§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. SHAWLEFEVRE,) Bradford, Central
The Bill which I have the honour to move the 814 Second Reading of is for the purpose of giving effect to a Resolution, carried unanimously in February of last year, that provision should be made for the further equalisation of rates throughout the Metropolis. That Motion was debated through the best part of the night; and with the single exception of the hon. Member for the City of London, there was no opponent to the Motion. It was universally admitted that the state of things with regard to the inequality of rating which prevailed in the Metropolis was such as urgently needed reform; and it was shown, in the course of the Debate to which I have referred, how unequally the rates pressed on the poorer districts. It may be said that, as a rule, the rates of the Metropolis vary inversely with the wealth of the districts. The rich districts are lightly rated in proportion to their wealth, and the poor districts are heavily rated in proportion to their poverty, and no one who looks at that state of things can doubt that it requires some remedy at the hands of the Legislature. I need not remind the House that this state of things arises from the circumstance that London, unlike other towns, is divided into a number of separate districts, with separate management and separate rating powers as regards local matters, and from the fact that the people of wealth are aggregated together in a few districts in the Centre and West, while the poor are collected together in separate districts in the East, North, and South. This fact is very clearly brought out by the very remarkable difference in the valuation assessment per head of the population in different parts of London. In the East the assessment of valuation per head of the population is small; in the Centre and West it is very high. In Bethnal Green the valuation is £3 6s. per head of the population; in Mile End Old Town, £3 10s.; in Plumstead, £3 9s.; and in St. - George's - in - the - East, £4 4s. On the other hand, in the wealthy parishes the case is very different. In St. George's, Hanover Square, the valuation is £23 12s. per head of the population; in St. James's, Westminster, £29 16s.; and in the City of London the valuation reaches the enormous amount of £110 per head of popu- 815 lation. It follows that a rate of 1d. in the £1 per head of the population produces in the City of London about 30 times as much as in St. George's-in-the-East; and a rate of 1d. in the £1 per head of the population produces, in St. George's, Hanover Square, nearly seven times as much as in St. George's-in-the-East. The House will easily see how serious a matter any additional expenditure, such as the appointment of a Sanitary Inspector, must be to the poorer parishes as compared with the favoured parishes in the West End. In spite of the efforts which Parliament has made from time to time to equalise the rates as between the rich and poor districts, there is still a very great difference in the rates levied. Thus in Bermondsey the rates in 1893 reached the crushing amount of 7s. 6d. in the £1; in Bow, 7s. 11d.; in Rotherhithe, 7s. 5d.; in Camberwell, 6s. 6d.; in Bethnal Green, 6s. 10d.; in St. George's-in-the-East, 6s. 1d.; and in Mile End, 6s. 8d. In the wealthy districts the reverse is the case. In the City of London, which is divided into over 100 parishes, each separately rated for certain purposes, the rates amounted on an average to 4s. 10d.; in St. George's, Hanover Square, to 4s. 8d.; in St. James's, Westminster, to 4s. 1d.; in St. Martin's, to 5s. 1d.; and in St. Margaret's to 4s. 11d. It will be seen, therefore, that at the present moment the rates in the poorer portions of the Metropolis are 50 per cent., and in some cases as much as 90 per cent. higher than the rates in the wealthier districts. But the difference between rich and poor districts in this matter becomes more glaring when we subtract that portion of the rates which represents the common expenditure levied on the whole of the Metropolis—namely, the expenditure of the County Council, the School Board, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and the equalised Poor Law expenditure, which amounts in all to about 3s. 3d. in the £1. Subtracting that 3s. 3d. from the total rate, it appears that the unequalised part of the rate is equivalent to 4s. 3d. in Bermondsey, 3s. 7d. in Bethnal Green, 4s. 2d. in Rotherhithe, and 3s. 3d. in Camberwell; while in the City it is only 1s. 7d., in St. George's, Hanover Square, 1s. 5d., in St. Martin's 1s. 10d., while in St. James's, Westminster, it is only 10d. It appears, therefore, that in re- 816 spect of the unequalised parts of the rates, the poor parishes pay three, four, or five times as much as the richer parishes. But that is not the only disadvantage of the poor parishes. It is notorious that the valuation of houses is on a much higher scale in the poor parishes than in the rich parishes. In order to make the rate in the £1 appear as light as possible, the valuation in poor parishes is screwed up as high as possible, while in the rich districts the inducement is to keep the valuations low in order to conceal invidious comparisons as to the great difference in the rate in the £1 as compared with poor districts. This disparity between rich and poor districts is continually growing, and the difference would have been far greater if Parliament had not already interfered to equalise the rates. Three efforts have been made in this direction in respect of the Poor Law. In 1867 Mr. Gathorne Hardy, now Lord Cranbrook, threw the cost of the Poor Law establishment on a common fund to be supported out of a rate levied over the whole of London. In 1870 this was carried a step further by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, who charged to the common fund the sum of 5d. per head per diem in respect of indoor paupers. By these two operations equalisation has been effected to an extent of what now represents £1,200,000. In 1888 this principle was carried a little further by Mr. Ritchie, who distributed the Indoor Pauper Grant, amounting to £320,000, among the ratepayers of London, not in proportion to the rateable value of the parishes, but at the rate of 4d. per head per diem in respect of indoor paupers. That principle is a very sound one, but I do not think it was happily carried out by Mr. Ritchie, because that particular distribution of the Indoor Pauper Grant has been stereotyped for all time, and, therefore, parishes which may increase in population will not get the benefit of an increased grant.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
The hon. Member will see by the Act that the distribution of the Indoor Pauper Grant has been stereotyped according to the proportion of paupers existing in 1888. 817 The result of these three operations in the direction of equalising the rates is that the wealthy parishes have been called upon to pay considerably to the burden of maintaining the poor in the poorer districts. The City of London contributes 7¼d. in the £1, St. George's, Hanover Square, 5d., Westminster 3d., Kensington 3¾d., Paddington 4¾d., Hampstead 6½d., while the poorer districts receive a large benefit. St. George's-in-the-East is relieved to the extent of 2s. 7d. in the £1, Bethnal Green 1s. 6d., Mile End Old Town 11d., Whitechapel 8½d., Stepney 8½d., Poplar 6½d., Shoreditch 6d. In all 19 unions and parishes receive a benefit from these operations, and 11 have to contribute out of their rates for the relief of the others. I should here state that the object of the operations in 1867 and 1870 was not merely to relieve the ratepayers of the poorer districts of an intolerable burden, but to enable the authorities in such districts better to perform their duties to the poor. I find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, speaking in 1870 of the scheme of his predecesssor, Mr. Gathorne Hardy, in 1867 said—Before the equalisation of rates parishes which were overburdened with rates frankly confessed the necessity for an increased number of relieving officers and paid nurses, but were unable to support further expenditure for the purpose; but as soon as the burden of taxation became more evenly distributed, they then recognised the necessity for increasing their staff and not without good results. I hail the increase in the number of relieving officers as one of the very greatest advantages which has resulted from the new system.I confirm these remarks. I desire to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, to the proposal contained in this Bill, for I shall presently show that precisely the same argument is applicable to the present scheme. There is another important point to which I wish to call the particular attention of the House. In spite of these efforts in relief of the poorer parishes, the disparity which exists between them and the rich parishes is even greater than it was in 1867 and 1870, for the burden of rates of the poorer parishes is greater, and is ever increasing. I have here a very remarkable Return, 818 which shows how rapidly the rates, have been growing in the poor parishes as compared with the wealthy parishes of the Metropolis. I own I was greatly startled at the increase of the rates in the poor parishes even since last year; and I beg to say that, strong as the case was for this measure last year, it is infinitely stronger at the present moment, because of this enormous growth of the rates in the poorer parts of the Metropolis. I find that in the rates levied in 1893 as compared with the rates of the previous year there was an increase in Poplar of 1s. 2½d.; in Lambeth of 11d.; in Bow, 8d.; in Camberwell, 6d., and so on; whereas, on the other hand, when I come to the rich parishes I find that in St. James's, Westminster, there was an increase of 1d.; in St. Mary's, Strand, a decrease of 1d., and in St. George's, Hanover Square, an increase of ½d. Therefore, the argument in favour of a measure such as I am now proposing has become greatly strengthened year by year, and if the Bill be not adopted it will become still stronger and more urgent in the years to come. The disparity as regards the increase of rates between the rich parishes and the poor parishes is due to three main causes. In the first place, there is an unequalised portion of the Poor Law expenditure—the total of which is £820,000 a year on the average; and it may be said, roughly, that the poor rate in the poor parishes is 50 per cent. higher than in the wealthy parishes. The second cause of inequality is that the rates for common expenditure are not levied by an equal rate over the whole Metropolis, but the contribution for each parish is calculated and a demand is made on the parish, and as the leakage of rates from empties and the difficulties of collection are far greater in the poor parishes than in the rich parishes this has to be provided for by an additional rate in order to meet the demands of the County Council. The leakage in the different parts of London is shown by a Return which has been laid on the Table. I think it a very interesting and significant Return. It shows that the leakage in the City of London is 3 per cent., equal to 2d. upon a rate of 4s. 10d., while in the poorer parishes, such as Bermondsey and Bethnal Green, the leakage amounts to 15 per cent., which 819 in their cases is equivalent to 13½d. It is obvious from this that the Sdifficulty of collecting the rates through the householders being unable to pay amounts, in the case of the City of London, to only 2d. in the £1, whereas in Bethnal Green it amounts to as much as 1s. l½d. in the £1.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
It does; but compounding counts for a very small part of it—in the case of Bermondsey, only one-fourth of this 1s. 1½d.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that 13,815 out of 16,000 in Bethnal Green are compounding?
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
I have not made an estimate as to Bethnal Green, but I have made it in the case of Bermondsey, and as the result I find that it is only one-fourth. The other three-fourths relate to the difficulty in collection in respect of other property. The poor parishes suffer greatly in regard to difficulty of collecting the rates in comparison with the richer districts of London. The third cause of inequality is even more important, in that no equalisation has been attempted in respect of the general and sanitary rate—the expenditure on this head amounts to over £2,000,000 a year—and, roughly speaking, it may be said that the poor parishes pay double the amount that the rich ones do, though the necessities of the poorer parishes in respect of sanitary purposes is at least as great, if not greater, than in the richer parishes. I find that in St. George's, Hanover Square, the rate is 9½d.; in St. James's, Westminster, 6¼d.; in St. Martin's, 11½d.; while in Bermondsey it is 1s. 8½d.; in Bethnal Green, 1s. 8d.; in Mile End Old Town, 1s. 8d.; Newington, 1s. 9d.; and in other poorer parishes somewhat less, but, at any rate, far greater than it is in the richer parishes. It will perhaps be said that this excess of expenditure in the poor parishes is due to extravagant and bad management. I can only say that in the opinion of the very best authorities at the Local Government Board there is no general ground for a charge of this kind, but rather the reverse. If any charge 820 of that kind is to be made against any of the Local Authorities—and I am far from making any—I should say that the extravagance, if any, is to be found in the rich parishes and not in the poor. I do not complain of any of them. I do not think that St. George's, Hanover Square, pays more than it should do for sanitary purposes. There is, of course, a difference in the management of some as compared with others. But, in the opinion of the best authorities, the poor parishes do not expend what they ought to do on sanitary matters—they are, in fact, prevented from doing so by the heavy burden of their rates. As a general rule, expenditure on such matters is more necessary in thickly populated districts than in the thinly populated parishes; and it is necessary not merely for the health of the people of the district, but for the sanitary well-being of the whole of London. But the burden of such expenditure falls ten times more heavily on the rates of the poor districts than on the rich. I will give give one illustration of this by the item of removing dust and refuse, which costs for the whole of the Metropolis £250,000 a year. This service is of great importance to the health of London, and it is even more necessary in poor districts than in richer ones. It is also more costly in the poorer districts, inasmuch as the collection from a large number of small houses is more expensive than from a small number of large houses. I find that St. George's, Hanover Square, expends £4,800 a year in this service, involving a rate of ½d. in the £1. In Bethnal Green, with a population more than double that of St. George's, the service costs only £3,300 a year, which involves a rate of 2d. in the £1. If the service were performed as well and at the same relative cost as at St. George's, the charge in Bethnal Green would be 6d. in the £1, or 12 times as much as that in St. George's. Again, the roads in St. George's, Hanover Square, cost £855 per mile, involving a rate of 4¾d.; the roads in Mile End cost £530 per mile, and the rate there is 10d. in the £1.
§ MR. SHAW - LEFEVRE
Not all. Some of the streets in the east of 821 London, especially those in Whitechapel, are extremely wide.
§ MR. SHAW-LEFEVRE
The traffic converging upon these poor districts is as great as anywhere in London. I do not think there is much to be got out of that. The fact is, that everything tells against the poor parishes and in favour of the rich parishes; and there can be no doubt that the authorities of the poor districts are deterred by the extreme burden of the rates from undertaking many services which are necessary for the health of their people, and, indeed, for the health of all London. It was in view of all these facts that Parliament in February last year unanimously came to the conclusion that something more must be done to afford relief to the poor districts at the expense of the rich, and to carry the process of 1867, 1870, and 1888 somewhat further. The Local Government Board, which is quite impartial in the matter, has considered the various schemes suggested. My right hon. Friend, who last year occupied the position of President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler), gave great attention to the whole subject, and came at last to the conclusion that there were only two alternatives within reasonable possibility. One is the proposal before the House, and the other to levy a rate on the whole of the Metropolis and to distribute it again in proportion to the expenditure of the several districts. It is obvious, however, that this would act as an inducement to extravagance, not merely in the poor parishes, but in the rich—the poor parishes would spend more in order to get a larger subvention; the rich parishes would spend more in order to avoid a contribution. My right hon. Friend showed, I think, great wisdom in declining altogether to have anything to do with that plan. If it has commended itself to some hon. Gentlemen opposite I am sure that on consideration they will come to the conclusion that it is impossible. Besides, even if the objection I have referred to 822 did not exist the plan would create greater anomalies than these we have at present. The City of London would contribute hardly anything to the common fund, and the whole object in view is to make the City and the richer parishes in which the rates are low, provide more adequately out of their larger means for the burdens of the Metropolis. Any scheme which would not effect that object would be useless, and might as well be thrown into the waste paper basket. The only practicable alteration in the law is that contained in the present Bill—namely, to levy a general rate over the Metropolis and to distribute it in aid of sanitation in proportion to the population. It is proposed to levy a rate of 6d. in the £1 on the poor rate valuation, and to distribute it in the parishes and districts in aid of the sanitary rate in proportion to the population. The effect will be that the rich parishes will contribute more than they will receive, and the poor will receive more than they will contribute. Of the 43 parishes and districts, 14 will pay to the fund and 29 will receive. This may, however, appear an over-statement, for, in some cases, the results will be small either way. There will be 22 parishes which will receive amounts over 2d. in the £1, and 10 which will have to contribute over that amount. This proportion works out very much the same as in the previous schemes, and particularly in that of my right hon. Friend in 1870. I think, however, that the distribution of the fund under the present Bill will be more equitable than under that scheme. The relief received by poor parishes will be much greater proportionally than the burden imposed on the rich parishes. Thus the City of London will contribute 5½. in the £1, or £96,000; St. George's, Hanover Square, 4d. in the £1; Westminster, 4½d.; and Kensington, 2d. On the other hand, Bethnal Green will have a relief of 8½d.; Mile End Old Town, 7¾d.; St. George's-in-the-East, 5d.; and Poplar, 4d. I need hardly say that, although this proposal will do much to lessen the burden of the poor parishes and will reduce the disparities between them and the rich parishes, it will not effect a complete equalisation. The scheme also will not remove all the anomalies which now exist, but, 823 looking at it broadly, it greatly reduces them, and will result in a much greater general approach to equality. I do not believe it is possible to go further at the present time, unless we are prepared to centralise the management of the Metropolis. Complete equalisation cannot be effected by spreading an equal rate over the whole Metropolis without centralising the administration and doing away with local management and local rating. It will be said that the scheme will leave many anomalies undealt with, and that it affords relief in an unequal manner. I think that where these anomalies are examined in detail it will be found that they do not result from the present scheme, but from some peculiarities of the districts independent altogether of the proposal. Let me take the case of St. Luke's. The parish clerk of that district has been particularly active in rousing opposition to this Bill. He has filled the air with objections and lamentations as to the way his parish is treated. It appears that the rates in St. Luke's are 5s. 11d. in the £1, and it will receive a merely nominal contribution — a halfpenny. [VOICES: "A farthing!"] When we look into the facts, we find that St. Luke's is burdened with a very heavy debt of 1s. in the £1, or 10d. more than the average of local debts. This debt was incurred for a very expensive scheme of reconstruction of its streets, which it undertook against the advice of the Metropolitan Board of Works. I am sorry to say that it was plundered of a great deal of money by one of its officers, who bought up property on the sites it was proposed to improve after having ascertained in his official capacity where those improvements were to take place. This man afterwards became a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but was turned out when it came to light that he had made a great deal of plunder in this way. St. Luke's has no claim whatever for relief in respect of this debt. ["Oh!"] If we subtract the 10d. of excess interest on this debt we find that the rates will be 5s. 1d. in the £1, or below the average, and it cannot be pretended that it is entitled to exceptional relief as compared with all the poor parishes. Other smaller anomalies, I believe, can be explained as 824 resulting from existing local circumstances, and are not due to the principle of the scheme. But, in fact, if we were to wait for a scheme which would remove all anomalies, we might wait for the Greek Kalends. No one of the critics has ventured to produce any other scheme which would work out more fairly. I defy anyone to produce such a scheme. One of the merits of this scheme is that it will not reduce the inducements in favour of economy and good management. Extravagance or bad management must be followed by higher rates. On the other hand, it will remove some of the pressure on the poorer districts, and will enable these authorities better to perform their duties to the people in providing sanitary works. It is said they ought to wait for the reform of the Vestries and the re-arrangement of their boundaries. This is only another way of opposing the Bill. Nothing was said in the Debate last year of the expediency of deferring any attempt till we reform the Corporation of London and amend the constitution of the London Vestries. But it must be obvious to anyone that the greatest difficulty in the way of alteration of boundaries is and will be the disparity of rating, and the objections of persons to being removed from a lightly - rated district to a heavily-rated one. The more the rates are equalised, the more easy it will be to undertake any such reform. I do not think that the House will be induced by the hon. Member for Chelsea to reject this Bill on any such ground. Neither do I think the eloquence of the Members for the City and St. George's, Hanover Square, will persuade the House that these districts will be too heavily rated. The very object of the Bill is to levy a contribution from these rich parishes in favour of the poor districts, and any scheme which will not have the effect of making the City or St. George's, Hanover Square, contribute largely to the fund will be perfectly useless for the purpose aimed at. What we desire is to levy a contribution on the wealthy parts of London, which are now most lightly rated, in favour of the poor districts, which are heavily rated, in order to enable the authorities better to perform their duties, and to lessen the burden on the poor. It is in furtherance of the 825 policy of treating London, not as a congeries of separate and independent items, but as one great community, with common interests, common duties, and equal burdens, as far as is compatible with the maintenance of local management, that I move the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Shaw-Lefevre.)
§ MR. ALBAN GIBBS (London)
In rising to move the rejection of this Bill I do not wish it to be supposed that either I or other gentlemen on this side of the House who will, I hope, support me to-day, are opposed to any system of equalisation, or that we at all wish to prevent every parish from bearing its fair share of the burdens of the Metropolis. What we do feel is that this Bill does not equalise rates, but it in many cases makes them more unequal than they were, while it proceeds on no rational principle as former attempts at equalisation have done, but rather makes confusion worse confounded. We fear that without altering every line in the Bill it will be impossible to amend it, or, I confess, that some of us would prefer to have treated it in that way; but I can assure the House that if the Bill should pass the Second Reading, we will do our best in Committee, if not to make it a fairly workable measure, at all events to make it a better measure than it is at present. When the hon. Member for Southwark moved the Resolution, last year on which this Bill was founded, he told us that the rates already equalised amounted to 3s. 3d. per £1, and that amounts to nearly two-thirds of the average rate, so that we have already, with the cordial consent of all parties, gone a long way, and I think we are entitled to consider well before we proceed further, especially upon an entirely new principle. We have, as the House knows, equalised the education rate and the police rate by putting them each under one central authority, which levies an equal rate for them. Again, we have equalised the poor rate by the Common Poor Fund, in which an equal rate is levied, and the money distributed among the various parishes according to the number of their poor in asylums, hospitals, 826 and workhouses, and according to their needs as prescribed by the Local Government Board. Now this system has worked satisfactorily, and I think it is much to be regretted that you did not base your new equalisation, if an equalisation was wanted, on some modification of that system instead of on the most unscientific and haphazard method of counting noses instead of considering needs. Indeed, Sir, it seeems to me that the Government must have reflected that the parishes of the Metropolis were deprived of the intellectual treat of a Parish Council, and in the absence of any other entertainment for them they decided to set up a lottery, which, though, as far as I can understand it is only drawn once in five years, may be expected to foster a healthy excitement among them. I do not pretend to be much of a sporting man, but I have been credibly informed by people who go in for lotteries that the prizes generally fall to rich and economical people who have no particular need of them. In this case, Sir, the great prize has fallen to Islington. Now, I do not pretend, Sir, to be very sorry for that. I believe Islington to be a thoroughly well-managed parish; its rates are low, its poor are very few in proportion to its population, and it returns three Conservative Members, whom I trust I may call my very good friends, and, in short, has everything respectable and nice about it. But when the Government propose to present it with £21,320 under the name of equalisation, we must be forgiven if we find it difficult to treat the subject with gravity. Now, Sir, the incidence of the Common Poor Fund, which is administered on a reasonable basis, is no bad test of the poverty and riches of a parish; and what does the House suppose Islington receives from that? Why, Sir, on balance it does not receive at all, but, on the contrary, pays £13,903, which sum, with a 50 per cent. bonus, it is to get back again under this grotesque Bill. Again, Wandsworth Union pays £16,281 to the Common Poor Fund, and is to receive £13,761. Marylebone receives £3,243, and is to pay £9,658. Many other instances could be given. Well, Sir, these results come from taking the basis of the population instead of the needs of different parishes, and this basis has another absurd aspect, in that it absolutely pays a parish to overcrowd. The 827 hon. Member for Southwark said, in the Debate on the Resolution which gave rise to this Bill, thatHigh rates meant high rents, and high rents led to overcrowding of tenants, and that meant unhealthy surroundings, disorderly conduct, poverty, disease, immorality, and crime.I am sure, Sir, after these sentiments it must have been a terrible shock for him to have a Bill founded on his own resolution, which offers a premium to overcrowding. Of course, the purposes to which the money is to be applied, as far as they relate to the Public Health Act, may certainly be considered to be more than of local importance; but I really do not see why parishes should not attend to their own lighting and roads. It would almost seem that the Government see that some parishes will get more than they want for sanitary purposes, and they, therefore, introduce paving and lighting in order to get rid of the money. Sanitary purposes, however, are national as much as municipal, and I do not think it would be a much wider departure from precedent if you were to put the charges for such purposes on a national fund than it is for you to pay for them under the head of population. It has been said, and said very often, that we ought not to grudge what is done for the sake of the poor. But are you sure that the poor will get so much benefit from this? In the parts of London described as the richer parts, where most property is held on leases, we are told that the ground landlords hold most of London, and when we took our houses we reckoned on paying so much rent and so much rates. Now, when the rates are increased we have no power of going to the landlord and saying, "This house is not worth so much; make my rent less." "No," he says, "you have your lease; go on." But it is very different in the poor parishes. There the inhabitants do not, as a rule, hold on leases at all, and as soon as the landlord finds the rates are reduced he can go and say—"Your house is worth more now the rates are down, and if you won't pay an increased rate there are plenty who will." It appears to me that the result will be, in effect, that ratepayers in one district will have to pay for ground landlords in another. Moreover, though there are cases where rich parishes have lesser rates than poor, in many cases the reverse is the case. 828 Fulham pays 6s. 3d., and surely that is a far richer district than Mile End, which pays 5s. 9d. Again, why are the rates so high in some parishes and low in others? Has administration nothing to do with this—not only the proper economy practised by some and neglected by others, but the habit of taking things in time and not letting necessary repairs stand over until too late to repair at all, and the leakage alluded to by the President of the Local Government Board produced by indiscriminately allowing compounding? Is it not a grave injustice that parishes who have reduced their rates in this way should have them raised because others have been less thrifty? Well then, Sir, if we must have the basis of population might we not have had it taken on a fairer system than a night census once in five years? I fear I shall not be able to convince the right hon. Gentleman of the soundness of what I am going to say, as he has been good enough to tell us, with the greatest frankness and courtesy, that the whole object of this Bill is to get money out of the City. Many parishes derive their rating value entirely from people who live there in the day but go elsewhere to sleep. The City is, of course, the greatest sufferer from neglecting this fact. Its population by the night Census is 37,694, while the day population by the Corporation Census taken some time ago was 301,384, or more than eight times as much. It has been already recognised that the City is entitled to exceptional treatment in this respect. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when bringing in the London Government Bill in 1884, in which representation was given to districts on the basis of population and rateable value taken jointly, said it was—In regard to the City of London having respect to the smallest of its resident population and the greatness of its rateable value, we do think it would be fair to deal with it on the same footing as the other districts, and we have given it a proportion of representation upon the basis of rateable value alone.The City, of course, is not the only district injuriously affected. Southwark and other similar places suffer, though none perhaps to the same extent. The City already contributes very largely to outside improvements in addition to paying for its own poor and the education of its own children, and since the County 829 Council's time it has received no contribution to improvements within the City, though it has contributed £900,000 to improvements outside. I do not wish to dilate, however, on this matter, but I would just say one word in conclusion. The right hon. Secretary of State for India said, referring to my speech on the former occasion—I do not accept the view of the hon. Member for the City at all. The view he has laid down is in direct antagonism to the principle which has prevailed in every other Municipality in the world, the principle that a Municipality has one common interest,and so on. I cannot trace in the report of my speech what it was I said which offended against the principle that a Municipality is one and has common interests. Now, Sir, representing as I do the oldest Corporation in England—one which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of in the same speech as having been a real Corporation with a real municipal life, it is not likely that I should wish to belittle municipal feeling. We were reminded a few days ago that Poeta nascitur non fit, and I think we may well say Municipium crescit non fit. I do not think that the fact that you have a mass of heterogeneous parishes congregated about London, which have been by a recent Act of Parliament allowed to assume the name of the "County" of London, will at once lead to the creation of municipal feeling amongst them, or make the different parishes feel that their interests are common. I am told that in the case of a great public calamity animals, and men too, give up their ordinary instincts, and though accustomed to prey upon one another, yet co-operate with one another to get over that calamity. And though I do not suppose I shall be accused of thinking too highly of the London County Council, I do not think that it can be considered to be such a public calamity as to have forced all these different parishes to regard their interests as one, nor do I suppose it has made Hampstead feel any great desire to put down a wood pavement in Lewisham. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months.
§ MR. BOULNOIS (Marylebone, E.)
seconded the Motion for the rejection of the Bill with great pleasure, because he thought in a matter of this kind the City 830 should not be required to stand alone, although he admitted that this Bill affected the City much more than it did any other district of London. This Bill was described as a Bill to make better provision for the equalisation of London rates as between the different parts of London. He should have described the Bill as a Bill to continue and aggravate the present inequalities in rating which existed in different parts of London. The Bill had also been described, and was considered, he believed, by a great many persons as a Government Bill, and it was so described in the Orders of the Day. But, for himself, reading through the lines, he could not fail to trace the handwriting of the London County Council. He shrewdly surmised that his hon. colleague the Member for Shoreditch had had a hand in drafting and preparing the Bill, and had, no doubt, been ably abetted and aided by some well-known Progressive members of the London County Council, and they knew that the present Government were the most obedient servants of the London County Council. They were willing on on all occasions when it suited them to assist the London County Council in every possible way, even when the London County Council proposed to reject some very useful water supply, because the members of the London County Council made it known to the Government that unless the Government came forward to help them, they on their part would not give their support to the Government. Everything was political at the London County Council, and he could see pretty plainly that it was thought this was a good opportunity of doing something which would win them popularity in certain districts. He could only describe this Bill as a most barefaced bribe to certain constituencies. He had not the least doubt the London County Council thought that it was a very good opportunity of hitting some of the constituencies which were believed to be not altogether favourable to the present Government—some of the constituencies which were practically impregnable, such as the City of London, St. George's, Hanover Square, the Strand, and even the constituency of Marylebone, for which he spoke in a very humble manner. They thought it was a good opportunity to punish those constituencies which affected 831 Tory principles, and to endeavour to do something for those which might be a little more doubtful with a view to trying to draw to their side constituencies which were now represented by Conservatives, such as certain parts of Camberwell, parts of Islington, and probably parts of Hackney. This Bill was introduced with the very specious title of the Equalisation of Rates (London) Bill. On the first blush it was believed to be an equitable Bill, and it was thought that it would receive general approbation from both sides of the House, and generally from the districts throughout London. The Bill had been spoken of from the Front Bench opposite several times as a non-contentious Bill, and quite lately the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded to it in that sense, and said there were several hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Opposition side who were in favour of the measure, and therefore there ought to be no difficulty in passing it. While he believed there were some gentlemen on his own side who did not look upon this Bill with great disfavour, he was extremely sorry that so unjust a principle as was enunciated in the measure should find favour on his side of the House, because hon. Members' constituencies happened to be the recipients under it of what he thought he might, without offence, describe as the official spoliation which was contemplated in the Bill. When the Bill was printed and read and thought over, it assumed a very different aspect, and a perfect chorus of disapprobation proceeded from the parishes that were more particularly interested, and he thought it could not be denied by anyone that if the Bill should become law it would create in some districts of London the very greatest dissatisfaction. The Bill established an entirely new principle in taxation which had never been tried before—namely, of making a rate upon the valuation of property and distributing it according to population. He believed there was no other instance of that kind, and it would lead to very serious anomalies, some of which had already been described. St. Giles, which everybody would concede was a poor parish, now paid a rate of 5s. 8d. Islington, which could not be described as a poor parish, now paid a rate of 5s. 2d.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, his authority was a paper issued by the London County Council on the 31st March, 1894, in which it was stated that the average for the five years from 1889 to 1893 was 5s.
§ MR. BOULNOIS
said, the return he held in his hand gave the rate at 5s. 2¼d. What he said was that, according to his idea of justice and equity, Islington being a fairly rich parish ought to contribute to St. Giles's, which was a poor parish; whereas, as the Bill stood, St. Giles's would have to pay 5s. 9d., whilst Islington would only have to pay 4s. 11d. That was a great anomaly. One of the best tests as to whether a parish in a matter of this kind should pay or receive was that of the number of paupers in the workhouses, because people did not go into the workhouses unless they were actually driven there. He had a return which gave the population of the indoor poor at the ratio of per thousand, and the amount that would have to be paid or received in some parishes. He took, first, three parishes in the north district which were grouped together in the returns presented from time to time by the Local Government Board. Marylebone, with a population of 142,000, had 3,000 indoor poor, or a ratio of rather more than 21 per thousand. Marylebone under the Bill would have to pay something like £10,000 a year. Islington, with a population of 319,000, had 2,600 indoor poor, or a fraction of over 8 per thousand; but Islington under the Bill would receive £21,000 a year. Hackney, with a population of over 198,000, bad 2,464 indoor poor, or a ratio of rather more 12 per thousand, and Hackney would receive £15,000 a year. Passing to Poplar in the East of London, he found the population was over 166,000, the indoor poor 2,694, or a ratio of rather 833 more than 16 per thousand, and Poplar would receive £16,000 a year. Lambeth, with a population of 270,000 and 3,096 indoor paupers, would receive £16,000 a year; and Camberwell, with a population of 235,000 and 2,587 indoor paupers, would receive nearly £21,000 a year. The most shocking case that could be cited was that of Islington. He was sorry to have to make allusion to it in those terms, because, of course, they all knew that it was a good parish, but no one would contend that it was a poor parish, or that it did not carry out its sanitation and lighting in the best possible way. Yet it was to receive £21,000 out of the common fund, to which Marylebone was to pay £10,000. In Islington the total poor were 6,261 and in Marylebone 3,281; but the ratio per thousand in the former case was a little more than 19, and in the latter case a little more than 23. He did not contest the principle that the rich parishes should help the poor parishes. That was right and proper; but it should be done on equitable and just principles. He knew of no fairer method of dealing with this question than that which had been referred to by the President of the Local Government Board—the system which had been in vogue for several years, and which had stood the test of experience—the Common Poor Fund. Under this system the Local Government Board prevented waste and extravagance; but under the Bill there would be no control of the extravagance or fancies of the receiving parishes. Those familiar with London parochial affairs must recognise that there was a tendency on the part of Local Authorities to recklessness and indifference whenever they could dip into a common purse. Islington would play with this £21,000 which it was to receive. Under the Bill the contributions would be received and distributed by the London County Council. That meant adding to the duties and powers of the Council, a thing that body dearly liked, and the creation of a large additional staff, and it would mean more extravagance. There had been no inquiry on the part of the Local Government Board into the administration and expenditure of the several parishes; and it seemed likely that the parish which had been economical would now have to pay for the 834 extravagance of others. The figures which the right hon. Gentleman had given as to the disparity of rates were startling, perhaps; but it was notorious that in the parishes where these very high rates existed there was a great deal of mismanagement and waste. That must be the experience of most hon. Members of the House. The very tables issued by the Government showed how unequally this tax would fall, and how little thought had been given to the whole question by the Government. The Government ought first to have dealt with a Bill creating separate Municipalities in London; and they ought also to have introduced a valuation Bill. The present measure was unjust and immoral—unjust because it did not relieve sufficiently the poorer parishes, but gave to those which were not at all in want of help, and immoral because it offered a bribe to the constituencies either to continue their support or transfer their support to the followers of the present Government. He heartily seconded the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Allan Gibbs.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. J. STUART
said, it was rather remarkable that the Amendment moved was not that put down by the hon. Member for Chelsea, but simply a direct negative to the Second Reading. The arguments adduced in favour of the Amendment led him to believe that there was no intention to divide the House. The broad lines of this question were these. The rates of London were very heavy in the poor districts and light in the rich districts. At one extremity was St. James's, Westminster, with a rate of 4s. 1d., and at the other was Bow, with a rate of 7s. 11d. In the last few years the rate in St. James's had risen about 2d. and the rate at Bow had risen about 1s. 6d. London being an organized whole, with one part dependent on another, he appealed to the representatives of Liverpool and other large towns, where there had been a considerable equalisation of rates to support this Bill. By the changes that had already been 835 effected there had been to some extent an equalisation of the rates carried into effect, but not altogether in the sense of relieving the poorer districts, because under the Common Poor Law system Marylebone, which was a well-to-do parish, had obtained considerable relief at the expense of the general rates. No doubt in any case the Local Government Board had power to check extravagance on the part of any particular district. He should like to ask the House whether it was possible to carry out any scheme for the equalization of rates without providing for a strong central control over the expenditure such as was proposed by this Bill. It had been said that the measure offered no inducement to economy, and that, on the contrary, it offered every inducement to extravagance. But he thought that its effect would be exactly the contrary. If the hon. Member for the City of London would take the trouble to read the Bill he would see that the measure provided that the rates levied under it were to be set out upon the ratepayer, so that the ratepayers might see for themselves whether the rates were being increased or diminished, and in this way would be able to exercise an intelligent control over the expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, said that the object of the measure was not only to equalise the rates, but also to enable the Local Bodies to perform their duties with greater efficiency without raising the general rate. To show how unfairly the present system worked, he might point out that the parish of Marylebone spent nearly four times as much upon sanitation and road cleansing as the parish of Bethnal Green spent.
§ MR. J. STUART
said, he was speaking from the Returns which were made by the Vestries to the London County Council. It had been said that this Bill was introduced not for the purpose of equalising the rates, but for a political object. But if hon. Members would look at the long list of parishes which were benefited by the Bill he would see that quite as many Tory as Radical districts were benefited under the provisions of the measure. In such circumstances 836 it was unfair to brand this Bill as a political measure. He did not think that any hon. Member would deny that the equalization of the rates was in itself a good thing. It was true that in one or two instances complaint had been made as to the probable unjust working of this Bill. In the case of St. Luke's, for instance, it was said that the Bill would work unfairly; but, in reality, St. Luke's was burdened by a debt that no Equalization of Rates Bill would be able to meet. Under the Bill London would be divided into two sections; in one of these, which contained 3,000,000 of the poorer inhabitants, the rates were above the average; and in the other, which contained 1,000,000 of the richer inhabitants, the rates were below the the average. By the scheme for the equalization of rates proposed by the Bill no parish whose rates were above the average would have its rates increased, while, on the contrary, no parish in which the rates were below the average would find its rates diminished. The principle of the Bill was that the richer districts should contribute towards the rates of the parishes that were poorer. It would be seen that in Islington there was very little compounding and very little loss in the collection. As to the question of compounding, the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. R. G. Webster) by a question he interjected had seemed to raise a suspicion that 13–60ths of Bethnal Green were paying 25 per cent. less than the rates that ought to be paid. As a matter of fact, one-half of this 25 per cent. was an insurance against the empties, and the 10 or 15 per cent. left was allowed to landlords in lieu of the expenses of collection. He had gone very closely into this matter in connection with Shoreditch, and he was assured by a gentleman who had been for 14 years Chairman of the Finance Committee that the method of compounding adopted there was a cheaper method for the parish than that of raising the rates directly, so that if the principle of compounding were not adopted the rate for the parish would be even higher than it was at present. In Bethnal Green the whole of the compounding, including the allowance of the landlords, amounted to 8 per cent. from a 1d. in the 1s. Therefore, if in Bethnal Green the rates stood at 6s. 10d., and the whole of this sum were left at a calculation, the rates would 837 still stand at 5s. 10d., or much above those of the contributory parishes which were to be called upon to assist Bethnal Green. He must, however, entirely dissent from this comparison, inasmuch as the system of compounding was valuable to the parish. He had only one more anomaly to refer to, and that was the anomaly of Kensington. The case of Kensington gave him an excellent opportunity of showing exactly where the advantages of this Bill came in. Kensington had made considerable complaint because its rates were to be raised slightly under this Bill. At present its rates were below the average of the rates of London, being 5s. 6d., and they were to be raised to 5s. 8d. Considerable complaint had been made because the poorer district included in the parish—namely, North Kensington—was not going to get any allowance under the Bill, but was going to have its rates raised. Kensington might be divided into two exactly equal portions of North Kensington and South Kensington. In North Kensington the rateable value per head of the population was rather less than £6, whilst in South Kensington the rateable value was £16. Therefore, the poorer portion of Kensington was getting the benefit of the expenditure of the richer portion. Kensington spent per head of the population nearly four times as much in its sanitary arrangements as was spent by Bethnal Green, and, of course, North Kensington got the benefit of this extra expenditure. If the rates were divided equally between North Kensington and South Kensington in proportion to the work done, North Kensington, in order to obtain the benefits it now enjoyed, would have to pay no less than 10s. in the £1, whilst South Kensington would only pay 4s. By the accidental association of these two districts, sanitary affairs were properly attended to in the poorer districts, owing to its conjunction with the richer districts. This was exactly what was sought to be done for the rest of London, and the Government had endeavoured to produce a measure which would steer clear of the difficulties necessarily incidental to such an operation. The measure would give the reasonable amount of relief; it was well guarded, and it would enable the poorer and insanitary districts of London to place themselves 838 more in the future in the position which North Kensington now occupies, owing to its union with South Kensington.
§ SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)
Whatever differences of opinion there may be as to this Bill, I think we shall all be agreed that it is a measure of very great importance and complexity. My hon. Friend who has just sat down says it will give a small measure of relief. Well, but it transfers a sum of over £220,000 a year from one set of persons to another, and that sum capitalized would amount to over £4,000,000, and, probably, to £5,000,000. It will be admitted on all sides that this is a proposal of very great importance, and for which good and conclusive reasons ought to be given. The City already contributes very largely—I am told as much as £500,000—to the expenditure of London generally, and there ought surely to have been some inquiry before additional burdens were imposed. Moreover, it is very unjust that in such a case as the City, which is mainly occupied by offices and warehouses, the night population only should be considered; but I will leave the special case of the City to be dealt with by others. No doubt the title of the Bill is attractive, but I shall hope to show that it is very misleading. The Bill is, moreover, a very crude measure, and omits many considerations which should be taken into account in any proposal to deal with the adjustment of local taxation. The difficulty of dealing with London questions is not their magnitude, but their complexity, and this Bill will make them even more confused and complex than ever. The equalisation of rates is a problem of much difficulty. Why do we keep rates separate from national expenditure? Because it is desirable to leave Local Authorities the power of regulating their local expenditure. But if you leave them the power they must take the responsibility. If we leave them to settle the expenditure and then call upon others to pay the bill it is easy to see that we should open the door to great extravagance. The old principle of the Liberal Party was that taxation and representation should go together. But in this Bill, in others, the present Government propose that one set of persons should spend the money and another set 839 should pay the bill. I have heard this Bill supported on the ground that London as a whole should pay for the poor. But this Bill has nothing to do with the Poor Law; that is dealt with by the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. The funds under this Bill are for totally different purposes. In considering any question for the equalisation of rates, then, we must do so on its merits. But I maintain that the title of this Bill is misleading. We have been told that it is a Bill to equalise rates in London to relieve the ratepayers in the poorer districts by a contribution from the richer districts. Now, is this so? I think I shall be able to show that it effects neither of these objects, while it would tend to remove the inducements to economy, and in the long run increase the rates all round. As the Parish Clerk of St. Saviour's, Southwark, has justly observed, "many rich parishes will benefit at the expense of poorer parishes." I am sorry to trouble the House with figures, but in discussing such a Bill it cannot be avoided. Now, what are the facts? Fulham will still pay 6s. 6d.; Rotherhithe, 6s. 8d.; Bermondsey, 7s. 4d. On the other hand, Islington's rate of 5s. 1d. is to be reduced to 4s. 10d. Islington, indeed, with a rate of 5s. 1d., will receive no less than £21,000 a year under the Bill, while 20 parishes with higher rates will have to pay. Kensington with a present higher rate will pay £18,000. Indeed, while Islington receives, some 20 other districts with higher rates will have to contribute. It is called an Equalisation of Rates Bill, but whereas at present Kensington pays 1½d. more than Islington, under the Bill it will pay 7½d. more. So far from equalising the rates, it makes the difference much greater than it is at present. Moreover, whereas the rates of Islington are 1½d. below those of Kensington, Kensington is to pay, while Islington receives no less than £21,000 a year. At present St. George's-in-the-East pays 5s. 4d.; under the Bill it will pay 4s. 10d. While St. Martin-in-the-Fields now pays 4s. 10d., it will pay 5s. 3d. The difference is almost the same, but the position is reversed. I have shown then, I think, that the Bill does not equalise rates, but in many cases actually increases the existing differences. Mr. Loch, the Secretary of the Charity 840 Organisation Society, has written to me on the subject of this Bill, and sums up by saying, "This Bill does not equalise rates." Several parishes which ought under the ostensible principle of the Bill to contribute to the fund will not only not do so, but will actually receive grants, because they happen to have been combined with a larger district. On the other hand, some parishes, because they are included in a sanitary district, will receive less than they would have done if they stood alone. The Bill assumes throughout that the nominal rates in different districts are equivalent to one another and can be fairly compared. But this is not so. Thus in Bethnal Green the rate is stated to be 6s. 7d., but as a matter of fact this only applies to a small minority of the houses and to the larger ones only. Out of a total of 16,500 houses, the rates are in no less than 14,000 paid, not by the tenant but by the landlord, and an allowance is made of 25 per cent., so while the rate levied is nominally 6s. 7d., the rate actually paid is only 5s. This important consideration affects all the poorer districts, and the fact is that, as regards the vast majority of houses in the poorer districts, the rates are practically the same as those in the City—namely, 5s., and the result of the Bill will be that, whereas they are now about the same, you will make the City pay 5d. in the £1 more. The better class of houses in the poorer districts do not, of course, receive the allowance, but then the rate has been allowed for in the rent. Now, let me say a word as to the incidence of rates. If it is the custom to let land below its exact value, then the rate will fall on the tenant. If land or houses are rented at full value, then on the expiration of the lease, the rates will fall on the landlord. We are told that the object of the Bill is to relieve poor parishes. But what do we mean by a poor parish? I presume that the Government wish us to understand by the term a parish in which the inhabitants are poor—not all, of course, but a large proportion. I doubt whether the House has any idea of the extent to which compounding has been carried. If we take some of the poor parishes—Bethnal Green, Bromley, Poplar, St. George's, Southwark, Woolwich, and Bermondsey—there are 45,000 houses, and of these the rates are paid in no less 841 than 39,000 by the landlord. I have not the figures in detail for the other poor districts, or, as it would be more correct to call them, districts of small houses, but the figures would be about the same. Taking the Metropolis as a whole, out of some 550,000 houses the rates in 200,000 are paid not by the tenants, but by the landlord. The result, therefore, is that the benefit of the Bill will go not to the tenants, but to the landlords. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) will hardly question this, because in the Debate on the Budget he quoted with approval the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian as having "established the fact that rates were ultimately paid by the owner of the land." This is, of course, immediately the case as regards tenements occupied by compound householders. In the long run, then, the effect of this Bill will be to take money from the landowners in certain parts of London, and increase the value of the property of landowners in other parts. Is there the least reason to suppose that one set of landowners are poorer than the other? We have absolutely no evidence on the subject. A great deal of poor property is owned by very rich men. I am told that there is reason to believe that land in the City is more subdivided than elsewhere. A great deal of it is held by Companies—not City Companies in the ordinary sense—but Insurance Offices, Trust Companies, and other concerns, the shares of which are very much divided, and many of them in the hands of women and children. You are going to lower the value of their property to raise that of other landowners. But we have absolutely no evidence that those persons whom you are going to deprive of a part of their property are any richer than those to whom you are going to make this gigantic gift. In many poor districts there are large blocks of property owned by very wealthy men. You are going to endow them with an enormous gift, without reason and without inquiry. There is, I think, a very erroneous impression as to the amount contributed by the City toward London expenditure. I will take Lambeth as typical of what is called a poor parish. The value of property per head is £5 13s., and the contribution to rates is £1 10s. 842 Now, how does the City stand? The valuation of the City per head is £110, or, speaking roughly, about 20 times as much as that of Lambeth. Now, what is the contribution? The City contribution is £25, against £1 10s., or, again, about 20 times as great, so that the proportion of contribution is about the same as that of rateable value. But there is this difference: that the contribution of £1 10s. paid by Lambeth is for the benefit of Lambeth, while a very large part of the £25 contributed by the City is spent not for its own advantage, but for the benefit of other districts. Sir, let me ask the House whether the City does not bear a fair proportion when it is paying in rates no less than £25 per head? And yet under this Bill we are called upon to contribute £100,000 a year more. The City is the unfortunate "predominant partner," and, like another predominant partner, is to be content with less representation and more taxation than its share. We have paid, and are paying, enormous sums for schools, parks, and other objects, excellent in themselves, but for the advantage of other districts. But now let me ask the House to consider the uncertainty which this Bill will introduce into all business transactions. When it passes, if you buy a property you cannot tell what you are buying; if you rent a house you cannot tell what liabilities you are incurring. At any moment the Government may swoop down and transfer part of your property to someone else, or confer part of someone else's property upon you. Take the case of two men about to rent business premises. They look at two offices and compare the advantages, and what rent they will have to pay. As sensible men they naturally consider the rates. After doing so one takes an office in Kensington, the other in Islington. Then comes the Government and introduces their Bill. The unfortunate man who has taken his office in Kensington has to pay 6d. more in the £1 than he calculated for the benefit of the other. Is this justice? Moreover, it is a curious thing that in several cases this Bill neutralises the effect of the Common Poor Fund. For instance, Holborn receives under the Common Poor Fund; it has to pay under this Bill; Marylebone also receives, but under this Bill will have to pay; and the same is the case with Whitechapel. Islington pays 843 to the Common Poor Fund, but under this Bill will receive £21,000 a year. As Mr. Acworth justly says, this Billshould be called not a Bill for equalisation, but a Bill for the perpetuation of anomalies, and the introduction of confusion into the finances of London.Now, Sir, what has been the effect of the Common Poor Fund? The figures are very remarkable. The fund was started in 1867. Now, the number of outdoor poor have, I am happy to say, greatly diminished from 39 per 1,000 in 1865 to 19 per 1,000 in 1893. In London also the proportion has fallen from 24 per 1,000 in 1865 to 11 in 1893. But how about the indoor paupers? In the country they are stationary; they were 6.3 per 1,000 in 1865, and they are 6.5 now. In London they were 10 per 1,000 in 1865. Then came the establishment of the Common Poor Fund, under which localities are added in proportion to the indoor poor. In 1870 they had risen to 11.5 per 1,000; in 1880 to 14; in 1893 to 15 per 1,000; so that they have increased no less than 50 per cent. In The Charity Organisation Review the writer of an able article justly says—Is there anything remarkable in the fact that the Unions have adhered to a policy under which a large portion of their expenditure is repaid to them by the richer parishes of London? In 1891, by the operation of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, Bethnal Green was thus repaid £21,679, of a total expenditure on relief of £69,309; Whitechapel, £11,368, of an expenditure of £47,351; and St. George's-in-the-East, £19,429, of an expenditure of £42,714. Is it remarkable that none of these Unions should have ventured to try a system of relief the cost of which, whether or not it might of itself be economical, would fall entirely on any Unions which embarked on it? Out-relief has never of late years had fair play in any of the poor parishes of London.And he condemns what he callsthe revolution which has taken place in the scale of our Poor Law establishments, and the wholesale extravagance encouraged by the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund.Mr. Acworth, who is, I need not say, a great authority on London government, says—The central grant system is a great premium on local extravagance.This Bill would not only have the same effect, but in an exaggerated form, because the provisions for control are absent. Mr. Loch, the Secretary of the Charity Organisation Society, in his 844 letter from which I have already quoted, says—The principle of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund is adopted in the Bill, but without even its safeguards. It is generally acknowledged that the Guardians are always more ready to spend freely when the expenditure proposed to be incurred is chargeable to the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. … But these sums are expended for purposes clearly specified under various Acts and in accordance with the requirements of the Local Government Board, and subject to the supervision of their Inspectors—conditions which will not hold good in regard to the expenditure to be undertaken under the Equalisation Bill. …. Consequently we may expect that it will lead to extravagance even more than has the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. …. It would be a pity, I believe, to add one more to our London anomalies. …. And some better basis for distribution should be found.The right hon. Gentleman who has charge of the Bill referred somewhat severely to the Vestry Clerk of St. Luke's, but, having read the document issued by that gentleman, I must say it seemed to me to be characterised by great knowledge of the subject. I did not understand him to make particular objection to the claim stated by the right hon. Gentleman, and, as I understand the matter will be referred to by an hon. Member behind me, I will not go into it. I would, however, just quote a few sentences from the Clerk of St. Luke's. Taking a wide and statesmanlike view of the question, he has condemned the Bill in no measured terms—It is," he says, "little short of iniquitous to hand over to Local Authorities very large sums of money, and leave them to dispose of this money at their own unfettered discretion as the Bill does. This prospect of independent action with regard to funds provided by others, must have a fascinating but most unhappy influence upon the recipients. The Bill provided no control whatever over the expenditure of the grants from the Equalisation Fund, either similar in character to the check which is placed upon Boards of Guardians receiving contributions from the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, or otherwise; in my judgment, a most unprecedented proposal and a vital omission from the Bill.One effect of this Bill will be that the total expenditure for local purposes will be largely increased, and, in districts where the rates are relieved, the rates will go up. Now, Sir, if the House passes this Bill, you cannot stop here. Why should you? Why should you not rate all lightly-rated districts for the benefit of others which are more heavily rated, and as you allocate the money on the basis of population you must rate all 845 rural districts for the benefit of the urban population. Is this fair? Is it likely to conduce to economical administration? I have shown that, so far from equalising the rates, it in certain cases increases the difference — turns, for instance, the present difference of 1½d. between Kensington and Islington into one of 7½d. At the same time, it weakens terribly the inducement to economy. Districts will say to themselves, "We may as well spend money liberally; no doubt for a time we shall have to pay, but soon we shall have a generous Liberal Government, who will rate our neighbours for our benefit." As the other districts, however, will take the same course, the rates will rise all round, and everyone will suffer. Sir, I think I have shown that the Bill does not equalise rates, but in many cases increases the differences; that it would not affect poor tenants, but in the main would benefit one set of landlords at the expense of another; that it would introduce fresh complexities and anomalies; that it contains no safeguards and would tend to encourage extravagance; and that it is essentially unjust. In its present form, then, it is open to very grave objections, and if it is to effect the avowed intentions of Government, will require careful and numerous alterations in Committee.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
thought the great mistake which underlay the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill was that the rating seemed to vary adversely with the poverty of the ratepayers, and that all the rich lived together, and all the poor lived together. That was really the basis of his argument, and was a great fallacy. This question could not be treated as if all the members of particular classes lived together. The fact was, that the various classes were more mixed up than people usually supposed. Westminster, the parish in which they were then assembled, would have to pay very heavily under this Bill; but it contained abject poverty as well as great wealth, and the same measure will be meted out to the poor of the slums as to the rich residents of the parish. Those Members who had listened to the sermons of the Rector needed not to be reminded of the close association of great poverty and great wealth. In altering the rates as proposed they 846 would be really adding to the taxation of some of the poorest in many parishes. The right hon. Gentleman had said this Bill was intended not so much for the equalisation of rates as to enable money to be spent for necessary purposes in certain places. He agreed in the absolute necessity for expenditure upon sanitary objects, though to base equalisation of rates upon expenditure would be fatal. It would lead to extravagance, and he would oppose any such system. The right hon. Gentleman's statement that the object of the Bill was to make London pay was amusing.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he took the right hon. Gentleman's statement and that of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (who talked about "our Bill") together, and they were rather suggestive. The statement was certainly that the object was to make the City pay, and he had no objection to its paying a fair share. No doubt some fairer system, some kind of equalisation, was absolutely necessary, and he had always advocated it. All were agreed that the poorest districts should be as far as possible relieved, and that the wealthier should pay more; but looking at these figures, it could not be right that Battersea should pay 5s. 9d. and Bermondsey 7s. 4d. Did the Bill set these anomalies right, for that was what it professed to do all through London? Representing Islington he was in a peculiar position, for that parish was to get the largest part of the money—more than 10 per cent. of the whole sum raised. But one ought to be fair whatever might happen, and with opponents all round him he would endeavour to put the matter, as it seemed to him, fairly. At present the rate in Islington was low. The parish was well managed and was nearly as large as Birmingham. Standing alone, and not regarded as part of London, it would be one of the largest cities of this great Empire. He would, in all his references, take his figures from the London County Council Returns, as the fairest and most accurate, and they were based on an average of the last five years. The rate for Islington, at present 5s., 847 would become 4s. 9d.—lower than that in any parish receiving benefit under the Bill. Though Islington had its poorer quarters, nobody could say it was poorer than Bow, Poplar, or Limehouse. In Bow the rate was 7s., and would under the Bill be 6s. 5d.; in Poplar 6s. 6d. would be reduced to 6s. 2d., and in Limehouse 5s. 11d. would become 5s. 7d. Were those figures for far poorer parishes fair in comparison with Islington? He was speaking of this as a matter of strict equity. Again, Ratcliff and Wapping, contiguous parishes, were for all practical purposes in precisely the same circumstances. At present their rates were equal—5s. 4d.; and why did the Bill relieve Ratcliff to the extent of 3.81d. and Wapping only .67? For a reason the fact was given that one of them contained Dock property; but the same class of people lived in both, and yet the Bill was going to make this great difference, and destroy the present equality between them. That showed there was something wrong in the way the Bill was framed. The great difficulty in the Bill was that it was based on a dangerous system of averages, than which there was no more difficult subject to deal with. The rich Hanover Square district was much lower rated than the poorer Bethnal Green: at present 4s. 6d, and 6s. 2d. respectively, they would become under the Bill 4s. 10d. and 5s. 5½d. Why should the smaller sum be paid in the rich, and the larger in the poor parish? But the House must remember that in taking these averages they were mixing up the rich and poor in the different parishes. Hon. Members acquainted with Marylebone would know that that parish contained some of the very poorest class of ratepayers—for it must not be forgotten that each individual ratepayer living in a rich parish would have to pay the rate whether he was rich or poor. He had taken considerable trouble to work out the position and rates of every parish referred to in the London County Council's tables, and had taken the average per householder as a better plan than taking the average payment per head. The average holding worked out at £48 for London. Taking that as the unit, the rich districts would average above, and the poorer below that figure. These figures were taken from the new Census Returns, Vol. 2, pre- 848 pared at the request of the London County Council, and he would accept them as absolutely correct. They showed the most flagrant injustice. Hon. Members ought not to be led away by the title of this Bill, but should endeavour to see how it would work. The matter was very complicated, and as he had stated, he had endeavoured to work out the rating and position of every parish referred to in the table, taking the average householder's assessment as a better way of obtaining an average than payment per head, and in that way he had arrived at his figure of £48 as the average rateable value of a holding in London, the rich districts being above, and the poor below that sum. To show what flagrant injustice would be done by this Bill he would call attention to the four following parishes:—St. Katherine's-by-the-Tower, a small parish; St. Paul's, Covent Garden, a large parish; Wapping; and the Minories. In St. Katherine's-by-the-Tower the rates were at present 6s. 7d., and this Bill would simply take off one farthing, making the rate 6s. 6¾d. It seemed monstrous that the few people inhabiting that parish should be left at that very excessive rate. In St. Paul's, Covent Garden, the rates were 5s. 1d.—rather below the average; they were to be increased to 5s. 6d., although the district was a poor one and in some parts its property miserable and even squalid in the extreme. In Wapping the rates were 5s. 4d. at present, and they were to be 5s. 3¼d. In the Minories the rates were very high, 6s. 4d., and under this Bill they were to be reduced by one-halfpenny only—to 6s. 3½. Could it be said that a measure containing those anomalies could be called in any sense a measure for the equalisation of rates? These results might be gratifying to persons in districts with large docks, factories, and workshops in their midst to have these rates fixed; but that was not the way the poorer people would look at the matter. They would ask, "Why have our rates been left so high in this system of equalisation?" Take such places as Islington, Norton Folgate, Whitechapel, St. Luke's, Holborn, Stoke Newington, and Shoreditch, varying very much—from 5s. to 6s. 1d. They were all to be raised or lowered without any special reason assigned. Holborn, which happened to be rated very 849 low at present, 5s. 1d., was to be raised by a small sum, though it contained a very poor district and a large number of poor people, the amount of rating being rather increased owing to low rents and other circumstances. Then take Stoke Newington, a parish lying alongside and having identical features with those of North Islington. It had at present a higher rate than North Islington—5s. 2d. as against 5s.—and yet under this Bill Islington was to be given 3d. and Stoke Newington was only to have 1½d. The result would be that Islington would stand at 4s. 9d. and Stoke Newington at 5s. That was most unreasonable. Such anomalies ought not to exist, yet this Bill was supposed to equalise. The rates of many parishes, such as St. Olave's and St. Thomas's, Southwark, Covent Garden, St. Mary's-le-Strand, Kensington, Hampstead, &c., were higher than the rates in Islington, yet their rates were to be raised whilst those of Islington were to be lowered. Why should those parishes, where the rates were already higher than in Islington, be still further increased? Was that fair? Then taking the poorer end of the scale, Plumstead, now 6s. 2d. would become 5s. 2d. Camberwell, now 6s., would be 5s. 7½d.; Limehouse 5s. 11d. would be 5s. 6½d, Those parishes, though poorer than Islington, were rated far higher. He did not believe that the inhabitants of Islington wished to have their rates reduced at the expense of poorer districts, but of course if Parliament insisted on giving £21,000 a year to Islington they would be glad to take the money. It was the duty of the House to consider whether a Bill which sanctioned such extraordinary anomalies ought not to be revised. If measures were taken to reduce the rates permanently in certain districts, on a basis of population, he feared the effect would be to encourage an increase of inhabitants in places already too densely populated. If the rates were very much higher in one of two contiguous districts than in a neighbouring parish a poor man in search of a shop or lodging would naturally go to the latter. There were Islington and St. Pancras, for example. The rates in the former place under this Bill would be 4s. 9d., and in the latter 5s. 3d. He would venture to ask was it not certain 850 that a poor man would elect to reside in Islington, where the rates were lower? Supposing that the population of Islington were to increase largely; supposing, for the sake of illustration, that it should double itself, then, instead of £21,000 a year the parish would get a very much larger sum, probably about £80,000 a year, for the denser the population of a district became the more would they be given under this system. It must be recognised by all as a great evil that density of population should thus be encouraged. All these anomalies would aggravate themselves as time went on, and in each district would become greater, and the very fact of giving a premium to those dense districts would encourage the very evil so much deplored. It was not desirable that these densely populated places should become still more thickly inhabited, One of the great causes of difference in the rating was that one parish was poorer than another; but there were other things that affected the rates, such as bad management of one area as compared with the good management of another. Islington has been referred to, and the reason Islington had a lower rate as compared with other districts was partly because it had been excellently managed for many years, being properly looked after by the Vestry. Then as to the loss in collection the average was 6.6, but there were some of the Metropolitan districts where it was as low as 1.8, whilst in others it was as high as 15.8. The collection of the rate had a great deal to do with it. The most efficient system was a quarterly collection, and where that system was adopted the loss was considerably less than where the collection was made at longer intervals. He need not refer at any length to the question of efficiency, whether efficiency and economy would be found under this measure. They must remember that these parishes would have the handling of money that they did not feel the collection of, and everyone knew that money drawn from the Treasury or a common fund was not watched with that jealousy and care that money was that was drawn from the ratepayers themselves, and, therefore, there was great danger that these subventions in aid led to extravagance in the locality. The danger was that these funds that came from a concealed source would not be felt by the localities for some time, 851 and having the money in a lump sum it would look as if they were spending money they did not have to pay for, and before long the 6d. rate would have become a 1s. rate. He did not object to an increase of these rates if it was to do the good work of the district that was anticipated, as he thought they got more than the value of the rate by having an efficient sanitary system, very often it was an absolute economy, even for the very poor, to pay rates rather than run the risk of ill-health which a scarcity of rate often involved. The conclusion he came to was that, though they had in Islington an enormous bribe given by this Bill, the Bill did not give equalisation of rates, and did not do what they were all striving to do—namely, relieve those who ought to be relieved, and put an extra burden upon those who might well be required to pay a little more. He felt also that the Bill would tend to increase the density of the population. They had the case before their eyes of the abolition of the Coal Dues. At the time it was not popular to oppose the abolition, but at the present they were all agreed that it was a great mistake that was made. ["No, no!"] He did not suppose the hon. Member who came from the Forest of Dean desired them, as he had another interest, but the inhabitants of London did, and he was sure that if the London County Council could get them back without anyone knowing it they would get them very soon. It was the same with such a measure as this. For the moment it might be popular, but it would be found to work injustice and unfairness upon the localities. Before sitting down he would like to say what his own view of the matter was. He knew that some hon. Gentlemen thought it was only a political matter, but he did say that this measure might possibly be altered into a fairly reasonable one, and one way he could see to do that was to make some better arrangement for the raising of this fund. This extra sixpenny rate should be levied on those who were rated at the higher rate. He should not object to that if he had all the information before him, but they had not got that information. As he had said, he had tried to get it, and, personally, he should not object to what was a somewhat differential rate, as he thought there was a good deal to be said of 852 some such rate as that if fairly adjusted and properly extended. He was quite candid about that. He wanted to relieve the small struggling ratepayer. To his mind, no man paid more in taxation, both local and Imperial, than the small man who was trying to push himself up. This Bill relieved a few in some parts, but it did not relieve them in other parts, and if a small tradesman lived in what was thought to be a fashionable district he had a greater struggle to get on than those who lived in the poorer parts, and sometimes was not able to get on at all. But, as he had said, they had not the necessary information before them to do that. Hon. Members opposite knew he did not think much of the County Council; but he would infinitely rather leave the adjustment of this fund to the County Council, if the principle in which they were to distribute it were carefully defined in the Bill, than to the haphazard system proposed in the Bill. There would be objections, but he thought it possible that such a body as the County Council, which would work in the light of day, would carry out the system fairly, and that the fund worked on those lines would be better than the way proposed by the Bill. This was a matter in which he had taken great interest. The local burdens of the people were of far more importance than many of the so-called great political questions which were discussed in the House of Commons, and he had always made it his study to relieve those burdens as far as possible. Of course, the advantages of civilisation must be paid for, but the payment ought to be arranged in a fair way. The burden ought to be adjusted fairly on the shoulders of each person. He believed that this was an opportunity of equalising the rates in a fair manner, and he regretted very much that the Bill was drafted in the way it was.
§ MR. BARROW (Southwark, Bermondsey)
said, there were reasons that might justify his intervention in this Debate. In the first place, it was his honour and satisfaction to move the Resolution; in the second place, it was seldom he intruded on the House; and, in the third place, his own constituents were very much interested in this question. He had been listening to the hon. Member for Islington for the major part of his speech, and he had been wonder- 853 ing with what object he had risen. He must confess that in the last few sentences they had rather a novel suggestion, and he thought they might dismiss all that went before as simply an essay. He was interested in hearing the arguments of the Member for the City of London who moved the Amendment. The hon. Member admitted that he was in favour of the equalisation of rates, but objected to this Bill because he said it was not an equalisation of rates. They must all admit that there was no reason to contend longer about that, as it was a patent fact; but it was undoubtedly an effort in the direction of equalisation, and if they could not get all they would wish they would be much remiss in their representative character to their constituents if they did not get as much as they could. The hon. Member for the City of London, while he honestly admitted he was favourable to the Bill, objected because it was not an Equalisation Bill, and called it a counting of noses instead of a consideration of needs. In the light of that figure of speech he wished to present the case for which he was claiming the attention of the House for a few minutes. The district of Bermondsey had been referred to frequently. A 1d. in the £1 in Bermondsey represented £1,750, whilst in St. George's, Hanover Square, it represented £7,674. The local charges for Bermondsey, in addition to the general charges, amounted to 4s. in the £1; in St. George's, Hanover Square, they came to 1s. 3d., and in St. James's they came to 1s. 0¼d. If this question were to be dealt with according to local needs, he wished hon. Gentlemen to take notice of the facts. Under the Bill Bermondsey would get a rebate of something like £6,000, which would mean 3½d. in the £1 on rates at present amounting to 7s. 3d. in the £1., thus reducing the rate to 6s. 11½d. Did the Member for the City of London consider that this was still a case of need? Under the Bill the rate in St. James's, Westminster, would be increased 4d. in the £1, and that parish would then only be paying a rate of 4s. 4d. in the £1, against the reduced rate of 6s. 11½d. in Bermondsey. The hon. Member for Islington referred to Westminster, and wanted to establish another anomaly, as though they had not enough to deal with. 854 The hon. Member said that around this House there were many wealthy people, and there was a proportion of the squalid and poor population. They would grant him that as he thought it was generally the fact that the rich and the poor went together, but the question was one of proportion. Supposing Westminster were to exist as a rich district, without any squalor, it would pay less than the 4s. that it paid to-day. What they would like would be to discriminate to such an extent that the poor should be entirely relieved, and, perhaps the hon. Member would help them to do that in Committee. They had recently passed the principle of graduation in regard to the Death Duties on the basis that the rich should pay at a higher rate than the poor. But in regard to local taxation in London the basis seemed to be that the poorer the district the higher was the rate of taxation, for it was a fact that the poorer districts of London, which were really the industrial districts, were at present the most heavily rated of all. As long as things remained in this state they were not likely to have peace and contentment. The large leakage of 1s. 1d. in the £1 in Bermondsey to which reference had been made by the President of the Local Government Board showed the poverty and inability of the tenants in that district to pay their rates and rents, and a man who left his rates unpaid only aggravated the condition of his neighbours. The hon. Member for Marylebone placed the Bill under discussion on false grounds. He said it was a political move, but that had been absolutely answered by the hon. Member for Islington, who sat on the same side of the House with the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Islington would not have this as a political movement at all, and why he made his speech, considering that he represented the most favoured district of London, he (Mr. Barrow) could not understand, because the rates of his constituents would be reduced to 4s. 9d. in the £1. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the London University (Sir J. Lubbock) referred to the City of London contributing half-a-million of money to relief objects generally. If they had not got the money they could not contribute it. But what remained behind? After all their deeds 855 of charity they were taxed at only 4s. 10d. in the £1, and that represented the wealth of the City of London. A point was made by the Member for the City that a proposal to tax the City on a night population was very unfair. ["Hear, hear!"] Very well; let them examine that question. He could not follow the hon. Member's figures, but he made a statement something like this: that there were about 37,000 night residents, and between 300,000 and 400,000 persons visited the city during the day, and he therefore claimed a relief per head on the day population. But these people did not live there except in the sense that they went there to labour and went back to Bermondsey by shoals to rest and sleep. These people in Bermondsey, if this Bill passed, would get the relief at the rate of 3½d. in the £1; but if the view of the hon. Member were carried out, they would get it twice. London was crowded throughout the day by those who lived outside and who were entitled to claim some relief from their heavy taxation, but what claim had the merchants of London to any relief of this kind? It was true that merchants did not sleep in London; when they shut up their warehouses, their banks, or their offices they went out of their front doors whilst the employés went out at the back door, but let the House mark that those who went out at the back door were paying 7s. in the £1, whilst those who went out of the front door were paying 4s. 10d. What was wanted was that the people should get the relief in the district in which they lived and paid their rates. That, he thought, was an answer to the hon. Member for Dulwich (Sir J. Blundell Maple), who interjected a question to the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke about the cost of the roads. The question ought to have been answered by the right hon. Gentleman, but he presumed the right hon. Gentleman did not at the time fully appreciate its importance. The hon. Member wanted to know whether the difference in the cost of roads in St. George's, Hanover Square, where it was £850 per mile, and Bermondsey, where it was £311 per mile, arose from the extra width of the roads in St. George's.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he would answer the question; it was a mile in length. St. George's had these fine wide roads which cost £850 per mile, at a charge of 4¾d. in the £1 on the rates, whereas the cost of the roads in Bermondsey was a charge on their resources of 5¾d. in the £1.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE
said, the hon. Member did not understand on what his remarks were based. The right hon. Gentleman was saying there was a great deal of extravagance in the making of roads in St. George's as compared with the East End, and he (Sir J. Blundell Maple) pointed out that the roads being so much wider in St. George's there was not that extravagance that was supposed.
§ MR. BARROW
said, that admitting that St. George's could have better roads at a less cost, he thought that the inequalities of rating were thoroughly established. But one subject not yet touched upon was the principle of assessment. There was room for reformation there. It had been hinted at by the right hon. Gentleman that in poor districts it was necessary for the valuers to put the highest possible value they could on the property so as not to make the rating conspicuously high or higher than other districts. They ought to have one common rating body, one body who would assess the property in common for a general purpose. He was glad the hon. Member for Islington had announced himself as a friend of the London County Council to the extent of advocating that the management of the Bill should be placed in their hands.
§ MR. BARROW
said, the hon. Member did suggest such a theory to their mind. He hoped they should see one common Governing Body, thoroughly equipped with all the machinery necessary for the government of London, and then they would have this matter adjusted on equitable lines.
§ MR. BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham)
said, the hon. Member had indicated that he could not understand the Member for a district like Islington, which re- 857 ceived the largest sum under this Bill, opposing this Bill. He (Mr. Banbury) was in the same position as the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley). He represented the district which received the second largest sum under the Bill, and he was going to oppose it. He and his hon. Friend did not regulate their conduct by the amount of the money they were going to receive, but by asking themselves whether a Bill was just and fair to everybody in the country. The President of the Local Government Board in introducing this measure said it had been lately the aim and desire of everybody that London should be treated as a whole, aad that the responsible government of London should be spread over the inhabitants in London. He quite agreed, and if the right hon. Gentleman had said the expenses of the Sanitary Authorities should be borne by a central authority, a rate being levied over the whole of London, by which everybody in London should pay the expense of that central authority, he should have considered the right hon. Gentleman had brought in a good Bill, and one which deserved the support of every Member of the House. They had at present three funds which had that object—namely, the Police Fund, the Common Poor Law Fund, and the School Board Fund. The Police and School Board Funds were both managed by one central authority, and the expenditure of the Poor Law Fund was controlled also by one central authority, the chief object, he supposed, being that those people who paid the money should have some control over the expenditure. It could not be denied that these were three very good objects, and he considered the right hon. Gentleman should have proceeded on the same lines. He could not altogether approve the line of action of the London County Council, but, after all, they had created the County Council as the central authority of London, and if, as he contended, it was necessary that everybody in London should bear a fair share of the expenses of the Sanitary Authority, why was not the Sanitary Authority to be entirely in the hands of the County Council with a rate levied over the whole of the Metropolis? Though he was afraid the County Council would be rather extravagant if 858 further powers were put into their hands, he thought it would be better to put the matter on that basis rather than that the basis of population should be taken. With regard to the City of London, the hon. Member opposite had said something as to the merchants going out at the front door and the clerks at the back. He did not think that was very à, propos to the question, but he would just say that he had been for a good many years in the City of London, and he had never observed any such custom. He always found that both merchants and clerks went out at the same door. The Member for Bermondsey stated that if the Bill was not based on population the City people would be relieved twice over, because these people who paid rates in the City of London might be relieved, and then when they went to their places of residence in Bermondsey they would be relieved afterwards. The people who lived in Bermondsey were those employed by the people who paid the rates in the City of London. The merchants paid the rates, which were added to in the City, and when they went to the place where they lived they found the rates were added to these also, so that they paid twice over. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the case of St. Luke's, which he said was not to be treated with great consideration because at one time its Local Authorities made a bad debt. But if the population of St. Luke's increased, the right hon. Gentleman's argument disappeared, and they would be benefited notwithstanding that they made a bad debt some years ago. Certain statements had been made as to the effect of economy in this matter. He thought it must be admitted by everybody that if they handed over money to certain people with authority to spend it and they had not to put their hands into their own pockets to provide this money, human nature being what it was, in all probability they would not encourage economy but extravagance. In the district of South London which he represented, and in the neighbouring district of Lambeth, there was no doubt a very high rate in the £1. There had been, certainly in Lambeth, a considerable amount of extravagance. They wanted to go in for a system of electric lighting, which, he believed, they had now given up. But 859 under this Bill was it not likely they would resuscitate that scheme, and the money which the ratepayers thought was going to be put into their pockets would be spent in providing the electric light, and things of that sort? The Vestry would say, "We are not going to increase the rates of the people in the district. We are going to spend the money which comes from somebody who has no control over us. We will spend it on some of the numerous fads we have taken up, and the people cannot complain, because they will receive the benefit accruing from the expenditure, and will have nothing further to pay." It was possible that the people of Camberwell, if the Bill passed in its present shape, might find their streets were better kept and that they were furnished with electric lighting, but they would not have what they hoped to find and what they most desired—namely, a reduction in the rates of the parish. One other point which ought not to be left out of consideration was the effect of the rateable value. In St. George's, Hanover Square, a rate of 1d. in the £1 was sufficient to provide the sum of £850 per mile for roads, whereas in some other parish a rate very much higher in the £1 would only provide a much smaller sum. That was because the rateable value of the one district was very much higher than the other, and they would never alter that rateable value and equalise the rates unless they established one central administrative authority over the whole of London which was enabled to levy a rate over the whole of London. Assuming that a boundary were fixed to the limits of the Metropolis, he believed it would be better from this point of view that all London should be administered by one authority; but of course that would involve the destruction of all local municipal life, which, he had always understood, it was the desire of the Liberal Party to preserve. On the other hand, if they desired to carry out the equalisation of rates and to make every district pay exactly the same amount in the £1, he could not see how it was to be done unless all local administration were controlled by one central authority. The Bill had been so badly drawn that he was afraid it could not be satisfactorily 860 altered in Committee. He certainly thought that such an equalisation of Sanitary Authorities over the whole of London would be advantageous, and ought to be carried out. This Bill, however, would not effect such a desirable change, and, unless it were considerably amended in Committee, notwithstanding that his constituents received considerable benefit from it, he should be obliged to oppose it, because in the long run he believed the people would not receive what they had been led to believe they would receive, and because it was an unjust and inequitable measure. The President of the Local Government Board said that the main object of this Bill was to make the City of London pay. That seemed to him a most extraordinary admission to come from the Government Bench. It appeared to be another departure into Oriental finance.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Sir W. FOSTER,) Derby, Ilkeston
The right hon. Gentleman said nothing of the kind. He did not say that the main object was to make the City of London pay.
§ Several hon. MEMBERS: He did.
SIR W. FOSTER
In a jocular mood he referred to that as one of the results of the Bill. It is not right in my right hon. Friend's absence to accuse him of a statement he did not make.
§ MR. BARTLEY
mentioned that he took the words down at the moment, and the right hon. Gentleman said that this was the very object of the Bill.
§ MR. BANBURY
said, he asked his hon. Friend to take down the words at the moment, because they struck him as so remarkable. This, therefore, was another departure into Oriental finance, worthy of the headman of a village of Morocco, who looked round and saw some villagers who had got some money and thereupon said, "We want some money for taxes, let us have yours." As far as he was aware, no House of Commons in England had ever carried out taxation on such a principle. The object of taxation had been to find out how a tax could be imposed which would not press unduly upon anybody. The question of the night population appeared 861 to be very strong. The rateable value of the City was so high, not from the caretakers, porters, and shop-boys who formed the night population of the City, but from the efforts of the people who during the day occupied their places there, spent the best hours of their lives there, but slept elsewhere. It was from their labours that the very wealth of the City which the right hon. Gentleman was going to tax was created, and yet these were the very people who would be excluded from any benefit that might be conferred by the measure. Another remarkable argument was based upon the case of North and South Kensington. Because the rich people in South Kensington already paid for the poor people in North Kensington, therefore it was said they were to pay still more for the poor people in some other place. He regretted that the Government, having the opportunity, had not brought in a Bill which would have equalised rates in a just and equitable manner, instead of bringing in a Bill which was not just and which did not equalise the rates.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, the principle adopted in every other city was that every £1's worth of property should contribute equally towards any municipal taxes of the city. That was a principle which was very unequally adopted in London, and the object of the Bill was to secure a more equal system. This proposal of equalisation had been adopted to a certain extent in London already, as in the case of the Common Poor Fund and the School Board rate, and so far all parties were agreed that its operation had been good. He believed Parliament would be justified in going a step further in the same direction. He represented part of the parish of Islington, to which so much allusion had been made. His hon. Friend on the other side had given his views on this matter, and nearly every speaker appeared to admit there was something anomalous with regard to Islington. If the principle were examined more closely, however, it would be found to operate with perfect fairness in the case of Islington, whilst it did no injustice to anybody. The true test of wealth or poverty was the average rateable value per head of the popula- 862 tion of a parish. It would be found that every parish which paid under this Bill had an average rateable value per head of £7 8s. or upwards, and every parish which received had an average rateable value under that figure. If it was found that the Bill operated in the way he had said nobody could contend that it was not a fair Bill. There had been a little contradiction about the amount of the rate in Islington, and to put the matter right he would mention that the Vestry of that parish sent a Petition to the House of Commons in which they stated that the rates hadbeen steadily increasing for seven years from 4s. 1d. in the £1 to 5s. 6d. in the £1, and would doubtless be much higher but for the fact that the several properties in the parish are assessed at their full value. The parish is essentially a residential one, and the greater part of the population consists of clerks, artizans, and labourers.They thus saw that in Islington the rates had been steadily rising for the last eight years from 4s. 1d. to 5s. 6d., which was the amount at which they stood this year. If the Bill had passed last year the rates would only have been 5s. 3d. It was admitted that the parish of Islington was well and economically managed, and the reason for the increase of the rates was because the Local Authorities had tried to give their inhabitants the benefit of recent sanitary legislation. Again, it was said that because Islington under the Common Poor Fund had to pay £12,000 a year the Bill must be unfair under which they received £20,000. Could any argument be more foolish? This showed the absolute fairness of the measure. Under one principle of equalisation Islington had to contribute something, and surely under the next system it was fair she should receive something. The principle of the last Equalisation Bill was that a certain allowance should be made to each parish in proportion to the number of indoor paupers. Islington had preferred to try another system, to a large extent, than that of keeping paupers in the workhouse, and the parish gave a large amount of outdoor relief, and consequently got a small sum under the Bill to which he referred. That was an important matter to take into account. He said that no point was made against 863 Islington, and no point was made against the Bill. The hon. Member for Marylebone asked, why should Marylebone pay and Islington receive? Marylebone must pay because the average rateable value per head of the population in Marylebone was £10 13s. 10d., and Islington must receive because the average rateable value per head in Islington was £5 5s. 10d.; and so all these puzzles which had been put by hon. Members opposite would be easily answered if they adopted that simple principle. He would point out further that the rate in Islington, if the Bill passed, would be 5s. 3d., and not 4s. 9d., as stated by the hon. Member opposite, and 5s. 3d. would be the average rate all over the Metropolitan area if the rates were equalised. What, he asked, was the basis on which the Bill rested? It was that the rate should be collected on property, and that it should be distributed according to population. Could a single word be said against that principle? What was going to pay rates but property, and what were the circumstances under which the rates would be wanted but the demands of an abounding population? The hon. Member for North Islington, in that casual way in which he usually addressed the House at great length, mentioned the Minories as a poor parish. Why, the average value of property per head of the population in the Minories was £27, or five times as much as it was in Islington. The hon. Member also instanced the case of Wapping. The average value per head in Wapping was £25, as against £5 in Islington. If they took the rule he laid down, everyone would see that the Bill was perfectly sound. Were not the rates at present levied on property? He could not see how they could adopt any other way of raising this new rate except that of levying it equally on property wherever it might be found. The hon. Member for Marylebone stated that the Bill—instead of being an honest Bill and a perfectly fair Bill, and just in its application to every parish in London—was a Bill by which the Government hoped to gerrymander the constituencies. How could the Government achieve that object under the Bill? In the City a very heavy rate was levied, and the City returned Members opposed to the Govern- 864 ment. In Islington a large amount of money was paid, and Islington returned three Members opposed to the Government. Were the Government going to bribe constituencies, by the mode of distributing the rate, to send their supporters to the House of Commons? But the Bill distributed the rate fairly and equally amongst all parishes, and there could be no ground for such a charge. The parishes which would receive the greatest benefit under the Bill sent as many Conservative as Liberals to the House; and when the Division came a good many Conservatives would be found in the Lobby in support of the Bill. Every speaker against the Bill had said he was in favour of its principle. He had only been in the House about two years, and he always found that when a measure was going to be opposed in the hottest way hon. Gentlemen opposite said they were in favour of its principle. It appeared to him that the chief distinction between Conservatives and Liberals was not really principle, for they were both agreed as to principle, but the difference lay in this—that the Conservatives were not willing to put their principles into practice, while the Liberals were. He appealed to hon. Members on the other side who represented London constituencies to try to depart on this occasion from the traditions of their Party, and to give the Bill a fair consideration. The only point that had been made against the Bill was that it would diminish local control, and therefore tend to extravagance in the localities. But the Bill only dealt with one-fourth of the rates throughout London. There would still be rates levied in the district to the amount of 1s. 6d. in the £1 on the average—in some cases it would be 3s., and in others 1s. in the £1—and he thought, therefore, that the disposition of the localities to keep down the rates might safely be trusted.
§ MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said, the opponents of the Bill must have noticed with some satisfaction the admission made by the hon. Member for Bermondsey that this was not in reality an equalisation Bill. The hon. Member had said that this was merely au effort in that direction. Well, in the opinion of those 865 who did not approve of the measure, it was, if an effort in that direction, an unsuccessful and ineffective effort. Having listened to the speeches made in the course of the evening by the supporters of the Bill, he must say it was unnecessary for the opponents to dwell any further upon the fiscal inequalities which the Bill would produce, as it was useless for the supporters to pretend that the fiscal results would be anything like a just equalisation of rates throughout the parishes in London. That was perfectly obvious. It was not disputed that this Bill, while it might destroy certain anomalies and inequalities, would produce others. But he did not wish to dwell on the fiscal operation of the Bill. He had put down upon the Paper an Amendment which he did not propose to move, because he thought it would, perhaps, be better that all who disliked the measure should state their objections on a direct negative to the Second Reading. At the same time, he would not withdraw any of the considerations and arguments he had in his mind when he put the Amendment on the Paper. He would now state what he conceived to be the real objections to the Bill, apart from the fiscal objection. In the first place, he did not think it could be denied that the Bill, if it came into law, would lead to extravagant and inefficient local administration. How could they expect that any representative Local Authority would be careful and economical in its local administration when it did not matter in the least whether it was so or not? Why should a Vestry, which was going to have a fixed sum allotted to it by the capricious operation of the Bill, care whether it was economical or extravagant—whether it simply spent the ratepayers' money on what was absolutely required by the necessities of the locality, or whether it spent up to the hilt the money that would be doled out to it in future? The temptation would be too great to the best body of administrators in the world. They would not be able to resist the temptation of lavishing money on works which probably were not required, knowing that the money would not come out of the pockets of their constituents. Did the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill really think that it was a judicous thing to give to the Local Authori- 866 ties in London or any other great town in the country that kind of capacity for reckless and extravagant expenditure? He should have thought not. Now let him come to the second objection. Without doubt, one of the tendencies of the Bill would be to make it more difficult for poor people to go on living in comparatively rich districts of London. At the present time it was still possible for poor working men to go on living near their work in Kensington, in Westminster, in all the central districts of the Metropolis. Why was that? For one reason, owing to the light assessment for rates, rents were comparatively low, and they could afford to pay those rates. It was convenient for those poor people to live near their work, and it was most important, politically and socially, that they should be enabled to live in the central parts and in comparatively wealthy districts. He did not see how the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) could doubt that one of the effects of the Bill would be to make it more difficult for poor people to go on living in these rich and central portions of London. And what would be the effect of that? He would not dwell on the evil so clearly pointed out by the hon. Member for Islington—that it would lead to overcrowding in already congested districts. He rather thought the hon. Member for Battersea would agree with him when he asserted it was a good thing there should not be a rigid geographical distinction in London between rich and poor quarters, and that in the central districts there should be an intermixture of all classes of society. To drive the poor to the suburbs or the outskirts of the Metropolis would be to aggravate the present social difficulties with which they had to deal in London, and which they would all desire not to see accentuated. And how could the President of the Local Government Board and those who supported the Bill doubt that that would be the result more or less directly? Beyond this, he wished to go rather on the lines of the Amendment he had placed upon the Paper. It was impossible, he thought, to deal with this very difficult question except as a portion of the reconstruction of the whole system of local government in London. He was afraid that here again the Go- 867 vernment were attempting to deal in a very piecemeal fashion with the local government of London. He certainly was not saying this in any Party spirit, because he was sure it was too much the tendency of statesmen of both Parties to try to get London Bills quickly through Parliament. Here, again, was another attempt to raise questions which ought to be dealt with calmly and deliberately and not in a perfunctory and casual way. The London County Council, though favourable to the Bill, in a memorandum prepared on the occasion of a deputation waiting upon the President of the Local Government Board had damned the Bill by its criticism, and had declared that it was "not a final solution of the question, but an endeavour to meet provisionally some of the hardships caused by the localities having to bear the whole of their municipal expenditure." This Memorandum also declared—"It is perfectly true that the proper basis of a true system of equalisation should be the charge for the services to be equalised," but that this could not be arrived at "in the absence of a central control," and "until it has been determined what relation the District Council shall bear to the County Council." He appealed to the House whether that did not bear out his contention that they could not touch this question of the equalisation of rates without raising the whole question of local government in London, and that it was a waste of time at this period of the Session to ask the House to discuss the provisions of a Bill which, in the opinion of those who were more or less its authors, was but a provisional measure, and not in any sense final? He put it to the right hon. Gentleman and his followers, do let them, as Londoners, take rather a larger view of this question than they were apt to do. He admitted that it was incumbent upon those of them who criticised the Bill, and thought it was a bad one, which did not carry out its objects, to sketch out their views of the extent to which equalisation should go in London. For his own part, as regarded sanitary administration, he thought there should be one uniform rate throughout London. He could not see how it could be contended that the interests of the wealthy west were different in that matter from the interests of the poor east and south. To 868 that extent they should regard the whole Metropolis as one area. But he did not see why the principle should be indefinitely extended to subjects which were not of general concern to the whole of the population of the Metropolis. Matters which affected the comfort of certain districts only, such as electric lighting, ought to be decided by the view of the local ratepayers, and the expenses should be borne entirely by them. But he quite agreed that in other matters, such as health, there ought to be one common fund and a central authority, but that central authority must have the control over the expenditure. He could not understand how any democrat in the House could support the absolutely casual system proposed to be set up by the Bill. How, for instance, could the hon. Member for Battersea think it right that a Local Authority should have money coming in for certain work whether it was necessary that that work should be done or not? The hon. Member must know that it would be a right thing for some central authority to have a check and control in the matter. While he thought that in most matters the District Councils or the Municipal Councils of the future should have the sole control of the expenditure, he admitted that there were other matters that must be dealt with by a central authority and paid for out of a common fund, and in respect of which the central authority should have power to control the expenditure. But such control was absent from the provisions of the Bill. As to the general London question, when the Act of 1888 was before the House the Unionist Members were very modest. Many of them were newly elected and had had very little practical experience in London local administration, and the Local Government measure, as a result, had passed without much thought. And he doubted whether they quite appreciated how this particular Bill, which pretended to deal only with rating, vitally affected the future destinies of London with regard to local government. They should not forget that they might be doing things now which would bind the future government of London. The government of London was such an important problem that everyone ought to 869 try to take the most anxious care in its treatment. They should remember that in voting on this Bill it was not merely a Bill dealing with rates, but that it touched all the big problems as to how this great population of nearly 5,000,000 should be governed in the future. He was afraid that if the Bill were passed in its present shape it would make everything like decentralisation impossible. At any rate, it went dead against it. What was the scheme of the Local Government Act of 1888, to which all parties were assenting in theory? It was that there should be one popular central body in the county. It was also proposed in the Bill that there should be District Councils established, popularly elected, dignified bodies with large powers. That portion of the Bill was not carried out, although Members on both sides of the House were in favour of it. In 1889 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax moved an Amendment to the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech on the ground that there was no mention in the Speech of a measure for District Councils, not only in the counties but also in London. Every Gladstonian Member joined the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion in condemning the Government of the day for not proceeding with that legislation. They argued that the system of Local Government in Londou was incomplete without these trained bodies of skilled administrators in the districts — dignified bodies that would attract to themselves all that was best amongst the public men of the district. That was some years ago. Nothing had been done, but the argument remained good; and what he was afraid of was this—that by this Bill the interest in the increasing growth of the responsibility of Local Authorities in London would diminish, and that they would be condemned to inutility and be unattractive to men of position. Let them give up the hypocritical pretence of being in favour of dignified Local Authorities if they passed this Bill. If they were in favour of those authorities they could not be in favour of this Bill. If carried it would discourage efficient local administration, and even drive out of the existing local bodies the best of the men who now served on them. He hoped he had not been presumptuous 870 in what he had said, but he deeply and honestly felt the importance of every measure such as this, which touched the question of London local government. He, at any rate, would oppose the Bill to the best of his ability, because he thought that it lightly and foolishly raised questions of London government which it made no attempt to settle, and because if carried it would prevent anything like a satisfactory, complete, and logical measure decentralising the administration of London in the future.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University had especially referred to Bethnal Green in connection with the question of compounding. He would ask, Why did the practice of compounding obtain in that parish as well as in other districts? The answer was simply that it would be impossible to collect the rates directly. He did not know when the right hon. Baronet had imbibed the heresy of Lord Salisbury, who desired that the rates should be collected directly from each householder, but they did know that the plan had been tried. The experiment was made immediately after the passing of Mr. Disraeli's Reform Bill of 1867, and it proved a disastrous failure. The fact was that the commission allowed to owners of property was in the nature of a charge for rate collection. He would not at that moment go into the question whether or not it was excessive; if it were, by all means let it be adjusted, but they must not ignore services which the compounder rendered. Let them not blame a poor district for a practice which its own unfortunate condition necessarily imposed upon it. The hon. Member for Islington had used an argument against the Bill which, while it was plausible, was not very candid, and it had been urged by a higher authority, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square. It was that the Bill would add to the rates of poor persons living in rich districts. Now, that was an objection not to the particular plan proposed by the Bill, but to equalisation altogether. No one denied that poor people lived in rich districts. The rates would certainly be raised in some of those districts, such, for example, as 871 that of St. George's, Hanover Square, but he denied that the few poor ratepayers that lived in those fashionable quarters would have just cause to complain that the Bill, while conferring a benefit on their brethren who lived in Bethnal Green for instance, would have the effect of increasing their own rates. The rates now paid by them were considerably below the average; equalisation would necessitate raising them, but the poorer residents in St. George's had no greater claim on their sympathy than had the poor ratepayers of Bethnal Green. He thought that that fact was an argument that could be used in favour of the principle of gradation being applied to rates, and he was surprised that the Member for North Islington, who had made the suggestion that gradation could be well applied in the present instance, did not support that principle in relation to the Finance Bill. He supposed the hon. Member put the suggestion forward in good faith.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I did, and I also explained that the reason I did not dilate upon it at greater length was that I had not with me the particulars I wished to quote in support of it. I also said I would support any reasonable proposal of that sort.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
Then why did not the hon. Member support the principle in regard to the Finance Bill?
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
said, the right hon. Member for St. George's, who adopted the same argument, certainly was not in favour of the principle of gradation, and the objection in his case would apply to any scheme of equalisation which could be produced. The hon. Member for Peckham said that all sanitary purposes should be under the direct control of a Central Authority. Had the hon. Member considered how far that would carry them? He would find, when he came to subtract from the present functions discharged by Local Authorities all which had any connection with sanitary measures, the work left to be done by the Local Authorities would be very small indeed. Therefore, the hon. Member's argument was one in favour of centralisation, and centralisa- 872 tion in excess. The hon. Member for Marylebone had assured the House that in some districts the Bill would give rise to the greatest dissatisfaction. No doubt that would be the case in the City and in the district of St. George's, because it was a common experience that people who, up to the present, had not contributed their fair share did not receive with any too much favour a measure that would compel them in future to do so. The hon. Member stated that the proper test for estimating what proportion of the central grant should be applied to each particular district was not the basis of population as proposed by the Bill, but a comparison of the number of indoor poor in the different Unions respectively. That, he submitted, would not be a safe test to apply at all. He noted particularly that the hon. Member, when he made that statement, did not apply it to the City of London. If he had done so the result would have been that the City would have come out as the poorest of all. Of course, a principle which landed them in such a reductio ad absurdum could not be entertained for one moment. The proposed basis upon which the calculation was to be made might be open to comment, but he ventured to say that far more grotesque and anomalous absurdities would arise under any of the other methods that had been proposed. Throughout the Debate he had been interested to note how curiously it followed the line of arguments adopted by hon. Members when the Metropolitan Relief Acts of 1867 and 1870 were being discussed. Even the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board practically based his whole case on quotations from speeches delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's on that occasion, and the objections to the present Bill ran on precisely parallel lines with those raised in 1867 and 1870. One of the objections taken was that it would lead to extravagance on the part of the Local Authorities. He did not believe it would. They had the same safeguard against that as was provided by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's in his Bill in 1870, when he said he proposed to place the charges for indoor pauperism on the common fund, less a margin which 873 would act as a stimulus to the Guardians in the direction of economic administration. He maintained that the objection brought forward by the hon. Member for Chelsea that a fair margin for necessary local expenditure had not been allowed for was unfounded. Complaint had been made that only £850,000 was to be raised under the Bill, whereas the total expenditure in London on sanitation was at least £1,250,000. But let them look at the matter in detail. The highest grant under the Bill was 8½d., whereas the lowest lighting and general rate, which practically represented the purposes on which the grant was to be expended, was 11¾d. Islington would receive under the Bill £21,000, and an hon. Member asked what in the world it could do with the money, without launching into extravagant expenditure. But the £21,000 was only equivalent to a three-penny rate, and inasmuch as the lighting and general rate was 1s. 3d. in the £1, there was a most ample margin for necessary local expenditure. Again, it had been urged that the Bill provided no check or control over the Local Authority, but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's had forgotten the provisions of the Public. Health Act, 1891, which gave power to the Central Authority to see that necessary work was carried out, and in the event of the Local Authority failing to do what was required authorised the Central Authority not only to have the work done, but to recover the cost of the same from the Local Authority. The hon. Member for North Islington had suggested that some such powers should be conferred on the London County Council in this case; and while he sympathised with the suggestion he confessed he was surprised to hear it from one who had hitherto so consistently opposed the London County Council and all its works. At any rate, the Bill might be modelled on the same lines as the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund Act of 1870, which provided that a Board of Guardians which failed to perform its duty in certain respects might be punished by the loss of its grant from the Common Poor Fund. Speaking for himself, he might say he would be willing that a clause should be inserted in the Bill providing that a Sanitary Authority 874 in default within the meaning of the Public Health Act, 1891, might be mulcted in the whole or in part of the grant to which it might be entitled. The urgent necessity of the case now with regard to sanitary administration was similar to that which Mr. Gathorne-Hardy in 1867 and the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, in 1870 had to face with regard to Poor Law Administration. In 1867 and in 1870 it was imperative to raise the standard of Poor Law Administration; now it was imperative to raise the standard of sanitary administration, and the condition precedent was to give financial relief to the overburdened districts of London. The general health of London was the common interest of the community, for although epidemics were most likely to crop up in the squalid and overcrowded districts, everyone knew that the mischief did not stop there, and it was, therefore, the interest of every citizen that London should be made healthy. That was the principle of the Bill. He trusted that the effect of this Bill on the sanitary administration of London would be as immediate and as beneficent as was the effect of the Acts of 1867 and 1870 on the administration of the Poor Law, and for one of which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was responsible. He therefore appealed to the right hon. Gentleman by the experience gained from the working of that great Act, which reflected so much credit and honour on him, not to recede from the principles which he put before the House in 1870, but to give a candid and loyal support to the Bill of the Government.
MR. W. F. D. SMITH (Strand, Westminster)
said, that as this Bill very largely affected his constituency, he wished to explain his position in regard to it. The principle of equalisation had been and was recognised at the present day. He did not consider himself bound, however, to vote for a Bill embodying that principle which by its methods caused great unfairness to many parishes in London. As far as the sanitary rate was concerned, he should be inclined to agree with the last speaker; but this Bill contained an extension of the principle, and, in his opinion, increased the anomalies which already existed, while 875 it created fresh anomalies. The lighting and paving of streets did not come within the same category, and the constituency which he represented incurred very heavy expenditure in those departments of local administration. The average rate per head in the Strand district was £13 a year, and property on the whole was assessed exceedingly high. The population in the Strand district was very much in the same position as in the City of London—that was to say, there was a large day population and a comparatively small night population. But the expenses for sanitation, paving, and lighting were incurred as much in the interests of the day population as of the night population. The rate of the Strand District Board was 4d. or 4½d. higher than the rate of Islington. He did not think that the poor districts of the Metropolis could be judged by their population, because rates in the poorer districts of London were paid to a large extent by the landlords and not by the occupiers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London had told them that there were 200,000 tenements the owners of which compounded for their rates. No doubt, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green had said, it was a very convenient practice; but it was a curious fact that in the districts in which the power was not exercised the leakage of rates had been very much smaller. He must allude to one or two instances in respect of the way in which the Bill affected the Strand. The rate was 5s. 6½d., and there was a payment of £8,914 to the Equalisation Fund, and in the Strand there was the parish of St. Clement Dane, which paid £3,417 to the Equalisation Fund. The average rate of the Strand Board would be raised to 5s. 10d. under the Bill—a rate which was, at the least, 4d. higher than that which had that night been mentioned in regard to Islington. At the same time, the Strand Board had to incur large expenses for lighting and paving. He thought he should be able to show that those parishes which most needed relief would get no relief under this Bill. He had gone into the figures to some extent, and he found there were, under the measure, 10 parishes which received more than a half of the whole Equalisa- 876 tion Fund. It might be supposed that these parishes were those that most wanted help, but it was a curious thing that these 10 parishes had a rate below the average rate of London. With an average rate of 5s. 8d. they would receive £122,000, while 26 parishes, with an average rate of 6s. 6½d., would only receive £101,000. He did not think that there would be any check on the expenditure of the money put to the credit of each parish. These aids would have very small effect upon the rates, which would remain much as they were, the money being spent on what was not absolutely necessary. The constituency which he represented had not been treated fairly. It had a rate as high as many of the parishes receiving help under the Bill, and it would have a rate equal to the average. He objected to the population basis, because it did not in all cases give a fair idea of the poverty or richness of the various parishes. Many anomalies would remain under the Bill, and other new ones would be created. Those parishes which most required help would not receive it. The Bill did not carry out the object for which it was designed, and it would not promote the cause of Local Government.
§ MR. BENN
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down said that those parishes which most required it did not receive any help under this Bill. He had made a list on the one side of all the paying parishes under the Bill, and on the other side of all the receiving parishes. The average rate of the paying parishes was 5s. 6d. in the £1, and of the receiving parishes 6s. 3d. in the £1. In the face of those figures he could not understand the contention of the hon. Member for the Strand that the parishes most needing help would not get it.
MR. W. F. D. SMITH
I do not think the hon. Gentleman understands ray contention. What I mean is that of 877 the parishes which get help those which are least highly rated receive the most, and those which are most highly rated receive the least.
§ MR. BENN
said, that that was no attack on the Bill; because it was perfectly clear that the Bill at least approached equalisation. The hon. Member for Chelsea had quoted from a document issued by the London County Council. He refrained, however, from quoting one important observation, which was to the effect that the objections stated to the Bill would apply to any system of equalisation which could be devised, and that the needs of a locality were roughly proportionate to its residential population. He took the four districts which would pay most under the Bill—St. George's, Hanover Square, St. James's, Westminster, Marylebone, and the City; and he found that between 1881 and 1891 these districts had pushed out 40,000 of their population. That meant that these highly-favoured districts had succeeded in getting rid of their slums, and now they declined to pay for the convenience.
§ MR. BENN
Yes. In the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman—St. George's, Hanover Square—there have been pushed out 11,000 in 10 years; St. James's, Westminster, 5,000; Marylebone, 12,000; and the City, 13,000. The hon. Gentleman, continuing, said be thought it likely that something would be said in the course of the Debate about the unfairness done to the City by merely regarding its night population. He had, therefore, gone to the electoral register of the first 11 wards in the City and traced the double addresses of those who lived outside the City. Out of 2,000 electors only 170 were found to reside in the City. What, then, became of the rest? Of the rest, no less than two-thirds lived in the County of London, and in parishes which would get relief under the Bill. He thought that was a significant fact, and one that deprived the City of a great deal of its grievance. Again, in one parish of the Strand district, out of 59 persons living outside the parish 46 resided in parishes which 878 would get relief under the Bill. The attack on the Bill had been mainly founded on its anomalies; but he had listened in vain for the details of any scheme which was more free from anomalies. There was the alternative of taking the actual expenditure as a basis. But by that scheme the same parishes which received under the Bill would only receive more, and the paying parishes would consequently pay more. St. George's, Hanover Square, for instance, would then pay 9½d. in the £1 instead of 4d. There was another suggestion which had fallen from some speaker, which was that the money should be divided according to services rendered. Under the four heads mentioned in the Bill—sanitation, paving, lighting, and roads—he found that the paying parishes spent 14s. per head of the population per annum, and the receiving parishes only 5s. Therefore, those parishes that now spent 14s. on sanitation would have to assist those poorer districts which could only afford to spend 5s. for that purpose.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER
Is the hon. Member now referring to works done for the public good, or to all classes of work?
§ MR. BENN
said, his reference was to the objects mentioned in the Act. Those hon. Members who sat upon the other side of the House were very justly proud of the Public Health Act, but it was only a mockery of the poorer districts of the Metropolis to send such an Act down to them without providing the funds for carrying out its provisions. As he believed that this Bill would confer a great boon upon the poorer districts of the Metropolis, he should give it his cordial support.
§ SIR J. GOLDSMID
said, he wished to refer to some of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman who had moved the Second Reading of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had devoted most of his argument to proving the desirability of the equalisation of rates in the Metropolis, but the right hon. Gentleman had apparently altogether forgotten the unanimous Resolution of the House that had been passed on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman might have given the House more information than he had done upon two or three other points. The new fund, which 879 was to be called the Equalisation Fund, was to be raised by a levy of 6d. in the £1 upon the rateable value of the Metropolis, and it was to be distributed according to the population of the various Metropolitan districts. There could not be a more fallacious test of the wealth or the poverty of a district than that of population. Many of the richest cities in America, in France, and in Germany were also the most populous, whilst the smaller towns were often the poorest. It was the same thing in different parts of London. The right hon. Gentleman had not informed the House why he had been led to abandon all forms of distribution other than those based upon population. In no case ought the money to be distributed without the central authority retaining some control over the expenditure. Under the Bill the moment the money was distributed the control over the expenditure passed entirely into the hands of the Local Authority. He did not think that the hon. Member who had just spoken had in any way replied to the arguments of the hon. Member for the Strand Division. True, they had heard some figures, but they did not appear to him to have anything to do with the argument advanced by the hon. Member. What had been done already in the way of equalisation? The County Council was supported by means of a Metropolitan rate; so were the School Board and the Metropolitan Asylums Board, while a portion of the poor rate was a common rate, the total amount of the equalised rates being 3s. 3d. in the £1. He was in favour of further equalisation, especially for sanitary purposes, but he should like to have it clearly laid down that the money would be spent for sanitary purposes only. He objected to the method of distribution proposed by the Government. It was proposed that the grant was to be used, first, for sanitary purposes; secondly, for lighting, and that the balance, if any, was to be devoted to scavenging. He supposed that the right hon. Gentleman knew that there would be no balance. With regard to the first purpose proposed, he thought everybody was agreed about it, but to the second he had a very strong objection. In St. Pancras a great deal of money had been spent on electric lighting. Why in the world other parishes should contribute towards 880 this expenditure he could not conceive. If the inhabitants of St. Pancras wanted the electric light there was no reason why they should not have it, but he did not see why any other parish should contribute towards the cost. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman would be doing fairly by those who would receive, any more than by those who would pay under this Bill, if he did not establish some control over the methods of expenditure. Personally, he would not object to a larger contribution than was proposed being made by the richer parishes, provided that the money was properly controlled. The principle of equalisation had been adopted practically unanimously by the House, but he could not agree that the test of population was the right test by which the distribution of the money was to be governed, nor could he approve of the details of the Bill.
§ MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, he did not rise to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. He supposed he ought to apologise for his attitude to his hon. Friend (Mr. Boulnois), who had expressed his surprise that anybody on that (the Opposition) side of the House should be willing to support the Second Reading of the Bill. He knew his hon. Friend so well, that he was sure he would not mind if he (Mr. Cohen) returned the compliment, and said he was not at all surprised to find a Member who, like his hon. Friend, represented a parish that was called upon to contribute to this fund, opposing the Second Reading. In the Debate of last year, he (Mr. Cohen) said, and he still thought, that the principle of the equalisation of rates was a right and a just principle as far as it could be equitably carried out. He had decided to support the Second Reading of the Bill, because he understood, as they had constantly been told, that such a course did not pledge those who followed it to anything more than the principle of the equalisation of rates. It did not, however, seem to him any the less legitimate or the less obligatory to inquire how far the proposals of the Government on the one hand tended to accomplish the object they had in view, or how far on the other hand they tended to stimulate extravagance, and to dimin- 881 ish the inducements to economy. The principle of equalisation had already been sanctioned by Parliament, and was to a great extent the law of the land. He did not propose to go over the ground that had been so ably traversed by many speakers, and notably he might say, almost as a matter of hereditary talent, by his hon. Friend the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. W. F. D. Smith). He wished, however, to point out that the common rate amounted to about 3s. 3d in the £1., whilst the balance of the rates was unequalised. It was important to examine the purposes to which the common rate was applied, and also those in respect of which the unequalised portion was levied. The equalised rates consisted of the Common Poor Fund, the County Council Rate, the School Board Rate, the Metropolitan Asylums Board Rate, and the Police Rate. There was also a payment by the County Council of 4d. per day per head for in-door paupers under the Local Government Act of 1888. The expenditure under each of these heads was not only outside the province of the Local Authorities, but they had absolutely no control whatever over the expenditure. As regarded the Common Poor Fund, there was a very valuable check supplied by the intervention of the Local Government Board, whilst as to the payment by the London County Council, although he agreed that it would be better if that payment were to vary automatically according as the number of indoor patients was increased or diminished, there was a very considerable check and control exercised over the Local Authorities. The Bill, very wisely, he thought, did not allow the equalisation rate of 6d. to be applied to all the purposes of Local Authorities, but it was still absolutely necessary, in his opinion, that there should be some efficient control of those authorities if great injustice was not to be done to the ratepayers of those districts which contributed towards the equalisation fund. It had been suggested that this control should be supplied by the London County Council. He had the honour to be a member of the London County Council, and he certainly did not think it was a body to which it would be wise or prudent to confide the appropriation of the 882 large sum of £840,000. Some central authority, however, there certainly must be, and the Bill provided for no such authority. [At this point the hon. Member said he did not feel at all well, and did not think he could go on. The hon. Gentleman then fell back in his seat, leaving his speech unfinished, and had to be assisted from the House.]
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, he deeply regretted the indisposition which had prevented the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Cohen) from concluding his speech. He (Mr. Rowlands) had been delighted to hear the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Whitmore) insist upon the necessity of the Government dealing with the question of the completion of the government of the Metropolis, and he most heartily endorsed the whole of the hon. Member's observations on that point. He believed, however, that in forcing forward London questions in the way in which they were forcing them forward the London Liberal Members would make it necessary for the Governmemt to complete the system of Government of the Metropolis. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Chelsea in thinking that the London clauses of the Local Government Act of 1888 were not duly considered by the London Members. The reason why those clauses got through the House so rapidly was that the then President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) met the London Members in a very fair and considerate spirit, and had a conference with them before the clauses were threshed out in the House. Personally, he did not think the Bill was all that was required in the way of equalisation. The measure brought the House to the fringe of the great question as to where the money was to come from for carrying on the Government of London adequately without overburdening the ratepayers. He believed that before very long the question of an alteration of the burdens of the Metropolis must engage the attention of the House. He particularly desired to deal with the position of the Parish of St. Luke's, which had been referred to by the President of the Local Government Board, who he was sorry was not present to hear his remarks. The question of a more comprehensive treatment of the 883 burdens of the Metropolis must engage the attention of the House before long, and the question would be accelerated by the passing of this Bill, because parishes which would bear a heavy burden under the present Bill would awake to the great question of how they could get relief for themselves. The President of the Local Government Board had dealt cursorily with the schemes put forward by the Vestry Clerk of St. Luke's, one of the most capable gentlemen occupying similar positions in London, and as well versed in these questions as anybody. Those schemes deserved more than the few cursory remarks made about them by the right hon. Gentleman. The views put forward as to a municipal poor fund, managed by a central body, were by no means ridiculous as they had been treated. It had been recognised that the great question involved would be better dealt with under a common fund for the Metropolis. With regard to the position of St. Luke's, which the President of the Local Government Board said ought not to complain, he was not speaking like some hon. Members that evening, because his constituents had not either to receive a large sum out of the fund or to pay a larger amount. They were on the border line. He must defend the Vestry of St. Luke's against the reflections of the President of the Board of Trade in regard to its costly administration, and pointed out for one thing that the parish made a street improvement out of local charges which ought to have been borne by the Metropolis, and that the electors promptly swept the Vestry out of existence when the scandal was discovered. In other directions also the parish was placed at a disadvantage. They had had to bear for many years the burden of a heavy loan in connection with those street improvements. Then in addition they had a railway scheme for which the promoters did not get the capital required, and the land lay vacant in the parish at heavy interest. That burden also was thrown upon the ratepayers of St. Luke's. It would be well for the House in future to bind down promoters to carry out their undertakings within a certain time. Among the anomalies to be removed were the exemptions from rating; premises should be properly rated throughout the Metro- 884 polis. St. Luke's was handicapped by its unfortunate position in that respect. Government did not pay, as was well known, the full assessment on property which would have to be paid if it were in the hands of private owners. He would urge the right hon. Gentleman not to cast further slurs upon the Vestry. What was the standard of distribution adopted? In Clerkenwell, with a density of population, 174.5 per acre, the relief was 2½d.; in Shoreditch density 194.31, and relief 2¼d.; while in St. Luke's, with a density of 192.9 per acre, the relief was only ¼d. under the distribution on a basis of population alone. The Local Government Board ought to take this matter into consideration when the Bill was discussed in Committee where population was so dense owing to smallness of area, people living packed on top of each other in huge blocks. The parish of St. Luke's had endeavoured to carry out the provisions of the Public Health Act, and had spent more in inspection and sanitation than other parishes. Having a purely industrial population they required to be continually on the alert to see that the people were properly looked after. He hoped in Committee Amendments would be moved for extending the scope of the Bill, and that Government would ensure that Local Authorities must expend money out of the fund absolutely for the purposes contemplated by the Bill. At present there was nothing in it to compel Local Authorities to spend money out of the fund in the way intended. This Bill dealt only with the fringe of a great question, and the Government would have to come forward with a larger measure dealing with that question for the good government and well-being of London.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, the object of the Bill to benefit certain parishes should be carried out without doing injustice to others, but he thought the City and other localities were unfairly dealt with by the Bill as now drawn. The 14 parishes mentioned were the most highly assessed in the Metropolis. It was all very well to say that Bermondsey was rated at 7s. 2d. in the £1, but what if it was? St. George's, Hanover Square, also had a very high valuation. The Bill 885 was one simply for transferring the property of owners in 14 important parishes to the owners in 22 other parishes. With regard to himself, living in that highly-assessed parish, if the Bill became law he should apply for a revaluation to cover this extra sum. That parish, it should be remembered, received no advantage, but, on the contrary, had to pay, and should, therefore, have the power of spending its own money, not leaving it to other people to do so. He considered that the rates were already very high in his parish, and that they paid more than they ought to pay.
§ MR. MOULTON (Hackney, S.)
said, it was right that people should know what the rates were going to be, and that the principle of rating should be settled. The Bill was one which did not deserve to be described as a little Bill. The fundamental justification for the Bill was the difficulty that had arisen in our large towns by the segregation of the different classes of the population, so that instead of the rich and the poor being mixed together they were getting further and further apart from one another. Consequently, if there was to be any fair bearing of public burdens by both classes it was impossible to let each parish stand by itself and selfishly look after its own interests alone. The poorer districts must be assisted by the funds from the wealthier districts. The first case in which that was made apparent was in regard to the indoor poor, which was really a State burden, and not a local charge, and it was soon seen that that burden must be supported from a common fund. By the Bill the House was now going further, and extending the principle to sanitation. How, then, were they to apply this proposal in dealing with sanitation? One thing they were not prepared to give up. The administration of sanitation must be local. It could not be central with advantage, and if it were to remain local the whole of the responsibility and consequences of the extravagance must be left on the shoulders of the local administrators. Otherwise there would inevitably be extravagance. The contribution of the rich districts to the ex- 886 penses of sanitation in the poor ones must be made in such a way that every check against extravagance should remain, and that where there was extravagance every penny of it should be made to fall on the local ratepayers. The great point of the Bill, and, in his opinion, that which was an answer to four-fifths of the arguments that had been urged against it, was that the contribution to be made depended on the nature of the district to which it was to be paid, and that the responsibility of that district would be in no way diminished. The consequences of its behaviour must rest on its own head. Upon what considerations did the behaviour of a district depend? They knew that the denser the population of a district compared with the value of the property in it the more would sanitation be necessary, and so much heavier would be the charges necessary for that work as compared with the power of the property to bear those charges. Therefore, the consequences was that the Bill had taken this central line—it provided that a fund should be constituted according to the rateable value of property, and that that fund, which was meant to bear the cost of sanitation, should be distributed according to population, for, broadly speaking, population would measure the weight of the sanitation charges to be borne. By that simple device a contribution would be obtained from the richer and less populous districts, and it would be spent in the poorer districts where population was by comparison more numerous. The rest of the money necessary for the work of sanitation the district must itself provide, and if there was extravagance the people in the district would have to bear the burden of it themselves. One of the arguments used against the Bill, in the course of the Debate, was the wickedness of compounding—he would say the wastefulness of compounding. What had compounding to do with the matter? If a district were to compound in the most lavish manner it would not get a penny more or a penny less, and if it declined to compound it would get exactly the same sum as it would if it were to compound. The amount of the contribution depended upon the nature of the district receiving it, and was not affected by the question of 887 compounding. Another argument used was the argument of extravagance, and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, in a fit of self-abnegation, asked why other districts should pay for the fad of his constituents in installing the electric light. The answer was that other districts would not pay one farthing towards the cost. The contribution would be neither larger nor smaller because St. Pancras chose to indulge in electric light. What the Bill did was to put certain districts in possession of an endowment derived from richer parishes, which endowment they merited because they had the extra burden of a large number of poor, to whose sanitary needs they had to attend. It was said that this Bill did not make the rates equal; but it was never meant to make them equal, and it would be a most unfair thing without examination to make the rates equal in the sense that the amount per £1 would be the same in every district. That could, of course, be done easily by a very small Bill, by making the whole of the rates go to one common fund and providing that all payments should come out of that fund. But where, then, would be the check on local extravagance? It would be a stimulus to each district to spend as much as it could. This would not be to equalise in any fair sense, because districts that were prudent would have to bear the cost of the extravagance of others. The Bill was intended to equalise rates in a far better way. It proposed to give a contribution to the more populous districts, which were at present handicapped by the nature of their population, in order that they might start fair. No one had said that the amount which was to be provided by the richer parishes and distributed among the poorer was extravagant. What alternative schemes had been proposed? The hon. Member for Islington had suggested that the London County Council should have the distribution of a fund which it should apportion as it liked among the various parishes of London. In his opinion, no plan was likely to have more disastrous results. The hon. Member for Islington said that there should be a graduated rate. Graduation apparently was catching. There was a great deal of opposition to the principle when it was introduced with regard to the 888 Death Duties; but now it was to be applied to local rates. If the hon. Member would sketch out a plan of graduated rates it was possible that it might meet with some amount of support from the Government side of the House, though he doubted very much whether it would receive much support from the Benches where the author of the scheme sat. He quite agreed that there was one defect in the Bill, but it was a defect due to the antiquated divisions to which they still clung. It would be better if they could divide London into homogeneous districts, and not to have districts which were partly rich and partly poor. But until this end could be attained they got a very long stride towards what the consequences would be of a perfect partition of London in the application of the just principle of this Bill. Why should they not take the stride? There was one advantage in this scheme. It introduced no new machinery; it could be applied in the existing state of things without any preparation at all; and if the House could take a step in the direction of justice without providing new machinery and without causing delay he would like to know what reason existed why the House should not take that step?
§ MR. W. LONG
said, he had listened to the Debate with great care, and very little had been said in defence of the plan of the Government with the exception, perhaps, of the speech of the hon. and learned Member. He believed that the hon. and learned Member represented a constituency which, under the Bill, would receive about £20,000.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, he did not suggest that the hon. Member's great admiration for the Bill was based on the fact that the borough he represented would be benefited by its provisions. But it was clear from the course of the Debate that there had been a considerable struggle in the minds of hon. Members representing London constituencies between what they felt with regard to the Bill and what they looked upon as their duty to those whom they represented. All the speakers had agreed that this was a very difficult and complicated subject; and he thought the House had some reason to 889 complain that the Government had not found time to bring the Bill forward for Second Reading until the end of a weary and tedious Session. The Government might even, at an earlier period, have referred the question to the consideration of a Select Committee, who should have been empowered to consider the whole of the difficulties surrounding the question. If that course had been followed it was more than likely that a Bill brought forward based on the results of that inquiry would have passed more easily through the House than was likely to be the case with the present measure. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had referred to the local taxation proposals of 1888, and to the stereotyping by the late Government of the grant on the number of paupers. But the right hon. Gentleman forgot to mention that the object at that time was not to distribute money throughout the different districts of London in relief of the burdens between different districts, but in relief of burdens as between real and personal property. The right hon. Gentleman would remember that they had eventually to adopt a sort of compromise between the views held on the different sides of the House. But if it came to stereotyping, the right hon. Gentleman was doing something very much like it. He had listened with amazement to the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the parish of St. Luke's did not deserve assistance because some portion of its expenditure had been improperly or unwisely incurred. In the whole course of his experience he had never heard it advanced that because a Local Authority had foolishly burdened the rates the local ratepayers were not entitled to as much consideration as those whose money had been wisely spent. He regretted that the Secretary of State for India had not been in his place during the earlier part of the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman opposite delivered a speech, one-half of which was devoted to grants in aid pure and simple, but there was nothing to which the Secretary of State for India was more strongly opposed than the system of grants in aid. In this Bill they were saying that areas in London which were presumed to be rich should have a charge 890 levied upon them for the benefit of poorer areas. There was only one other thing that it could be, and that was a charitable dole. He never expected to find a Bill introduced and supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite which contained provisions which, if they were not grants in aid, were certainly first cousins. He confessed that he did not altogether like tills Bill; he did not think it was as practical and fair a measure as could have been drawn. The figures, he thought, showed that, however anxious the Government might be to levy the charge and distribute the money fairly, the result had been that many parishes would not receive in proportion to their needs, while in some cases parishes would be called upon to pay out of proportion to their ability. He did not object to the principle of the Bill, but he was not prepared to admit that they were entitled to carry out that principle in a way that inflicted injustice on any existing area. He had not the slightest objection to grants in aid. He had spent much time in endeavouring to induce the House to extend the system of grants in aid, and he should be happy to do his best with the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to induce him to give still further grants in aid of local rates. He was hopeful that after this measure of justice had been extended to London he should find a soft place in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's heart, and that the right hon. Gentleman, having regard to the good time before him, would be willing to aid, by means of special grants, other districts besides those of the Metropolis, and that they should find him ready to listen to them with regard to equalising local burdens in other parts of the country besides the Metropolis. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green told them that there was no control over this local expenditure on the part of the London County Council, and he pointed to the Public Health Act of 1891, and told them that under that Act they had conferred upon the London County Council direct responsibility with regard to expenditure on the part of the Local Authorities.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL
I did not. I said that Act imposed upon the London County Council the duty of supervision over the manner in which 891 Local Authorities administered the sanitary laws.
§ MR. W. LONG
said, that all the Act did was to give the power of appeal to the County Council and leave the County Council to act in default of the Local Authority doing so. But there was all the difference in the world between that power—which was a very old one, and not created by that Act at all—and giving the Central Authority the actual control over the expenditure on the part of the Local Authorities. What he meant by control was that there should be some superior authority—he should prefer it should be a central department of the State—that should have the power of exercising control over the expenditure of money, and in sanitary administration particularly. It was perfectly well known that there was no class of local work in which greater and more costly mistakes were liable to be made, or in which the advice of a competent and powerful Central Authority could be more useful and beneficial to the Local Authorities. At the present time, if a Local Authority required a loan for the purpose of carrying out work of this character, they had to go and obtain the assent of the Local Government Board. They had the enormous advantage that there would be a careful examination into the character of the work to be done, the probable efficiency of that work, and consequently they got assistance which, in the great majority of cases, proved of the utmost value to the Local Authorities, and resulted in the work undertaken being more satisfactory, and of a thoroughly permanent character. That was the class of control they had been referring to, and not the control which meant that after a Local Authority had failed to do its duty then the County Council was to act. That meant an enormous delay before this appeal clause could be put into effect so as to relieve the Local Authority of the difficulties under which they were suffering. He granted that, so far as unwise expenditure went, to some small degree this power was a check. It was, however, rather a cure than prevention, and he would prefer to see the check in a form in which it might be used as a prevention of unwise expenditure; not because he wanted to put the 892 Local Authorities in leading strings, or to place them in such a position as would make them absolutely dependent upon a Central Authority, because one knew perfectly well, with regard particularly to sanitary work, there was an enormous temptation sometimes to experiment, the result of which led to expenditure which might have been avoided, or which did not prove effectual. To obviate this, they should have the intervention of some strong Central Authority, and, personally, he should prefer that it should be the Local Government Board, which had its staff of well-trained and efficient officers. He thought that the Government had done wrong in accepting the present scheme before they had tried other and more practical measures which had been suggested. The Bill in its present form would not, he believed, secure a wider administration of the public money nor guarantee that a better control should be kept over needless expenditure. For these reasons he could not support the Bill in its present form, although he approved of the principle. He regretted that the Government should have thought fit to bring forward so important a measure at such a late period of the Session, when it was impossible that it could receive that attention in the Committee stage which its complicated details would necessitate. He had not attempted to deal with the more complicated financial questions raised in the Bill, for, in the first place, he did not profess to be a financial authority, and, in the second place, he had a complete contempt for figures. He had invariably been forced to the conclusion that figures could be made to prove anything in the world, and so many figures had hardly ever been produced in any Debate. He had endeavoured to address himself to some other views of the question, and he had done so, although he was not a London Member, because, he ventured to say, this question of the equalisation of rates in London when dealt with satisfactorily would be a benefit not only to London, but to the whole country, and the whole country would be interested in the solution of the question.
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
commented on the fact that the Bill had received so little hearty and thorough support. The only Member who spoke 893 earnestly in favour of the Bill and its proposals was the hon. Member for St. George's-in-the-East. Even the right hon. Gentleman, who was the father of the Bill and who proposed it to the House, admitted that it was attended with the greatest possible difficulties—[Mr. SHAW-LEFEVRE: No, no!]—and in effect intimated that if he could see his way to any other mode of dealing with the matter he would be disposed to adopt it. Then the hon. and learned Member for Hackney said distinctly, so far as he was concerned, this was not a Bill for the equalisation of rates in London, but to do something which they thought ought to be done to try and adjust the rates as between the various localities in London. They would be told by the Government, and especially by their supporters in London, that this Bill was for the equalisation of rates in London; but it was not a Bill to equalise the rates in London, because it did not equalise them. The inequality of rates was not so great in many cases as it appeared. Under the system of compounding there were many parishes in which the rates appeared to be very heavy, but where in reality they were not so heavy. In many parishes, and Bethnal Green particularly, there were a large number of houses compounded for and an allowance of 25 per cent. was made in some cases. If they took this into account they would see that the rates in the £1 in Bethnal Green were very much increased in consequence of this compounding. Out of 16,542 inhabited houses the owners of no fewer than 13,850 compounded, and got the allowance of 25 per cent. This was one of the parishes which had a heavy rate in the £1, and which was to get a very large relief under this Bill. In the parish of Bromley, which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman as being the parish which was perhaps the heaviest rated, out of about 9,000 houses the owners of 7,937 received an abatement of 30 per cent. Where there were allowances of that large amount the rate in the £1 which was made did not represent the real rate. The rate in the £1 in Bromley for 1892–3 was 7s. 5d. If they took off that something like 20 per cent. in respect of compounding they would reduce the rate to a little over 6s., which was really the amount of the rate, and not 7s. 5d. He 894 admitted that even 6s. was a heavy rate, but he said that under the system of compounding the inequality with regard to some parishes was not so great as it appeared. In the parish of Poplar there were about 7,500 houses, the owners of 6,509 receiving an abatement of 15 per cent. In Bermondsey, out of about 11,000 houses, the owners of 7,558 received an abatement of from 15 to 25 per cent. Compounding largely prevailed in many other parishes. No doubt there were considerable inequalities which bore very hardly on particular districts of London, and it was desirable that there should be some legislation in the direction of substantial equalisation of rates. He was not prepared to oppose the principle of a proper and judicious advance in the direction of an equalisation of rates. On the contrary, he believed in such a principle, but he was not prepared to accept this Bill without very large amendments, as in any sense capable of giving practical effect to the principle of equalising the rates in London. There were great difficulties in dealing with this question, one of which arose from the system of compounding. The effect of the Bill would be to relieve owners of property in the East of London at the expense of the large class of tradespeople and inhabitants in the West End and other districts who paid their rates directly. It was not, therefore, to be supposed that this was a relief of one class of ratepayers at the expense of another class. To say that the artisan in the East of London would in any direct way benefit by this Bill was absurd, for he would pay all the same a rack-rent, and the relief would go into the pockets of the East End landlords. Another great difficulty in the way of an efficient Bill for the equalisation of rates was the absence of any satisfactory principle and practice in the valuation of the property of London. A large measure for this purpose was required. Another difficulty was the absence of any broad principle by which the rates levied for the common purposes of London could be distinguished from the money raised for local purposes. That was one of the most important questions that had to be considered in a measure of this kind. The taxation raised for the whole of London should be under the control of the representatives of the whole of 895 London, and that levied for the districts should be controlled by the District Authority. Each would then be spending its own money, and the fact that each district both raised and spent its own money was the only guarantee that there would be not merely efficient, but economical, management and effective financial control. As the Bill, however, stood, Local Authorities in one district would spend the money raised in another. It was altogether wrong in principle that the authority for one set of people should spend other people's money. The authority that raised the fund should have the control of it, otherwise there must inevitably be extravagance. He knew very well that even in the case of the Common Poor Law Fund, limited as it was to particular objects, largely controlled as it was, subject to efficient audit, it was difficult to prevent the extravagance which authorities were apt to indulge in if they thought they were not spending their own money.
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.