§ [Progress, 21st November.]
§ [FIFTH NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 2 (Parish meetings).
In page 2, line 7, after the word "elected," to insert the words "but subject to the provisions of thy Act respecting the separate representation of ownership and other voters."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate resumed.
§ * MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, the Amendment before the Committee raised a very important subject, which must be fully considered by the Committee, and it was just as well that it should be considered on ibis Amendment as on a subsequent clause, as suggested by the President of the Local Government Board. The question was, how far and in what way owners of property should be represented on Parish and District Councils. It was generally admitted by the Committee that owners of property bore a considerable share of local taxation, and it had also been admitted that they ought to have representation on Parish and District Councils. The Government had recognised this claim by taking the Parliamentary Register, which comprised owners of property, as one of the Registers on which the elections should take place. The question, therefore, narrowed itself down into the way in which effect should be given to the 1474 principle, and the extent to which representation of owners should be embodied in the Bill. The Government proposed to mix the owners up with the other voters, and to give them voles in the selection of the people who were to sit on those Councils. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) proposed that there should be a separate set of representatives for owners, and that they should be elected by owners in a separate list. Such a proposal, of course, if agreed lo, would involve a considerable change in the Bill. As far as the Government proposition was concerned, he could not help thinking that the representation of the owners would depend very much on the influence the owners might be able to exercise as voters upon the rest of the voting community. Possibly that might in these days be the only recognised legitimate voice which owners ought to possess. But, assuming that to be so, it would be necessary to take care that all the owners were on the list. He was not at all sure that the Parliamentary Register would give anything like the number of owners who ought to vote for Parish and District Councils. Take the case of London. The voters for the Parish Councils would be the voters for the Boards of Guardians——
* THE CHAIRMAN
I do not think it is in Order on this Amendment to discuss the election of Poor Law Guardians. That will come on Clause 19.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON
said, it was not his intention to dwell upon that subject, but only to illustrate his argument by referring to it. In London the Parliamentary Register, so far as owners were concerned, would comprise in the main only the freeholders; but under the leasehold system there wore an enormous number of property owners in London other than the freeholders. If, therefore, all the owners of property were to have votes, it would be necessary to make some special provision to enable those who had leasehold interests to be put on the Register.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER,) Wolverhampton, E.
I am sorry, Mr. Mellor, to have to rise to 1475 Order; but I would point out that there is no provision in the Bill for parish meetings in London.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON
said, he could not, help thinking that it would be a most convenient thing that this point should he discussed on the present Amendment.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I cannot permit a discussion of that kind. We have so much to do that it is impossible to allow any irrelevant discussion.
§ * MR. T. H. BOLTON
went on to point out that the votes of occupiers on the Register would to a large extent swamp the properly vote, and that unless precautions were taken to provide that all property interests were represented on it, the owners of property would not get their fair representation. He quite sympathised with the object of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), but was afraid that the proposal he made was impracticable. The only way he (Mr. Bolton) could think of for protecting the owners and for securing to them some full control, was to provide that any large expenditure, inflicting heavy taxation or debt upon a parish, must receive the approval of a certain proportion of the voters—two-thirds, or three-fourths, or four-fifths: when the votes of the property-owners would probably be effective to prevent extravagance. The Government itself had conceded the principle of this by an Amendment which stood later on the Paper. There was a, proposal in the Bill with reference to the adoption of certain Acts of Parliament. The Bill proposed that these Acts of Parliament should be a lopted by a bare majority, but the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the measure had put down an Amendment providing that a majority of three-fourths should be requisite to adopt them. He would suggest that a, majority of three-fourths should be required for any expenditure beyond a limit which the House should fix.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON
said, he was merely suggesting an alternative to the proposal of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire. [Cries of "Order!"] While he entirely sympathised with the hon. Member in his desire to protect the property interests of those who would be largely affected by the Bill, he could not help thinking that the hon. Member had suggested a mode of dealing with the matter which was impracticable.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he trusted he would be able to speak on the Amendment without offending against, the Rules of Order. He must admit, however, that many of them felt in an extremely difficult position with regard to the discussion of the Amendment, because they could not feel otherwise than that the case must be regarded more or less as a whole—[Mr. T. H. BOLTON: Hear, hear!]—and that an Amendment very often has great influence on other clauses of the: Bill. For instance, it would be out of Order on the present Amendment to discuss Clause 19. Yet that clause was closely connected with Clause 2, and, knowing the power of the Government, hon. Members could not but fear that any changes made in one clause must necessarily react upon another, which was closely tied up with it. He was sure that under the circumstances the Chairman would give them as much licence as he considered to be equitable, and no more. He trusted that those in charge of the Bill would not interfere more than they thought absolutely necessary to request decisions on points of Order, because really it was impossible to discuss a question of this kind without looking at three points. It was unfortunate that the subject was so large; it was unfortunate that they would not see what the effect of it would be on other parts of the Bill; but, as it was so, there were three points they had to consider—namely, what the effect of the clause would be on other clauses of the Bill, the precise effect of the clause itself, and also the precedent they would set by this clause, and how it would act upon similar changes if they were made in other parts of the Constitution. 1477 He felt great difficulty in moving under the circumstances without referring to some of those areas from which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would wish to exclude them, but, as he had said, he would do his best not to trespass upon any forbidden ground. The hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment was entitled to ask him to say a few words on this occasion in regard to the representation of owners, because the hon. Member could quote him as having not on one occasion only, but on many occasions, advocated the representation of owners. From the manner in which the hon. Member had been received by most sections of The House, he gathered that it would be admitted that the hon. Member had brought forward this question from as deep a conviction its he had ever held on any social or economic problem with which he had been associated. The hon. Member saw in the Amendment vital issues affecting not only local finance, but the general relations of local government to good administration and a fair co-operation of different interests. A greater subject could scarcely be submitted to the House. The hon. Member saw that this was an occasion on which, if he could secure the adoption of his Amendment, it would take root in the minds of the people of the country and of Members of the House, and react on other questions. There was nothing in the proposal essentially anti-democratic in any way. The hon. Member was an advanced Liberal, and he (Mr. Gosehen) trusted the Amendment would not be treated as if it was anti-Liberal or antidemocratic. He had been reminded, incidentally, of what took place in regard to the matter in 1871. The Act of 1871 was the lineal ancestor of the present measure. There were many respects in which the present Bill did not reproduce the features of its ancestor, but, at all events, there was sufficient analogy to make it appropriate that some few points should be briefly put before the Committee its affecting the Amendment. He (Mr. Goschen) was the organ of the Government of that day, and he spoke as follows in 1871:—I have now, I believe, explained to the House all the main points in the proposals of the Government, except one—namely, that in 1478 reference to the representation of owners. The Government have had to weigh the various modes by which representation of owners might be secured. The following alternatives were before them:—Plurality of voting, the cumulative vote, or the selection of a certain number of owners by a constituency also composed of owners. None of these alternatives commended themselves to the Government. Plural voting has become generally discredited, and owners have not exercised much influence under it, owing to the defects in registration. Again, the plurality of voting is incompatible with the ballot for obvious reasons. As regards the cumulative vote, the Government feel that much is to be said in its favour. Whatever may be its demerits in Party conflict, it appears to secure that variety of representation which is peculiarly to be desired in local government. But I freely admit that many objections may be urged against it, and the Government have resolved to look in another direction for the means of giving representation to the owner. It is proposed that on every Board spending local funds there shall be a certain proportion of Justices or of owners, and that, to secure that proportion, the chairman of the Parochial Boards of the parishes comprised in the area to be represented should elect so many owners as, with the Justices, should make up one-third of the Representative Board.Those proposals were made not by a Conservative Administration, but by a Government of which the present Prime Minister was at the head, and of which Mr. John Bright, Lord Kimberley, and Lord Ripon were Members. He mentioned this to show that 20 years ago, at all events, it was not considered reactionary to make proposals of this kind. In those days some such proposals were deemed to be necessary, but times had since marched very fast. The position now was not the same as then. If was not the same in two senses. Was it more necessary then, or was it more necessary now, that some precaution of this kind should be taken? If we spoke of the necessity of the case he thought it would be equally great now to what it was 20 years ago. At that time the doctrine of compulsory purchase and expropriation of property, not for the benefit of the community, but in favour of the individual; had not in any degree taken hold of the mind of the Prime Minister. In fact, the doctrine was not then in the range of practical politics. There were many burning questions before the country to-day which had not been touched at that time. The phrase "the classes and the masses" had not then received the authority now given to 1479 it. There was not the same idea that there would he a conflict between owners and occupiers; there had not been that appeal to the cupidity of classes which sometimes now formed the stock-in-trade of many politicians. [Cries of "Oh!"] He was sorry if he had made a strong remark, but he thought there were many things floating in the air which would fairly bear that interpretation. He was not alluding to any hon. or right hon. Gentleman in the House. He would say, at all events, that at that time no such speeches wore made denouncing the parson and the squire as were delivered from the Treasury Bench the other day. Such doctrines had not yet reached the Treasury Bench, and the whole question was treated from a different point of view. The suggestion at that time was to induce the owners to take some interest in parish affairs. That was the one point in the view of the politicians of that day. Far from the owners then exercising too great a power, they were in many cases neglectful of their duties in local affairs. The parishes were not sufficiently well administered; and, therefore, the endeavour of the Government of that day was to sec whether, both among the labourers and owners, they could not secure greater interest in parish affairs. It was thought it would be wise to interest the owners directly by the payment of rates as well as indirectly through the division of rates, and also to interest them and give them a voice by placing them on the Councils. Now, he would ask, was there anything to he said in fairness against, giving the owners a distinct voice in the administration or the rates when practically they bore the whole of the burden? The President of the Local Government Board treated as something monstrous the proposal that the owners should have one-fifth share of influence in the Parochial Councils. Now they had gone some distance with the times, that was considered monstrous, but in 1871 the Prime Minister did not think that one-third share was too great to give them on all Local Elective Bodies but the Municipalities. Was there anything unfair or inexpedient in what was proposed? If there were five owners in a parish who paid the rates, and 95 persons who did not pay them, was it monstrous that those who did pay the whole of the 1480 parish funds should have one-fifth of the influence in their administration? To bring it to a concrete instance, suppose the whole of the money for the administration of the parish were brought in by five men and placed on the table at the Council meeting, could it be said to be inequitable that those men should have a somewhat greater voice in the distribution of the money than those who had not contributed a penny of it? If hon. Members opposite were to establish an insurance fund for their employés, would it be wrong that they should he allowed to claim a certain share in the management? He put it to the Committee that some such arrangement as was proposed in the Amendment was desirable and equitable. No one could have listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition without feeling that there was something in this case. He was by no moans wedded to the particular form in which it was proposed to give representation to the owners. It was probable that a large number of owners did not think this particular method would be as wise a method for securing their interests as other methods might be. They might believe that they would not exercise the same influence on the Board if they were elected in a different manner from their colleagues. If that were so the view of the owners ought to count largely with the committee in this matter. They ought to see that adequate precautions were taken against any extravagance or abuse of the powers placed in the hands of the general population—the non-rate-paying inhabitants of the parish. He had ventured to make these few observations on the Amendment, and was glad he had been able to keep strictly to the point without entering upon what had been called forbidden ground. He would say again that he did not think there was anything illiberal in the proposal. It was a genuine attempt on the part of one of the most earnest local reformers to secure an administrative arrangement, which he believed would be the best, between both owners, occupiers, and agricultural labourers themselves.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
said, that in dealing with this Amendment the Committee had no right to con- 1481 sider its bearing upon the question of the Poor Law, which question would have to be discussed separately later on. The question as to who were to he the electors for the purposes of the Poor Law would come up on Clause 19 in a form in which hon. Members would be able to deal with it fairly. With regard to another matter, they had been discussing this Amendment for some time, and gentlemen who had spoken in its favour were apparently not going to support it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had made a very interesting speech, in the first part of which he spoke in favour of the Amendment, but in the end he intimated that he did not wish it, to be accepted.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that what he intimated was that he was anxious to hear what the owners said of the Amendment, and that their view should weigh with the Committee.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, one would have thought that what the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday might have some weight with the right hon. Gentleman. The Leader of the Opposition, when giving his reasons for supporting the cumulative vote, said that there were objections to it, hut one of his main reasons for supporting it was that it was impossible for him to accept the Amendment following which stood in the name of the hon. Gentleman who made the present proposal. The right hon. Gentleman also said that it would be invidious in its nature and futile in its results. It was not necessary to enlarge on this statement. What could be more invidious than to create a totally separate electorate—an electorate representing their own interests in the community? The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken referred to his scheme of 1871, and said truly that, they had made some progress since then in their conception of representation. Indeed, the Act of 1884, to which the right hon. Gentleman was a party, showed how far he had surrendered at the time, and they all knew that the right hon. Gentleman was a persistent opponent of giving the county franchise to the agricultural labourer.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he must ask the right hon. Gentleman to give a more accurate description of his attitude. He had acted from totally different reasons. His chief reason was that the agricultural labourer should be first educated to take part in public affairs through Local Parochial Boards, just as in the Municipalities persons first received a local franchise and afterwards a political franchise. That might he a, right or a, wrong view, but at all events that was the main ground for his action.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that the Party opposite took a different view, and they gave political power to the agricultural labourer. The right hon. Gentleman wished that the agricultural labourers should go through the operation of education, and he presumed that the particular class for whom this separate representation was proposed were to he schoolmasters to educate the agricultural labourers and to induce them to adopt their views. The right hon. Gentleman had given a little Party savour to his speech—an example which he (Sir W. Harcourt) would not follow. The right hon. Gentleman said that, in 1871 Her Majesty's Government had certain views which were equally applicable now. Well, the Conservative Party in 1888 brought in plans for the County Councils, and where in those plans was to be found the ownership vote to protect the owner? The right hon. Gentleman said that, there ought to be some protection for the owners by the ownership vote. Her Majesty's Government had introduced a protection by introducing the Parliamentary franchise, which did include the ownership vote. Therefore, there was an ownership vote which was not included in the Bill of 1888. So much for the imputation which the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to fasten upon the Government of stirring up class against class, and contributing to the cupidity of classes. Anything more unjust or unfounded, under the circumstances, it was impossible to conceive. It was not the first time that he had listened to most, ingenious, clever, and elaborate speeches of the right hon. Gentleman without 1483 being able to discover what conclusions he had arrived at. The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was in favour of the Amendment; but in the latter part he had said he did not feel quite sure that the people for whose benefit it was proposed were likely to accept it. Did the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman behind him really know how they wore going to act in regard to the Amendment? As for the Government, they had made up their minds that it would be most invidious to create under the Bill a distinct class of voters, who were to be the owners. He was sorry to hear last night the hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Liverpool speak of the necessary antagonism of labourers and farmers.
§ * MR. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
The right hon. Gentleman has attributed to me a word I did not use. J did not speak of the necessary antagonism between them. I did not say that antagonism generally prevailed, or would prevail, between both classes, but that there might be exceptional cases of such antagonism, which should be guarded against. I did not say it was the rule, but that it would be the exception.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that nothing could be more unfortunate than to constitute a new constituency on the basis of what were rare exceptions by providing that the owners should have a distinct representation separate from the rest of the community. This Amendment was open to every possible objection that an Amendment could have. It would create what the Leader of the Opposition called "an invidious distinction," and he was perfectly certain that it would be futile in its results. For these reasons the Government did not propose to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. A.J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman has attacked my right hon. Friend for introducing a Party flavour into his observations on this Bill. Now, of all the gentlemen sitting in any part of the House the right hon. Gentleman is the last man who has the slightest title to bring a charge of that kind. I altogether 1484 deny that my right hon. Friend made a Party attack on the Bill.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is quite true that I did not hear the whole of my right hon. Friend's speech, but I heard the passage to which objection is raised, and I had the satisfaction of loudly cheering it. But my right hon. Friend was not making a Party attack; he was defending right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and giving a justification for their own action when they, in company with himself, brought in a Bill for dealing with Parish Councils in 1871. In that Bill, which was introduced by the present Prime Minister, it was proposed to give owners a certain representation. Her Majesty's Government cannot point to a single reason for that course in force in 1871 which is not in force at the present time.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman says I made a powerful attack on the Amendment last night; and that I—I will not say converted—but that I confirmed him in the decision he had arrived at that it was impossible for the Government to adopt the Amendment. I do not deny that the version which the right hon. Gentleman has given of what I said last night was substantially accurate; but I was not then discussing whether there should be some safeguard. What I was discussing was the best kind of safeguard to meet an acknowledged danger. I am prepared to say that I believe minority representation is the proper way of dealing with this matter. The plan of the hon. Gentleman opposite is a novel plan, but, at all events, it would have the effect, to a certain extent, of mitigating the evils of the Government scheme. The right hon. Gentleman is of opinion that if dangers exist with regard to Parish Councils they exist also with respect to County Councils, and he said that the Conservative Government passed a County Councils Act in 1888 and did not provide an ownership vote for protecting the owners. That is perfectly true; 1485 but are the circumstances of the County Councils in any degree parallel to those of the Parish Councils? The smaller the area the greater the certainty that the great hardship may arise that the one class called upon to bear all the cost of local government would be absolutely excluded from any share in the management of local affairs. But in the case of County Councils, for the reason that the county is cut up into various districts, and if owners do not get elected in one part they get elected in another, and so the general admixture of interests which go to make up a healthy public opinion is provided for. Can you get that advantage in Parish Councils unless you adopt some scheme of minority representation? I do not think you can. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby that the cases of antagonism between classes would be exceptional. I believe that in a great measure throughout England all classes will work together without jealousy or friction. But we know perfectly well that there are districts in which that will not be the case, and that there are gentlemen in this House who rely for their political status upon that very jealousy and friction which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill most earnestly deprecates and desires to avert. That the friction exists and may be made use of for political purposes no one can for one moment deny. That being so, are we to be stigmatised as reactionary and antiquated in our views for having dealt with an acknowledged evil in order to minimise it? I think the course we have pursued is abundantly justified by the object of the Government in bringing forward this Bill. We have every desire, I am sure, as much as any set of men in the House, that this Bill should be the beginning of a better state of affairs in the parishes as between classes. We desire that no interest, however small, should be excluded from a fair share in the conduct of parochial affairs, and we respectfully venture to offer one suggestion after another by which these objects which commend themselves to both sides can best be accomplished. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has challenged us with regard to the course we are going to adopt on this Amendment. I do not withdraw a 1486 single atom of the speech I delivered last night. I do not think this Amendment is the best way of dealing with the difficulty. I am not sure, indeed, that the evils incident to it would not be augmented by this Amendment; and I am not prepared to consider this plan until I have lost all hope that some better plan, not open to its objections, will be accepted by the Government.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said that, as it was very desirable to spare the time of the Committee, and as the President of the Local Government Board bad suggested that the proper time to discuss the question bearing on the Poor Law was in Clause 19, he wished to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ *MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey) moved, in page 2, line 8, after "The," to insert "annual." He said that there was no day set up in the Bill for the parish meeting for the purpose of electing the Parish Council. He was therefore afraid that in many of the rural parishes the 15th of April, which was the day appointed for the coming into office of the new Parish Council, would slip by without the parishes being aware of it, and that there would be no new Parish Council elected. That would be bad for everybody. It would be only good for electioneering manipulators. He suggested that they should guard against that danger by converting the old Easter Vestry meeting, with which everybody was accustomed, into the meeting of parochial electors, which must be held in the week before the 15th day of April. As he read the Bill it was no one's business to look after the meeting at which the Parish Councillors would be elected. In some cases, therefore, it was very likely that no election would take place. In his own part of the country, in the case of Guardians, it did not take place very frequently. He remembered during an election contest addressing a parish meeting which did not know who their Guardians were, because an election had not taken place for such a considerable time. In cases where no election took place the Councillors in office would remain in office. Everyone 1487 would agree that it would be an exceedingly bad thing if that should happen. If the Councillors were favoured by the parish, let them have the compliment of re-election; but let them not slip into office again by accident, because the parish had forgotten the day of election. Again, by converting the annual meeting he proposed into a statutory meeting fixed in the week before the 15th of April, it was left open to the inhabitants to have as many other parish meetings as they pleased, when they pleased, and at what time they pleased. With regard to the hours of meeting set down in the Bill, he should say that in his part of the country from 6 to 8 o'clock was not at all a convenient time. At this season of the year, for instance, many people could not attend at such hours. But people left off work early on Saturdays, and he therefore thought the meetings should be held on Saturday afternoons. He also objected to the phrase in the sub-section that the parish meeting should be held "at least once" in the year. He thought the meeting should be held when there was serious business to be done—whether four times in the year, or 24 times, as in the old days, when parish meetings were often held once a fortnight.
In page 2, line 8, after the word "The," to insert the word "annual."—(Mr. Stephens.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'annual' be there inserted."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
These questions regulating the procedure of parish meeting and Parish Council will be best discussed when we arrive at the Schedule that describes these functions. But I may explain at once that I do not accept the Amendment at all. We have already put down on the Paper an Amendment to Clause 8, providing that the annual assembly or parish meeting where there is no Parish Council shall be held either in March or April, and the Bill provides that the Parish Council is to come into office on April 15th. Having regard to the various local duties they have to perform, particularly in connection with the Poor Law, it is necessary to fix that day. Where there is no other machinery we provide that 1488 the Overseer for each rural parish shall convene the first parish meeting not more than one month and not less than six days before the day of the election. It is not necessary to make a statutory provision that the meeting shall take place on a certain day; it would only tend to complicate the Bill, and we give the Local Authorities a margin of a couple of months. I cannot consent to make any alteration in the Bill as it stands, because it is consistent with the election upon the time and under the circumstances the hon. Gentleman has pointed out. Then as to more than one parish meeting being held in the year, we have made a provision that at any time during the year the Chairman or two Councillors, or one-tenth of the electors, may call a meeting. We are anxious to have a parish meeting called whenever it is necessary to call a meeting; but I object to fixing a statutory period when the meeting shall be hold, for that must depend on the convenience of the parish.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
, who was indistinctly heard, said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman did not appreciate the points which had been made. There appeared to be an oversight in the drafting of the Bill, as no arrangement was made by which the parish meeting must assemble at a given time to choose the Parish Councillors. His hon. Friend who moved the Amendment was perfectly right, and he could not conceive why the right hon. Gentleman would not save himself and the Committee further trouble by allowing the suggested alteration to fill up an obvious hiatus in the Bill.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, he must point out that the omission was even a greater one than that which his hon. Friend had pointed out, because so far as he could see there was no provision as to what was to happen in case the Council was not elected at all. Supposing the parish meeting did not elect new Councillors, there was nothing in the Bill to say whether the old Councillors were to continue in office. There was only a vague suggestion in Clause 34, it being provided as follows:— 1489If any Parish Council becomes unable to act by reason of a want of Councillors, whether from failure to elect or otherwise, the County Council may order a new election, and may by order make such provision as seems expedient for authorising any person to act temporarily in the place of the Parish Council and of the chairman thereof.There was only "may order"—there was no "shall" in the case. Supposing they did not order a new election, they had absolute power to put the management of the parish in the hands of one man, if nominated for the whole of the year. He considered that a ridiculous arrangement, and he thought they were entitled to an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
I cannot discuss Clause 34 on this Amendment. I differ entirely from the construction put forward by the hon. Member.
§ * MR. W. LONG
said, that this was only another illustration of the extreme inconvenience attaching to the method in which the Bill was arranged. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the Amendment wits perfectly unnecessary, and that this was the wrong time to introduce it; but yet they were told that the parish meeting should assemble at least once in every year. He was bound to say that it seemed to him extremely difficult, if not impossible, that hon. Members in Committee should be asked to consider the operation of one clause without looking further, and without realising what would be the effect of the whole. The hon. Member for Preston had raised undoubtedly an important point in the Bill. The right, hon. Gentleman had confessed it might be a technical objection, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman would be acting far more generously to the Opposition if he would not take his stand upon this mere technical objection. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that they wanted to make progress, but he was bound to say with regard to that —and he himself had had considerable experience in this House in assisting in carrying through an extremely difficult measure of local government—that he could tell the right hon. Gentleman that 1490 the course which he had now adopted was a course which the Opposition did not then adopt. The then Government were frequently pressed to explain the provisions of their measure, and he could say that Mr. Ritchie and himself never took their stand upon technical objections of this kind. They endeavoured to pint the House in possession of the provisions of their Bill, and that was largely the reason why it was carried through.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I think it exceedingly unjust and unfair to charge me with having taken a stand upon technicalities, and of attempting to deceive the House.
§ * MR. W. LONG
I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman of attempting to deceive the House—the charge is ridiculous.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The explanations that have been made on this Hill have consumed a great deal of time, and it is exceedingly inconvenient and unnecessary to discuss every point in the Bill over and over again. I know no more successful mode of obstructing this Bill than to raise on every clause questions which can only properly he dealt with in the subsequent clauses. I do not argue as to the construction put on the clause by the hon. Member for Preston, because I am informed his construction is not correct. I will tell him why when we get to Clause 34. I say that this is not the time to discuss this matter now, and it is only delaying the progress of the Bill to raise such a discussion. So far as I am concerned, I do not think I am guilty of what the hon. Member has brought against me by declining to discuss matters which have over and over again been discussed.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said, he was very sorry at the tone which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman. He could assure him it was very far from the object of his hon. Friends to charge him with conducting the Bill in anything but a fail-way. Their view only was to assist him. They desired that it should be made as clear as possible that the parish meeting should meet. It was all very well to say that that would be settled in 1491 a subsequent clause. That point could he settled now, and the discussion could be got rid of. Why should not the clause be made to provide that the parish meeting should assemble in March or April in each year and on any other occasion during the year that might be found necessary?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, the whole question was involved in this particular clause of the parish meeting. He took it that the construction of Clause 34 was as he had said; and if the President of the Local Government Board failed to satisfy him that the powers of the parish could not be taken away and put into the hands of the County Council, he would consider it his duty to move an Amendment that if the parish meeting failed to choose the Parish Council its power should not be taken away. Therefore, he considered this was a question intimately connected with Clause 2, which they were now discussing.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he must express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would answer his hon. Friend, because if he did not they would now immediately have to move an Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 87; Noes 171.—(Division List, No. 328.)
§ SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
, who was indistinctly heard, said, he wished to move the following Amendment to the clause:—In line 8, to leave out from "year" to end of sub-section, and insert "at such time as the parish meeting itself shall decide.He urged that the Amendment was brought forward with the view of meeting the convenience of the localities. The parish meetings should not be denied the liberty of fixing their own hours for doing business when they were entrusted with such largo powers under the Bill. He hoped the Government would accept the Amendment, if not in the words in the spirit he had laid down.
In page 2, line 8, to leave out from the word "year" to the end of sub-section (3), and insert the words "at such time as the parish meeting itself shall decide."—(Sir. R. Paget.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'and the proceedings of stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that Vestry meetings had practically ceased to be the meetings of the parish, because they wore called for at an hour when the vast bulk of the parishioners could not attend. He would be perfectly frank with the House—there was nothing he wanted to conceal—and state that the object of the Government was to secure the attendance at these parish meetings of the humblest class of parishioners, but that class could not attend if such a provision as that now proposed were inserted. He was not going to shut out the consideration of any proposal as to meeting in certain districts on a Saturday afternoon; hut the Government did think the principle of an evening meeting, which those who were engaged in daily labour could have the chance of attending, was a vital principle of the Bill. He stated it very distinctly on the Second Reading of the Bill; the provision had been before the House and the country from the first inception of the measure, and he was unable, therefore, to accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, if the right hon. Gentleman fixed the hour at from 6 to 8 for the parish meetings, he would also have to fix the hour for the Parish Councils. The right hon. Gentleman had told them his object was to enable the humblest member of the community to attend these meetings, but did he not think that the Parish Councils would consist of some of the humblest members, in justice to whom they should have to move that the Parish Councils should meet from 6 to 8. The principle was exactly the same. He thought that from 6 to 8 would not be a good, but a bad, hour; and when they were giving fresh powers to the humble parishioners, surely they ought to allow them to fix the hour of meeting themselves. From 6 to 8 in the early days of April would be the most inconvenient time they could possibly fix for the agricultural labourers in the small villages. The parish meeting would have to meet for the purpose of electing the Parish Council in the last days of 1493 March or the beginning of April, and at that time of the year 6 would be a ridiculous hour, and it would he an unfair tiling to bring the agricultural labourer away from his home in the dark. [An hon. MEMBER: It would not be dark.] It would be dark at 6 o'clock in the evening at the end of March or the beginning of April, which was the only time the parish meeting could be summoned together for electing the Parish Councils. He contended the principle of the right hon. Gentleman would have to be carried much farther. He objected to treating the agricultural labourers as if they were mere electors, and the proposal of the Government simply treated them as electors, and did not contemplate the fact that they would be elected on the Parish Councils. It was utterly inconsistent and unfair to say they would give the agricultural labourers an opportunity of going to the parish meeting and electing the Parish Council, but would not let them arrange that the Parish Council should sit at such an hour that if they were elected they would be able to sit upon it.
§ MR. K. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
said, he would put this case to the right hon. Gentleman: He lived in a parish six or seven miles long. A man might live a considerable distance from the place where he would be at work or from the place where the parish meeting would be held, and in such a case it would he convenient if, al the period just after his work was over, he could go to the parish meeting before going home. If the Government insisted on keeping the hours 6 to 8 in the Bill, he thought such a, ease as the one he had mentioned might be met by saying that the meeting should be between 6 and 8 "unless the parish might otherwise determine." That would give a discretion to the parish meeting to do as it liked, and would meet the difficulty.
§ * SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, the hon. Member for Preston had raised the question of the time of the meeting of the Parish Council, but it would be far better to deal with that point on another clause. With regard to the proposal made in the Hill, he was bound to say he thought it would be wise, 1494 looking at the very general practice of Parish Vestries meeting at 11 o'clock in the morning, to give an indication that they were evening hours. With regard to the question of what these evening hours should be, he had experience of meetings in agricultural and rural districts with small populations, and his experience was not exactly in accord with the proposal of the Government. Eight o'clock was too early for a considerable portion of the year. He always found that in winter the people chose 7 and in summer 9 o'clock. In that time of the year, when after their day's labour they worked in their own gardens, they chose 9 o'clock. If the meeting was held at a distance from their homes—say in May —they would prefer a later hour still; but he should say that the Government proposal of 8 o'clock for the ordinary meeting in March or April would he a very convenient time. He would suggest, however, they should remove the 8 o'clock limit and let them start at 9 if they chose. Let them begin any time they chose after 6 o'clock, but according to the time of the year and the nature of the parish and district the hour might be chosen by the people themselves. With regard to the miners, whilst they generally held their own meetings in the afternoons, they were in the habit of going to other peoples' meetings in the evening. They were well able to take care of themselves in this matter, and they would prefer that the hours fixed should be those which would suit the agricultural people in their neighbourhood rather than that they should be fixed to suit the minors themselves.
§ * MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)
said, he could not understand why the Government should insist so strongly upon this provision regarding the time for the meeting of the Parish Councils. It was very extraordinary that they should do so, seeing that the matter was such a trivial one. They were proposing to allow the parish to decide other matters by a majority, and he thought they might also allow the people to decide the time al which they would meet. It was not merely, however, a question of convenience of time. It was a question also of convenience of place. In the Bill as 1495 it stood the Government proposed to enact that these parish meetings should be held in certain school-rooms and school-houses. If they enacted that the meetings should be held between certain hours in the evening, it might happen that those hours would not be convenient for the owners of those buildings, or those connected with them, to grant the use of them for parish meetings, he thought that was a matter that ought to be considered. Then it was a question of convenience to localities. There were certain trades in one locality and certain trades in another locality, and the same hours might not suit the people in all localities. It might be convenient to hold the meeting in one place in the daytime and in another in the evening. They must remember also that under the Bill they would have a large number of women who would be entitled to vote—a larger number than were entitled to vote at the present time. These women would have to take part in the parish meetings, and, considering the delicacy of the sex, he thought they would consider the evening an inconvenient time for their attendance. The fixing of the time ought to be left to the localities themselves. It did seem to him strange that the Government should insist upon another course; and he confessed he could not understand it. If it was necessary to legislate as regards time, the matter could be left to the guidance and direction of the Local Government Board. He proposed moving an Amendment later with regard to that aspect of the question, under which the nomination and election of Parish Councillors should be conducted according to rules framed under the Act for that purpose by the Local Government Board. The time could then be fixed by the Local Government Board; and if it was desirable in any case, for reasons that might be brought forward, to hold the meetings at the hours now named, they could issue instructions to that effect. At all events, it seemed to him that to legislate upon such a trivial matter as that was beneath the dignity of the House. When they gave the powers to the Parish Council that were embodied in the Bill they might very well leave this question to the parish electors to decide it for themselves.
§ * MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said, there was a good deal of feeling among the labourers that the meetings should be held in the evening, at a time when everyone who was entitled to be present could attend. As a rule, it was impossible for any labourer to attend before 6 o'clock. They might be better off if meetings took place later than proposed; but he was bound to say that he preferred to adhere to the suggestion of the Government. Although he was open to conviction, as to the desirability of extending the hours beyond 8, he thought it would be better to have the 6 o'clock limit. It would be impossible to carry out the spirit and intention of their Bill if the labourers were not allowed to take an active part in these meetings, and he hoped the Government would not depart from this portion of their policy. There was very important business to go before these meetings, as they had the power of the purse under Clause 10. With regard to the question of half-holidays, he would like to say that the custom did not prevail to any extent in the Eastern Counties, and, where it did prevail, Saturday was not the day chosen. He thought it would be unsatisfactory to have the meetings before 6 o'clock, and he again trusted the Government would adhere to their proposal.
§ MR. S. HOARE (Norwich)
said, he was quite sure it was the desire of all Parties that these meetings should be held at a convenient time. He sincerely hoped the Government would see their way to allow some latitude. They had heard the statements on behalf of the labourers, and the convenience that would result to them from certain hours being left open for the meetings. His right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board would not be surprised if he (Mr. Hoare) said something on behalf of the fishermen along their coasts. These men would not attend at all unless the time suited them. Anyone who had any experience in collecting fishermen, as he had had, when occasion arose to consult them, would understand that that was so. They might have to go out at 5 o'clock 1497 in the evening. There were many districts where the business of the people would not permit of attendance at meetings held between 6 and 8 o'clock; and the hulk of those for whom he spoke were certainly among that class. They must part with their harvest and means of livelihood if these hours were adhered to. He would express an earnest hope, for the sake of the fishermen, that his right hon. Friend would consider whether he could not give some latitude, so that these men would not be deprived of the privilege of attending the meetings because a hard-and-fast rule was laid down. He thought, the meetings in his district, to be successful, should he held under some other conditions than those the Government sought to impose, for he was quite satisfied that if they laid down such rules for those men they would he disappointed, as he had been himself, when the hour named for a meeting did not suit them. They either came in a body, if the time suited, or, if it did not, they were conspicuous by their absence. For this reason he would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that, while taking into consideration the interests of the labourers, he should take into consideration also those of the fishermen, and give some little latitude in regard to this question of time.
§ * MR. LAMBERT (Devon, South Molton)
said, the agricultural labourers in Devonshire left off work about 5.30, and be saw no reason why the Government should depart from the hours fixed by the Bill. This was a Pill forgiving rural residents a greater voice than they had in the affairs of the parish, and they should try to have the meetings at a time that would suit the great bulk of the people whom they were anxious should attend. He did not see why meetings should be held at an earlier hour than 6 o'clock in the evening. They held political meetings, and all such meetings of importance, in the evening. He himself had held meetings between 1 and 2 o'clock—the dinner hour—but he found that very few attended. The present proposal of the Government only followed out a principle which protected those who required protection; and when the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lees Knowles) said it was beneath the dignity 1498 of the House to protect those who required it, he could only say he did not agree with him as to what Parliament ought to enact.
§ MR. LEES KNOWLES
said, he merely wished that the people should have freedom to choose what they wanted.
§ * MR. LAMBERT
said, if the arrangement suggested by the hon. Member were sanctioned, it would be open to the squire or a large farmer in a district to propose that the parish meeting should be held at 11 or 12 o'clock in the day, and the labourers would not care to oppose, although they could not attend at so early an hour. He hoped the President of the Local Government Board would not give way, but would give the rural parishioners the opportunity of attending the parish meetings.
SIR J. DORLNGTON (Gloucester, Tewkesbury)
said, the question was one upon which there was sure to be a divergence of opinion in different parts of the country. It was impossible to lay down a single hour that would be convenient all over the country. One hon. Member had spoken of the case of the fishermen, for instance. In his own district they tried the system of having late Vestry meetings, but they had to go back, by general approval, to the 12 o'clock meetings. At the 6 o'clock or evening meetings they could get nobody to attend at all. The reason was that the parish contained a large number of villages, lying apart from each other. It might be convenient for one village to have a, 6 o'clock meeting, but that must frequently disfranchise others, the people of which could not attend at that hour. The first parish meeting might be fixed now, but he thought that meeting should fix such hours for future meetings as would be most convenient. In an adjoining parish to his they had a town population. They could hold meetings there at 6 o'clock. He was of opinion that each community should be allowed to settle the matter for itself; and he could not sec what possible principle there was in laying down a cast-iron rule upon this question. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give way
§ MR. C. HOBHOUSE (Wilts, Devizes)
said, the Opposition were anxious in one case to trust two-thirds of the people only, and m this case they would trust the people absolutely. He could not see how they reconciled one principle with the other. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Dorington) said it was impossible for the people to attend at 6 o'clock, because of the distances they would have to come. How could they manage the same distances at 12 o'clock.
§ MR. C. HOBHOUSE
said, in his part of the country the labourers had an hour for dinner. How were they to travel three or four miles, attend a parish meeting, take dinner, and return within an hour? He knew that the most convenient hour for labourers in relation to Vestry matters was from 6 to 8 in the evening, when the day's work was over. He knew that that was the most convenient period of the day, and, that being so, he asked the Government to keep to the proposal they had made.
§ MR. L. HARDY (Kent, Ashford)
said, the Government seemed to take a great interest in the agricultural labourer. It was said that the labourer could not attend during the dinner hour. He would point out that the hours fixed by the Bill were very inconvenient. They were introducing a system of allotments, and he did not believe that labourers, after they had done their day's work and attended to their allotments, would be at all inclined to leave home to attend parish meetings. In his opinion, the majority in a parish ought to be allowed to decide at what hours the meetings should be held.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he must apologise for not being present when, at the sitting of the Committee alter the luncheon interval, he had possession; but it was really very difficult to attend to private business with Parliament sitting all the year round. He was perfectly willing in this matter to leave the choice to the people themselves; but he thought that the question of the hours fixed for Vestry meetings must prejudice this question. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) on that 1500 point. He did not believe there was any great difference between both sides of the House. Any one who had experience of parish meetings of any description knew that, if the people had any choice in the matter, they always chose an hour about or between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock. He had not the slightest doubt they would choose the hours fixed on by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Hoard, but, for his part, he should have been glad to have placed confidence in the people themselves, and to have allowed them to choose their own hours. But that appeared to be impossible, as the Government had a majority. But he would point out that while it might be right to fix in the Bill an hour for the annual meeting, the people themselves should be left to fix the hours for all special meetings. The people would choose the hours most suitable to them, and the House would soon find whether they were in favour of the hours in the Bill. If they chose those hours it would show that the Government were right, but if they did not, it would show that the Government were wrong. ["No!"] The hon. Gentleman who said "No" did not trust the people. The people, at any rate, would soon make themselves heard if the hours did not, suit them. If they were allowed to fix the time for their special meetings, it was not at all unlikely that they would meet in the afternoons on those half holidays, which he hoped before long to see generally adopted throughout the agricultural districts.
§ MR. ARCH (Norfolk, N.W.)
said, he thought he was entitled to address the Committee on the question as to the hours agricultural labourers would prefer. His father died at the age of 70, and never attended a parish meeting in his life, and he (Mr. Arch) himself was turned 60 before he had the opportunity of attending such a meeting. Why? Because those meetings were held at 11 o'clock in the morning, when the working classes could not possibly attend. Fortunately, in a great many villages he had been the humble instrument of getting the labourers to go and change the hour of meeting from 11 o'clock in the morning to 7 in the evening. That being done, 1501 he found in every instance the change of hour had been the cause of great satisfaction among the inhabitants. There was no suspicion of anything wrong, and each man in the village had the opportunity of going to the meeting, of listening, inquiring, and understanding the business of the parish. The result had been most marked in the village where he lived. He recently received a visit from a lady recently settled in the parish, who was delighted with the independent spirit of the working class inhabitants, without that grumbling about this or that not being done right, which too often accompanied proceedings in villages where the people had had no voice in what was being done. The working men themselves were anxious that in this Bill the time for meeting should be definitely fixed. He hoped there would be a good, fair sprinkling of agricultural labourers on these Parish Councils. During the last few years the schoolmaster had been at work, and the intelligence, knowledge, and experience of men in our rural villages had considerably increased after they had been successful in changing the hours of Vestry meetings in the villages, he was congratulated upon the addition of wisdom and intelligence which men of the working classes brought to the meetings, the pertinent questions put, and the interest shown in the management of parish affairs. He hoped the Government would not budge one hairs-breadth from their proposal. To say that men would not attend a meeting after 6 o'clock in the evening was to say that men took no interest in matters going on around them, and this was contrary to the fact. In his own parish the agricultural labourers took the keenest interest in parish affairs. If the Council were allowed when elected to fix the hour for meeting he felt sure that in too many instances the hour would be fixed for the morning. Agricultural labourers were in this manner deprived of their rights. He should vote for the clause as it stood, and he was perfectly certain that if gentlemen wished to win the votes of the agricultural labourers at the next Election they should remove every opportunity of creating an obstacle to the enjoyment of those rights so long denied to village life.
§ * MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said that, listening to the Debate, it had struck him that this Hill had been misnamed. They were discussing the clauses of a Bill called "The Local Government (England and Wales) Bill," but it seemed to him that it should have been entitled "The Government from Whitehall Bill." All petty details were to be decided, not by local considerations, but according to the belief entertained at the central office of what was desired by the various local interests. No doubt the President, of the Local Government Board had a most sincere desire to carry out as far as possible the wishes and legitimate aspirations of the people in the parishes—not only of the agricultural population, but of the fishermen and miners, of whom nothing bad been said in the Debate hitherto. When the right hon. Gentleman saw, as he no doubt would, the irresistible moral to be drawn from the Debate—namely, that they should leave to the various districts the time and hour at which the meetings of the Councils should he field, it was to be hoped that he would assent to modify the clause. It was not worth while to refer to the irrelevant considerations introduced by an hon. Member opposite with regard to a two-thirds majority. He was sorry the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not in his place to champion that majority.
§ * MR. COHEN
said, he begged pardon for having attempted to reply to the hon. Member who had been allowed to refer to this subject. [Cries of "Order!"] He would only say that the one moral which it seemed to him was established by the conflicting opinions and advice which had been placed before the Committee was to give the people the opportunity of deciding the time of meeting for themselves. If the Government would not allow parishes to decide whether they should or should not adopt the Councils, nor even when their meetings were to begin, they might as well dictate at the same time when the meetings were to end.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
[Cries of "Oh!"] protested against being met on rising with jeers 1503 when he had not spoken half an hour on the whole Bill. The question of the hour of meeting was an important one, and it had been treated from the other side as though there was only one class in the country interested in the Bill— namely, the agricultural labourers. But he could say, although he was not himself a Member for a mining constituency, that when the miners of the country, whose interests in the matter had not been at all considered, found that they were bound down to particular hours of meeting, they would be extremely dissatisfied, having regard to the peculiar nature of their employment. They would consider that they had been outraged. ["Oh!"] Yes; these men worked by shifts, and should not be tied down by specific hours. They, at least, were not likely to be influenced by the squire or the parson. What the Committee had to do in this case was to consult the convenience of the various classes of villagers in the country, and if they did that, they would surely allow the people to choose their own hour of meeting. It had been said that the villagers would be overridden by the squire and the parson; but surely they had done with that statement now. If they wished to have a popular parish meeting, they should leave that meeting to fix its own day and hour of meeting. If Mr. Ritchie had bound down the County Council to meet at a particular time, would it not have led to great irritation? The Councils would have had, in all probability, to begin at a time which was inconvenient to them, and leave off long before they had finished their work. Let the fishermen, miners, and factory operatives of the country who happened to live in villages decide this question for themselves. Do not hamper them with this grandmotherly legislation. If there were any people to whom the hours of meeting proposed in the Bill would be convenient, it would be those persons called "the classes." If the country gentlemen wore to select an hour for themselves, it would most probably be between 6 and 8, when they had done their ordinary day's work, and before their dinner. He doubted, however, if the hours proposed would be most convenient in all parts of the country. If he desired to make Party capital he should recommend the 1504 right hon. Gentleman to stick to his proposal, because he knew that it would be thoroughly unpopular. It certainly would be unpopular in the North of England, and he thought the Government would be acting most unwisely if they did not trust the people in this matter.
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, there were one or two parishes in his constituency where there were a large number of miners. He thought that it might be inconvenient to them to have the hour of meeting fixed at between 6 and 8. Those hours, however, were very much the best that could have been chosen, and, the Vestry meetings having often been held at inconvenient times, it was well to make a change in the system. He had, therefore, risen to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill if he could in any way render the clause more elastic. He would propose that the clause should be amended, so as to allow a special parish meeting to fix the hour with the consent of the County Council. If this were done, anyone would be able to demand a poll before the hours of meeting were altered.
§ * MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
said, that what they all wanted— Members on the Opposition side as well as the hon. Member for Norfolk—was that the meetings of these Parochial Councils should be held at an hour which would be convenient to those who had to conduct them. They all hoped that the working men, whether labourers, fishermen, or artizans, would have time and opportunity to take part in the work of the parish meetings. It was clear from the Debate that in different parts of the country there were varying conditions. In his opinion, two fundamental mistakes had been made in the course of the discussion. One was the unworthy suggestion that the squire and the big farmer would insist on the meetings taking place at 11 o'clock in the morning. He spoke as one who belonged to that much-abused class, and he was glad to say that the Vestry in his district had long met at half-past 7 or 8 o'clock in the evening, and, though he had appealed to his labourers to attend, they generally declared that they did not care to do so after a day's work. Some had attended, 1505 and others had not. Meetings curlier in the day had their advantage, and he had never known an employer put obstacles in the way of the men attending such meetings. It had been said that the squires desired to have the meetings in the morning. Well, if he could not speak for the agricultural labourer he could claim to speak for the squire; and for him 11 o'clock in the morning was a most inconvenient hour for a parish meeting. Anybody who knew anything about the country squire and his associations—or amusements, as some might call them— would know that 11 o'clock in the morning would be a most inconvenient hour for him to attend a meeting, either in his own parish or anywhere else. The other fundamental mistake was that not sufficient notice had been paid to the fishing interest. There were Members present who had fishing villages in their constituencies, and he would put it to them whether it would not be to the interest of these people that they should be at liberty to fix the hour of meeting for themselves? He would suggest, in all friendliness, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was not giving the Bill a good start by assuming that the farmers and squires were disposed to fix an hour for meetings which would prevent the labourers from attending. The hon. Member for Norfolk himself had said that he had been successful in getting Vestry meetings held in the evenings, and that he had been successful in inducing labourers to attend them. Furthermore, the hon. Member had implied that where the hour was appropriate there was a healthy state of feeling in the village. That showed that, without the intervention of an Act of Parliament, village meetings were at present held at hours which wore most convenient for the people attending.
§ * MR. W. LONG
said, that the right hon. Baronet was fond of interfering in the Debates, and laying down propositions which he had no means of proving. There was no Return of any kind which gave the hours at which Vestry meetings were held. In matters of this kind, only such statements ought to be made as could 1506 be supported by the Returns laid before Parliament. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes; the right hon. Baronet made a statement of fact, and statements of that kind should be capable of proof. He submitted that the hon. Member for Norfolk had confirmed the view that of late there had been a great departure from the practice of holding Vestry meetings in the morning. In his part of the world, evening meetings were much more convenient than morning meetings, and if the hours were as contained in the Bill, it would he convenient except in those parishes where the labourers lived great distances apart. But there were places where the conditions were not the same, and if the Government insisted on drawing a hard-and-fast line they would be running a risk of putting a large number of people to great inconvenience. It would meet the difficulty if the Government were to assent to the proposal of the hon. Member for Lincolnshire, and whilst leaving the hours of 6 and 8 in the clause give the parish meeting the right by resolution to assemble at hours more suitable to itself. He did not see what objection there could be to that proposal, which would make the Hill more operative and useful.
§ THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Mr. ACLAND,) York, W.R., Rotherham
said, he only rose to say that in this matter the Government could not give way, he quite understood the point of view which had been urged by some hon. Gentlemen who took special cases, but the feeling of the Government was that it had sunk so deeply into the minds of the agricultural labourers that Vestry meetings had been held, and were being held, at a time when they could not attend, that they demanded from the Government a guarantee that the meetings should he held in the evening. He could conceive nothing more likely to produce friction than the idea that at any meeting one of the questions for decision might he whether the meetings for some reason or other should be held not in the evening. Something had been said about miners, An hon. Member opposite had spoken strongly on the subject. Well, he represented as many miners as any one in the House, and he was certain of this, and 1507 did not hesitate to say so, that the miners in his own constituency in Yorkshire would be perfectly satisfied with the clause as it stood, which afforded the protection demanded by the agricultural labourers. He believed that the miners were accustomed to evening meetings, and that no difficulty would be found in their case.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, that it would perhaps be to the convenience of the Committee if this question were decided in an Amendment standing on the Paper in the name of the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanley Leighton), which put the case in a very fair and reasonable manner, and in a shape which met all the objections which had boon urged. He agreed that it would be undesirable that it should be in the power of any Council to fix au hour for a meeting which would be inconvenient to the great bulk of the inhabitants. They were all agreed on that point. There was no disposition, he thought, in any quarter of the House to fix an hour that would lead to injustice. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board should avoid the mistake into which his predecessor had fallen. The late Government had fallen into the mistake of following slavishly the Municipal Corporations Act, and fixing for the meeting of County Councils the hour of 12 noon. What happened? The Council of which he was a member had made their arrangements with a view to their meetings taking place at 11 o'clock, and when they first met the members found that the hour was fixed by Statute at 12, so that they had to wait about for an hour, greatly to their inconvenience. Representations were made to the Local Government Board by that and many other County Councils, and in the end the inconvenient arrangement was modified, and modified in the direction suggested by the hon. Member for Shropshire— namely, that the hour of meeting should be left to the discretion of the County Council itself. That was an example and a warning which, he thought, the Government would do well to take heed of. He agreed, however, that there should be a general indication in the Bill as to what was in the mind of the House as to the hours of meeting. He had not 1508 understood the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council to touch that point at all, the right hon. Gentleman's speech being in opposition to the proposal to omit from the measure all reference to the hour. His speech was not hostile to a general indication of the wish of the House, coupled with latitude to a locality to vary its arrangements to suit its own convenience.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, he regarded the position of the Government as red-tape in excelsis. It reminded him of the desire of the French pedant, who wished that the Education Minister should be able to say in his Cabinet, "At this hour every child is saying, 'Two and two make four." If this clause were carried, they could imagine the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board saying, "At this hour every parish meeting' will be gathered together." But the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten to provide synchronised parish clocks, without which simultaneity could not be attained. He wanted to know why the agricultural labourers should he kept in leading strings in this way? The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Arch) claimed to represent the agricultural labourers, but he (Mr. Stanley Leighton) also represented them, and he could not agree that they desired to have the hours for meeting fixed, even against the wish of the majority of the electors.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
Let them. All that was desired was that the agricultural labourer should know that he was an independent man, and that he ought to be allowed to manage his parish affairs without this intervention on the part of the Government. Supposing the parish meetings were held at 4 o'clock, instead of 6 o'clock, would it be an unlawful assembly? Would the police be called in to disperse it? Let him give an instance of how, in later days, they had relaxed the hours fixed for certain ceremonies. The hours of the ceremony relating to what had been called, on the opposite side, the "obsolete practice of coverture," had been relaxed, and Parliament would have to 1509 relax the hours for Parish Council meetings if they were fixed too rigidly. Rain or snow, the Government seemed to think that one hour and no other must he fixed, and took no account of what the feeling of the parish might be. Six o'clock would probably be the most convenient time for the parish meetings, but that might not always he so, and the parishioners should, I think, be allowed to exercise their own discretion in the matter.
§ Mr. Channing rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 201; Noes 136.—(Division List, No. 329.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words 'and the proceedings of stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 219: Noes 106.—(Division List, No. 330.)
§ *MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.) moved, in page 2, line 10, to leave out the words "not later than eight." he said legislation of this kind was quite unnecessary. [Cries of "Agreed!"] He thought he had a right to state his view without being interrupted. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had stated his reasons on this point, and he (Mr. Hobhouse) had a right to state his. There were certain parishes in his constituency where it would be inconvenient for the labourers to meet at 8 o'clock, and there were others in which it would be inconvenient for railway men to meet at that hour. On these grounds he moved that the words he omitted.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 10, to leave out the words "not later than eight."—(Mr. Hobhouse.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
MR. HANBURY (Preston) moved—
In page 2, line 10, insert "if no parish meeting is held between the 1st of March and the 14th of April, and a Parish Council be not elected, the affairs of the parish shall be dealt with by parish meeting.
He said, he had put down this Amendment in order to meet a real difficulty
which was a point to be found in the Hill. It was one that would provide for a case where the parish meeting was not held during March or the early days of April, and where, in consequence, the Parish Council was not elected. Under the Vestry system provision was duly made, if new Church wardens were not elected at the Easter meetings then the old Churchwardens carried on the work of their office for another year. Some provision, he thought, must he made in this case also. So far as he could understand it, the proposal made in Clause 34 in no way provided for the difficulty. That clause provided that where there was no election, the County Council should have power to appoint any one man to act as a Parish Councillor for one year. That was a proposal to which he (Mr. Hanbury) objected.
§ * MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
rose to Order, he had not understood until now the nature of the hon. Member's Amendment. He submitted that the Motion standing in the name of the hon. Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanley heighten) should be first entertained.
§ * MR. COURTNEY
submitted, with great respect, that the Amendment just decided excluded altogether the presumption as to an evening meeting, and by the Amendment in the name of the Member for Shropshire evening hours would be required; unless an evening meeting, with a ballot if demanded, deluded otherwise.
* THE CHAIRMAN
The issue is practically the same. The effect of the determination of the last Amendment was that the parish meeting should not have the option of dealing with the matter one way or the other; and the Amendment of the hon. Member for Shropshire is one empowering the parish meeting to determine. The Member for Preston is in Order.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
said, that was the last thing he would attempt to do. As he had taken some part in the discussion on the Bill, he would point out that though they accepted the decision on the last Amendment, retaining the hours fixed by the Bill, they thought they might discuss the question raised by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Shropshire, as power might be given to the parish meeting to alter the hour of meeting in important cases or for special reasons.
* THE CHAIRMAN
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to dispute my ruling. But it is very inconvenient to have these points raised over and over again. I have already ruled, and I am still of the same opinion.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Northumberland, Tyneside)
asked whether he was to understand that his Amendment with regard to the holding of parish meetings on a Saturday was in Order?
§ MR. HANBURY
said, one of two things must happen with regard to the difficulty that had arisen on the point with which be was dealing. The Government would make a proposal to meet the difficulty in Clause 34, or they would not. If the proposal in Clause 34, was one which the Government adopted in cases of this kind he objected to it, because he was strongly opposed to the idea of giving the County Council power of their own free will to appoint any one man to he practically the parish dictator for a year. If, however, Clause 34 did not apply, no provision whatever had been made for cases of this kind which might arise. The Government, according to their own statement, had made no provision.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, Clause 34 was an act of tyranny, because it distinctly empowered the County Council to put one man as dictator over the parish. The course he suggested was a very simple way of meeting the difficulty, and he left it to the Committee to decide.
In page 2, line 10, to insert "if no parish meeting is held between the 1st of March and the 14th of April, and a Parish Council be not elected, the affairs of the parish shall be dealt with by parish meeting."—(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he could not accept the Amendment. There had been no casus omissus. Clause 63 enabled the County Council to remove any difficulties that might arise in reference to the first Parish Council, and Clause 34 dealt with subsequent elections. It was impossible to discuss Clause 34 at this stage, but if, when that clause was reached, the hon. Member should be of opinion that the point was not quite clear, any Amendment he might propose to that clause would be willingly considered by the Government. This certainly was not the time for discussing the question.
§ MR. J. G. LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)
said, provision had been made only in reference to the first elections, and he thought the Government ought to consider the matter in connection with the clauses proposed and the Amendments on the Paper.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE
rose to move—In page 2, line 10, at end, insert "Provided that, if the parish meeting at their annual assembly so resolve, any subsequent assembly of the parish meeting during the year may begin on Saturday at any hour not earlier than two in the afternoon.
§ He said he thought this Amendment would be acceptable.
*MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough) moved—
In page 2, line 10, at end, insert "and reporters shall be allowed to be present.
He said, the object of the Amendment was to facilitate the attendance of reporters at the parish meetings, at which the Parish Councillors were to be elected. He knew that it was the general feeling that reporters should be present at such meetings — meetings of Public Bodies. Reporters were present in this House, except during prayer time, and he did not know why they were excluded then—perhaps they were beyond all hope;
for his part, he would not object to see them at prayers. In the country generally they were allowed to be present at public meetings; but there were meetings of Public Boards (only a small number) from which they wore excluded. It was such cases as that he wished to provide for. There were some Boards of Guardians, for instance, who would not allow reporters to be present at their meetings. He thought they should provide, as far as they could, that full publicity would be given to the proceedings of the parish meetings. He meant that the reporters should attend if they desired. An hon. Member near him said they could attend as parishioners; not only that, but they should be allowed to attend whether in that capacity or not. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 2, line 10, at end insert "and reporters shall be allowed to be present."—[Mr. A. Morton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, that he quite appreciated the motive of the hon. Member, and he had great sympathy with it; but it was impossible to set up anew rule in the ease of these parish meetings. There was no ease in the country of a Public Body at whose meetings reporters had a statutory right to be present. It was the ride for Representative Bodies to allow reporters to attend their meetings; but there were times when a Hoard must conduct its business in private—as, for instance, in reference to matters of property.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the objection applied in the same way. He was sure his hon. Friend did not wish to do anything that would not tend to improve the Bill, and he did not think this proposal would be an improvement. He hoped it would be withdrawn.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent. Thanet)
asked whether they had any guarantee that these bodies would make known their proceedings to the public? The inhabitants of a parish should know what was taking place. He could appreciate 1514 the objection to reporters having the right to attend all meetings of Elected Bodies; but a public meeting of parishioners was a different thing. Elected Bodies, of course, had the alternative of having an official report. He did not want to suggest that, after their own experience of an official report. They had one that was absolutely uncorrectable, if he might use the word. It was only fit for the waste paper basket. It was a very poor copy of the morning newspapers. It was a condensed, incorrect copy of the daily newspapers, and it was absolutely useless. He did not want to enforce that. He thought there should be some guarantee that public proceedings should be really public, and that absent parishioners might know what took place.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, he did not wish to press the Amendment against the wish of the right hon. Gentleman. He was sorry the President of the Local Government Board was not advanced enough to see the necessity for the Amendment. There was no Statutory Law to compel Public Bodies to admit reporters, but there was a Common Law to compel the House of Commons to admit them. [Cries of "No!"] Yes; they must admit them, whether they liked it or not. That was now practically the Common Law of the country. They could not refuse them. It was for the protection of the minority that he wished to secure a fair report of parish proceedings. He hoped at some future time the Government would think the subject worthy of consideration. He would not take up further time, but would express his regret at the attitude of the Government, and ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
said, the hon. Member for Peterborough knew that the Government had been illogical all through the stages of their Bill.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, the hon. Member could not hope to educate a Liberal Government in such a short time.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.1515
*MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey) moved—
In page 2, line 11, leave out Sub-section (4), and insert—"At the Easter meeting a Chairman shall be elected for one year, who is hereinafter called 'Chairman of the parochial electors.'
This Amendment he regarded as one of a very important character. As at present arranged, the Parish Council could choose its own Chairman, from within or without their own body: and that Chairman would he also the Chairman of the annual parish meeting. To make the Chairman of the Council which would he on its trial the President of the meeting which would have to control or disallow the acts of the Council was a, most unendurable proposal. It would he the duty of the parish meeting to take into consideration many matters in which it might be opposed lo the Parish Council, and a skilful and able Chairman could do much to frustrate the wishes of the body over which he presided. An hon. Gentleman complained the other day of the disorderly character of Vestry meetings. He (Mr. Stephens) had attended meetings at which the only disorderly person was the parson in the He was preventing the parish-from exercising their constitutional rights. The Parish Councils he very much exposed to had been described as "subtle Such influence would he bear in the case of the Councils, but they could not affect the parish meetings.
In page 2, line 11, leave out sub-section (4), and insert— "At the Easter meeting a Chairman shall be elected for one year, who is hereinafter called 'Chairman of the parochial electors.'"— (Mr. Stephens.)
§ Question proposed, "That sub-section (4) stand part of the Clause."
* MR. H. H.FOWLER
The sub-section which the Amendment would strikeout is—(4) "Subject to the provisions of this Act, as to any particular person being the Chairman of a parish meeting, the meeting may choose their own Chairman.This means that where the annual meeting is called for purposes of election, and the Chairman is himself a candidate, it would be clearly unfair for him to preside over the meeting; but in every other 1516 case where there is a Parish Council the Chairman of the Parish Council would he Chairman of the meeting. This is in accord with the practice in Municipal Institutions throughout the country by which the Mayor of a borough is the presiding officer at all town meetings in the borough. To have two Chairmen in one parish—two rival kings of Brentford—one the Chairman of the Parish Council and the other the Chairman of the parish meeting, would he a practical absurdity. In eases where there is no Parish Council the Bill provides, in Clause 18, that the parish meeting shall choose its Chairman every year, who will be the official head of the parish; but in cases where there is a Parish Council the Chairman of that Council will be the official head of the parish. The Government cannot accept this Amendment, for we believe it would introduce confusion into the administration of parish affairs.
§ MR. H. LAWSON
asked whether, in the case of a number of parishes being grouped, the Chairman of the Parish Council would act as Chairman of each separate parish meeting?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
No; the Chairman of a parish meeting in such a case will he elected at the meeting.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. HANBURY
proposed, in Subsection 5, which provides that "a poll consequent on a parish meeting shall be taken by ballot," to insert after the word "meeting" "shall be granted on the demand of five electors present at the meeting." He made this proposal so that a parish might not be involved at the caprice of one elector in the expense attendant on a poll. He thought that the number which he suggested was very moderate and would afford a guarantee that there was some reason for a poll. In the old Vestry days there was some justification for enabling any one man to demand a poll, because at the meeting the voting would be equal voting, while under a poll plural voting would be brought into action, so that the decision arrived at under a poll might be entirely different from the decision of the meeting. But in future the franchise would be the same at the meeting and at the poll, and therefore there was the less reason for demanding a poll.
In page 2, line 14, after the word "meeting," to insert the words "shall be granted on the demand of five electors present at the meeting and." —(Mr. Hanbury.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ * SIR. C.W. DILKE
opposed the Amendment. From time immemorial one person had been able to demand a poll at a Vestry meeting, and he hoped that the Government would not give way upon the point. In parishes which were small and close the true sense of the parishioners would not be obtained unless they allowed one man to demand a poll. In the parishes where a few people conducted the affairs of the parish it required some pluck for a man to stand up against these people and demand a poll, and the difficulty would become till the greater if it were laid down that the demand for a poll should be backed by five electors, he had known cases in London Vestries in no one of which had fewer than 60,000 persons, and some 400,000 persons, where it had been very difficult to obtain the signatures of five persons, which was the number necessary to the requisition for a poll in the Metropolis, and vet hundreds and even thousands had voted with the minority on the poll being taken. For these reasons he hoped that the Government would stick to what had been the principle of parish meetings from time immemorial.
§ MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, that in parishes where there was no Parish Council, and where everything would have to be done by the parish meeting to allow a single individual to demand a poll would afford great powers of obstruction. At a meeting of this sort there was no right to turn out anyone. A drunken individual might demand a poll, and, in his opinion, such a purely obstructive demand for a poll ought to be guarded against. He had an Amendment on the Paper proposing that everyone at a meeting should be able to demand a poll if less than one-third of the parochial electors were present at the meeting; but that if more than one-third of the electors were present the Chairman of the meeting should have the power to refuse the 1518 demand for a poll if it were backed by only a small percentage of the electors.
§ SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, that there was a great deal of by no means groundless alarm in the country generally that this Bill might lead to considerable expense. It might be till very well in rich towns, but their habits in the country were essentially frugal, and they were accustomed to deny themselves plenty of the luxuries of the towns. Every poll, however taken, must involve considerable expense, and he shuddered to think of the expenditure in which a parish might be involved by allowing any one man to demand a poll. The Amendment was moved in the interests of economical administration, and be, therefore, gave it his heartiest support.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
I, for one, think that a great many of these fears as to the expenses under the Bill are groundless, and I am sure that when we come to the Finance Clauses a good deal of that misapprehension will be removed. I do not think that this Bill is going to cost anything like the expense which has been mentioned in addition to local taxation. But this is scarcely the time to raise that question. The point we are now dealing with is whether the sense of the parish meeting shall be taken by a poll, and not with the circumstances in which the poll is to be called for. I may say, however, that we are adhering to the old principle that one man has a right to demand a poll. There may, of course, be questions brought before a parish meeting as to which it would be a waste of time and money to have a poll taken, but there tire certain questions which are submitted by law to a parish meeting on which a poll may be necessary. For instance, there are the election of Councillors, the adoptive Acts, and the exercise of the powers given under Clause 8, which may involve heavy expenditure for the parish. There ought to be a right in these cases given to the parish to call for a poll if a difference of opinion arises. Then there is Clause 18, whore there is no Parish Council at till, but where the parish meeting is to govern the parish. In that ease we should be very jealous of the right of such a meeting to have a poll. When the proper time comes, 1519 however, for the subject to be raised I think the point will be a fair question for discussion, but at this stage I should wish to reserve an open mind on the subject, and not to commit myself one way or the other. At present we are only dealing with the question as to whether the poll, when taken, shall be by ballot, and not with the question of whether we shall interfere with the Common Law right of one member of a parish to demand a poll.
§ * MR. W. LONG
said, that although he shared strongly the desire of his hon. Friend behind him to save expense, he was of opinion that the right to demand a poll being reserved to one elector was one to which in the interest and for the protection of minorities the Committee ought to adhere rather than to surrender.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, that where the parish meeting was the Governing Body the last thing the Committee ought to do was to place in it the power of conducting its business by poll instead of by a system of open voting. The right hon. Gentleman had said that this was not the proper time for discussing the question. If he asked when was the proper occasion, no doubt he would be referred to Clause 35.
§ MR. TOMLINSON
said, he thought the principle involved was too important to be treated in a Schedule. He thought the parish meeting should, like every other Governing Body in the country, conduct its business not by ballot, but by open voting.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
supported the Amendment on the ground that in the agricultural districts, where they had got no money to waste, the poll meant useless expense and delay. In fact, the Government seemed to aim at the maximum expense and the minimum result in this Bill.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that the effect of refusing the Amendment would be the impoverishment of the parish meeting. Some people who were interested in the matters brought before the parish meeting would not go to the parish meeting, but would send some individual to demand a poll. In such a case the poll was a means of deciding questions by persons who had not heard 1520 the arguments advanced during debate in the meeting, but who, at the same time, had enjoyed ample opportunities of being present at the meeting.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
asked whether it was really intended that the transactions of the parish meetings should be governed by a series of polls? because if resolutions were to be decided in this manner there would be no end to the deliberations of the parish meetings. The poll ought to be taken only on very important questions, as at the County Councils.
§ SIR R. PAGET
said, he desired again to protest against the parish meeting, which was to be the administrative body, being incapacitated from deciding the smallest subjects unless by the clumsy, extravagant system of resorting to a poll.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
The hon. Member and others have been the great advocates of the parish meeting, but where that plan of administration is adopted it is still necessary to take the opinions of the electors. I admit that it would not be practical or wise that a question of a purely administrative character should be decided by a poll, and, as I have said, when we come to the regulations in the Schedule I am prepared to consider the points which have been urged. The power of the poll is now only wanted where the parish is called upon to exercise important functions which involve expense.
§ MR. HANBURY
said that, on the understanding that the question would be discussed later, with a little more encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman, he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ * MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
wanted to know what would be the difference between the parish meeting in the one case and the Parish Council in the other? If it was said that it was necessary that the poll should be taken by ballot in the case of the parish meeting, then a poll should also be taken by ballot in the case of the Parish Council.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. J. G. LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk) moved an Amendment in line 18 of the clause, to leave out "poor," and insert "parish." He said the object 1521 of the Amendment was, that all the expenses wider the Act should be defrayed out of a separate rate, to he called the parish rate, and not out of the poor rate. He thought it was eminently desirable that the people of the country should realise what this blessing was going to cost. If they allowed all these expenses to be put on the poor rate the result would be that the figures of that rate would go up very considerably, and certain gentlemen might go into the country and denounce the right hon. Gentleman opposite on the ground that the country was being pauperised. He did not think any of them would use that argument, but it might be so.
In page 2, line 18, to leave out the word "poor," and insert the word "parish."—(Mr. J. G. Lawson.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'poor' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I do not know what the parish rate is. There is no such rate provided for by this Bill, and for reasons of economy I do not wish to create the machinery for a new rate. The proper rate on which to charge this expenditure is the poor rate, and it is apportioned among the parish according to the expenditure incurred. To make a separate rate would he to put an additional burden needlessly on the ratepayers. My object is to keep down the expense, and the proposal in the Bill is simple, usual, and economical.
MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said, he would suggest to his hon. Friend that his object would be attained by enforcing this condition—that upon the demand note it should be clearly specified under what heading the portion of rate was demanded, i.e., how much of the rate demanded was poor rate and how much was parish rate. The expenditure for parish purposes should be clearly distinguished on the demand note from Poor Law expenditure. With regard to the School Board rate, when Mr. Forster proposed the Education Bill of 1870 he expressed his intention of merging the School Board rate with the other rate. He (Mr. Lowther) strongly protested against that. He said that if the ratepayers went in for the luxury of a 1522 School Board they ought to know exactly what it cost them, and Mr. Forster's idea was, he knew, very decidedly the other way.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The question raised by the right hon. Gentleman is not the Amendment, but there is a great deal to he said for the suggestion, and when we come to Clause 10, and an Amendment is brought up making it compulsory upon the Overseers to distinguish on the demand note, I do not think I should he disposed to object to that course at all.
§ * MR. W. LONG
said, that, as the purposes for which the Councils were to be created were similar to those for which Local Boards were elected it would be admitted that the incidence of the rating should continue the same, and that was a subject which would have to be discussed. He wanted to know whether it was proposed to earmark the rate here?
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER
I quite appreciate the force of the observations of the hon. Gentleman. It is a very important question, and at the proper time I shall be disposed to argue it. We will not consider it foreclosed.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, the Vestries in London sent their rating papers to every ratepayer with a duo distinction—so much for School Board, so much for County Council, so much for poor rate, and so on. With regard to the poor rate, in the Kingston Division the poor rate, police rate, and Burial Board rate, were all collected by the same collector under the same head.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE
said, there was no separate rate, but there was so much money demanded, and it was always the same collector. He mentioned these facts, in order to show the Committee that there would be no extra expense in levying an extra parochial rate. Every parishioner ought to know exactly what the cost of his Parish Council was, and he thought the course proposed in the Amendment would enable him to get this knowledge.
§ MR. POWELL WILLIAMS (Birmingham, S.)
said, he thought it was of very great importance that the expense 1523 of the parish rate should he in some way charged upon the poor rate, for the Railway Companies would get no exemption with regard to their property in a parish. The question was a, very serious one, and the Committee would do well to leave it open at this stage for subsequent discussion, and not to accede to the words in the clause as it stood. He suggested, instead of the words "defrayed out of the poor rate," that the expenses bedefrayed as the ordinary expenses of the parish are defrayed.
§ MR. J. G. LAWSON
said, that after what the right hon. Gentleman had said, he would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, a great many Members took a special interest in this rating question, and they desired that no words of the clause should preclude them from raising on Clause 10 the whole question of the basis of parish expenditure. He appealed to the Government to accept the words of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Powell Williams).
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
pointed out that the words of his Lon. Friend (Mr. Powell Williams) did not pledge the Government to any view. If some assurance were not given which would make it perfectly certain that they would be able to discuss this matter on Clause 10, it would be necessary to discuss it now. He wanted to say something about the incidence of rating.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
If I accepted the words of the hon. Member for South Birmingham, they would have the effect of doing what he does not wish to be done—to foreclose this question. I should be willing to accept the words "as hereinafter provided," and move that.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I move to leave out—In line 15, the words "out of the poor rate." in order to insert "as hereinafter provided.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE moved an Amendment providing that the scale of expenses framed by the County Council 1524 should not apply to the expenses of parish meetings. It was extremely doubtful, he said, what effect the laying down of this settle of expenditure would have, whether it would be to raise or lower it. With regard to the expenses for the parish meeting, they ought not to limit them by scale.
§ It being half-past Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair 10 make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.