselves into Town Commissions, which would come under the same category as the boroughs for whom the hon. Member (Mr. Woodall) spoke. If there had been any prospect of the hon. Member being successful in getting his Amendment adopted, he (Mr. Halley Stewart) would have asked the Government to enlarge the scope of it, so as to include the towns under the Government of the Town Commissioners.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he wished to point out that there were a considerable number of boroughs of under 2,000 population in counties where there were 400,000 or 500,000 inhabitants; and the result of carrying this Amendment would be, it seemed to him, either to increase unduly the number of Councillors, or to give over-representation to these small towns. The small limit which it was understood was to be fixed to the number of Councillors on a County Council could not be adhered to if the Amendment were adopted.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
said, he desired to move the following Amendment:—In page 2, line 18, after "determine," insert—Provided that as far as possible the electoral division shall be a parish or township, or an aggregate of parishes or townships.The Amendment, if carried, would give power to the managers of the Quarter Sessions to cut the counties into electoral divisions. He imagined that these electoral divisions would, in the future, play a considerable part in Local Government. He should like to call the attention of the Government also to the Amendment next but one on the Paper, which was in these terms—Provided, that, subject to any modifications approved of by the Local Government Board, an electoral division of a county shall consist of a parish, or a part of a parish, or an aggre- 194 gation of entire parishes, or an urban sanitary district or part thereof, or an aggregation of entire urban sanitary districts.He did not wish at all to re-open the question of the parish so far as the reform of the Vestry was concerned, the Committee having already decided that point; but he thought the Government, during the second reading debate, admitted that it would be well to make the electoral division units of the common wants and sympathies and conditions. Now, the difficulty of making the parish a unit was its inequality. In some parts it was very populous, in others it had only a few inhabitants; but he thought that if, by this Amendment, they gave an instruction to the magistrates, as far as possible, to keep to the boundaries of a parish, they would obtain not merely a system of grouping parishes by people who were very well acquainted with the circumstances of the county, but would lay the foundation of that great system so much desired, and gradually make the parish the electoral unit, To make the parish the electoral unit would be valuable when they came to deal with the question of valuation—of simplifying and consolidating the areas and authorities in the matter of valuation. He moved the Amendment which stood in his name in the strong hope that the Government would be able to accept it. If they would not accept it here, would they give an undertaking that they would agree to its introduction on a later clause?
said, this appeared to him to be a supplementary direction which would come in better on Clause 52.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS
said, he would move his Amendment merely to elicit some expression of opinion from the Government. It was important, he thought, that they should know definitely what were the principles on which the electoral divisions were to be fixed. It would have materially assisted the deliberations of the Committee if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had been able to give them a Paper showing the number of Councillors it was proposed to have on these Councils when they commenced their proceedings.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he must point out the inconvenience of discussing a question of this character upon what was really a very general clause. 195 Clause 52 was strictly connected with this question, and he was sure the hon. Gentleman would excuse the Government for not entering into a discussion now, which would, when that clause was reached, have to be gone over again. He thought, when the time came, that be should be able to show the hon. Member that this Amendment was not so much at variance with the provisions of the Bill as he supposed.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire,) Arfon
said, he thought it was rather a pity that the Government had not given them their views upon this subject, because, owing to the way in which the Bill was drawn, it would be difficult to discuss the question without having some notion of what the ideas of the Government were. In his opinion it would have been well if the Committee had had an announcement by the Government that this was a principle which they would keep in view, because he agreed that it would not be possible to make the parish the unit of any large district of administration, though they might be of consultation.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
said, he was not willing to postpone his Amendment until they had from the Government a more clear statement of the position they intended to take up with regard to this question. That he thought was necessary to the understanding of the case. He thought, besides, they should have some intimation that the Government agreed to the principle of the Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he must protest against the idea that it was desirable or convenient to press the Government for their opinion with regard to the clause which had not yet been reached.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. A. J. WILLIAMS
said, the first decision of the area of the county was left to the determination of the Court of Quarter Sessions, and he could not help thinking that there ought to be some appeal against the decision of that body. He should have much preferred to have seen in the Bill a provision that an operation of this very important kind should have been performed by a Special Commission. He ventured to suggest to the Government that a great deal of time and trouble would be saved if the same experienced and able men were 196 appointed at once to do this business throughout the country who had so admirably performed their work in 1885 in settling the Parliamentary Divisions at the small cost of only £4,000. He desired to speak with all respect of his brother magistrates; but he suggested that work of this kind, in which a certain amount of political feeling would be involved, was not such as it was right to leave to bodies of gentlemen who were, by general admission throughout the country, naturally not without a distinct political bias in one direction. He had had experience in reference to redistribution in his own county, and he was bound to say that he should look with great concern on the present redistribution if it were to be conducted in the same way. He strongly urged on the Government that some Amendment should be introduced for the purpose of leaving this matter to Special Commissioners; and if the Government did not see their way to this, he should be compelled to move an Amendment for the purpose. Having put the case shortly and plainly to the Government, he sincerely trusted that they would accept his Amendment.
In page 2, line 22, at end, insert—"Provided always, that every decision of justices at quarter sessions as to the electoral divisions in the county shall be by order, notice of which shall be published once at least in every newspaper published in the county. Such order shall be submitted for confirmation to the Local Government Board. If within one month after publication of such notice as aforesaid not less than twenty county electors petition the Local Government Board to disallow the order, the Local Government Board shall cause to be held a local inquiry and determine whether such order shall be confirmed or modified."—(Mr.A.J. Williams.)
§ MR. LONG
said, the hon. Gentleman had put before the Committee two proposals, one of which was embodied in the Amendment he had just moved, and the other was that the same course should be pursued in the present instance as was followed in the case of the Parliamentary Electoral Division—namely, that of appointing Special Commissioners. While acknowledging, as he did most freely, the very moderate and fair way in which the hon. Gentleman had stated his case, he would point out why the Government could not accept the Amendment. The first objection to it was that, in order to constitute these 197 electoral divisions, it would be necessary that three distinct stages should be gone through. It was the desire of the House and the Government that if this Bill passed, as they were confident it would during the present Session, it should come into operation early next year; but if the Amendment were agreed to, it would be impossible that the Bill should come into operation when it was hoped and expected to do, and, moreover, its operation would be postponed for another year. The Government could not, therefore, contemplate the admission of the Amendment proposed. The next proposal was that they should adopt the procedure in connection with the last Reform Bill, by appointing Commissioners to settle the divisions. He might, he believed, endorse the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman as to the work of the Commissioners, which he believed had been done in the best possible way; but he would point out that there was a great difference between the work which they performed and that which had to be done now in connection with this Bill. In the county which he had the honour to represent (Wiltshire), the Commissioners had to constitute only five Parliamentary Divisions, and with respect to them several meetings had to be held, at which objections were taken. But in order to bring the Act into operation in his county they would have to set up 50 or 60 electoral divisions for the purpose of County Council elections; and he suggested to the Committee that the appointment of Commissioners would so delay the Bill as to make it impossible for it to come into operation by the time which the Government desired. The hon. Gentleman also expressed a hope that there should be some appeal against the decision of the magistrates; but he pointed out that this was in the Bill as it stood; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) had stated that the provisions for the alteration and rectification of areas were as large and complete as they possibly could be. Not only were the powers for alteration and rectification of boroughs sufficient; but the hon. Member would find that the County Council was given sufficient power to enable it, if desirable, to make alterations which would constitute fair areas of election. For these reasons, the Government could not accept 198 the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman or the alternative which he suggested.
§ MR. A. J. WILLIAMS
said, he was aware of the power given to the County Councils. But when the work of constituting the areas was done the mischief was irretrievable. He was bound to say he had great distrust of the County Justices in this matter, and he felt the absolute necessity of taking some steps to prevent the consequences which he apprehended. He asked the right hon. Gentleman, at all events, to give the right of appeal to the Local Government Board. With regard to the time necessary for fixing the areas, he undertook to say that the work with regard to a district could be done in one day, and that of a whole county in two.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he did not understand how the hon. Member could say that the mischief would be already done when the area was constituted by the Justices. The idea of the Government was to place in the hands of the County Councils full power over the area as far as it could possibly be done. It was essential that when a Bill of this character had passed, a long interval should not intervene before it came into operation, and they had not set up the machinery contemplated by the hon. Member, because it would undoubtedly take up a considerable amount of time; and he undertook to say further that if the Bill were not passed until the Session was well advanced, and if the plan were adopted, it could not come into operation in January as they proposed. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the practice of Quarter Sessions was inadequate to this matter. But that was not the case. There were distinct provisions in the Bill, in the way of precaution, with regard to the setting up of the electoral divisions; and it was not conceivable that gentlemen who would take so conspicuous a part in the new system would so neglect their duties, or discharge them in so partial a way, as to make the divisions which they constituted unfair to any part of the country, especially as they had clear instructions laid down as to the course they should pursue. Surely, therefore, they might be trusted to do what was right and fair in all the circumstances of the case. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board had pointed out that if there were any objections to 199 a scheme it was in the power of the County Council to consider not only the area, but the number of Councillors; and if an alteration was necessary in the county or borough boundaries they must come to Parliament for a Provisional Order. The County Councils would practically have the matter entirely in their own hands, and the Government, therefore, could not recognize that there was any real foundation for the supposition that the magistrates of Quarter Sessions would not do what was right in this matter, or that if they did wrong there was not ample power in the Bill for that wrong to be set right.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said, he wished to point out that Quarter Sessions were by no means in favour at the present time with regard to the principle on which they arranged the polling districts, and that great cause of complaint had arisen. What they wanted was some clear and distinct guarantee that there should be power of appeal, which could be enforced before it was too late, from the decision at which the Quarter Sessions arrived. The right hon. Gentleman said there was appeal to the County Council. But he said that this, in the great majority of cases, could only come into operation when it was too late, because where the Quarter Sessions decided unfairly a certain number of members of the County Council would have been elected on the basis of the electoral divisions, and then the work of the Council would be performed by means of the system of County Aldermen, and by a system of co-optation. Therefore, he said there should be some means of immediate appeal against the decision of Quarter Sessions.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
said, he regretted that he was not in his place when his name was called in reference to Amendment No. 80, because it was the alternative Amendment to which his hon. Friend (Mr. A. J. Williams) had referred. As the Amendment did not meet with the approbation of the Government, he would suggest a compromise that might with advantage be placed before the Committee as another Amendment. However much hon. Gentlemen opposite might think that the people in the counties placed implicit confidence in Quarter Sessions in a matter of this kind, he would only say that their experience 200 did not coincide with his own. There was the gravest distrust of that body in these matters. But they wished to make no charges against Quarter Sessions; they merely said there was a feeling that this important matter of redistribution ought not to be left in the hands of gentlemen who practically represented only one class, and in whose ultimate decision great numbers of the people, at any rate, had not that implicit reliance which was desirable. They desired to give a good start to the County Councils, to see them started with the confidence of all parties, and they were very far from admitting that this would be the case if these very important arrangements of boundaries was not effected in such a manner as would command the confidence of the whole of the people of the country. If delay were so necessary to be avoided, he did not think it would be difficult to adopt the suggestion that the magistrates should hold a special sessions for the purpose of this business of settling the electoral divisions, and that at such special sessions the ratepayers should be entitled to be represented, in order to place their views before the magistrates, before whom, under the present system, they were not represented. It would be remembered that in the case of the redistribution of seats the ratepayers were entitled to appear before the Commissioners, and express their views with respect to the boundaries. He accepted the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman that there would not be time for the Commissioners to be sent down to do this business, and also that it would cause too much delay if appeal were to lie to the Local Government Board; but he thought it would be found to be necessary for the magistrates to hold a special sessions for the purpose in view, because in the ordinary course of things no sessions could be held until rather late in the autumn at which this business could be dealt with. If it were desirable that such special sessions should be held, he thought it would be only fair that the ratepayers should be represented at them, in order that the authority might be in possession of their views.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he thought that after an examination of Clause 52 the Committee would be of opinion that the discussion at this stage of the Bill was somewhat premature. 201 He should be out of Order if he were to refer in detail to the provisions of that clause; but hon. Members who would refer to it would find that instructions were given in that clause of a character which defined the nature of the boundaries. It seemed to him that in case the Committee, when they reached that clause, thought the instructions there given were too vague, or left in an unfair manner room for the attainment of Party objects, they could make the instructions more clear, definite, and precise. He could not shut out from his mind what took place on the passing of the last Reform Act. At that time the creation of the new polling districts was left by the Liberal Government in the hands of the magistrates. He had the honour of being a member of the Bench of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and, although on the Bench there was a majority of Conservatives, the greatest care was taken that on the different sub-committees, to whom the making of the alteration of the polling districts was delegated, each of the two Parties should be equally represented, and he was sure the greatest pains were taken by those who served on those committees that every elector should have the best opportunity of coming to the poll. So far as he knew, there had not been one complaint of injustice or unfairness in respect to the arrangement of the polling districts in that great Division, the West Riding of Yorkshire. He felt the force of the argument founded on the shortness of time which had been raised, and he believed it to be entirely fatal to the proposition. He knew that in the year after the passing of the last Reform Act it was only by the most severe pressure that the machinery was set going in time for the General Election; and, warned by that experience, he must respectfully suggest to the Committee the expediency of now constructing such machinery that there would be no difficulty or delay. Hon. Members opposite very often talked about economy; but it was impossible that the Inspectors of the Local Government Board could visit the country without being a new cause of expense. The summary of his remarks was that this discussion was premature, that it would be better to deal with the subject when they came to Clause 52, and would be called upon to consider what safe- 202 guards ought to be provided in favour of equal justice to all sections of the people.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, he did not want to dogmatize as to what might be the best method of accomplishing their desire; but he put it to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board whether it was not possible for him to reconsider his decision, and to find a way for them out of the difficulty? Now, he did not agree that the proposal in the Bill would be satisfactory; that was his first proposition. He expected that there would be a natural—whether just or unjust he would not say—but a natural dissatisfaction in the counties at the probable and actual decision of the magistrates. In boroughs the existing authority would have the settling of the polling districts; but in counties the County Councils could not have that, because they were not as yet formed. His argument was that it was not probable that the public, as a whole, would be entirely satisfied with the decisions of the Quarter Sessions; and that it was desirable that there should be an appeal against the decision of the Quarter Sessions, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman might find a way of giving such an appeal. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to have the work done in time. He (Mr. Stansfeld) was not quite sure about that. The magistrates might be directed to set about the work at an early date, so that there would be time to hear any appeal. The right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that the officers of the Local Government Board were able men, and men who, upon the whole, the public trusted. It seemed to him that it was not advisable—he should think it was not necessary—if the right hon. Gentleman would give his attention to the subject, to expect and call upon the public to be satisfied with the decision without any appeal. He confined himself now to suggesting to the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not give them some hope that they might devise a plan which would give an appeal. He could not think that that was impossible. Of course, it was most likely that the number of appeals would be very limited.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was very much afraid that if the right hon. Gentleman, 203 whose experience was infinitely greater than anything he could lay claim to, had been unable to suggest what the nature of the change which was desired should be, he could not hold out very much hope that he would be able to devise a method by which the desires of hon. Gentlemen would be satisfied. He could not but think that Quarter Sessions could be trusted, even by those who had some mistrust of them, especially in view of the provisions of Clause 52 to do something which was not, at any rate, conspicuously unfair. He could not imagine that the scheme of the Quarter Sessions would be of such a nature that the County Council, when constituted, would not be a fitting judge of it. The whole basis of the Government proposal was that the County Council should be the judge; that they should be able to put right that which was wrong. He was afraid he could not invent a method which would be more satisfactory than that they proposed. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that the Quarter Sessions should be pressed to take action early. But they could not commence the work until the Bill was passed, and the right hon. Gentleman knew that between August and September and the election in November there was very little time in which to arrange the polling districts. He was afraid he could not hope to propose a better plan than that, first of all, those gentlemen who were accustomed to county work should, under the directions of the Bill, set out the electoral divisions, and that afterwards the County Councils should have full power to reconsider the electoral divisions so as to amend them if necessary.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said, he thought the President of the Local Government Board had not correctly understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld). His right hon. Friend did not at all object to the County Councils having, eventually, to deal with this matter. So far, they were perfectly satisfied with the proposals in the Bill. But what they wished to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill was that it could not be expected that the public would be entirely satisfied with the Quarter Sessions as the authority for settling the boundaries, unless an ap- 204 peal was given. What they asked for was a very simple thing. He quite admitted there were very clear directions laid down in Clause 52; that they would bind the Quarter Sessions to a considerable extent; and that Quarter Sessions would have to keep within those directions in the consideration of the electoral districts. But there would be very much greater confidence felt if there was a power of appeal. Probably, as Clause 52 set out so many directions, the appeal would only be exercised in a very few instances. The great safeguard would be in the power of appeal. With respect to boroughs, the right hon. Gentleman was able to give satisfaction to the Committee, because he had an authority already constituted; but if hon. Gentlemen looked at the last subsection of Clause 52, they would find, as regarded London, that the Local Government Board would constitute the authority for settling, in the first instance, the electoral divisions. Let him point out that in the Municipal Corporations Act, the guidance of which the right hon. Gentleman proposed in most respects to follow, it was provided that when a borough was established, or when the boundaries of wards had to be settled, a Commissioner nominated by the Home Secretary should be sent down to fix the boundaries. There might be difficulty in following that exact precedent in this case; but if the right hon. Gentleman followed that precedent, he (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) and his hon. Friends would be perfectly satisfied. They did not object at all as to the future; what they complained of were the arrangements for the election of the first County Council. The President of the Local Government Board would save a good deal of time in the discussion of this particular part of the Bill if he would at once concede that which seemed a perfectly reasonable demand—namely, that in the settlement of the polling districts there should be a right of appeal from the Quarter Sessions to the Local Government Board.
§ MR. WHARTON
said, he must protest against the idea that there should be any unfairness on the part of the Quarter Sessions. The Quarter Sessions had settled the polling districts for the County of Durham, and there had never been uttered one word of complaint. That Quarter Sessions were actuated 205 by Party motives in such matters was a suggestion he strongly repudiated.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had rested his argument very largely on the directions given in Clause 52; but he (Mr. Channing) desired to remind the Committee that the directions in Clause 22, except as regards the boundaries of sanitary areas, were more arithmetical. The clause did not contain any directions to the Quarter Sessions of the same character as the directions given to the Commissioners who had to settle the electoral divisions under the Redistribution of Seats Act. One of the directions under that Act was that the Commissioners should arrange the districts so that they should include a population of one type and common general interests and character, whereas Clause 52 simply directed the Quarter Sessions to adopt, as far as possible, electoral districts equal in population. Practically the hands of the magistrates were left absolutely unfettered; they could draw the lines wherever they chose. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Ripon Division (Mr. Wharton) said he never heard the action of the Quarter Sessions challenged. In the county he (Mr. Channing) had the honour to represent he had heard too many complaints of the action of the Quarter Sessions with regard to the arrangements of the polling districts in 1885 to acquiesce in that statement. In placing this power in the hands of the Quarter Sessions, the Government were placing a temptation in the hands of gentlemen, who, individually and as a class, were specially interested, to arrange the polling districts so as to obtain a majority favourable to their views at the first County Council. [Cries of "No, no!"] He should be very glad to hear the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the contrary. He thought that either by granting the right of appeal, or by setting out in Clause 52 more definite directions, the Government would do much to secure confidence in the impartiality of the arrangement of the electoral districts.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, he could not help thinking that the opinions of some of his hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches were very much exaggerated. He entirely agreed with his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Wharton) 206 as to the county of Durham. Durham was an intensely Radical county. It was a county, nevertheless, where a great majority of the magistrates were Conservatives—in fact, he did not know a place in England of which that was not true since the present Lord Chancellor came into power. But, notwithstanding this fact, the people of Durham had no reason to complain, and he did not believe they would have under the arrangement the Government now suggested. He was afraid when the last Reform Bill was under discussion that they would have some reason to complain; but after the experience they had had he was quite content. He knew it would be urged that their Commissioners were appointed. That was true. And it was said that now the arrangement of the polling districts rested with the Quarter Sessions. But what he particularly wanted to point out to the Liberals sitting near him was that the Quarter Sessions were closely bound up and regulated in the matter. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) referred to Clause 52. He could not think that the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken from the Front Opposition Bench had considered Clause 52 very carefully. He could not discuss the clause at this stage of the proceedings; but he might, perhaps, be allowed to state what were the regulations or conditions under which the Quarter Sessions must act. He found it was proposed that the first condition should be that the Quarter Sessions should arrange the divisions according to the population. More than that, he found that they must have regard to every present urban sanitary district and every rural sanitary district—that they must form their electoral divisions either by making one of these districts a division, if it were big enough, or by combining two or more if they were small, but it must not, and it should not, divide any one of these districts so as to jerrymander the constituency. Under these circumstances he said freely that there was no Quarter Sessions in the country he would not trust. He begged to suggest to his less Radical Friends that they should not get exaggerated fears on the point, but trust to Providence in the matter. Well, let him tell the Committee what happened in the County of Durham after the Reform Bill was passed. He did not— 207 a great many people did not—care what electoral divisions were made—they felt perfectly comfortable. They got eight divisions, and they felt perfectly sure that as long as the sun shone they would be able to send eight Radicals to Parliament. What happened? At the very first election two Liberal Unionists were returned. After that he came to the conclusion that it did not much matter what the Quarter Sessions or any body should arrange as to the polling districts. The opinions of a district were continually changing. There was nobody, not even the cleverest man amongst them, who would venture to foretell what would be the issue in the different counties. County matters would not be settled by considerations of Radicalism or Toryism. A great many other considerations would enter into the settlement. There would be plenty of opportunities of discussing all sorts of questions on this Bill, and, therefore, he suggested to his hon. Friends that this particular point might very safely be left to the Quarter Sessions.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had challenged him to devise a method by which it might be possible to do what they wished in the time which was permitted to them. In consequence of that challenge he would make a suggestion, and it was that Sub-section (c) should read in this way—In the rest of the county the electoral divisions shall be such as in the case of a borough returning more than one councillor the council of the borough, and in the rest of the county the quarter sessions for the county, with the approval of the Local Government Board, may determine.All that would be necessary in that case would be that there should be a sufficient margin of time for the Local Government Board, using their own ample machinery, to revise, in the interests of the public, the determinations or the decisions of the Quarter Sessions of the various counties. He could not see that it would be impossible for the Local Government Board officials to perform their functions in the necessary time. He did not doubt the Quarter Sessions' impartiality, but he maintained that it was not advisable, under the circumstances, to put the Quarter Sessions in the position of having to act a judicial 208 part which some persons might think they performed with partiality. It must be borne in mind that the Quarter Sessions were the body who were going to be disestablished and displaced by the new County Councils, and it was not likely they would be considered by the public necessarily impartial in a matter of this kind. Why not save them from any possible imputation in the matter, which they could easily do by the insertion of the words "with the approval of the Local Government Board?"
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the right hon. Gentleman knew well enough the multiplicity of duties which were at present placed on the shoulders of the Local Government Board; he knew perfectly well that the staff at the command of the Local Government Board was certainly not greater than was required to do the work. What the right hon. Gentleman proposed must mean either something or nothing. If it meant that, as a matter of course, the Local Government Board were to give their approval, it meant nothing. If it meant that they were to ascertain through their Inspectors, or by means of local inquiries, that the proposals for dividing the county into electoral districts were right and just as between one party and another, it meant more than the Local Government Board could possibly undertake. Therefore, he was very much afraid that the solution which the right hon. Gentleman proposed was one which would not get rid of the difficulty. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) had paid valuable testimony to the services which had hitherto been rendered by the Justices, and to the confidence which might be placed in their proper performance of the duties cast upon them by this clause. He (Mr. Ritchie) could hardly think that anyone who had studied Clause 52 could have the smallest fear either that Quarter Sessions would not do their duty, or that the way in which they did it would render them open to the slightest suspicion.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, the whole object of the Bill, as he understood it, was to take county government out of the hands of Quarter Sessions, and put it in the hands of the people. That was the broad democratic view Her Majesty's Government expressed, and yet one of their first 209 operations in Committee was to give to the Quarter Sessions the duty of arranging the electoral districts, and to provide that there should be no right of appeal. In the constituency which he had the honour to represent, the Quarter Sessions had arranged, in their wisdom, polling places which had given universal dissatisfaction. [Cries of "No, no!"] He was speaking of his own district. Hon. Gentlemen said "No, no!" but they knew nothing about the matter. He was sure he should be borne out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), who did know something about the subject, when he said the arrangement of the polling districts was a most crying evil. His (Sir John Swinburne's) constituents had made representations upon the subject, but all to no purpose. What happened in 1885 would happen in this case. And yet Her Majesty's Government refused them the slightest appeal, even to the Local Government Board. He sincerely hoped the Government would reconsider their decision. He could not add anything to what had been said by hon. Members sitting around him, except that it was very illogical that when they were taking the government of counties out of the hands of the Quarter Sessions they should give power to Quarter Sessions and allow no appeal.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
said, he would not stand more than a minute or two between the Committee and a Division. He only wished to say how cordially he agreed with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey). Gloucestershire Liberals could trust the Gloucestershire Quarter Sessions. The Quarter Sessions were not a body, in his county, who would do the shabby things suggested; and it would not pay them to do such things if they could do them. Even if a Quarter Sessions acted on Party lines, and put all the blue districts together and all the yellow districts together, they would fail to effect their object. He believed the Quarter Sessions could be trusted to do this work fairly. Personally, he would rather leave it to the Quarter Sessions than to the Local Government Board, which, of course, must be governed by the political Chiefs for the time being.
§ MR. H. T. DAVENPORT (Staffordshire, Leek)
said, he merely rose in 210 consequence of the observations of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Swinburne). He had the honour to represent a Division of Staffordshire, and he had also the honour of being a member of the Quarter Sessions. He was a member of the committee appointed to arrange the polling districts throughout Staffordshire under the Redistribution of Seats Act, and he asserted most distinctly that if there had been any complaint in any part of the county as to the unsuitability of the electoral arrangements he should have heard of it. He had never heard of any sort of complaint. He, therefore, protested most emphatically against the imputation the hon. Baronet had cast upon the Quarter Sessions of which he was a member.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
said, that in support of his original statement he had only to say that hundreds of men—miners—had at the last election to walk four miles in a pouring rain before they could record their votes.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 178; Noes 256: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 151.)
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he had to propose the addition of the wordsߞProvided that quarter sessions shall meet for such purposes in special session, at which any ratepayer shall be entitled to be heard.He assured the Committee he did not move this Amendment in any hostile sense. He was not desirous of making any charge against the magistrates, either in his own county or in other counties; but there was a feeling, certainly in Cornwall, that the ratepayers should have something to say in this important matter, and he thought it was only fair that they should have the right to represent their views at the Sessions at which the matter was to be settled. The President of the Local Government Board would not deny it would be necessary that a special session of the Quarter Sessions should be held for the purpose of fixing the boundaries; and all he (Mr. Conybeare) asked was that the ratepayers should be entitled to make their views known to the magistrates on this subject, just as they were entitled to be heard, and just as they were heard, by the Commission who fixed the electoral divisions under the Redistribution of Seats Act.
In page 2, line 22, at end of sub-section, add—"Provided that quarter sessions shall meet for such purpose in special session at which any ratepayer shall be entitled to be heard."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he thought the Quarter Sessions could be trusted to take right and proper steps for fulfilling the duty cast upon them under this clause without minute and special instructions such as the hon. Gentleman wished to give. Quarter Sessions had long been in the habit of exercising most important functions in their various counties, and everybody acknowledged that this Bill was not necessitated by any failure on their part to perform their duty adequately and well. To give the magistrates such minute instructions as that now proposed would be to cast an unnecessary slur upon them.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. He did not propose any instruction whatever; he merely asked that the ratepayers, who were certainly concerned in the matter just as much as the Quarter Sessions, should be entitled to represent their views as to the different points which might arise in the discussion of what was evidently in some respects a delicate matter.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said, he desired to propose an Amendment adapting the single transferable vote to the case of single-member elections, where no candidate received a clear majority of the votes given. In almost every country where the single-member system was in operation, it had been found necessary to adopt a system of second ballot. At a recent German General. Election there were second elections in some 25 percent. of the constituencies. In our rural elections it was likely that in many cases more than two candidates would stand. The plan proposed would obviate the expense of a second election by practically taking the two together. Suppose, forinstance, three candidates were standing. The elector would be allowed to indicate the order of his preference by marking the candidates respectively 1 and 2. 212 Suppose that out of 1,000 electors 400 voted for A, 350 for B, and 250 for C. Then C would be declared not elected, and his votes would be distributed between A and B, as indicated by the electors. In that manner they would secure that the representative returned was really the choice of a majority of the electors. His (Sir John Lubbock's) Friends with whom he acted regarded this as a matter of much importance, and hoped it would receive the attention of the Government. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board did not see his way to accept the suggestion, he (Sir John Lubbock) would not press it to a Division; but he hoped the Government would consider it before Report.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he hoped the hon. Baronet would not press the Amendment. They had already had a discussion upon proportional representation, and this Amendment was somewhat akin to that subject. Of course, everything the hon. Baronet said merited consideration, but he (Mr. Ritchie) was afraid he could hold out but very faint hope of the Government adopting the present Amendment.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, the right hon. Gentleman had evidently not considered the Amendment which had nothing whatever to do with proportional representation; its object was simply that no one should be elected who did not receive a majority of the votes. He would not, however, press the Amendment against the wish of the Government.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE
said, the object of the Amendment he had now to propose was that the Chairman of the Council should always be one of the elected Councillors. It would be seen that if the Chairman was not one of the elected Councillors he might not be in accord with the majority of the time.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 30, insert—"(a) He shall be one of the elected councillors."—(Mr. Seale-Hayne.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that as the Committee had adopted the proposal in the Bill in reference to the aldermanic 213 element it would be casting a very unnecessary slur upon the Aldermen if they were to say that none of them should be the Chairman of the Council. It would be strictly unfair to say that a selected Councillor should not be able to rise to the highest position in the Council.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 282: Majority 131.—(Div. List, No. 152.)
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, that when he put down the Amendment standing in his name on the Paper which would provide for enlarging the term of office of the Chairman of the County Council from three years to six, he had put another down dealing with the form in which the Council was to be elected; and as the Committee had rejected a similar Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), he did not think it would be advisable to enter into the question of the duration of the Chairman's term of office until they knew what the Government intended to do in regard to the decision arrived at on Monday night. He did not propose, therefore, to move his Amendment.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, the next Amendment which was in his name was in principle directed to the same point as the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) had just declined to move. His (Mr. Conybeare's) proposal was that the Chairman of the County Council should hold office not for three years but for one year, and should be eligible for re-election. This proposal was a very simple one, and he thought they were entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who was constantly quoting to them the Municipal Corporations Act, why he had not, in the case of the duration of the term of office of the Chairman of the County Council, followed the rule laid down in that Act with regard to the Chairman of a Municipal Council? The Chairmen of Borough Councils were elected for one year, and he had never heard that the system had worked badly. He had frequently heard of Mayors who had properly fulfilled their duties being re- 214 elected. He could quote many cases in Cornwall where they had been re-elected after having satisfactorily gone through their first term of office. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board could have no good reason for departing from the model he had chosen to follow in the whole of this Bill. If he did not adopt the principle of this or some similar Amendment, it would appear that the right hon. Gentleman had some hidden motive for not adhering to the popular term which hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House were disposed to advocate.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 31, to leave out the words "three years," and insert "one year, but he should be eligible for re-election."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was much obliged to the hon. Gentleman opposite for asking the question he had done, as to why he (Mr. Ritchie) had not followed the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act, and he trusted the explanation he would give would be satisfactory. He desired to explain that under the Municipal Corporations Act each electoral division had three members, and one of those retired each year. There was thus an infusion of one-third of the whole electoral body into the Council every year, which materially altered the constitution of the Council; and the reason why, under the Municipal Corporations Act, a Mayor retained office for only one year was to give an opportunity to the new members who had lately joined the Council to record their votes in the choice of a Chairman. As the hon. Member would see, the reason they had adopted the term of three years in the present Bill was that it had been so far decided by the Committee that the whole body of the Councillors should retire every three years. The analogy, so far as that point was concerned, between the present Bill and the Municipal Corporations Act was not complete.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (, &c.) Kirkcaldy
said, it seemed to him that the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Go- 215 vernment Board for departing from the principle of the Municipal Corporations Act was a very unsatisfactory one. He desired to get a better reason from the right hon. Gentleman than that which he had given. The one-year system had been tried in England; but in Scotland, where they managed these things much better, they had adopted the three-years' system. That plan gave great satisfaction; it afforded greater stability to their Municipal Institutions; and under it they were not so much in the hands of Town Clerks and local officials. The Provost at the head of a Scotch Municipality was more independent than an English Mayor, who, being elected annually, fell more into the hands of the permanent officials.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, he did not think the boroughs of England would be likely to favour the idea of departing from the time-honoured system of annually electing their Mayor, and he must express his astonishment that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had not followed the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act in the present Bill. He (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) desired to call attention to this point—that it was now the practice of that Body which governed our county affairs to elect its Chairman every year. The Annual Session of the County of Lancaster elected its Chairman every year. It was true that the Annual Session had chosen the same Chairman for many years, and if annual elections were adopted in the case of the Chairmen of County Councils no doubt the same practice would prevail. The right hon. Gentleman, in his reply just now, had assumed that the arrangement of the Bill would result in the County Councils remaining intact for three years, when there would be a change in them. He (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) thought, however, from what was proposed the other night by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, they were to understand that that subject was to be reconsidered by the Government. He thought some hope was held out that a third of the Council would have to be re-elected every two years. If that were so, it would point to the Chairman holding office for a less period than three years. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman 216 to follow the precedent of the elections in connection with the Annual Session of Lancaster.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he quite understood that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury gave an undertaking that the Government would reconsider the term for which the County Councillors were to be elected; and, of course, if that point were reconsidered, and an alteration were made in that part of the Bill, he recognized that it was right and fitting that some proposal should also be made with reference to the term of office of the Chairman; but until the three years' term of office for Councillors was altered he thought it would be better to adhere to the proposal in the Bill.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he was willing to withdraw his Amendment for the moment on a distinct understanding being come to on this point. He quite understood what had been pointed out by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth)—namely, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had practically promised to reconsider the question as to the position of the County Aldermen, and had expressed himself in favour of the view that there should be Councils elected for a period of six years, a third retiring by rotation every two years. He mentioned that merely to point out to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board what appeared to him very clear—namely, that if they retained the provision for a three-years' term of office by the Chairman, it would not square with the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury appeared to be prepared to recommend. He should like to ask whether the Government would place their final proposal before the Committee before they concluded Section 2, as he was not at all clear that it would be advisable to wait for the Report stage on the whole Bill, because, according to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, it would be a long time before they arrived at that stage. If the Government would promise to bring up their proposals as to the Councils generally, which would involve the determination of the question of the Chairman's term of office, before the Question was put that Clause 2 stand 217 part of the Bill, he would not press his Amendment to a Division. However, unless the Government were prepared to give the Committee an opportunity of considering and settling this important point, he should feel it his duty, if he met with any support on that (the Opposition) side of the House, to take a Division.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY) (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
said, it would be in the recollection of the Committee that what he had undertaken was to reconsider the question referred to between the Committee stage and the Report stage of the Bill, and to make a statement to the House on Report. He could not undertake to do more than that.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he could not see that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) was at all bound up with the tenure of office of the elective Councillors. If a Council which was elected for three years had to elect its Chairman for one year, the same Council could re-elect a Chairman if it thought him a suitable man. It seemed to him that it would be a more sensible plan that they should have the Chairman elected for one year, and eligible for re-election if he desired it. They would have entirely new Councils brought together, and largely composed of new men unaccustomed to work together, and there would be a great difficulty in finding out who was the best man for Chairman when they met. It would be a pity that they should be saddled for any length of time with an unsuitable man; therefore, the term of office should not be a long one. Of course, as he had pointed out, if the Chairman elected for a year was found to be suitable, he could be re-elected as often as it was thought desirable. He hoped the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division would persist in his Amendment and divide the Committee upon it, not only because the question of the length of the term of office of the Councillors was to be deferred for a long time—a fact which he was very sorry for—but also because he could not see that the two questions were in any way bound up with one another.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he would put it to the right hon. Gentleman the 218 First Lord of the Treasury whether it would not be more convenient to the Committee, and quite as convenient for the Government, if he made his statement when they came to Clause 36, which dealt with the application of the Act to the Metropolis as County of London?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he certainly would endeavour to give the Committee the earliest information on the matter, but he only reminded the Committee of what was the understanding arrived at a few days ago, and he thought it always desirable that Parliamentary understandings should literally be adhered to.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART
said, the objection to frequent elections in the case of Councillors was that it would lead to great expense; but that objection could not apply to the election of a Chairman. He would put it to the Government that having established, in the first place, that the election of Councillors should not be frequent on the ground, of expense, it was inconsequent to insist that the Committee had come to a conclusion on this point, which was an entirely different matter.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, as there was some doubt as to the Scotch example, he desired to say that the Committee should consider that the County Councils were not only to be deliberative Bodies, but Bodies to replace the present deliberative Bodies of the counties. Well, it was impossible that they should have an efficient administrative functionary if they were continually chopping and changing. To have an efficient administrator at the head of their county they must have a man who had some chance of showing his administrative powers. He hoped the Government would very seriously consider this matter before they yielded to pressure.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, he had some hesitation in addressing the Committee after the very modest speech they had just heard from the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy as to the value of the example he had placed 219 before them. The hon. Member did not seem to be aware of the fact that they had a custom in England, when a gentleman was elected to a responsible position, and gained the confidence of his fellows in that position, to re-elect him on the expiration of his term of office. But, by making the election an annual one, instead of having it every three years, it had given those on whom rested the duty of making the choice an opportunity of getting rid of a man who, instead of being capable of the discharge of the functions of his office, proved himself what was commonly called a bore. Annual elections enabled electors to get rid of persons they did not care for, and to try the experiment of putting other men in their places who might be more capable than those they succeeded. He thought this was one of those instances in which the Government had departed from their model—the Municipal Corporations Act—in a manner which they were not to be congratulated upon. It seemed to him that they were most unfortunate when they swerved from the principles of the Municipal Corporations Act, because such a departure was always in the direction pointed out by Conservative policy.
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he hoped the Government would stick to the term in the Bill, and leave the whole question open to be decided when the Committee knew what the view of the Government was as to the term of office of the County Councillors.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
said, that the Chairmanship of School Boards was a good example to justify the proposal of a three years' tenure of office by the Chairman of a County Council. But, supposing the term of office in the Bill for County Councillors was altered to six years, a third of them retiring every two years, he should strongly object to the Chairman being elected for six years. However, when they came to discuss the question as to whether the Councillors should be elected for three years or six years, they would be able to decide the question of the term of office of the Chairman with fuller information. If some understanding as to the course to be adopted was not come to by the Government he should not be able to vote with them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that when the proposal in regard to County Councils came up, whether the proposal were adopted or not, that would be the time for the Committee to consider whether the three years' term of office in the case of Chairmen should remain or not. The Government were strongly in favour of the three years' term. They thought that good would be done by adopting the proposal as it stood in the Bill in giving stability. There would be greater stability given to a presiding officer by allowing him to hold office for three years than in making the term simply one year.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, E.)
said, he wished to point out that Boards of Guardians and Local Boards of Health appointed their Chairman once a-year. He had the honour to be a member of a Local Board, whose deliberations were presided over by a Chairman who had held office for 16 years; but then he was re-elected annually. It seemed to him that it would be a greater honour to a Chairman to be elected annually than to be appointed for a number of years.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART
said, that where they would only be able to get one man who would serve as as Chairman for three years they would be able to get 10 to serve for one year. The difficulty would be to get men of honour and ability, and with spare cash at their command, who would take the responsible position of a Chairman of a County Council, and he was confident the Committee would be limiting the choice of the Councillors by making the term of office three years.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 260; Noes 178: Majority 82.—(Div. List, No. 153.)
§ MR. HENEAGE
said, he begged to propose Amendment No. 103, standing in his name, which was as follows:—In page 2, line 31, after "and," insert "he shall by virtue of his office be a justice of the peace for the county."
In page 2, line 31, after the word "and," insert the words "he shall by virtue of his office be a justice of the peace for the county."—(Mr. Henage.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he begged to move the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), to leave out the following paragraph:—"(c) He must be qualified to be a justice of the peace for the county; and."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 32, leave out paragraph (c).—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ MR. HENEAGE
rose to Order. He desired to move to leave out paragraph (d.), which was as follows:—He shall, by virtue of his office, be a justice of the peace for the county, and if there is any liberty or borough in the county having a separate commission of the peace, for that liberty or borough also, and shall, unless disqualified to be chairman of the county council, continue to be such a justice during the year immediately after he ceases to hold his office.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 34, to leave out paragraph (d.)—(Mr. Heneage.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had received representations from many boroughs which would render it desirable that these words should not be retained. He would, therefore, agree to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he wished to know, as a matter of Order, whether it would be competent for him now to move his Amendment, No. 116, which had reference to the paragraph the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) proposed to leave out? The Chairman had called upon him just now to move his Amendment.
If the paragraph is struck out, of course the hon. Member's Amendment will fall to the ground.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he had not the smallest objection to the omission of the paragraph; but he thought, as a matter of Order, that as the Chairman 222 had called upon him he ought to have been permitted to make his statement upon the Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the hon. Member's Amendment would be altogether unnecessary, as, by the omission of the sub-section, the object he had in view would be secured.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he now had to move Amendment No. 124—namely, at the end of Clause 2, to add—(e.) He shall be entitled to receive as salary during the term of his office such sum, not exceeding pounds per annum, as the council may determine.He had left a blank for the amount of salary the Chairman would be paid supposing the Amendment were carried; but he certainly thought that the Chairman should receive a salary of some kind or other, as a great deal of work would be thrown upon his shoulders. He would, in all probability, be an ex officio member of all Standing Committees and most of the permanent Committees connected with the County Council, which would occupy a great deal of his time and impose upon him a large amount of labour; and, under the circumstances, it was very desirable that he should receive remuneration. He submitted the Amendment in the belief that it would be difficult to find men who would accept all the onerous duties of the office of Chairman unless there was something in the nature of emolument attached to that position.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he was not so well versed in the question of salaries to public officials as some hon. and right hon. Members opposite. He did not wish to make the remuneration equal to that attached to Cabinet rank in the Ministry; but if the omission in the Amendment interfered with its admissibility he would get rid of the blank by striking out the words "not exceeding pounds per annum," which would make the Amendment read "such sum as the council may determine." If this was not acceptable he would fill in the 223 blank with a nominal amount, say £300 a-year.
In page 2, at end of the Clause to add the words:—(e.) "He shall be entitled to receive as salary during the term of his office such sum as the council may determine."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question, "That those words be there added," put, and negatived.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
rose to move Amendment 126, as follows:—In page 2, at end, to add—(6) "From and after the passing of this Act every justice of the peace shall be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant of the county upon the recommendation of the county council, and every parish shall be entitled to nominate, and, through the elected representatives on the county council, to demand the appointment of one or more of such persons as they may deem fit to act as resident justices of the peace for the said parishes. And the selected councillors shall in every case be taken from among the local justices of the peace so nominated and appointed as aforesaid.It would, perhaps, be rather dangerous for him to remark upon this Amendment.
The Amendment No. 126 is out of Order, and I therefore call upon the hon. Member to move Amendment No. 127.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, that the next Amendment on the Paper, No. 127, was in his name, and he should certainly like to say something in explanation of the proposal contained in it, which he believed was a novel one. The Amendment was as follows:—In page 2, at end, add—(5.) As respects the standing committee of the councillors—(a) The county council shall elect by ballot from among its own members a standing committee, for the purposes of superintending the administration of the county in the intervals of the sittings of the county council, and of regulating and controlling the county finance;(b.) The term of office of a member of the standing committee shall be three years;On the ordinary day of election of the member of the standing committee in every year, one-third of the whole number of the standing committee shall go out of office and their place shall be filled by election;The third to go out shall be the members of the standing committee who have been longest in office;(c.) If the county districts are less than in number, then so far as is possible one member at least of the standing committee shall be chosen from each 224 county district, that is to say, he shall be either an elective councillor returned by or a selected councillor residing in an electoral division comprised in or comprising or consisting of the county district from which he shall be deemed to be chosen. If the county districts are or more than in number, then the county council shall from time to time combine the county districts or some of them into groups for the purposes of this section, and so far as is possible one member at least of the standing committee shall be chosen in the manner before mentioned from each of the county districts (if any) which have not been included in any such group of county districts, and one member at least of the standing committee shall be chosen from each of such groups of county districts as if each of such group of county districts were a single county district;(d.) On a casual vacancy upon the standing committee arising, an election shall be held in the same manner as an election to fill an ordinary vacany, and the councillor elected shall continue to be a member of the standing committee until the councillor in whose place he is elected would regularly have ceased to be a member of the standing committee, and he shall then cease to be a member of the standing committee;(e.) The chairman of the county council shall be ex officio a member of the standing committee during his term of office;(f.) At every meeting of the standing committee the chairman of the county council, if present, shall be chairman. If the chairman of the county council is absent, then such member of the standing committee as the members of the standing committee then present shall choose shall be chairman;(g.) The standing committee shall from time to time make standing orders for the regulation of their proceedings and business, and may from time to time vary or revoke the same; but any standing orders so made, and any decision of the standing committee for varying or revoking the same, shall be submitted to the county council for their approval;(h.) There shall be paid to each member of the standing committee out of the county fund, as a general county purpose, a sum not exceeding one pound sterling per day during his attendance at the sittings of the committee.Though there was a great deal to be said for it, he would prefer to let the question stand over till to-morrow, as the hour for adjournment had almost arrived. He would, therefore, move to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Conybeare.)225
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he would make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman not to press the Motion, as it seemed to him (Mr. Ritchie) that if the hon. Member desired to take the decision of the Committee on the Amendment it would be much more convenient to do so at a later stage of the Bill. It was hardly germane to the present clause, and would be more appropriately dealt with when they arrived at that part referring to the instructions given to the County Council. He understood that the hon. Gentleman desired to enact that there should be Standing Committees, and that point could be fairly discussed at a subsequent stage. If the hon. Member would withdraw his Motion they would probably be able to get through Clause 2 that night.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he certainly could not explain what he desired to effect by this Amendment in the three minutes which was left to them before the hour at which the House, by the new Rules, must adjourn. He was not sure that they could not have discussed the principle contained in the Amendment before proceeding to other parts of the Bill, and it seemed to him that it would have been desirable to have the principle of this Amendment in their minds before discussing the question of the control of the police; but he would yield to the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, asking him to be kind enough to state upon what clause his Amendment could best be discussed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, the Amendment standing in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for the Lonsdale Division of Lancashire (Mr. Ainslie) was an important one, and had been put down at the request of the Lancashire magistrates; but as it would not be possible to discuss it that night, perhaps the Government would undertake to consider it, with a view to its acceptance at a later stage. 226 It was as follows:—In page 2, at end, add—As respects the vice-chairman of council, it shall be the duty of the chairman, as soon as may be after his election as chairman, to appoint a councillor to act as vice-chairman during the illness or absence of the chairman, and to till any vacancy which may occur in the office of vice-chairman. A vice-chairman may, while acting as such, do all acts which the chairman as such might do, and shall be entitled to take the chair at any meeting of the council at which the chairman is not present.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, that this was an important matter, in which a great number of people in Lancashire were interested. There seemed to be no power in the Bill, as it stood, to enable a County Council to appoint a Vice-Chairman, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would consider the desirability of creating such a power on Report.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.