Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [21st March]—
That the Bill be now read a second time.
And which Amendment was—
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words' no Bill dealing with the Local Government of the Metropolis will be satisfactory which, while disturbing the existing system, fails to simplify and complete it, and which at the same time renders more difficult the attainment of the unity of London."—(Mr. H. Gladstone.)
Question again proposed—
That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
When the House adjourned on Tuesday I was speaking with regard to the Amendment which the right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Leeds put down on the Paper, that no Bill dealing with the local government of the Metropolis will be satisfactory which, while disturbing the present system, fails to simplify and complete t, and which at the same time renders more difficult the attainment of the unity of London. As I explained on Tuesday evening, I am entirely in favour of this new Government Bill for London, that is to say, that we require very badly to have a new Bill bringing into touch the vast 160 areas of the metropolis one with another; but I am opposed to certain clauses in the Bill which, I trust, the Government will be prepared to alter, because the whole constitution of these bodies want to be brought to work together. The constitution of the new borough councils, in my opinion, if carried out on the lines of the Bill, would not work with that harmony with the London County Council which is so necessary. We look at Islington as a borough, and a large, important borough, much larger than any other borough in England, and it is necessary in reviewing this question to see how these two bodies will overlap. Last year there was a meeting held of the vestry clerks and other representatives from the suburbs and vestries, which represented about three-quarters of the rateable value of London; and at this meeting they decided, after the discussion was continued for a week, as to certain things which I consider most necessary for the future government of London. I refer particularly to the question of aldermen. What we want is a. connecting link connecting the borough council with the County Council. Now, at this meeting this question was thoroughly discussed, and it was decided first of all—and I think very rightly decided—that it would be most improper and was most inadvisable that we should have aldermen put upon the councils of these new boroughs. I will explain why. In the first place, if you add the number of aldermen which is proposed by this Bill, taking the new boroughs proposed—namely, 36, and the number of aldermen and councillors at 72—you would have 18 aldermen in each of these borough councils—18 multiplied by 36; you would have 648 aldermen in London. I think that would make the office hardly worth having, and I also think they would be of no assistance in the government of the particular boroughs. I do not like these co-optive aldermen at all. I do not like the co-optive aldermen of the London County Council. The conference held at Westminster also decided that it was advisable that the aldermen should cease to exist on the County Council, and in their place there should be a representative from each of these new councils placed on the County Council. Now, that is the principle that was adopted last year when dealing with 161 the question of Local Government for Ireland, and it seems to me that it is a most necessary course to adopt in this Bill, because it would have this great advantage. It is true that under this Bill there will be great powers handed over to these new municipal boroughs which do not come into contact at all with the work now carried on by the London County Council; but it is proposed by this Bill—and I myself agree with it—that it would be advisable to give over to the municipal councils of these boroughs a great deal of the work now done by the County Council. But if you have no connecting link connecting the one with the other you will be placed in a very great difficulty. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, in the Report of the Royal Commission upon which he sat, proposed the reverse course to what I suggest. He proposed in this direction that members should go from the County Council on to these bodies now to be created. but having been on the: County Council myself for some years, I think I may say we have none too many councillors there now, and, in my opinion, it would be a great and important addition to have 36 or 40 aldermen as representing these new boroughs sitting and advising the London County Council. The London County Council, again, would be more ready to hand over to these new boroughs certain duties, because all the aldermen—the 36 or 40 to whom I have referred—will be supplicating the London County Council to give them powers so that they could work for themselves; and I think this would be a good thing, because when one alderman was asking for these powers there would be 35 others looking after the one and saying how much money he should have, and so on. There is one most important thing in connection with this transference of powers, and that is, that the common fund must not be interfered with. The common fund means a contribution to the equalisation of the rates, and it is most important that when a borough is asking to take charge of any duties which have up to now been performed by the County Council, that it should be arranged by the County Council how much money is going to be given to the borough to carry out those duties. Consequently, as each borough 162 will be wanting to get as much as possible, the addition of these aldermen would be a good thing, because everyone of them would be watching the amount that the other required, and would take good care to prevent the council getting too much out of the London County Council. I think that would be a most wise course to suggest, because, as the Government themselves recognise in clause 5, sub-section 3, they do not intend by this Bill to force the County Council to give over any powers whatever until the County Council itself does agree to give these powers over to these boroughs. The clause says—If the London County Council agree with any borough council for the transfer to the council of any power capable of being exercised by the London County Council within the borough, the Local Government Board may, if they think fit, make a Provisional Order for carrying into effect the transfer on the conditions specified in the agreement, either without modification or with such modifications as may be assented to by the County Council and the borough council.Now, that clearly points to the fact that the Government do not intend that this Bill should force the County Council to give over any duties to any municipal boroughs. But I think the mistake in this Bill is that if the London County Council does grant powers to one borough, then, and only then, any borough may make an application and ask the President of the Local Government Board to grant them a similar concession. That means that a continual fight goes on between these two bodies. I want, and I am sure, for the good government of London, it is important that these new bodies, which I hope will be called into existence, will work in friendly accord with the London County Council. It is no good setting up a lot of municipal bodies always overlapping and always at loggerheads with the central body. It is quite true that under this Bill you may have piebald boroughs. I do not object to that, because there must be some piebald boroughs, for the reason that in some boroughs there is work to be done, which is not necessary to be done in other boroughs; and conditions may render it necessary, and you cannot expect the County Council to give over to all boroughs the power which they give to some, and that is a reason why representatives of these new boroughs should come into the County 163 Council, so that they might answer any questions asked by the County Council in the way of business in respect to what was going on in any particular borough. I think it would tend to make things so much better with regard to the whole government on these points. Now, there is another question to which I wish to call the attention of the House, and that is that the First Lord of the Treasury has not told us yet what is the intention of clause 21. Might I ask the First Lord's attention to this question, which is most important, and upon which we have had no decided answer. It is as regards females. I quite understand that ladies are to have votes in respect to these new bodies, but is it proposed that they shall be aldermen? Again, I am aware that the term mère is very often applied to a lady, and I think we ought to have a definite answer to that, as to in what way it is to be spelt. Is it M-A-Y-O-R? May I ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury? That, again, is one of the difficulties attending this Bill. It does not say what is intended. The Government do not seem to have made up their mind yet. It is a great pity, I think. I think that is one of the clauses which should be dealt with—that we ought to know definitely who are to be aldermen. It is perfectly true that in clause 21 it says that the order of council is to give an appropriate name to the borough, and to fix the days and hours and times at which the council is to meet; but it neglects to say whether ladies are to be on the council, or whether they are to be aldermen or mayors. I may say I do not understand the policy of the Government in not declaring at once what they are going to do. How can we discuss a Bill when we do not know who we are going to have as aldermen? I am sorry I cannot draw an answer from the Front Bench.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
If my honourable Friend wants an answer in order to construct his argument, I can tell him that there is no doubt whatever that women will have votes. There is no doubt whatever but what they will be eligible to sit upon the council; but it is not certain whether they can be aldermen or mayors.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE
I am much obliged to hear so far. And may I ask now, Sir, if the right honourable Gentleman will oblige by telling us his opinion as to what the intention of the Government may be in regard to that matter? We all know it does not say in the Bill whether they may be aldermen or mayors, and That is the very thing which we do not know, and the very thing which it is necessary that we should know; whether the Government intend that it shall be so. We know that the majority behind the Government is so large that they can leave it to the last moment to decide, but I think, this being the second day of the Debate, that the time has come when this question ought to be answered, and I hope that before the Debate is over the right honourable Gentleman and honourable Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House will devote themselves to that particular question and try and extract an answer from the right honourable Gentleman. It is necessary for the good government of London that we should get from the Front Bench the necessary information which we require. Now, I notice in clause I that it is left to be fixed by the ordinary council what the length of time is that these new aldermen and councillors are to exist. That, to me, is not thoroughly explicit in the Bill as to how it is to be done. It would be a good thing, in my opinion, if the first council was elected right off for three years, and that then one-third, that is, the lowest in each ward, should retire at the end of the first three years, the next one-third in the following year, and the last one third in the year after that. That is the system we have adopted in some of our large clubs—I refer to the Constitutional Club, where we kept the whole thing going for three years, and then one-third of the committee went out each year, and it worked very well. That is a suggestion which I would commend to the Government, and I will also suggest that the Government should adopt the sugestion which was advocated by the noble Lord the Member for South Kensington, and should accept the proposals that we should have representatives on the London County Council from the councils of these new boroughs, when there would be a chance to have a representative for the first 165 three years after the formation of these important new councils. Now, I wish to ask whether it is not possible, and whether the Government will not take into reconsideration the question of the powers to be given to these new boroughs to obtain loans. I think it is a very unfortunate thing for these boroughs to have powers to go and borrow money right and left at a heavy interest. I think that might be altered by putting in a clause that money might be borrowed from the County Council on consent of the Local Government Board. That is to say, subject to consent being given by the Local Government Board, the London County Council would lend the money out of its common fund at 2¾t., and there would not have to be any going about borrowing, and having to pay heavy interest before these loans were floated. I think that very often boroughs find a great deal of difficulty in getting loans granted to them under 3½t., whereas if they borrow from the County Council they would get the money at 2¾t. I think, myself, that it would be a most desirable thing to adopt that suggestion. Dealing with the question of audit, I think it would be desirable that we should have the same system of audit as we have in the London County Council; that is to say, that an auditor should be appointed who is not a ratepayer of London. Again, I am decidedly opposed—I said so on the First Reading—to the idea of these local authorities having power given to them to promote Bills in Parliament. I think it would be a very extensive liberty to give them, and would be very expensive to the ratepayers of London. Our rates are heavy enough, as we all know, now, and it seems to be a great pity as to that. Then I come to another question. I notice that the Government has. made it possible to cut off some portion of the County of London. I shall lose part of my constituency at Penge. Part of Penge will be handed over to Kent. It seems to me a rather ridiculous proceeding to make London smaller. London is expanding every day, and I think it would be rather more wise to take in some parts of Kent, Surrey and Middlesex into London than to do what is proposed, so that we might assist to equalise the rates and diminish the rates of East London. I cannot see why the suburbs should have to pay lower rates, while at 166 the same time they receive all the benefit of the London County Council. I think it would be well in this Bill to take powers, no doubt it could be done by Parliament afterwards, to deal with that important subject. Now, before I sit down, I must call the attention of the House to some areas of which honourable Gentlemen have spoken on the other side. I refer to the question that they complain that the Bill will interfere with the equalisation of rates. I think my honourable Friend the Member for Poplar spoke very strongly upon it, and I was very much struck by the fact that the honourable Member should not have grasped the intention of this Bill. This Bill does provide that any expense that is now paid for duties performed by the County Council will, if those duties are transferred to the new boroughs, be paid out of the common fund. Any municipality taking over the work will be paid out of the common fund. We are, every one of us, desirous, I am sure, that the rates in the poorest parts of London should not be increased at all, and we might provide in future that the whole expenditure should come out of the County Council fund, and then such boroughs will not suffer. Now, supposing that certain work was handed over to the borough of Camberwell to do and to look after, and that work cost £1,000 to do, that money would be allowed by the County Council to the new borough. It is the intention of clause 8 that all work taken over by the new boroughs should be paid out of the county fund, and I concede in no way that it can be to the detriment of any of the poorer divisions, or that there will be an extra expense put upon them by placing some of the powers of the County Council upon the shoulders of borough councils.
§ MR. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
Who is going to fight the case of the maintenance of the roads?
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE
I need not trouble the House upon that matter; that is all laid down in the Bill. There is no doubt the Bill particularly regards that one thing: that the roads shall not suffer by being in a poor district. I consider it would be greatly to the advantage of the poorer districts. Complaints have been 167 made as to the formation of the new city of Westminster. Now, I rather rejoice that we are going to have this large city, because, in this large city, which it is proposed to create, the contribution to the County Council fund would be very much greater. I think it is most necessary that this Bill should bo passed, because I think it will assist in and tend to the better government of London, and I hope that the Government will see that everything shall be done which is possible to carry the Measure through.
§ * MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise, which I imagine is largely shared on both sides of the House, that no Member of the Government should yet have risen to defend this Measure, not only against the most able and exhaustive indictment of my right honourable Friend the Member for Leeds, but against the hardly less damaging criticisms of candid and outspoken friends like the honourable Gentleman who has just sat down. Such a course I believe to be almost, if not entirely, without precedent in the case of what is practically the principal Measure of the Session. In the few observations with which I will ask to trouble the House I shall not attempt to cover the whole ground, and I shall confine myself to the two or three salient and capital points which appear to me to justify the language of my right honourable Friend's Amendment. By way of preface I must say this, that it is hardly possible not to contrast the tone and temper of the speeches which have been delivered during this Debate from the opposite side of the House with the intentions professed and the language held little more than a year ago in that ill-starred campaign against the London County Council, of which this Bill is the belated and attenuated outcome. Nothing could exceed the sympathetic, almost deferential terms in which one Member after another on the opposite side has referred to the London County Council. The honourable Member for Chelsea, the noble lord the Member for Kensington—in a speech to which, perhaps I may be allowed to say, even those of us who dissented most widely from his arguments listened with unqualified admiration for the lucidity 168 and grace with which they were presented—and now, again, the honourable Member for Dulwich, each in turn has deprecated any intention whatsoever of hostility to or encroachment upon the province of the County Council. From that point of view, if we are to accept these honourable Gentlemen's representations, this is the smallest of small Measures. It takes away so little from the County Council. It adds so little to the powers and functions of the existing local authorities. And, as we have been-assured more than once, even those potentialities for future transfer which have excited not less apprehension on this side of the House are so certain not to be realised or exercised, in view of the common reluctance of both Moderate and Progressive members of the Council to derogate from the functions of the body to which they belong, that it would almost seem to be by some accidental oversight that this clause, which has been called the suicide clause, has been inserted in the Bill. I shall have something to say in a moment as to the accuracy of these representations, and as to how far they tally with the actual text of the Measure; but I cannot forbear asking the House to draw a contrast between this minimising and apologetic attitude and the defiant challenges which little more than a year ago proceeded from the same quarter.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I will make good my words in a moment—and which were addressed to the municipal electors of London. The right honourable Gentleman opposite disputes the accuracy of this statement. Is it necessary for me to remind him of the language of the Leader of his own party, Lord Salisbury, who inagurated that campaign? I say, and I say it without fear of contradiction, that its object was to obtain from the electors of London a mandate to curtail and cut down the authority of the County Council. If that campaign had been successful a Moderate majority would have been installed at Spring Gardens with the direct instructions of the electorate to proceed, if not to the suicide, at any rate to the mutilation of the body to which they belonged. Is it necessary to remind the House and the 169 right honourable Gentleman opposite of the language of Lord Salisbury himself? Lord Salisbury told the electors of London that the County Council was suffering from the disease of megalomania, and he proceeded to enumerate its symptoms. He spoke of the time and labour which the council fruitlessly bestowed upon the public goods. He declared that their Debates were devoted rather to abstract questions which concerned advanced politicians than to those more prosaic and simple Measures upon which the happiness and welfare of five millions of people depend. What is that but an attack upon the County Council, and an invitation to the electors of London to clip its wings and fetter its limbs? Lord Salisbury was not content with pointing out the character and extent of the disease, but he also indicated the remedy. What was that remedy? He said, in words that deserved to be remembered—We might have obtained a much more efficient machine if we had been content to look upon London as what it is, not as one great municipality, but as an aggregate of municipalities.And he said we should not solve the problem until we sought to give a large part of the duties which were now performed by the County Council to other smaller municipalities. Therefore, I have made good my statement. That was a direct invitation on the part of Lord Salisbury and the great Party he represents to the electors of London to transfer from the County Council powers which they were abusing or were incapable of exercising properly, and to set up in its stead, as the inheritor and legatee of these powers, a number of smaller municipalities. That was not the opinion of Lord Salisbury alone; the whole electoral and party machinery both of the Conservative and Liberal Unionist organisations were enlisted in the propaganda. Cabinet Ministers were sent almost for the first time in history into the untrodden recesses of Limehouse and Camberwell, opening the eyes of the electors of the south and east to the perils of megalomania, and telling them, not in one speech, but in a dozen, that salvation for London was only to be found, if not in the dethronement, in the denudation of the County Council, and in setting up as its 170 rivals—and not merely as its rivals—authorities which were to succeed to a large and substantial part of the existing powers of the County Council. That was the issue submitted to London and its electors, and it is a matter of history which cannot be disputed, that as lately as twelve months ago, in this very month of March, they then decisively and emphatically repudiated the invitation thus given them by the Government. What is the result? We have had, it is true, a year's delay, and though we have had as yet no express renunciation on the part of the Members of the Government of the opinion or language of 1897–98, we have before us this Bill, which makes no direct and open attack upon the County Council, and which is defended as it has been by the honourable Member for Chelsea with almost ostentatious professions of respect for that body.
§ * MR. ASQUITH
I will leave this quarrel to the honourable Member to settle with his Leader. I have told him the language of the authorised spokesman of the Conservative Party. I am bound to congratulate one Member of the Government. I allude to the President of the Board of Trade, who is the real and original megalomaniac. It was he, and no one else, who betrayed his confiding colleagues and the unsuspicious Conservative majority behind him into creating this vast and formidable instrument which from that time to this his colleagues and followers have been endeavouring—I am glad to say, with a complete want of success—to belittle and to mutilate. Now I come to the two or three main provisions upon which this Bill is founded. I feel bound to say, speaking for myself, and I have no doubt that I speak the opinions of many other people, that, viewed as a constructive Measure of reform of London government, it leaves unmodified and unimproved the existing dualism between the City and the County Council. A Bill which does not deal, and which does not profess to deal, with the position, prerogatives, and powers of the City Corporation is a Bill which stands confessed upon the 171 face of it as a Bill whose authors are afraid to deal with the essence of the problem which lies before them. What is the Corporation of the City of London? It is a body which, as we know, has existed for many centuries, which has been associated in days gone by with some of the most stirring events in English history, and which, in its time, has struck many a blow in the cause of freedom and justice. It has, therefore, all the prestige of ancient historic associations. But what does it now represent? The merest fragment of a section of the population of London itself. Now, Sir, I lay down unhesitatingly as a sound proposition, both of constitutional law and common sense, that the Corporation of the City holds its property and its privileges in trust, not for that square mile of which the Guildhall is the centre, but for the 5,000,000 of people dwelling in the 2,000 miles of streets who now constitute the real London—the London which is entitled to regard itself;. a heir to the property, and to all those great traditions and associations of which the Corporation is the trustee. My honourable Friend the Member for Chelsea spoke of the ceremonial duties of the Corporation, and said it would be a pity to throw on the overworked shoulders of the County Council those very incongruous and ornamental functions. Sir, I do not agree with him. I believe that, on those great occasions when it is the traditional prerogative of the Lord Mayor to speak, in a sense, as the spokesman and mouthpiece of this great community, the recipients of the honours which the Corporation from time to time confers would feel that those honours had a much deeper meaning and significance if they came from the representative of these 5,000,000 of electors, and not merely from a Lord Mayor who was elected by a group of liverymen after a hole-and-corner fashion which is absolutely obsolete. At any rate, I do not think this proposition can be seriously controverted—that the unity of London in any real and deep sense is not only incomplete, but impossible, so long as the government of the City of London is not improved and reformed. I say this blot alone amply justifies the language of the Amendment. I pass from this omission to the actual changes which the Bill brings into opera- 172 tion. Its essential and cardinal feature is this: that it creates a number of new authorities under the designation of metropolitan boroughs, but which are municipalities in little else but name. I desire to make our position in reference to this matter—misunderstood and, I think, misrepresented—absolutely clear. I have always held—I have certainly expressed the opinion many times—that the reconstruction of London government will not be complete without the addition to the County Council of representative authorities to administer the local affairs of the various districts. The reform of those bodies was: begun by my right honourable Friend sitting beside me, the Member for Wolverhampton (Sir Henry Fowler), under the Local Government Act of 1894, when, for the first time, they came to be elected on a really popular franchise. We have always not only admitted but asserted that the necessary and logical corollary of that reform is a corresponding reform which will put the powers and functions now discharged by the vestries into the hands of authorities with a wider basis. The honourable Member for Chelsea quoted a passage from a speech made by me, I think, in 1894, in which I appear to have said that I thought that these new bodies should be of such a character as to attract the best energies of the best men in the district. I adhere to that language in every particular, but I am really surprised, because I have refreshed my memory as to what the object and purport of that speech actually were, that any phrase from it should have been quoted in support of the present Bill. Why, Sir, I find, as I expected, that the whole gist of my remarks was to support the recommendation of the report of the Commission of my right honourable Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), and to denounce the scheme, known as tenification, which was then favoured by Lord Salisbury, for the creation of municipalities in the various districts of London. Nothing could be more absurd than to suggest that we are standing up for the vestries and maintaining that the present system of local government by local authorities ought to remain unchanged. I say it is possible, and I believe it to be possible, by an addition to the number and responsibility of their duties, to make them attractive to the best ener- 173 gies of the best people of the neighbourhood. For my own part, I adopt a sentence of the Report of the Commission in which it is said, "No duty should be thrown on the central body that can equally well be performed by a local body." Well, Sir, I may perhaps just remind the House in a sentence of what are the duties of the local authorities now. They have the paving, the draining, and the lighting of the streets. They have to look after overcrowding in dwellings; they have the provision and supervision of gardens and playgrounds; they have sanitary inspection, and they have the administration of the "adoptive" Acts. Now, Sir, I have no objection myself to the enlargement of those duties by all those duties which are enumerated in the first part of the second schedule of the Bill, with the exception of common lodging-houses, for I think that is a duty much better performed by the central body than by a local body. As regards the duties in the second part of the schedule—the functions, that is to say, which are to be concurrently performed by the County Council and the local authorities—I entertain very much more doubt. I doubt very much whether there is any precedent for this in our municipal law, and I am perfectly certain that in practice it will not be found that concurrent duties will be smoothly or easily performed. The tendency is for both authorities to neglect them, or perhaps, what is still worse, to wrangle as to the discharge of particular duties. But there are two in particular of the functions which it is proposed to transfer to the local authorities which I most strongly deprecate. I mean the application of the Act dealing with workmen's dwellings and the power of making by-laws under the Municipal Coroporations Act. I think those are two duties which ought not to be transferred. But, on the other hand, there is another very large class of duties which are purely local in their character which I cannot conceive why the Government are not handing over to them. I mean the administration of the Poor Law. I believe it to be a fact that in London, as one might very well expect, you often find upon the vestry and upon the board of guardians a very considerable proportion of the very same people. In other words, a man who is 174 interested in the administration of those duties which belong to the vestry is equally interested in Poor Law administration, and, being ready to give his services to the one, he is equally ready-to give them to the other. I think it would add very much, not only to the dignity and importance of these bodies, but to the smoothness and simplicity of London administration, if you transferred to them the function of Poor Law administration. Now, Sir, I say we have been most unfairly and unjustly charged with not being willing and anxious to see a large and generous transfer of power. I say that, if you have a body clothed with the functions which I have described, and exercising those functions within a reasonable area, I believe you would have a body which ought to excite the ambition and secure the services of every public-spirited inhabitant. They will have at least as much to do as most of the district councils of the country, they would not encroach by a square inch on the area, or functions, or authority of the County Council, and they would not present any obstacle to any further re-adjustment which experience might show to be necessary in the local government of London. If the question is put to me: "What would you have done in order to complete the system of local government," I say the answer is plain. The sound and statesmanlike course to take would be first to amalgamate the Corporation of the City and the County Council, so far as the Corporation has functions, property, and prerogatives in which London has a common interest. The next step would be to substitute for the existing vestries district councils acting within such areas and clothed with such functions as I have described. That, I say, is the simple and statesmanlike course which might have been taken. But what does the Bill do? It creates a set of new authorities, indefinite both in number and in area, which are to have the style and status of municipal boroughs. Sir, I said a few moments ago that I would not quarrel about a name, but when you call these new authorities municipal boroughs you are giving them a false name. It is a false name, and the mischief of it is this, that it proceeds on a false analogy and that it suggests a false ideal. What is a municipality as we here in England understand it? A municipality is a com- 175 munity of spontaneous growth, self-governed and self-contained; a whole in itself. There is only one community in the metropolis which answers that description, and that is London as a whole. I defy you, or any Boundary Commission, or any Legislature in the world, to draw any line of demarcation, at any point in the whole of the 120 square miles which constitute the metropolitan area, and say, "Here such and such a community begins, and here another ends." Sir, the whole course of our municipal life and municipal legislation has been in that direction. The whole theory of the Act of 1835 was that as a town extended its boundary the people outside were entitled to regard themselves as part and parcel of the community which they adjoined. The Government by this Bill are doing exactly the reverse. They take a community in which there are tens and hundreds of thousands sleeping in one quarter, working in another, finding amusement in a third, and the exercise of their social and philanthropic zeal in yet a fourth. Geographically, socially, industrially, politically, it is a whole; and there is a complete and unbroken continuity in that which you have parcelled out into a series of artificial sections and blocks, which, call them whatever you please, are nothing else than areas created by the ruler and the paint brush on the map. I will take as a crucial illustration Greater Westminster. You take the Strand, St. George's, Hanover Square, and St. James's, and lump them together. This hybrid body you artificially create, and by a kind of grand larceny you appropriate to it the historic name of Westminster. That is what I venture to call municipal jerrybuilding. What is the reason for it? Who asks for it? Who wants it? The Courtney Commission reported against it, and we are all aware that the London electors, as I pointed out at the beginning of my remarks, when directly consulted on the subject, pronounced emphatically against it. As far as I know, it is only one or two of the richer vestries which have put forward any serious demand for the kind of legislation which the Government propose. But, Sir, these bodies if unlike the true municipalities in growth and structure, are also equally unlike them in their real functions and 176 powers. These boroughs are, in fact, shams and impostures. I will not detain the House on this point more than a very few moments, but let me show how this Bill will work. You may have different methods of administration of one of the most important of all the Metropolitan Acts—the Building Act. In the next place you may have different standards of rating, which may be enormously aggravated; and, further, you may have a body which will have the power of promoting Bills increasing-its own authority and opposing Bills which are sent to Parliament by the County Council with the consent of other authorities. Now, Sir, I confess that to my mind these are all very important matters. In the 13 areas scheduled in the Bill the Government have included all the wealthy parts of London, and have left all the poorer parts to be dealt with hereafter by the Commission. I do not say that in Westminster and in Marylebone there are not poor portions. Of course there are. Unhappily you will not find any part of London, not even the richest, in which there are not slums at the back of your rich streets and squares. Now, Sir, with regard to the crucial question of local administration, take the case of clearing insanitary areas. You will have one set of circumstances for the rich boroughs, to whom these things are so cheap, and another set for the poor authorities, to whom they are so difficult and dear. To show that this is not a mere academic matter, let me remind the House, by way of illustration, of what was called the Boundary Street Scheme in Bethnal Green. That scheme was carried out by the County Council at a cost of £300,000, and I remember it being pointed out at the time that if Bethnal Green had had to do this work itself that would have amounted to a rate of 6d. in the £ for Bethnal Green; whereas, the work being done by the County Council, it involved only an addition to the rates of London of l–14th of a penny in the £. How can you expect the representatives of richer boroughs on the Council, like Westminster, Paddington, and Marylebone, to consent to extra taxation for work done in other districts by the County Council when they themselves are doing the same work in their own districts at their own expense? Again, 177 there is the proposal to give to the new authorities power to borrow money without the consent of the County Council. I think that a most dangerous power. If the proposal comes through the County Council, the whole credit of London is involved, and the central government, as well as Parliament, is represented, for the County Council have to obtain the consent of the Treasury before their Bills are introduced into the House of Commons. We are as anxious as you can possibly be to give fresh life and authority in matters of purely local concern to the freely-elected and fully-responsible bodies which are chosen by and are answerable to the inhabitants. But we think we see—and I think I have given good reason for the belief—evidence of an unavowed but ulterior purpose underlying the Bill. We deprecate any scheme which, on the pretext of the exercise of powers which may not unfairly be given to particular localities, will yet take away from the central authority of the representatives of London as a whole that undivided power and authority which ought to belong to the central body alone. I do not wish in any way to exaggerate. I recognise the truth that the position of the Metropolitan community is exceptional and, indeed, unique. You have to face here very much the same problem as we have endeavoured to face before, and certainly may have to face again, in the wider sphere of Imperial politics. Just as in that sphere you have to settle the question how you are to reconcile general with local needs, how you are to get rid of the false and fictitious antagonism between the Imperial and national sentiment, so exactly in the same way in the more contracted sphere of London administration you have got to harmonise the recognition of the paramount title of a great and undivided municipality with a clue regard to the special necessities of different communities which differ as widely as the component factors of a kingdom. I am far from saying that if we had the prospect of full liberty of moulding it in Committee this Bill might not be transformed into an eirenicon of conciliation and even into a charter of local liberty. But we have to deal with it as it stands and under the conditions which exist. And inasmuch as, in our judgment, it is put for- 178 ward as a scheme to effect indirectly what, after the authoritative pronouncement of London opinion last year, no one would attempt directly to effect—to surround and buttress the unreformed City with a ring of sham municipalities; to impair and destroy in most material particulars the corporate and administrative unity of London as a whole—holding that view I say we are bound to protest against the Measure, not only as failing to satisfy, but as tending to delay and even in a. large measure to frustrate the legitimate aspirations of the greatest city in the world.
§ THE SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir B. FINLAY, Inverness Burghs)
The right honourable Gentleman, in the somewhat impassioned sentences with which his speech closed, imputed to the Government a number of designs as underlying this Bill. I have the honour on behalf of the Government most emphatically to repudiate those designs. There is nothing behind this Bill, nothing concealed, nothing which is not expressed on the face of the Bill itself. In the opening sentences of his speech the right honourable Gentleman contrasted what he called the moderate tone adopted in regard to the London, County Council in the Debate on this Bill with the tone which, he said, prevailed some time ago in the Party to which I have the honour to belong. The right honourable Gentleman said that there was made at that time a dead set against the London County Council, and that it is only because they failed to carry the election of a majority of the Moderate Party at the general election for that body that a more conciliatory attitude has been adopted. He quoted in support of that statement a speech made by the Prime Minister at the Albert Hall, and he said that the Prime Minister has criticised with some freedom the character of some of the debates in the London County Council. Well, I have yet to learn that criticising the debates of a deliberative or executive assembly is an attack upon the assembly itself. It is open not only to the Prime Minister, but to every citizen of London to express his opinion with perfect freedom as to the debates of the London County Council or any other body. There is a sort of quasi-sanctity which some honour- 179 able and right honourable Gentlemen seem to desire to throw around the London County Council and to hold that to criticise it or its proceedings is a sort of petty treason. No one can criticise the debates of the London County Council without being accused of attacking the institution itself. But is a person who criticises, and with freedom, some of the Debates in the House of Commons to be regarded as attacking Parliamentary institutions? I think the right honourable Gentleman went on to say that the whole policy of the Unionist Party was at that time to endeavour to break up and destroy the London County Council; but really I think that when the right honourable Gentleman was referring to that subject he might have quoted a speech which was made just about the same time as the speech from which he did quote, by my right honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade. The right honourable Gentleman cheers, but when honourable Gentlemen opposite charge a Party with an attack upon the London County Council, surely they might look to the speeches which were made by those honourable Members who were engaged in that contest. I would like honourable Members to bear in mind what was said by my right honourable Friend, speaking on 24th November 1897——
§ SIR R. FINLAY
Two days after the election my right honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade said—But undoubtedly the London County Council had done much good work since its creation, and they hoped and believed that it-would do much more. The Prime Minister had been charged with a determination to smash the London County Council. Lord Salisbury never meant and never said anything of the kind. He did not believe that in the mind of Lord Salisbury nor any other Member of the Government was any such design contemplated, nor would any of them be a party to such a transaction.And in the course of the contest to which the right honourable Gentleman has referred, the First Lord of the Treasury made a speech at Stepney on 25th February 1898 in which this passage occurs—We have been accused, I believe, in advocating this policy of a wish to destroy the London County Council—that is, the policy 180 subordinate municipalities. Well, we brought the London County Council into being, and I cannot imagine why we, of all people in the world, should wish to destroy it. I do not see why its stepfather, the so-called Progressive Party, are likely to be more careful of its life than we, the true authors of its being. The truth is, we do not wish to destroy the London County Council. We wish to perfect it, and we wish to make the government of London, as far as the peculiar circumstances of London will allow it, the most perfect example of municipal institutions which human ingenuity can hope to attain.Now, I submit for the consideration of the House that it is a somewhat strong thing in the face of these two authoritative statements made by my two right honourable Friends in the course of that contest—I say it is a strong thing to say. on the strength of some sentences quoted from a speech at the Albert Hall by Lord Salisbury, that the policy of the Unionist Party at that time was to destroy the London County Council. Sir, the policy of the Party must be judged of by what was said by those engaged in the contest, and I cannot imagine any expressions more clearly repudiating any such design than those I have just, quoted. But the truth is, Sir, that there is another change of policy to which the attention of the House must be directed. I cannot help thinking that the heavy fire which the right honourable Gentleman opened on the Government charging them with a change of policy was to a certain extent intended to divert retention from the change of policy which he himself and his friends have made. What a change of tone there has been in reference to this Measure since the Debate on the occasion of the First Reading of the Bill‡ It is idle to say that the Bill is now printed and is in the hands of Members. It is idle to say that, although honourable Members cheer that statement; and for this reason—that nothing could be clearer than the explanation of this Measure given by the First Lord of the Treasury when introducing it. I venture to say that for Second Reading purposes the House was then in possession of the gist of the Measure. I think I may say that though many points may arise in the course of Debate in Committee on which honourable Members may express various opinions, yet the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury put the House in possession of the materials for forming a judgment on the character of 181 this Measure, broadly speaking. The. Measure was then received with what may fairly be described as mild approval by the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and by many of his followers. The tone was favourable, and favourable after the policy of the Measure had been clearly stated by the First Lord.
§ SIR E. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Speaking for myself, I confined myself to asking some questions in regard to the Bill; and I expressed some satisfaction that it was not so bad as we expected.
§ SIR R. FINLAY
I very well remember the expression of the right honourable Gentleman, and I was struck by the benevolence of his attitude. Of course I did not expect him in his responsible position as Leader of the Opposition to bless and commend the Government Bill in unqualified terms. But I thought that the right honourable Gentleman said as much in the way of expressing approval of the Bill as the Government could expect from him. Disapproval there was none, I think. I am now speaking of the broad policy of the Measure, and the right honourable Gentleman who interrupted me was in just as good a position to determine that point as any other. What a change is there now‡ Instead of mild approval, we have strong hostility. I do not refer to this change of tone merely with reference to what took place on the First Reading, because we can go further, and we can point to the express utterances of my right honourable Friend who has just spoken, the Member for East Fife. The right honourable Gentleman has attempted to explain what he said by stating that he was speaking against the creation of eight or ten municipal corporations for London. Yes, but what possible relevancy has that explanation to the present Debate? We are proposing to create eight or ten corporations.
§ SIR R, FINLAY
It is just the same, if there was any point in the explanation of the right honourable 182 Gentleman. Now, what was it that the right honourable Gentleman said? He said—We propose to give them the stimulus of more attractive titles and of conspicuous positions that will create a more fruitful field for the best energies and the best efforts of the best men in the localities.And then the right honourable Gentleman proceeded to state what he meant—They were to have a large common corporate life which brings with it the dignity of responsibility.And then he proposed to group areas which were in some respects irregular and too small. Now, I appeal to the House whether there could possibly be a more accurate description of the present Bill? We are not proposing to create 10 municipalities, we are proposing to create a large number of municipalities which it is perfectly patent he had in his mind. We propose to dignify and strengthen the life and being of the local boards. If I had wanted to describe the scope of the Measure which the right honourable Gentleman now denounces, I do not think I could have done it better than in the happy phrases which were employed by the right honourable Gentleman on that occasion. By this Measure no attack whatever is made on the London County Council, and when one sees the change of tone which now characterises the Opposition with reference to this Measure, one cannot but ask the question—What does it all mean? Is there behind this change of tone some design against the local municipal life of the various divisions which must always exist in so enormous a city as London? Is it intended that they are to be all swallowed up by the London County Council or some new body which is to represent it, and that there is to be no local life at all, except by way of delegation from the great central body? There has run through the Debate a curious mixture of ideas. Two strands have run through the Debate on the part of the opponents of this Measure. Sometimes it is said that these new boroughs will be very dangerous indeed; that they wall destroy the central authority which London must have. At other times they are belittled, and spoken of as weak and contemptible, and merely decorated with the trappings of municipalities. All 183 that I can say is, that these two arguments are mutually self-destructive. Some of the speakers have taken one tone, and some the other tone; but in the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, almost in, successive sentences, you sometimes found one idea and sometimes the other. I listened with interest and attention to what he said, and I cannot help being reminded of what in the "Anti-Jacobin" is put into the mouth of a speaker who was attacking the Government of the day. He described the Ministers, in one sentence, as "bold bad men," and in the next characterised their measures as "weak, as well as wicked." Sometimes these bold bad boroughs are going to devour the London County Council.
§ MR. H. GLADSTONE
What I said was that according to the language used by the Prime Minister, and at the First Reading, we understood that these subordinate corporations were to be armed with duties analogous to those now possessed by the great municipal corporations of the country.
§ SIR R. FINLAY
My Friend was speaking, not of what the Bill does, but of some apprehended danger, but nothing that has been sail by the Prime Minister can affect the representative character of the bodies which are concerned in this Bill. I do not know what justification the Mover of the Resolution has for supposing that any such designs are going to be carried out.
§ SIR R. FINLAY
No expressions were quoted which would justify the idea that these municipalities are to be invested with powers to the destruction of the powers of the London County Council. If there is a process of natural growth, by the consent of the London County Council and Parliament—for it is guarded in that way—I am sure no one would object. But I must say that the impression made by the whole speech of the right honourable Gentleman was that, while sometimes these "bold, bad boroughs" were to devour the London County Council, at other times he represented them as "poor, weak, and despised things," incapable either for good or evil. Now, the 184 Resolution which is before the House charges in the first place that the Bill does not simplify London government, and in the second place that it does not complete London government. I do not think that the charge that it does not simplify can seriously be made. For, undoubtedly, in some important respects it does simplify London government. And when it is said that the Bill does not complete London government, that presumably means that the Measure is not absolutely final. There is no absolute finality in legislation; but what we do say is, that this Measure is a long step towards the completion of the fabric of local government in London. The real point of the Amendment appears to rest entirely in its concluding phrases, where it is said that the Bill renders more difficult the attainment of the unity of London. Now, I would point out that the real question before the House is how you are best to achieve the good government of London. Some honourable and right honourable Gentlemen seem to elevate what they call the unity of London into a sort of fetish to which everybody must bow down, and to which every scheme is to be subordinated. They say that, except in size, London does not differ from other towns that are scattered throughout the country. But that exception is a very big one. The difference of the size of London makes all the difference with reference to this question of whether you can have only one central authority with proper local delegation, or whether it is necessary to have a set of local authorities so constituted as to draw to them the best talent available for the purposes of local self-government. It is the want of cohesion about London, with its enormous size and with differences between its various parts, which makes it perfectly impossible to dispense with the services of efficient local bodies. We are told that we ought to have a strong central authority. We all desire to have a strong central authority, but it is not a corollary from that proposition that the local authorities are to be weak. It is conceded on all hands that local authorities of some kind you must have, and that we should do wisely in making these bodies as effective as possible—to make them such as to attract to them the best men, and to put them in a position to develop in London that sense of 185 municipal responsibility which has done so much for the rest of the country. It would be a miserable policy to starve the local authorities in order that, by comparison, you should aggrandise the central authority. The local authorities have their work to do in their own sphere, and the central authority has its work to do in its own sphere. The central authority should be in some sense superior, but I cannot accept the criticism of my right honourable Friend in regard to the use of the term "borough" with reference to these local districts into which London must be divided. He said that boroughs must be separate units. But what would he say to the case—familiar to my right honourable Friend near me—of Manchester and Salford? My right honourable Friend opposite says that boroughs must be separate units, but I think he would find it difficult indeed to dissect Manchester and Salford, and say that one is independent of the other—and yet they are two boroughs. Take another case, which I daresay is more familiar to my right honourable Friend. Ho may occasionally go to Brighton, and may occasionally visit Hove. Hove has been made a borough, and Brighton is a borough, though it cannot be said that they are separate units. There are other instances that might be given, but it is enough for me to indicate that this arbitrary assertion that boroughs must be perfectly independent of one another is one that finds no countenance in the facts of the case. Why should power be grudged to these local bodies? Why are these boroughs, instead of having the full dignity of municipal life, to be mere district councils or vestries? Surely it is not a wise policy to belittle these local authorities, on which you must to a great extent depend for the efficient government of this metropolis. The right honourable Gentleman says that the great blot on this Bill—and it was the first point he made in his speech—was that it left the City untouched. He said that the population of the City was a mere trifle. Of course, if you take the night population of the City, it is very small; but you must, for this purpose, look to the clay population as well, and I cannot understand on what principle this attack on the City has been made. The whole question with regard to the treat- 186 ment of London is, What is the ideal you are aiming at? Do you desire to throw the whole metropolitan area into the melting pot—with one district presiding over the whole, and with various districts where you would have bodies exercising various powers by delegation from the central authority—one of which districts would, I suppose, be Westminster. Is it your aim to have one central municipality and district bodies of less dignity? That is an ideal which was substantially embodied in a Bill introduced by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Monmouth in 1884. But surely that is an ideal which does not meet with the approval of this House or the country. It is an ideal which, if still cherished by some, can hardly count on any very enthusiastic reception nowadays. Surely the true ideal is that you are to have local municipal life, and that is the ideal which this Bill is intended to further. If you start from that point of view, will anyone suggest that the City would not be a natural area for having municipal institutions of its own? We are told that we do not deal with the City, and do not alter its functions as a governing body. We ask what is it suggested that we should do with the City? One great object of the Bill is to give greater dignity to the local authority. Is it suggested that the City has not dignity enough already, and that we should give it more by some clause introduced into this Bill? I heard with some regret the expression used the other night that the City is an "unreformed corporation."
§ SIR R. FINLAY
The honourable Gentleman cheers that expresson which was used the other night. I say that is one of those catchwords which are entirely misapplied in this connection. The term "unreformed corporation" was applied with perfect justice to the old close corporations which were dealt with by the great Measure of 1836. These were close corporations—self-elected bodies, with little or no connection with the inhabitants and the places which they governed. A term of that sort is totally inapplicable to the City, where you have a wide suffrage, where practically every ratepayer has a voice in the election of those who are to 187 administer the affairs of the City, and where you have a body which, whatever else may be said of it, does give you excellent administration.
§ MR. BUXTON
The Commission of 1853 recommended certain specific reforms in the government of the City, and I do not think that one of the more important of these reforms has yet been carried out.
§ SIR R. FINLAY
That does not make it an unreformed corporation. I am not saying the City is perfect. Nothing in this world is perfect. But I say that to endeavour, by the use of the phrase which the right honourable Gentleman has employed, to associate the City with the old close corporations, is to get on the wrong track altogether. The government of the City rests on a broad and popular basis. It has an administration subject to the most vigilant scrutiny, and no false step can be made by the government of the City without its enemies at once pointing it out. There are some features in the recent history of the City for which everyone must indeed be very grateful. Take what it did in reference to Epping Forest and the Tower Bridge. Many other instances might also be given, but in truth no attack is made or can be made upon the administration of the City. My right honourable Friend who has just spoken referred to the path taken by the Corporation in English history, and he said, in perfect justice, that it was the path to freedom. There is something in historic associations, and I confess I would look with great regret on the sort of panacea which honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite desire to provide for the City by sublimating, so that it should disappear in some larger body, and have a district council to administer the affairs of that portion now governed by the Corporation. My right honourable Friend went on to say, "Why have you omitted to confer on these boroughs the powers of administering the Poor Law? and he said that was a very great blot on the Bill. I would only ask the right honourable Gentleman and the House to consider whether that would not be a very serious matter indeed to introduce into this Bill. I do not say that there is not a great deal to be said 188 for a step in the direction he indicates, of having one body to administer all local affairs. But everyone who deals with the matter practically must feel that it would endanger the prospects of any Measure of reform of this kind, if we attempted to deal with that very large question in it. I am perfectly certain my right honourable Friend would look upon it in that way if, instead of making a speech against the Second Reading, he was engaged in drawing the Bill. Various points of varying importance have been referred to during the Debate. One which has been much emphasised is that there is a great deal of devolution, and that a great deal was left to be done by Order in Council. That is perfectly true, but I would remind the House that, in taking that course, the Government have not adopted any new or unusual expedient. Many honourable Members are familiar with what takes place when a charter is applied for a certain district in the country. A petition is presented to Her Majesty and the Privy Council deals with the matter. The charter is granted, and with it a scheme which deals with all matters connected with the reconstitution of the district. We have proceeded strictly on that analogy with reference to the constitution of these districts, and there is really nothing in the course adopted which is at all improper or new. Then an attack was made, particularly by the right honourable Gentleman who has just spoken, upon the areas into which it is proposed to divide the metropolis. I suppose there is no subject on which it is more difficult to find two men who absolutely agree than the exact division of the metropolis into areas for the purpose of local government. Having regard to the difficulties of the subject, and the number of considerations to be taken into account, it is rather surprising that more objections have not been raised, and it is remarkable, considering the local sentiment on which the Bill rests, that these districts scheduled in the Bill as ripe for incorporation have in the majority of instances not been disputed at all. Some very interesting remarks were made by my honourable Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley on Tuesday night with reference to the principle on which grouping should take place—remarks 189 which deserve the fullest consideration, and which show a very great knowledge of the subject, and a practical experience of all the considerations which have to be taken into account. Then it was said that we were creating cities of the rich and cities of the poor. I would remind the right honourable Gentleman who made that charge that the districts which he calls cities of the rich are already separated from the districts of the poor. We are not creating these districts. We are merely saying to them "You must have local life," and we propose to give them that incorporation which is desirable for the full development of this local life.
§ SIR R. FINLAY
The observation I have just made applies to very many places. With regard to Westminster, there are special considerations, which I shall deal with later. I really do not understand how the right honourable Gentleman could propose to deal with this question unless he could effect an alteration in the geographical situation of these districts. How is it possible to mix up the districts in London in the way he suggests, so that we may have an equal distribution of rich and poor alike. It is a physical and absolute impossibility. I entirely demur to the assumption of many honourable Members that many of the West End districts have not got a great many poor in them. Take Kensington. There is a very poor district indeed in Kensington, and the same observation applies to a great many of the districts in the Schedule in the Bill. But what I wish to point out is that the grouping which must take place by Order in Council under this Bill will tend to diminish the separation between the rich and poor. The effect of the Bill must be to unite in a great many cases districts varying to some extent in the character of their population, and whenever we do that we mitigate the evil which has been referred to of having the rich separated from the poor. The Bill tends in the direction of mitigating that evil, which necessarily arises from the geographical features which London possesses. In this connection my right honourable Friend opposite made a great 190 attack upon the proposal to give the power of dealing with the housing of the working classes to the corporations which are to be set up by this Bill, and his observations would apply to the housing of the working classes generally. I would point out, with reference to the instance which he gave of what was done in Bethnal Green, something in the opposite direction. Where you have got the housing of the working classes wanted, in such districts as Westminster and Kensington and other West End districts, and sometimes it is very badly wanted indeed, surely the right honourable Gentleman will say that those districts should pay for themselves, and if we confer powers with reference to such housing on the districts themselves it tends to mitigate the evil which otherwise would exist of calling upon the poorer parts of London to contribute to a rate for providing houses in the rich parts. I am told that the Bethnal Green case does not come under this part of the Act at all. The same sort of attack is made with regard to the equalisation of rates, and the House was asked to believe that the Bill in some way impairs the safeguards for the equalisation of rates. The Bill expressly preserves the Act for the equalisation of rates, and, so far as the granting under the Bill is concerned, it diminishes to some extent the very evil which that Act was designed to remedy. My right honourable Friend pointedly called attention just now to the question of the incorporation of Westminster. He made some remarks in his speech on that corporation, and I confess I do not understand the violence of the attack made on the proposal to erect the city of Westminster into a municipal corporation under the Bill. I cannot help thinking that underlying it there is a. sort of feeling that a great and important corporation of that kind would to some extent relatively diminish the importance of the County Council. That is a feeling which can hardly be avowed; but I confess that, looking at the arguments put forward in support of the attacks on this proposal, I am at a loss to understand what is the real motive behind them. One organ of public opinion which has attacked this Bill very strenuously refers to the case of the 300 deserving vestry- 191 men who are to be thrown out of employment at Westminster. Of course, one is very sorry that gentlemen who from a sense of public duty and public spirit have given their time to the administration of local affairs should be deprived of work in which they take an interest, and which they are highly qualified to perform. But at the same time, if it should appear that efficiency and economy will be promoted by the substitution of smaller bodies for larger districts, instead of larger bodies for smaller districts, surely we may rely on the public spirit and the sense of public duty of individual vestrymen and officials to lead them to merge their own feelings in the sense of what is best for the community. There was one very remarkable passage in the speech of the right honourable Gentleman who moved this Resolution, where he referred to the great public buildings which adorned Westminster, and in impassioned tones he asked whether Westminster was to keep all these good things to itself. But how are these things to be transported to other parts?
§ SIR R. FINLAY
That is a kind of argument which I cannot understand. The buildings must be in Westminster, and if Westminster is the most suitable area, I cannot follow the train of thought which would grudge Westminster the enjoyment of them. They must be there, and nowhere else. I listened with some surprise to the right honourable Gentleman when he referred to what he called "the grand larceny" of attributing to Larger Westminster functions which are at present distributed among the various bodies which rule and control the districts which will constitute Greater Westminster. Is there nothing in history which shows that Westminster has historical associations and has existed for a very long time as a city? I admit that its municipal institutions have been in a somewhat rudimentary form, but when we are told that there is no foundation for connecting this borough with this Bill I would ask the right honourable Gentleman to go back to times even before the Norman Conquest. 192 We are not, however, going to set up this municipality upon any antiquated ground of that sort, although it should not be altogether disregarded. But if honourable Members follow Westminster through English history they will find it was always recognised. There is a certain historic unity about it which lends force to the proposal and invests it with fuller and more complete corporate life. There were a great many other proposals in the Bill criticised, but it seemed to me that many of the speeches were more suitable for Debate in Committee, and I do not propose to occupy the time of the House in discussing them now. I am not going to discuss the question as to how the municipal boroughs are to borrow, but I would point out that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent them borrowing through the County Council. They will require the sanction of the Local Government Board, but that will not prevent them borrowing through the County Council, and therefore the apprehensions expressed on that point are unfounded. Stringent criticism has also been directed against the transfer clauses, but some power of transfer there must be. Any observations on that point can, however, be more appropriately made on the Committee stage. What I ask the House is to return to the broader aspect of the question, and to ask itself, Is this or is this not a Bill framed on legitimate lines for the purpose of developing legitimate local institutions? Is it a Measure which is called for by the local wants of London? Is it not a Measure on the same lines as were indicated in those speeches which I have already quoted, and which were made by right honourable Gentlemen opposite? Looking at the Bill in that light, I ask the House as a whole to take up the attitude which was adopted by the Opposition itself on the First Reading, when honourable Members had all the materials before them for forming an opinion on the policy of the Bill, and to give the Measure a Second Reading, as being calculated to take a long step towards the completion of the fabric of local government in London.
§ * MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I confess I have not listened to this Debate this evening with any degree of satisfaction. The character of the speech 193 of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Fife was not satisfactory. At the close of his speech he said that if the subject of this Bill could be a matter of free discussion it might be acceptable, not as a complete Measure, but an instalment towards something that might be a complete Measure. I wish he had remembered that remark throughout his speech, because the attitude of severe criticism and opposition he has adopted renders the possibility of an amicable discussion extremely difficult. Nor do I think that the speech of the Solicitor-General has removed that difficulty. In the few remarks which I will offer to the House I would desire to bring back the discussion to a more friendly temper, if not between honourable Members on both sides, at least towards the subject matter of the Bill, in order to see if we cannot in the end mould the Bill into a shape which all might accept so far as it goes. I would say at the outset that I speak in. this matter entirely for myself. I have had no opportunity of discussing the Bill with my colleagues who served on the Royal Commission, and, therefore, I speak entirely for myself. In the first place I would press the House to look at the Bill apart from the preconceptions and associations with which it has been connected. The Bill is not being condemned so much for what is in it as what is being read into it. The intentions of the Government are carried far beyond what the Bill itself contains. A malevolent purpose is ascribed to them which is admitted not to be warranted by the provisions of the Bill itself, but which is founded on something which happened before. Now, I quite admit that there is a good deal of ground for suspicion as to what was said in former years, and the Bill itself contains clauses which do not tend to allay that suspicion; but is it wise to approach the Bill with the purpose of making that suspicion real, and of converting it from a possibility into a practical fact, and of making the attitude of the Government towards the Bill something corresponding to what right honourable Gentlemen opposite suppose? I am free to speak in the matter of the declaration made by Ministers of the Crown last year and the year before in a way other Members could not possibly be expected to speak. I have no hesitation in saying that the speech of Lord 194 Salisbury at the Albert Hall was a most unfortunate performance. Everyone knew that, as soon as the speech was delivered; most of all perhaps the Moderate candidates at the County Council elections. A good many gentlemen did me the honour of speaking to me about it, and I ventured to assure them that there was no use in Lord Salisbury talking in that way, because in the nature of things what the Prime Minister was aiming at could not be done. The County Council is a fact the importance of which cannot be mitigated, and all the attempts, threats, and invectives will prove in the course of time to be in vain. I greatly admire Lord Salisbury, who has a great disdain for Parliamentary conventions, and says outright what he thinks; and when I read the speech of the noble Marquess and saw what an unhappy effect it might produce, my idea was simply this: "God help the man who has to address a mass meeting, especially a mass meeting on the eve of contested elections." Under such circumstances, the most prudent are apt to go astray, and those who are not always prudent may commit indiscretions which may be the subject of regret. But I ask the House to put aside all this, which is really past history, especially as Lord Salisbury's appeal did not prevail. The verdict was not indeed so decisive as it has been represented. Although what is called a Progressive majority was secured at the elections, a majority of the votes was given to the Moderates, but we need not dwell on that now. I want honourable Members to approach this subject free from that singular alarm which seems so often to pervade our ranks whenever we have to consider the position of the County Council and the City of London. I have been frequently amazed at the character of the attitude assumed by the House, especially on this side, with respect to the County Council. The County Council is responsible for a good deal. The foolish things which were said in its early years were enough to provoke alarm, and ever since, whenever the County Council proposes to do something, there is immediately a flutter of agitation and shrieking, which really reminds one more than anything else of the display of the occupants of a poultry yard whenever they see some enemy approaching whose power they fear. We 195 should not look at the County Council in that way any more than we should look on the City of London as an unalterable thing to be approached with reverence and with immense respect. Now, I have stated already what is my desire in speaking to the House upon this particular matter. I would ask the House to accompany me for a few moments upon a suggestion of what might have been. I know that as a rule nothing is more idle than speculating as to what might have been, but in this connection I think it will be perceived very soon that some really good results may flow from considering what might have been the course of legislation with respect to London. If the ideas, policy, and machinery now recognised and adopted with respect to growing towns had prevailed last century or the century before, what would have happened? The City of London, as its inhabitants began to settle on the grounds around it, and as surrounding villages grew into faubourgs and suburbs, would have come to the Crown for enlarged charters in the earlier period, and in later years would have come to this House and the other House and asked for the extension of its borders. That is what has happened every Session, and what has happened every year, with respect to the growing towns of this country, such as Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham, which have outgrown their original limits, and they have come year after year at certain intervals, as the increase in the inhabitants compelled it, to Parliament, to ask for an enlargement of their borders, and to bring within their area the outlying growth of their own population. Of course, the Act of 1835 made a great extension in this way on a large scale. If this had been done, and repeatedly done, what would have happened? We should have had the Corporation of the City becoming a corporation with new wards and new aldermen, but with the same constitution. They would have taken in St. Giles, Bloomsbury, Clerken-well, and Islington, and you would have had a continually increasing great corporation governing and representing the whole City and the whole town. You would have soon found it necessary for strictly local purposes and administration to call into existence what I will call adjunctive bodies, such as the wards 196 are in the City of London, charged with affairs of their own, and quite independent in respect of those affairs, which would relieve the greater body of the special local matters which are better attended to by such local bodies. That is what would have been the natural growth if the City in past times had acted upon principles universally recognised and adopted now. It was not entirely the fault of the City that this was not done. There were difficulties in the way, and they were kept back from doing it. Just consider if that had happened what would have been the result? It is said now that the Lord Mayor occupies a peculiar and unparalleled position, that he is the almoner of the charity of the nation, which is perfectly true; that he is the sponsor of a new public spirit embodied in new projects of benevolence and education, which are frequently begun in the Mansion House under the auspices of the Lord Mayor; and, moreover, he is the person who receives in the name of the City the distinguished men of our own country, and the distinguished visitors who come from foreign lands, to whom he dispenses and regulates the hospitality which is demanded. But would not all these functions have been filled by the Lord Mayor of the Greater City which I have described? Would he not still have been the almoner of the nation's charities and the person to inaugurate new projects of benevolence and education? Would he not still have been the person to have received the distinguished men of our own country or distinguished visitors? To such a mayor there would have passed, as London grew, all the glory, all the traditions of antiquity, and all the pomp which is now associated with that office. The-original wards under his jurisdiction, like the other parts included in the area of Greater London which I have described, would have had their own administrations for purely local matters, but the great affairs which concerned the inhabitants of the whole metropolis, such as the dispensing of its hospitality, the administration of its great trusts, and the control of the markets, would have passed with the ancient endowments associated with it, and the pomp and tradition of the position of the Lord Mayor would have passed to the Greater 197 City which I have described. If that process had been followed in the past is there any honourable Member will deny that the result would have been better than it is now? Should we not have had this gradual and continuous development of the idea of civic life throughout London which you complain now does not exist, or which is only partially brought into existence. My honourable and learned Friend referred to the honour which was due to the Corporation for having saved Epping Forest and preserved Burnham Beeches, but would the Greater Corporation and the Greater Lord Mayor have been slow-to do such work‡ Would not all the surroundings of London have been looked after by them? As it is now, they are looked after by an imperfect institution, which, in some measure, has to perform the duties which should have been performed by such a greater corporation as I have described. I now go back from these considerations for the purpose of showing what did happen. The process I have imagined was not followed. Our machinery was imperfect, and our ideas were not sufficiently elastic, for they were the ideas of past generations, and the powers outside the City thwarted such disposition as might have been felt in the City to extend its borders. But, in spite of everything, you could not prevent something coming into existence which did represent, and continues to represent, the corporate life of the whole of London. Necessity compelled the invention, and compelled the discovery of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which passed to the London County Council, and which must continue to increase its functions. It was in the nature of things that this should be so. They could not remain with a stunted City and neglected outlying districts; it was necessary to bring into existence something which would do for the whole of London that which necessarily could not be undertaken by the several parts. There are things which concern the whole of London which in the very nature of things compel you to establish a central authority. Why, the London County Council has been created under the Act for which my right honourable Friend the President of the Board of Trade was responsible, and since the London County Council has been created you have gone on adding 198 functions to that Council, and you cannot avoid it. If this is the case, some deductions of a consoling character may, I think, be drawn. Why should we be alarmed about this Bill? Even if it were so insidious as has been suggested, the County Council cannot be affected by it, and I do not think the City of London will be much longer preserved in existence in its present peculiar position if the Bill does, as it will, become law. It is suggested that by creating smaller municipalities around the City of London you will defend that City in its present position, but I think that is very doubtful. I should think that it would occur to these smaller municipalities after a time that they had become as important as the municipality of the City, for they had just the same work to do in looking after their streets and ordinary local affairs, and what the City has got in excess of what they had got really belonged to the whole of London, of which they were a part as much as the City itself, and which ought to be transferred not to the London County Council, but to some body which will represent the whole of London, of which they are a subordinate part. I do not believe that the creation of these subordinate or adjunct municipalities will strengthen the position of the City of London, and this argument cannot be trusted to at all. I think this is the view of the case which was taken by the Commission of which I had the honour to be chairman. Now, in what respect does the operation of the present Bill differ from the recommendations of that Commission? It differs in this important respect, that it does not go so far. But although it does not go so far, what it does may be accepted in some measure, subject to certain alterations, as a part performance of what that Commission suggested. We did suggest subordinate municipalities, and we scheduled a good many which we thought might be at once recognised. Some of them are included in the first schedule of this Bill, although not all, and there are some other municipalities included in that schedule which we did not schedule. Now, in what respect does the scheme of the Government differ from the scheme which we had in our minds? I do not say that our scheme was one which was 199 perfect in detail, but in what respect does the scheme of the Government differ from the scheme which we proposed? The Commission had thought that, sooner or later, we must bring about—or there must be brought about—that which I expected would have been brought about by the natural process I have sketched—that we should have one great body with the tradition, the weight and dignity of the City, which would, by such natural process, be charged with all the common, inseparable, and indivisible concerns of the whole town of London, whilst in connection with it there would have been subordinate municipalities taking care of special matters which could not be attended to with so much effect by the central body, and, as we said, everything should be transferred which could be as well done by the local bodies as by the central body. The Commissioners' method proposed that there should be local bodies receiving greater dignity and having a better status; and it was the essence of their plan that the new municipal bodies which would be called into existence, whilst following what may be called historic developments, and having regard to local history and local associations, should nevertheless be of such a size as could not in any degree be confounded in weight and in importance, or scope of operation with the greater central body. There were to be under-corporations adjunct and ancillary to the one corporation in the functions which they discharged. In respect to the schedule of this Bill as now put forward there are two suggestions which seem to me to require attention. In the first place, Wandsworth has an enormous area. The honourable Member for Wandsworth has urged with great weight the urgent call for the reconsideration of Wandsworth as a Parliamentary borough, and there certainly is reason for a similar argument in regard to its position under this Bill. I do not suppose that Greater Westminster is a project which must be accepted, and which cannot be eriticised, and I confess that I have a great apprehension with respect to it, for I do not think it will be a workable scheme to have a Greater Westminster charged with the duties which are proposed under this Bill. I 200 suspect that it will have to be divided into two, taking St. George's, Hanover Square, and joining with it the parishes of St. Margaret and St. John, and leaving the Strand, St. James's, St. Martin's-in-the Fields, and Soho to form a separate division. You will then have defined areas something more analogous to the other areas, and more likely to carry out the limited functions which are to be entrusted to them. I do not think it is at all necessary for me to allude to the several differences as regards aldermen in these municipalities. The recommendation of the Commission did not propose that there should be aldermen, simply because we found nobody in favour of aldermen. I have no particular feeling about aldermen, either one way or the other, but I think it should remain an open question for the Government to consider upon its merits. Then, as to the question of how the subordinate municipalities should be elected the Commission had rather contradictory evidence. I have already told the House last year the singular character of the evidence we had before us in respect to this matter. We had representatives of the municipal corporations who told us that the continuity of administration required to be safeguarded by partial elections every year, and that there should not be a reelection of the whole body every third year. On the other side, the necessity for the total re-election every three years was advocated. This question came up last year in connection with Irish local government, and there, I think, it was ultimately left to be determined by the people themselves, and if it has been left an open question in respect to Ireland, surely it cannot be a question upon which it is necessary to speak a final word upon the Second Reading of this Bill. But there is another question of much more importance, and that is the transfer of powers. Now, it is commonly admitted every power should be transferred which could be as well done by the smaller municipalities; and already a great number of powers have been agreed to be transferred from the greater to the smaller bodies. There is the power to make arrangements for the transfer of other powers, and that is one which I think ought to be a little more safeguarded, though I see no ob- 201 jection in principle to such transfers being made later on, if both the County Council and the municipalities concur thereto, and the transfer is approved by the Local Government Board, and then again approved by Parliament. With regard to clause 6, I confess that it is one which I fail to understand the reason of. This clause is one which gives power to the Privy Council to transfer under the Bill the powers under the Building Act, 1894, but there is no machinery as far as I can make out by which the Privy Council is to exercise this extraordinary jurisdiction. I suppose the various authorities will go before the Privy Council and argue their case, and then the Privy Council will determine whether these transfers shall take place; but to substitute the decision of a Committee of the Privy Council for the action of Parliament in such a well-considered Bill as the Act of 1894 does seem to me to be a matter requiring a very strong defence if it is to be maintained. It happened when the Commission were pursuing their inquiries that we had before us the chairman of the Building Committee of the London County Council, who was, at the same time, defending the clauses of this particular Building Act before a Hybrid Committee of this House, and, therefore we had to take it upon alternate days. He was one of the very best witnesses we had, and he was a Moderate, and a prominent member of the Moderate Party. We cross-examined him a great deal to see whether any change could be made in his proposal, and I am bound to say that we were very much persuaded that he made out a complete case for the provisions of the Bill which were then in the course of passing through Parliament, and which were substantially approved of by Parliament. To take a Bill of this kind, and make it subject to this clause was an eccentricity which requires some explanation. But these, after all, are comparatively minor matters. These smaller municipalities will have to be created, and I do not think they will seriously interfere with the work of the central authority, nor do I think that they will prove such a defence of the Corporation of the City of London as has been stated. The very nature of things will compel the maintenance and enlargement of the London County 202 Council. You may hesitate to call it a Corporation of the City of London; you may hesitate to transfer to it the functions of the present Corporation of the City in respect of those matters which really belong to the whole of London, and which the City at present maintains as an anachronism; you may hesitate to transfer the control of the markets and other matters which affect London as a whole, but eventually they will have to go. Therefore I do not believe that these smaller municipalities will constitute a defence of the City; and therefore I am not at all apprehensive in this respect, for I look upon it as a matter which will of necessity work itself out sooner or later. The Bill we know is imperfect, but, after all, even the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Fife, if lie were in office, would not be able himself to produce a perfect plan. He would have to conciliate the forces which were opposed to him, to make shifts here and abatements there, and in the end the Bill which he would put on the Table would certainly not be a perfect Measure; but yet the Bill might be a good Bill if Members were allowed to approach it in the spirit to which the right honourable Gentleman referred at the close of his speech, but which he did not bear in mind throughout the delivery of the whole of his speech. My right honourable Friend referred at the end of his speech to the conduct of the Bill in Committee, and this is the last word I am going to say, and I will not trouble the House after. I think this Bill in passing through Parliament will be somewhat of a test of our Parliamentary system. I believe if you have got a score of sensible men of both Parties—and you need not be particular as to the number from each—I believe that if you had 12 men of business from this side of the House and a. similar number from the other side to sit around this Bill they would be able to make a good thing of it. Of course I know that cannot be done, but I believe in that way they would take the Bill and make it a good practical Measure. I will go further and say that I think it is possible for a Grand Committee to make a good thing out of it. I do not know whether my right honourable Friend the 203 Leader of the House has ever sat on a Grand Committee, but I expect his other duties have prevented him from doing so. If this Bill went before a Grand Committee, where Members hear everything that is said, and where votes in some measure are modified by knowledge and by argument, there would be no recourse to external forces in deciding emergent questions. If to the deliberations upon the Bill the House could bring something of the atmosphere of a Grand Committee this Bill may be made a good Bill, and can be made acceptable as far as it goes. think it is a good augury that my right honourable Friend himself is in charge of this Bill. There is no man in the House so quick and no man so clear in the perception of facts and arguments, for the right honourable Gentleman is perfect in that regard. He is also possessed of the highest powers and authority, and he will bring to the discussion of the Bill good knowledge, the closest attention, and the possession of power, and the House will be spared that painful spectacle which we sometimes experience of a Minister struggling with limited powers sometimes in regard to authority and sometimes in regard to comprehension of the Bill under his charge. My right honourable Friend has every advantage, and if he will conduct the Bill in the spirit suggested; if he will watch the course of argument in the House and listen to what is stated here, and not trust entirely to force of votes; if he will trust to that, we may then work this Bill through, and make it, if not a perfect, yet a satisfactory Bill. My last word will be an appeal to my right honourable Friend to forget ail the nonsense talked about the past utterances of Ministers and the apprehensions of foul conspiracies, and to go into Committee on the Bill and approach it in the spirit which I have suggested, and then a good Bill may be expected. If I may venture to do so, I should advise my right honourable Friends opposite not to insist upon dividing on the Second Reading. The attitude which right honourable Gentlemen opposite have taken is a remarkable one, but they do not have the same mind together for a month, and sometimes there is a very small modicum of mind to make up. But let us look at the matter as com- 204 mon-sense business men as the project to be discussed in the spirit in which men would treat a serious subject, givng it serious attention, and then, with the help of my right honourable Friend the Leader of the House, I do hope we shall be able to carry this Bill in a satisfactory form.
* MR. THEVELYAN (York, W. R., Elland)
The Solicitor-General has brought up again a complaint that the Opposition have changed their tactics upon this Bill. He said that we had begun with blessing this Measure, and that now we were cursing it. Now, in the first place, we, on this side of the House, are thankful for small mercies at the present time, and we are distinctly glad that the Bill which has been presented to the House was presented by the First Lord of the Treasury and not by the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, who had presaged a destructive Bill to the London County Council. The second reason why I think the attitude of the Opposition has changed is that this Bill, on the surface of it, is not a dangerous one, but that when we look into it more closely, when we examine its details, when we look at the Bills to which it refers, we begin-to understand more clearly the tendencies which it really denotes. Now, the right honourable Member for Bodmin has asked us not to get excited over this Bill. Well, it is generally the privilege of older years to be alarmed, but on this occasion I shall claim that it is the privilege of youth to be very much alarmed at the tendencies which this Bill denotes. And I hope, not merely by a general expression of opinion about this Bill, but by examining shortly the details of the Bill, to be able to show the House that its whole tendency is distinctly directed against the County Council, and that this Bill does nothing for the County Council, but carefully avoids doing anything for it. Now, I do not wish to say very much about the creation of the new boroughs, for there are some of us upon this side who, without going into any details upon the question, are not altogether averse to seeing strong local bodies created, strong in the sense of efficiency. With certain alterations which we want, such as the division of Wandsworth and the division of West- 205 minster, we think that these boroughs are, some of them, likely to be more satisfactory than the present vestries. We think that it is extremely probable that if a body of 72 men come together they will very likely be more capable of managing the local affairs of their districts than are the members of the numerous vestries. But the question on which we join issue with the Government is as to the powers of these new bodies. It is the matter from clause 5 onwards with which we disagree. Now, in the first place, the first objectionable tendency of this Bill is to hand over powers from the County Council, either to these bodies or to the Local Government Board. The mere handing over of powers from the London County Council is not in itself necessarily bad. We can quite conceive, on this side of the House, that there might be an advantage under some circumstances in handing over powers from the London County Council to the vestries. But I ask the House to consider what the powers are which it is suggested to hand over from the London County Council, and I say that every power which it is proposed to hand over is cither useless or else is positively harmful. I will take first some of the powers which, in my opinion, it is useless to hand over from the County Council. In clause 2 of the Bill it is proposed to leave it to an order in Council to settle what the wards of the new boroughs shall be. Now, it is the fact that the local districts of the metropolis have been divided up into wards hitherto by the action of the County Council, and there has been no complaint whatever on any ground or from any direction as to the action of the County Council in that respect. And yet it is proposed, for no apparent reason whatever, to take this power, which has been perfectly satisfactorily performed, out of the hands of the County Council. I do not say it would be worse done by an Order in Council. I say it is unnecessary to hand it over; and if by any chance there should be an advantage on one side or the other, the advantage is distinctly in the present system, because the County Council is much more likely to be able to know the local needs of the metropolis than are the people who will issue the Order in Council. Then, to go on to one or two things which are scheduled in this 206 second schedule of the Bill, it is proposed that the local authorities should exercise control over wooden structures put up in the streets. It is rather an unfair insult, I think, to the County Council to propose to take away that power which before the eyes of the whole country they exercised with such effect on the occasion of the Queen's Jubilee, when there was no loss of life, no injury to limb, owing to the successful manner in which the London County Council made regulations and enforced them upon that occasion. Then it is proposed to hand over the regulation of sky signs to the local boroughs of the metropolis. What is the use of that? As a matter of fact, there is a Bill in force which, as time goes on, is going to prevent the erection of any sky signs at all in the metropolis. But I pass from those duties which it is harmless to hand over from the County Council to those which we regard as harmful. The noble Lord the Member for South Kensington said the other day that all these things were matters of detail. All legislation, Sir, is mater of detail. I say there are many things contained in this Measure which it is proposed to hand over to these local authorities which are matters of detail, but which affect very nearly the health and happiness and the lives of the people, and therefore, though matters of detail, they are matters of very great importance. Now, I will take a small thing first. It is proposed in Schedule 2, Part 1, to hand over the regulation of dairies to the local authorities, and it is proposed later on in the Bill—I think in clause 7—to give the administration and inspection of these dairies to the local bodies as well. At the present time, at comparatively small cost and with very great efficiency, this duty is being carried on by the London County Council. I say it is almost certain that the first result of handing this duty over to the different local authorities will be to make the process more expensive, because if they do their duty at all they will have to have a good many more inspectors than the London County Council has at the present time. In the second place, it is very likely, it is nearly certain, that the inspection will be less efficient, because there will not be the same pressure on the inspectors to do their duty. There will be milk inspected in one borough which is sold in the next 207 borough, and if the man in the next borough finds that his milk is not what it should be, he has not nearly the same power of putting pressure on the authorities in order to obtain what he wants. The whole matter of inspection—and this matter of inspection applies to more than the question of milk—is a very serious one. There is a principle which underlies it, and it is this, that if you inspect through the means of small local authorities those local authorities are much more subject to the pressure of interested people than is a great and strong central authority like the London County Council. We begin more and more to recognise that inspection of this sort is of very vital interest to the health and life of the people of the land, and in the interests of the health and life of the people we object to such powers being taken away from the County Council. Then there is the question of the inspection of common lodging-houses, which is a comparatively cheap duty of the County Council at the present time; they do not spend, I think, more than £2,000 upon it. That is a very serious thing also. Common lodging-houses are places where vice and disease are very likely to be hatched if there is not sufficient and effective inspection. That is the sort of duty which ought to be performed by some body which can, more or less, terrorise the people who are to be inspected. It is much less likely that the small local authorities will be able to exercise the proper terror over the common lodging-house keeper than the County Council. Then there is the question of main roads. It is Proposed to hand over main roads of the metropolis, such as are controlled by the London County Council at present, to these new borough authorities. For my part, I think it would be a very good thing if the County Council had taken this opportunity of managing more of the main roads of the metropolis than it does at present. It is obviously in the interest of the great mass of the population that the great thoroughfares of London should be given into the control of this central authority, and if any alteration was to be made, I should have thought it would have been rather to compel the County Council to take over a good many more main roads than to divest them of the powers which they now possess. Throughout this Bill, from one 208 end to the other, there is the same policy of petty and irritating deprivation of the powers of the County Council, and nothing that shows a tendency in the other direction. If the Government were impartial in this matter, if they really wanted to put the right powers in the right place, their whole tendency would not be solely to take away powers from the County Council, but they would, at any rate, have offered the opportunity of powers being taken from the local authorities and put under the County Council. They have done nothing of the sort. If they wish to increase the importance of these bodies, as has been said before, they might have taken powers from other authorities rather than the County Council in order to dignify them. They need not have deprived the County Council in order to make these new boroughs even more important than the Vestries are now. They might have dignified them by putting under their influence the Poor Law, which in itself alone would have been a greater thing than anything which the vestries are now working at. But, to my mind, the second tendency of this Bill is even worse than the first which I have pointed out. The second tendency of this Bill is to put upon the poor districts of London the burden of the future, and to make it unlikely, and very likely impossible, for any greater equalisation of rates to come on than there is at the present time. One of the bases of rearrangement of the new boroughs is to be the rateable value of the different districts. That part of Clause 1 is put in in order that it may be possible for certain districts like Hampstead, with small population and great wealth, to be separated and independent of any of the poorer districts, which they ought to support. My honourable relative, the Member for Bow and Bromley was speaking the day before yesterday of the burden of the rates in East London, and how very hard it was that Bow and Bromley and Poplar should be combined together with no assistance, with a rate of something like 8s. in the pound, and should not be able to get assistance from any of the richer districts; and his suggestion, so far as I can understand it, was that a large number more of the districts of the Tower Hamlets should be joined to 209 Poplar and Bow and Bromley in order to support them. I have never supposed before that an accumulation of paupers would make a millionaire. That, apparently, is the argument of the honourable Member for Bow and Bromley. The truth is that, from one end of it to the other, this Bill seems to be conceived in a spirit of hostility to the County Council as it exists; that it goes against the powers of the County Council; and that it opposes one of the cardinal points of the policy of the County Council—that is, the matter of the equalisation of rates. But, Sir, it is not so much for what this Bill immediately does as what it is intended to prevent being done in the future that I feel most inclined to oppose it; because, in our opinion, the County Council of to-day, after all, is not so important as the, County Council, and the action of the County Council, of the future. It is because we believe that the County Council is going, with more powers, to be the making of this great city that we oppose at the very beginning the policy which the Government is now showing. And I think that some of the Members upon the other side have shown this in the speeches that they have made. A very fine speech, from the Conservative standpoint, was made the other day by the noble Lord the Member for Kensington, and at the end of the speech I think he let out what is really the motive of those who sit upon that side of the House with him. He spoke—I may not have exactly the words—of the abstract doctrinaires who were sitting on the County Council. Now, Sir, I do think that we on this side of the House, and those on the other side of the House, are meeting each other upon this great and fundamental issue. I believe that it is because the London County Council wishes for fundamental reform, because it does propose reforms which, in the opinions of my honourable Friends on the other side of the House, are fallacies, and are theories, and are not practicable—I believe it is because of this difference of opinion between us that this Bill is really being supported and is really being opposed. The reason why I oppose this Bill is because I see nothing in it which in the very least tends to do anything to deal with the great evils that exist in London to-day. It is because I see nothing in it to deal with the hideous 210 crowding in the centre of London, because I see nothing in it which tends to make it easier for the County Council or any other authority to enable the people of London to be less crowded in the centre of the city, and to live in the outskirts of the city instead of the slums. It is because I see nothing in it which in the least degrees is likely to make it possible to have the great reform which we are looking for—taxation of ground values. This Bill is directed against any great reform of this sort. It is directed against it because it is directed against the County Council, which is the exponent of those views. Now, Sir, these questions of the poverty of London and of the method of taxation and the like are the things which are most important to the country at the present time, and anything that in the least goes against progress in this direction I am bound to oppose, and most of us on this side of the House are bound to oppose. I do not mean to say that honourable Gentlemen on the other side of the House do not care for the condition of the poor—do not care for improvement. The first occasion upon which I had the pleasure of hearing a speech from the First Lord of the Treasury was in Glasgow some time ago. On that occasion he spoke of the enormous importance of local government and city government, and of the way in which the populations were crowding into the towns, and he complimented the people of Glasgow upon the way in which they were managing their municipality, and I could not refrain from cheering the right honourable Gentleman. We are not surprised that the kindly nature of the right honourable Gentleman makes him interested in these things, but I am afraid the kindly and gentle nature of the right honourable Gentleman makes him rather kindly to the forces that are opposed to that sort of reform, and, perhaps, makes him too kind to the great monopolies and the great interests of the ground landlords, who are essentially the opponents of it; and I am not surprised that this sort of Bill should have been brought forward by the right honourable Gentleman and his adherents. It is because I oppose the fundamental principles of this Bill, and because I think it tends to weaken the County Council, upon which, in my view, the future of London depends—it is 211 because I believe this that I am opposed to the Bill and shall vote against it.
§ SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER (Wilts, Chippenham)
The Bill which is now under discussion deals with a subject of vital importance, and one that is now ripe for legislation. In rising to speak upon the Second Reading of this Bill I should like to associate myself with other honourable Members in expressing my satisfaction that the Government should have taken up this important matter, and have demonstrated their earnestness by placing it first among the Government Bills of the Session. I feel perfectly convinced that in so doing they are only carrying out the aspirations of a very large number of people whom this Measure affects. There is no doubt, whatever honourable Members may think on the other side of the House, that this Bill deals with the most vital defects which are at present in existence in the government of London, and in order to make good one's advocacy and one's support of the principles of this Bill I think, perhaps, it is convenient that one should attempt, as far as one can, to find out what its defects are, and if the provisions of the Bill in any way arrest those defects. In my opinion the real defects in London government are due to the apathy of the London ratepayer. The apathy of the London ratepayer has been a byword and a reproach for many years past. I do not think more than 30 per cent. of the London ratepayers take the trouble to go to vote at any election for the County Council. I do not think anything like that number take the trouble to go to a School Board election, and no doubt the election for the vestries practically results in the self-appointment of a number of busy-bodies, leavened, it is perfectly true, with a sprinkling of gentlemen actuated by a public spirit and obligations, who undertake municipal government under the most unpromising and uncongenial environment. I think that proposition the honourable Member for Battersea will endorse. Now, Mr. Speaker, this apathy is no modern peculiarity. The name of Sir Benjamin Hall is handed down for all time in history as one more closely associated with London government and the improvement of London government probably than any man of the century, and it may be of interest to some Mem- 212 bers of the House to know that his name is perpetuated immemorially by "Big Ben." Perhaps Sir Benjamin Hall, when he promoted the Metropolis Management Act, 1855, anticipated that the Act would lead to contests at elections. Anyhow, there are embodied in that Act the most elaborate provisions for proceedings which are to be observed at elections. Well, Mr. Speaker, I daresay he anticipated that, but as things have turned out that anticipation was never fulfilled. When the elections first came into operation in 1855, there was a little inspiration on the part of the electors, but that soon palled, and although the institution of parish councils, and the broadening of the franchise and abolition of the rating qualification for vestries, somewhat galvanised the electors out of this lethargy, from that day to this that lethargy has once more been restored, and there is again dull apathy throughout the whole of London. I believe that this Bill, which is now before the House, will, in a very large measure, abolish this apathy. This apathy is due, undoubtedly, to the fact which was brought out most clearly in the speech which has been alluded to, the speech of the Prime Minister (Lord Salisbury), last year. He very clearly showed what was the chief reason why this apathy exists in London. He said—Among the very favourable features which distinguish the population of this great community there is one unfavourable feature, and that is the singularly little interest they take in their own affairs. I believe this is the result of the machinery by which their affairs are regulated not being brought sufficiently closely under their observation, so that they and their friends are not sufficiently interested in its work.I believe that these remarks of Lord Salisbury are the keynote to one of the chief defects—the apathy of London ratepayers. The condition of London government is so confused, obscure, and complicated that a hundred Acts of Parliament would barely elucidate it. It has been compared to a Chinese puzzle, and the most experienced officials have discovered at every turn different anomalies. It is hardly to be wondered at then that the ordinary London citizen gives it up in hopeless despair, recognising its inchoateness and lack of organisation. That is one of the chief defects which, I think, this Bill will to a 213 large extent remedy. The indirect sys-tern of representation of the district boards of London is to be abolished, and there will be in many other directions a simplification of matters which it is not possible to dwell upon in a Second Heading speech. I will now pass to another point, which I conceive to be one of the chief reasons for the inaction of the London ratepayers. We have heard a great deal this evening from the right honourable Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill about the unity of this great metropolis. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Leeds, in his opening remarks, said he looked upon London as one great city, with several small towns within its area. But I do not think that this House really comprehends what a vast and enormous city London is. In my humble estimation it has far outstripped the ordinary bounds of a city or town. It has practically become a nation. Whether you take its extreme wealth, or its position as the centre of the Empire—the centre of the whole civilised world, it is practically a nation. It possesses a population larger than that of either Norway, Sweden, or Switzerland. It comes within measurable distance of the populations of Ireland, of our Australasian colonies, and of the Dominion of Canada. How, then, can it be wondered at that Londoners find it practically impossible to look upon the city as a whole? One honourable Member opposite suggested that the London County Council should practically have control of the whole of the government of this vast metropolis. I am not one of those who would for a moment detract from the efficiency of the London County Council. I believe that since the election of that body it has done admirable work. In point of open spaces, it has accomplished much for the happiness and comfort of the people, and whether we look to its work in connection with drainage, or in the matter of protection against fire, I undertake to say that the London County Council, although it may have made great mistakes, has certainly done excellent work. But when I have said that, I feel bound also to quote some remarks by Lord Salisbury about this body. He said he looked upon the London County Council as "a body with a ravenous appetite and a very bad digestion." I think its bad digestion is due to the 214 amount of work put upon its shoulders. The enormous work that it undertakes has, in consequence, to be left, not so much to those Gentlemen who form the Committees, but a great deal of it has to be entrusted to those permanent officials who should be the servants of the Committees, instead of, as they are in many cases, the masters of those bodies. I was surprised at one honourable Gentleman opposite taking up an attitude which I thought was rapidly dying away, and practically endorsing the sentiments of those aggrandising enthusiasts who think there should be no limit to the work of the County Council beyond that set up by geographical formation. I could not help feeling that in the expression of that view was to be discovered the voice of the chairman of the London County Council. We were told by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Leeds that there was no mandate for this Bill, but I think that there could be no stronger mandate than the Report of the Unification Commission, which was instituted to report in an adverse direction. Line after line shows that the unity of London is to be recognised, and the Commissioners laid down the principle that the powers of local authorities should be enlarged, that their dignity should be increased, and that their general status should be enhanced. That is exactly what this Bill has been introduced to carry out. It is not intended to do anything to impair the greater work of the London County Council. It is not encroaching upon those legitimate, broader, and greater questions which must, in my humble opinion, be carried out by a central authority. Now, we are told, or rather, it has been insinuated, that this question is not really ripe for legislation. I humbly protest against that. So far from its not being ripe, I venture to assert that the Bill is not in any way premature. London has been waiting for it years and years. So far back as 1835, Lord John Russell, in a discussion upon a Municipal Corporations Bill, told Mr. Hume that he intended very shortly to bring in legislation for London, and since then several statesmen have dwelt upon the importance of this. Bills have been introduced, and time after time the question has been discussed, and repeatedly the recommendation has been made that there should be a devolution from the 215 central to local authorities, and that, to enable the latter bodies to carry out their duties on more satisfactory lines, increased status and dignity should be conferred on them. I should like to say one word with regard to the remark that has been made by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for East Fife. He laid down the proposition that London was a homogeneous entity. Now, with all possible respect to the right honourable Gentleman, I lay down the exactly opposite proposition that London is the most heterogeneous town that the world has ever seen. If I might be allowed, I should like to trace very rapidly the sources from which this gigantic city of ours originally came. London owes its system and governmental area to nothing more uncommon than a question of drains. As far back as the year 1426, in the reign of Edward VI., a Commission of Sewers was issued to London, and from that time to the year 1847 the London Government was carried on by seven Boards of Commission, two of which were given in the reign of Edward VI. In 1848 these Boards of Commission were amalgamated into one Board of Commissioners, and in 1885 it was put into the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works, but when that was done the area of the metropolis was extended. The outer fringe of the one hundred square miles in olden days was fields, hamlets, and villages; since that time the ceaseless march of the builder has steadily gone on, and what were small villages and hamlets in those days are now great centres of commerce. Not only has the builder distinguished himself by extending that 100 square miles, but he has overlapped it, and what were once villages and hamlets are now great centres of urban population. What I want to draw to the attention of the House is this—that you will find great municipal concerns like Wimbledon and Kew, which join London, have municipalities of their own, but inside the area of the metropolis you will find these large municipalities without corporate functions. Why should Battersea and other large districts just inside escape the dignity of having a mayor and corporation, while those districts just outside the area are to go on that principle? In 100 years hence you will find London will have extended to 216 Oxford in the west, and possibly to Brighton on the south. Now, the nearest analogy, perhaps—it is impossible to bring any true analogy—but the nearest analogy is in the county of Stafford in the district known as the Potteries. It has been said by the right honourable Member for Fife that there is no line of demarcation between these great popular centres in London, and they had no legal heritage. In the county of Stafford there cropped up by the development of the great industries great and thriving towns which run practically within each other, but which are all in the enjoyment of municipal and corporate being. At the same time the County Council of Stafford in no way resents the position, and she is the central board of the county. These great municipalities are thriving although they stand so close together; in the same way you might as well say there is no entity among these districts because there is no connection between the great district in the south and the-great district in the north, and that there-is no possible connection one towards the other. But take Lambeth. Lambeth has a greater population than Rotterdam or Cologne; Hackney is mere populous than Athens or Bucharest. Islington has 35,000 more population than that of Lisbon. Surely these places have a right to their own mayors and corporations. There is one thing which I should like to point out closely associated with what has been dealt with by the right honourable Member for Fife. There is one provision in the Bill which says that the building operations—the Housing of the Working Classes Act shall be put into operation by the municipalities. I am bound to say I associate myself in this case with the right honourable Member for Fife. With the knowledge that I have of this difficult and delicate subject I consider that you are conferring a power on these municipalities which the central authority is able to many out with much more efficiency than any local authority. I do not think it would be dealt with by local authorities, or could be properly dealt with by them. You find it is laid down that land may be leased, but may neither be bought nor sold. Now, those districts in which there will be required to be any rehousing done will 217 be the centre portions of the localities and the centre portion of London; and as they will not be able to go outside their area and buy land, they will find it difficult to find land in the centre for rehousing purposes. It has been laid down by the Commission that the housing and rehousing of overcrowded districts, and the general question of housing the poor should be dealt with by the central authority, and should be paid for by the county; all that would weigh very heavily with the municipalities if they had to undertake it, and the municipalities in the future that would be found to put this into operation would be those least able to bear it. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that that point will be reconsidered by the Government, and that they will look at it in a reasonable spirit, or eliminate it altogether from the Bill. There are many other points which will have to be criticised, and which will have to be altered when the Bill reaches another stage. In a Bill of the dimensions of this one I am sure that the Government are perfectly willing to meet any reasonable demand from this side of the House, but I do steadfastly hope that any of these vindictive Amendments—and there will be plenty of them in the Committee stage, which will be simply put down upon the Paper for the purpose of mutilating and killing this Bill—will be strongly opposed and ultimately rejected by the Government. The question of taking away the area of Westminster is one that requires consideration. Westminster, by historic tradition, is fully qualified to be raised into a municipality, and I hope that we shall be firm on that point. The question of promoting Bills by the municipalities is one which does not require much consideration; upon closer examination we shall find that the promotion of Bills by municipalities is more apparent than real. I believe we shall find that under the Borough Counties Act it will be rather of a more restrictive character than it apparently is. The Borough Counties Act lays down that before a municipality can undertake to promote a Bill in Parliament the Vestry must consider it, and must convene a meeting of all the ratepayers in the borough.
§ * MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton-on-Tees)
Not the whole of the ratepayers; it must be a public meeting of the ratepayers.
§ SIR J. DICKSON-POYNDER
Well, that is the same thing. What I mean is the ratepayers, if they like, can go and vote upon the question, and if it is one of unnecessary extravagance they can go and oppose it. Their consent must be obtained, and when that is obtained the municipality must go to the Local Government Board and also obtain consent from them. With all those restrictions it is very difficult for any Bill to be promoted at all by any municipality, and legislation will not be allowed where it is not absolutely wanted by the municipality itself. With regard to the proportion of the number of aldermen to be placed upon these bodies there are many on this side of the House who will agree that the proportion is rather a large one, and might be reduced to one-third or one-sixth, and then it would be quite adequate, having regard to the number of representatives on the councils. I also think it would be very much better with regard to the question of auditors if they were appointed by the Government instead of by the municipalities. That is a very important point, and, in my opinion, you ought to have the most skilled chartered accountants to fill that position. But these are all Committee questions, and the principle of the Bill stands clear, and must be patent to everybody who is not intoxicated with the exuberance of municipal aspirations. It must be patent to everybody that a Bill of this description is wanted and desired by London. I believe that under this Bill we shall find the county better administered by the London County Council, and that within the greater area of London we shall find large and flourishing towns and centres of commercial enterprise more efficiently governed by mayors and corporations. This Bill, in my opinion, should receive the support of everyone in this House. It ought not to be made a Party Measure. Everybody in this House desires London to be reduced to some sort of uniformity, and I wish this Bill all success, as I am convinced that its realisation will lend to the better government in all its vast and complicated details of the greatest city in the world.
219 On the return of Mr. SPEAKER, after the usual interval—
§ * MR. J. SAMUEL
It is with very great diffidence that I rise to take part in this Debate——
Attention having been called to the fact that there were not 40 Members present, the House was counted, when 40 Members being present—
§ * MR. J. SAMUEL (continuing)
It is with very great diffidence that I rise to take part in this Debate, because one not having a knowledge of the system of local government of London in all its intricacies must naturally arise with fear and trembling to take part in such a discussion as the present. But having some experience as a member of a municipal body, and also as a member of a county council, I do claim to have some knowledge of the merits of the system of local government in the provinces. This knowledge naturally gives one a right to offer some remarks upon this Measure, either in approval or disapproval of it. Now, the first thing which strikes anyone who is familiar with the administration and working of our municipalities in the provinces is the fact that in London—one is surprised to listen to and hear in this discussion—that either the County Council or the other bodies which govern this great city, seem to have a great fear as to the municipalisation of either gas, water, tramways, or other works of that nature in our metropolis. This Bill strikes me as being a bad one, because it lends to the contraction of London instead of its expansion, as it ought to be expanded. I think the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, in the very able speech which he delivered to the House this evening, indicated the right line upon which the Government of London should be when he said that the City Council of London ought to have grown with the growth of this great city, and should have expanded with the expansion of the City, but that has not been the case, and I am afraid that the powers of the City Council to expend that money which it has at its command will prevent for many years to come the great reform of the City Council of London. 220 It is, as the right honourable Member for Bodmin said—it is the policy of the great municipalities of this country to adopt the process of expansion, and take within their fields of operations all the adjacent districts which hem them in, and which are contiguous to their boundaries. The last time I had the pleasure of seeing the honourable Member for Strood, and of listening to his voice, it was when he was trying to prevent one of our municipalities expending its boundaries. But this policy of the expansion of the boundaries of the municipalities of the provinces is one that is going on year after year, and anyone knows who is accustomed to the Private Bills which are brought before the Committee upstairs. Now, there is no doubt of this fact—that in London we want a great central body. We have that central body. We also want a devolution from the central body of that work which ought to be managed by the various districts within the boundaries of Greater London. But I think it is a mistake, Mr. Speaker, to create a largo number of municipalities without that power and without that authority which our provincial municipalities enjoy. Now, this Bill does not say whether these new municipalities in London which are to be created are to be county boroughs or non-county boroughs. We all know that there is a difference in the provinces—that if a borough have a less population than 50,000 it is a non-county borough, and those boroughs which have a population above 50,000 souls is a county borough, possessing equal powers with the county council. This Bill does not say whether these boroughs which are about to be created by it are to be county boroughs or non-county boroughs. If they are to be non-county boroughs that is one thing, but if they are to be county boroughs then they will have equal powers with the County Council. Now, it may surprise the House to learn, in comparing these municipal boroughs which it is proposed to create by this Bill with some of our great municipal boroughs, that Leeds is larger, or equal, to the ten new municipal boroughs that you propose to create on the north side of the river. Leeds has an acreage of 21,552. It is equal 221 to the new boroughs of Islington, Hampstead, St. Pancras, Marylebone, Paddington, Kensington, Hammersmith, Greater Westminster, Chelsea, and Fulham; it is, in fact, nine times larger than what you propose to call Greater Westminster, which you are about to create without any of the powers which a town like Leeds possesses. Sheffield. on the other hand, has 19,000 acres, and is equal to Lambeth, Battersea, Camber-well, and Wandsworth, the four largest boroughs under this Bill. Liverpool is equal to eight of those new boroughs, and Birmingham, Nottingham, and Bristol each to five. But when we come to the question of the number of men who are to govern these boroughs—I have already pointed out that Leeds on the one hand and Sheffield on the other are equal in area to 14 of these new boroughs—these 14 new boroughs will have, if you put the average number at 66, 308 aldermen and 616 councillors, making a total of 924, while in Leeds and Sheffield combined they have only 32 aldermen and 108 councillors, making a total of 140. I have already pointed out that these two boroughs manage their own gasworks, their own waterworks, their own electric lighting, and their own tramways, and that neither of these powers will be handed over to the new municipalities. Now, another argument brought forward is this—that if these municipalities are created, there is a possibility that they will attract the best men in London. I do not understand what is meant by the term "best men," but my experience of municipal life is that you can get rich men who are very dull men, and that you can get middle-class men who are much abler; in fact, many a working man representative is equal to almost any of what you would term the best men, from a social point of view. It is no argument to say that a man is the best man because he happens to be higher in the social scale. The point is, whether that man is fit, whether he has the aptitude for the work he is elected to undertake. Now, if you want to attract the best men to these new bodies, you must give these bodies some work to do, and invest them with some authority. But these new bodies, so far as I have been able to ascertain—I have had no experience of municipal life in London— 222 will have no more power, although they are called municipal bodies, than a rural district council has in the provinces. Now, this argument reminds me of an experience we had when (the county councils were formed under the Local Government Act of 1888. We had a large number of men anxious to become county councillors. I remember one case where a man, in a very extensive way of business, was called upon:—he was a member of the Executive Committee dealing with contagious diseases of animals—ten examine and declare whether a pig-stye was an infected area or not. Now, these men soon get tired of the work. In all these new bodies you must give men work to do, otherwise you will not get them to attend to these functions. With reference to the details of this Bill—the transfer of powers, for instance, from the County Council to the new boroughs—I think that the speakers who have already preceded me on this side of the House have shown that there is a great danger in this part of the Bill. Now, it is a fact that under the Local Government Act of 1888 there' is a power given to the county council to transfer powers to The non-county boroughs. For instance, under section 11, the county council has the power to arrange with the local body to contract for the maintenance of main roads, and the county council can undertake to defray the cost. Then, under section 28, there are other powers which the county council can transfer to the non-county boroughs, but each of those powers is defined. Nothing is left to the caprice of the county council, neither is there anything left that the non-county boroughs can demand from the county council. Now, I heard a speech delivered on Monday evening and this evening by the honourable Member for Dulwich (Sir J. B. Maple) in which he proposed a most elaborate clause, under which, if these powers are transferred from the County Council to the boroughs, the County Council is to hand over the funds to these boroughs for the payment of the cost, whatever it may be. Now, this transfer of power and this expenditure of money without responsibility is leading many of our non-county boroughs and our county councils to very great extravagance. If you hand over certain powers 223 to these new bodies in London, And if the County Council is to find whatever money they expend, then I venture to say that these new bodies will expend their money in a manner that will tend to the increase of the county rate all over London. I think that if there is to be any transfer of powers, those powers ought to be clearly defined in the Bill, and the County Council should have no power to give any of its powers away unless they are defined. If the Government think it essential to create in London these municipal authorities, then, in my opinion, they ought to give them the same power that has been given to provincial corporations. It is futile to create these bodies without giving them these powers. Now, there is another matter to which attention has been called, which, from my experience, is of great importance, and that is the power given under the Bill to the County Council and the local bodies with reference to the borrowing of money. My experience of municipal corporations is that those corporations who have consolidated their loans into stock, and which they have to repay, say, at par 20 or 40 years hence, have great difficulty in finding an outlet for their sinking fund in the shape of reinvestments. The result of that is that we are paying three per cent. interest upon stock, while money is lying in the bank at two per cent. If we had the same advantages as the County Council of London to lend out money to the local authorities, then we should find that outlet which is essential to every corporation consolidating its loans into stock. I think this is a very dangerous provision to put in a. Bill, and, moreover, I hold that in a city like London, the County Council, the members of which are drawn from all parts of London, must have a greater knowledge as to the works which the local authorities may think fit to undertake, and for which they are asking borrowing powers, than even the Local Government Board itself. These powers, I quite grant, could not be given to the county councils in the provinces. I believe that in those cases it is right that the non-county boroughs, which are independent of the county council in the way of borrowing should go direct to the Local Government Board; but in 224 London, where the County Council and these districts are almost one, I think that the proper system is that these local bodies should go, as hitherto, to the County Council for sanction. Now, with reference to that part of the Bill dealing with the audit, I do think that there is great need for a change, not only in London, but also in our municipal bodies throughout the country. I am given to understand that in every new charter of incorporation the Privy Council insert a clause to the effect that the Government auditors must audit the accounts of these newly created bodies. Now, there is a striking difference between municipal bodies and these local vestries. In the Municipal Corporations Act the ratepayers are protected by two schedules. One schedule deals with the payments which can be made without the consent of the Council, and another with the payments which cannot be made without the consent of the Council. But even in some of our municipal bodies, I am sorry to say, there are some irregularities going on. I read the other by of one important municipal body, in respect of which an expenditure had been going on which was altogether irregular and contrary to Act of Parliament. But there is no person to take action against any one of those municipal bodies which disregard the Act in that way unless the ratepayers themselves undertake the responsibility. All these accounts should be placed under the authority of an auditor appointed by the Local Government Board. In fact, although many of our municipalities now have what are called elective auditors under the Act of 1882, a large number of municipalities, in addition, pay and engage professional auditors. Anyone who has had experience in county council work would see a striking change in this respect. If there are any irregularities in the expenditure of county councils. either upon the asylum committee or upon the county council itself, the auditor would call attention to the fact in the report to that committee or to the council. In London I think it is more essential still that this change should take place. It is quite evident that elective auditors in London are not in some parts doing their duty. I hold in my hand a report of the discussion. 225 which took place in the Marylebone vestry only last week. The paper I hold in my hand is dated 18th March, and this vestry has discovered the important fact that for a considerable period it has had lying at the bankers a credit balance of £50,000 or £60,000 for a number of years without any interest being paid upon it. Now, if the auditors of that body had done their duty as they should have done they must have discovered—at any rate they ought to have discovered—this great irregularity and loss to the ratepayers. I do hope that when we get into Committee the Government will consider this point and change the law in this respect. Now, I think that this Measure is one that is not for the good government of London. I believe, as I said at the beginning, that you are creating municipalities without power and authority, and you are simple making them mere sanitary authorities with the name of municipality. I believe that the effect of this Bill will be to break up London into fragments. There is no doubt, as has been said, it will also tend to support the City of London, and prevent a great reform being carried out in that body. Every provincial man who has read anything about the state of the government of London must be convinced that there is great necessity for reform of the City, 60 that its immense wealth may be utilised for the benefit of the people who belong to Greater London. I believe that this Bill will also tend to create local jealousies, and make it more difficult to complete a system of local government. I submit that this great City ought to work for a system of complete unity, so that it may become, as it ought to be, the leading municipality in this enlightened kingdom. I fear, however, that if you create these 15 or 20 smaller municipalities you will lose that unity which ought to be the proud heritage of every citizen of London.
§ * MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I have followed attentively this Debate since it began on Tuesday afternoon, and the feature which has most impressed me has been the inconsistency of the speeches which we have heard from honourable and right honourable Members opposite with the vote 226 which we understand they will give at the close of this Debate. That inconsistency, Mr. Speaker, was accentuated in a very striking way in the speech to which we have just listened from the honourable Member opposite. He told us that he, like all the preceding speakers, was impressed with the groundless apprehension of the effort to deprive the London County Council of many of its existing powers and privileges, and yet he said it was not safe to confer upon the London County Council the power of choosing for itself what transfer of powers it should make to the local bodies. That is only one of the inconsistencies which we have detected in all the speeches to which we have listened. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Leeds told us that he would not have moved his Amendment if it were not for the fact that he felt convinced he could not import into this Bill in Committee what he regarded as a necessary Amendment. I presume he claimed for himself the right to decide what are necessary Amendments. Speaking for myself, I am desirous also of amending this Bill when we get into Committee, and that is precisely because I really am what honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite profess themselves to be, in favour of the simplification and unity of London government. Therefore, I am anxious to get to that stage of the Bill when we can import into it the Amendments which I believe are useful and which I think would also be accepted by my right honourable Friend the Leader of the House, who is in charge of this Measure. Because, Mr. Speaker, I do not share at all those misgivings which have been expressed by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Leeds and the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Fife this afternoon, that it would not be possible to import any Amendment into the Bill. On the contrary, my right honourable Friend the Leader of the House, in receiving the other day a very representative deputation from Westminster and the Strand, invited those Gentlemen—and I think he would equally invite Members of this House, if only they could divest themselves for the nonce of that Party taint which they always try to import into municipal politics—to assist him in making this 227 a perfectly reasonable Measure. Certain it is, Sir, that two specific purposes to which honourable Members opposite profess themselves to be friendly will be accomplished by this Bill. It will simplify London government in a very important, and, I should have thought, a very welcome particular. It will certainly simplify the rates levied in London by London authorities. Clause 10, sub-section I. of the Bill, provides that all the expenses of the council are to be provided for out of a general rate, the separate sums required for lighting and paving are to be discontinued, and they are all to be merged into a general rate which is to be levied by one body, at one time, and at one demand. Well, surely that is simplification. Then we come to the question of unity. What is meant by the phrase in the Amendment that unity will be rendered more difficult? It cannot be what I should have understood by the word unity—namely, that there should be one uniform rate to run throughout London, because honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite, if they have read the Bill, must know that it strictly provides for the consolidation of the general and special rate in the county. Surely that is unity if anything can be called unity. I suppose what honourable Members complain of is that there is not the unity they have in their hearts and minds. I think the right honourable Member for Fife said that this Bill preserves the Corporation of the City of London which you want to destroy. Well, if you want to destroy it, why don't you say so? We don't shirk the issue; we court it. Let it be known throughout London that, whilst you want to destroy the City of London, we want to preserve it. But don't persuade yourselves that you can mislead the public by such phrases as I gathered from the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Leeds, who said that the Corporation of London was dead to the higher impulses of the metropolis as a whole. Mr. Speaker, I challenge the accuracy of that charge. The traditions and the policy of the Corporation of the City of London show that, instead of being dead to the impulses of London, it has devoted itself to the welfare of London as a whole, and not even of London alone, but of the country at large. 228 Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest, and the Tower Bridge, though perhaps scarcely appreciated by the rich parishes which honourable Gentlemen seem to have got into their minds, are very much appreciated by the people of the East of London. The Tower Bridge was made out of the resources of the Corporation of the City of London, but it is not used for the inhabitants and ratepayers in the square mile only. The funds of the Corporation are held for the benefit, and have been applied for the benefit, of London at large, and therefore let us get rid of the myth that the Corporation of the City of London is to be done away with because of the alleged self-appropriation of funds which belong to it. Let us fairly and squarely join issue that you want to do away with the Corporation of the City of London, which has been, and will always remain, the model for every municipality. I would appeal to honourable and right honourable Gentlemen if it is not the best cleaned, the best drained, the best regulated district of all London. In saying that I do not wish to cast the least reflection on the management of the London vestries, although I think there could be some improvement there; and still less on the management of the London County Council, which, of course, I believe cannot be improved upon; with the exception of the only thoroughfare which they have in their charge—the Thames Embankment.' That is neither economically nor very efficiently managed. Therefore I say that the indictment brought against either the City or the London County Council cannot be sustained because in neither case has it a foundation in fact. I would pass from the City of London, which I do not represent in this House,. but which is so worthily represented by my honourable Friend who spoke the other day. I should like to say just a word on the other objections which have been made by the right honourable Gentleman this evening. The first of these objections is this perpetual myth about impairing the powers of the London County Council. I cannot expect that honourable and right honourable-Gentlemen opposite will accept from me assurances which they have not accepted from more illustrious and influential personages, that there never has been, and 229 that there is not, the slightest intention to impair the London County Council. But personally they will believe me when I say that, having been a member of that body—I do not say an efficient Member, for that would be conceited, but an industrious and devoted Member—since it was instituted, I can assure the House that if there was, or had been, the slightest intention to impair the privileges or limit the powers of the London County Council, I would not be found here this evening supporting this Bill, which I hope will pass its Second Reading. There is one right honourable Member present here who cannot, I think, join in the outcry about an attack on the London County Council; because my right honourable Friend the Leader of the Opposition—if he will allow me so to describe him—got up the night the Bill was introduced and sail—it will be in the recollection of the House, and it made a great impression on my mind—that—There is one thing at which we are pleased, and that is that we are relieved to find that there is no attack on the London County Council in the new Bill.I was pleased at the right honourable Gentleman's relief, although I was very surprised and sorry that he had been the least anxious; but, at any rate, whatever anxiety he had he was chivalrous enough to acknowledge that it had been dissipated. Now, I challenge him or any other honourable Member, whatever they may say as to the description of the Bill conveyed to them by the opening statement of the First Lord of the Treasury—I challenge anyone to put their finger on any line, clause, or dot which in the least bit impairs the power or diminishes the dignity of the London County Council in any way. I cannot, of course, argue whether the Bill is different from what honourable and right honourable Members opposite imagined it would be, but I deny that it impairs the privileges or the powers which the London County Council at the present moment enjoy. The right honourable Gentleman the Member for West Leeds said that the London County Council had not been considered, as was promised by the President of the Board of Trade. I say that the London County Council has been considered in the most direct and complete manner, 230 because the framers of the Bill before they drafted what powers were to be transferred from the London County Council to the subordinate municipalities studied and almost transcribed the powers which the London County Council professed its willingness to transfer. It may be right, or it may be wrong, that these powers should be transferred; but I do say that the charge that the London County Council had not been considered is one that is absolutely contradicted by the facts of the case, and by the clauses in the Bill which deal with these powers. I therefore, Mr. Speaker, hope this Bill will pass its Second Reading, and I should like it to do so without a Division. If honourable and right honourable Gentlemen opposite are sincere in their professions—I should not like to cast a doubt upon it—that they are willing to simplify London government, and that they will promote the reform of London government in so far as a uniform rate will secure that object, I claim at their hands support of this Bill, which will accomplish these objects. Before I sit down I should like to point out two or three drastic points, although they are Committee points, wherein the Bill ought to be amended. I do so not so much for the purpose of elaborately discussing the Bill, but because I think it is of some advantage to those in charge of the Bill to know the objections to it, or some of its details, which are held by those who are not unfriendly to it, in order that they may see whether they can give effect to these objections. I said I challenged anybody to point out wherein the powers of the London County Council are going to be impaired. I will accept my own challenge, which I now apologise for having thrown out, because there is one important exception. I am quite sure that my honourable Friend the Member for Battersea will agree that I have not been backward as a candid friend of the London County Council. But that does not prevent me from testifying to the care, caution, and. on the whole, the success of the financial operations carried on by the London County Council. Therefore I view, so far as I am concerned, with regret the withdrawal of the financial control over the various local authorities, heretofore wisely exercised and never censoriously 231 exercised, or still less inquisitorially exercised by the London County Council. I have in my hands a return for the twelve years for which I have been a member of the Financial Committee of the London County Council, of the advances made by the London County Council to the borrowing bodies. In 1898 they amounted to no less than £480,000, and since the Council came into existence up to the 31st March last it sanctioned 495 loans, amounting to £3,199,012. It will be observed, therefore, that the Council has never either been backward in making these advances and in according sanction to them, and, still less, has never been inquisitorial in making them. It only satisfies itself as to the reasonableness of the demand and the life of the works for which advances are to be made. It has always required that the advances should only be made to cover the period of the life of the works for which they are advanced. We never met with resistence on the part of the borrowing bodies. These advances are six or seven times as large as those made by the Local Government Board, and I do think, therefore, that there is no reason for withdrawing a financial control which has been of advantage to London as a whole, and to hand it over to a body which has not had the experience in that respect which the Financial Committee of the London County Council possesses. There is another reason. It-will be recognised at once by Members that other large borrowing bodies in London—-the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the London School Board-are very large customers of the London County Council as borrowers. There was a little difference on this subject five years ago. I had the honour with Lord Lingen of going into conference with the London School Board. We then pointed out that to create a large number of Metropolitan stocks secured on the same rate could be of no advantage to the borrowing bodies, for it would lower the credit and increase the rate of interest. That is a very important consideration which people ought to bear in mind. I am quite certain that anything that is likely to induce these local councils to make their own loans separate from the London County Council would not be for the advantage of the borrowers or for 232 economy in the rates. There is another subject on which I want to speak for a moment. I do not like the overseers clause in the Bill. They would be gentlemen, no doubt, of absolute integrity and character, but they have no representative character to qualify them for the duty of levying and collecting the rates, which ought, in my opinion, to devolve upon persons directly representing the ratepayers and the electors who have to pay the rates. After all, that is not a question which is inconsistent with the principles of the Bill, and I only mention it to-day so that my right honourable Friend the First Lord of the Treasury may, perhaps, be gracious enough to take it into his serious consideration, and see whether he cannot deal otherwise with the overseers' clauses. There is only another point to which I wish to refer, and that is the question of audit and aldermen. I have an enormous respect for the aldermen of the City of London, and for those who are called aldermen in the London County Council, but I do not see that these aldermen—perhaps that is because I am not one—are any better than other members of the London County Council. What I do feel strongly is, that, as the right honourable Member for Leeds sugested on Tuesday afternoon, we should not trouble and embarrass London with these annual elections. I do certainly hope that these municipal councils will be returned, as the London County Council is, for three years. I have a natural affection, notwithstanding the incredulity of my honourable and gallant Friend, for the London County Council. I am a great believer in the perfection of its organisation, and although it has not always been constituted quite as I would like it, I do not attribute that failure to triennial elections. I think any conclusions which are drawn from comparisons with provincial councils are misleading in the extreme. The object of every true lover of the new borough councils must be to enlist for London government men of a class who, to their shame be it said, have heretofore held aloof. You will not attract, but you will deter that class of men by exposing them to the possibility of an annual election and probably to an annual contest. Why do it in this gratuitous way? Let us 233 have triennial elections, and let us enlist in the cause of London government men who would be absolutely deterred from taking part in it by the prospect of annual election. I do not refer to the report which has been circulated from what is known as the Local Government and Taxation Committee of the London County Council, because that Committee, although the House may not be aware of it, is a Party Committee, composed, to a great extent, of the Party of which I have not the honour to be a member. There is another reason why I do not refer to it, and that is because the points of objection taken by that Committee to the Bill were mentioned so absolutely almost in the same order by the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Leeds in his speech the other night, that I cannot help believing that he must have had an advanced copy of that Committee's Report, and that he must have got information from Mr. Costello, the Chairman of the Committee. I do implore this House to address itself to this question, so important to London, not in a Party spirit. I ask them to believe that this Bill is an honest, sincere, and, in my opinion, a statesmanlike attempt to improve and simplify the government of London. I believe that in a short time, notwithstanding the fierce opposition which this Bill is now meeting from the right honourable Gentlemen opposite, it will be hailed with universal approval, and that the same compliments for having introduced it will be paid to my right honourable Friend the Leader of the House as are being perpetually showered on the President of the Board of Trade for his Act of 1888, and that when passed into law this Measure will be regarded as the crown of the work begun and carried on by a Conservative Government for the improvement and completion of the government of London.
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON (Leeds, S.)
My honourable and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has taunted the leaders of the Opposition with having greeted this Measure with a note of welcome, and then with having changed their minds with regard to the character of its provisions. Well, we have had experience in recent years of the inscrutable character of municipal legislation. I doubt if any Measure is more entitled 234 than this one to the compliment which can be made to a proposal which cloaked under provisions of an apparently inoffensive character a design of very serious and grave importance. Honourable Members have repeatedly assured us that no intention to affect in any way the powers of the London County Council is present in the minds of the proposers of this scheme. Well, that assurance has been given with such fervour that one is tempted to retort with the quotation that "honourable Gentlemen protest too much." It is impossible to close our minds to the evidence at once extrinsic and intrinsic which establishes the direct opposite to that proposition. Various honourable Gentlemen on the other side of the House have drawn attention to the declared policy of the Conservative Party with reference to the municipal government of London, and this Measure, brought forward by the responsible heads of that Party in the State, cannot be defended on the ground that it is not intended to give effect to the declared views of the Prime Minister and of the Leader of the Conservative Party in this House. I do not know that the views of Lord Salisbury can be more pithily stated than in the single sentence of the celebrated Albert Hall speech, to which a reference has already been made. Lord Salisbury then drew attention to the deplorable results of the too extensive system of municipalisation in Paris and in New York; and he counselled the London County Council to limit their functions and to reduce their area. He did this with the pregnant observation that possibly such a course might seem to be suicidal. Well, Sir, the London County Council, not having adopted the advice to put an end to their own existence, are being assisted to accomplish this same result by the Measure now produced by Her Majesty's Government. And, further, Lord Onslow, whose views in regard to the municipal government of London have been more than once quoted, has also given us some assistance in regard to the elucidation of this question, for I find that, in referring to the speech of Lord Salisbury, Lord Onslow said that practical effect could be given to that utterance of Lord Salisbury only by some curtailment of the excessive powers of the London County Council. What is there to be said on the other 235 side? My honourable and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, with a sigh of great relief, discovered that the President of the Board of Trade had given utterance to sentiments out of harmony with these sentiments of the Leader of his Party, and apparently had found some language of tenderness and sympathy used by the right honourable the President of the Board of Trade which mitigated the severity of the utterances of the Members of his own Party whose views were more austere. He had found some language of tenderness and sympathy for this institution, which up to the Debate on the Second Heading of this Bill has had few friends and few apologisers and few defenders on the other side of the House. But as I have said, the evidence is not merely extrinsic. The evidence of hostility to the functions of the London County Council is to be found in the provisions of the Bill itself. I accept the challenge of the Solicitor-General to approach the consideration of this question in a broad spirit, and I am quite content to apply as a test of the provision of this Measure what he describes as the ideal of perfection in local government—the ideal of perfection of local government which has characterised the legislation in regard to the municipality of London from the year 1855 down to the present time. I do not quarrel with the language in which the Solicitor-General has defined his ideal of the perfection of local government. I take it that the object of the local government in London is to secure the authority of the central body concurrently with the dignity and efficiency of the district councils which are subordinate to it; and from the year 1855 down to the present date every Act of legislation and every proposal of legislation has sought to accomplish that combination not by strengthening the jurisdiction of the district councils, but by adding to the authority of the central body. That tendency has had various foes to contend with, land the chief enemy has had many friends and representatives in this House. There has been no hostility so uncompromising as the City of London. We have had two significant speeches in the course of this Debate in reference to the connection between the City of London and municipal reform. The honourable Member who represents the City of London was 236 unstinted in his admiration of this. Measure, and in the benisons which he showered upon it; while the Solicitor-General, a Member of the Government, devoted a large portion of his speech to a eulogy of the City of London. The inspiring voice of which this legislation is the outcome is that of the unreformed, the antiquated, and the obstructive corporate body which is still found within the walls and the limits of the City. I yield to none of the Members opposite in my admiration of the historic position and the public services which the City of London has rendered to the people of this country. But can it be denied that it is an organisation which is entirely out of harmony with the spirit of modern municipal government? Can it be denied that while it retains within a very limited area the advantages of the very large municipal powers which it possesses, and while it remains exclusive and while it continues to resist every attempt to bring an antiquated organisation into harmony with modern organisation, it is impossible to regard the present position of the Corporation of London as a finality in our civic institutions? What has been the cause of this attitude on the part of the City of London? It is the resistance to all reform. It is because it wishes to perpetuate the anomalies of its own municipal existence by increasing the municipal anomalies around it. It wishes to prevent its absorption into the great area of the Metropolis by dismembering the body which threatens to absorb it, and hence from the year 1855 down to a modern period every successive proposal for municipal reform on the part of the City of London has evolved the creation of the large number of independent municipalities, so that its separate existence might continue unimpaired. We are being charged not only with enmity to the City of London, but the honourable Member for East Islington charged us with having infused Party spirit into this question. The origin of that Party spirit is, it is said, due entirely to those on this side of the House, while it appears that the credit of lifting municipal politics into a higher region belongs entirely to Members opposite. But the origin of that is obvious. It has been discovered by experience that while the individual opinion of sections of the 237 metropolis is Moderate the collective opinion of London is Progressive, and in order to give due weight to that section of moderation of view, you have a proposal which involves the dislocation of London and its sub-divisions into sectional areas. I approach this question from the stand point of the Solicitor-General, and therefore I trust I have succeeded in dismissing at once the little bias I may have had in considering the merits of this Measure. I shall regard it only as a proposal for pure municipal reform. what is its avowed aim? Its avowed aim is to increase the status and to add to the efficiency of the district councils of the metropolis—a most admirable proposal, provided it can satisfy one condition. That one condition is that in accomplishing that object you will not impair the efficiency of the central authority. If you can combine both, and if this Measure succeeds in that combination, then I shall be happy to vote against the Motion of my right honourable Friend the Member for West Leeds and to support the Second Reading of the Bill. But does it accomplish both these objects? In your effort to strengthen the district councils do you not. sacrifice the authority and efficiency of the central authority? Is it not the fact that the result of the successful operation of this Measure will be the dismemberment of London? Will you not by means of it destroy that community of sympathy and that sense of civic patriotism which unites all sections of this metropolis? Will you not strip the London County Council of many of its powers and confer them upon the district Councils? And by doing this will you not leave the district councils without any cementing bond, and without any auhoritative control, and leave the central authority to die of a sort of administrative atrophy without sufficient powers or functions to keep it in a condition of healthy animation, the result of its being plundered and plucked of its power? The design and effect of this Measure are indicated by an article which recently appeared in "The Times" newspaper, contributed by a correspondent, and which had the distinction of large type, and which was probably inspired by some honourable Member opposite now listening to my remarks. Let me read a passage from it which will accentuate 238 the issue which may be defined as dividing us from honourable Members opposite in regard to this question. The writer says—It is important to inquire why the Front Opposition Bench should have given notice of opposition to the Bill on Second Beading. The reason is undoubtedly to be found in the hostility of the Progressive party at the County Council to any reform which will place local self-government in London on a secure basis; and that is what the Government Bill will undoubtedly do. Once let London be divided into boroughs with municipal councils, and the creation of an omnipotent central body such as that proposed by the Bill of 1884 will become an impossibility. The County Council may at some future time assume another shape and become the over-corporation of the metropolis in name as well as in fact, if the people of London decide that such a change will en-able them to realise more completely the existing unity of London. But it will always be surrounded, if the present Bill passes, by municipal bodies competent to repel any attack upon local autonomy and preserve the 'separability' of London.[Ministerial cheers.] I am delighted to find that in reading that extract I am not over-stating the views of honourable Members opposite. The main object, then, of this Measure is to maintain the "separability" of London by constituting district councils into municipalities, and by giving them the power of the purse to enable them to resist any attack which may at any future time be made upon the City. If I have not given correct expression to the views of some honourable Gentlemen opposite let me apply this criterion of municipal reform. Do you propose in any way to impair the efficiency of the central authority of London? Are you satisfied that experience has shown that the London County Council has furnished a most efficient institution? It has given you a body of most able administrators since 1855. I assume that the legal continuity between the Metropolitan Board of Works and the County Council will not be contested. The nucleus of the County Council had its birth 50 years ago, and slowly developed under the fostering care of municipal reformers on both sides of the House until now, endowed with the powers conferred on it by the right honourable Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, it is the crown of authority and efficiency. We have as a result of all that large and highly efficient instruction in local government in London a body of most able adminis- 239 trators a most economical administration of public funds, and large resources for the purpose of enterprises, with a view to further develop and advance local government. It has an expert staff which could not be secured by any smaller body, and it shows a spirit of enlightenment, not by the wisdom of a‡ mere section of the metropolis, but derived from the collective wisdom of the whole metropolitan area. The policy which seeks to detract from that efficiency and authority so slowly built up during 50 years is not a policy associated with the aims of Conservative statesmen. The scheme of the Bill which impairs and will ultimately destroy the authority of the County Council may be divided into three categories. In the first place the Bill proposes to give municipal form and dignity to district councils; secondly, it proposes to give financial independence to those councils; and, thirdly, it institutes machinery, the natural operation of which transfers to the district councils powers at present exclusively possessed by the County Council. Again, you propose to confer municipal forms and titles upon district councils. That, on the face of it, is an innocent proposition. Perhaps the hardest thing to be said of it is that it ministers to harmless human vanity. But is that all it does? Do you think that the class of citizens who will be attracted to civic service by decorations of this character is the class likely to prove the most efficient public servants in municipal administration? That observation, if you doubt it, will be strengthened by a comparison between the personnel of the Council of the City of London and the personnel of the Council of the County of London. In the Council of the City of London you have represented all that the allurements of civic dignity, civic emoluments, civic entertainments, and civic hospitality can attract, while on the County Council all these attractions to enter the service of the community are absent. And yet, I ask, which of these two classes of civic servants have rendered the most self-sacrificing and devoted attention to their duties, and to which would you say the highest need of praise belongs? There are two reasons why this proposal, innocent though it may be on the surface, is open to very strong objection. In the first place you cannot confer municipal 240 forms and titles upon a mere district‡council without generating and fostering a spirit of sectional patriotism—a merely parochial patriotism as distinguished from a spirit of patriotism embracing the whole community of which they form only a part. It may be said that sectional feling will increase administrative efficiency in the areas in which is generated, but it will operate also in creating a strong and bitter spirit of indifference and even of hostility between the central authority and these sectional areas, and you will only secure an advantage at the cost of a disadvantage which entirely outweighs it. As my right honourable Friend the Member for Fife pointed out in the course of his argument, why are you calling these municipal bodies boroughs? Can any man using the ordinary language of daily life describe any one of these sections of land by the term "cities?" And if they are boroughs, they must be cities. Why, Sir, they have not a single element of a city either in idea or definition. They have no nucleus of civic growth, no centre of civic life, no community of civic feeling; their boundaries are not the result of the natural expansion of urban communities, they have not that aggregation of classes, rich and poor, employers and employed, leisured and artisan, which we find in every community to which the name of city is given. In fact, they are, as my honourable Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire described them, blocks of property and blocks of population having no other claim to be dignified by the title of city than the claim conferred on them by the arbitrary terms of an Act of Parliament, and it is a strong argument against the attempt by means of statute to force them into such an unnatural position. The Solicitor-General gave us one or two illustrations which I thought were unfortunate. He said that Brighton and Hove side by side were both boroughs, and both harmonious. I have a somewhat vague recollection of an application from the district of Hove for a charter to constitute it a borough, and my recollection is that it was vigorously opposed by Brighton. The Solicitor-General also referred to Manchester and Salford, but while he was giving that illustration an honourable Friend told me that he was chairman of a committee appointed in connection with a Bill for a tramway 241 which proposed to pass through both towns which involved separate representation by separate councils of both those corporations, and the confusing and conflicting views and aims of these two bodies, which really ought to have corporate unity, sorely perplexed the Members of this House charged with the duty of considering this Bill. The first step is open to very great objection, because by municipalising these councils you introduce an element which in course of time will set up a feeling that the whole of the metropolis ought to be united. Well, the next stage is conferring upon these different district councils independent powers, and I need not dwell upon the importance of giving the power of the purse to any local authority. It may be said to a large extent they possess the power of the purse already, but it is fettered very much by the control of the County Council. By this Bill it is proposed to bring these new bodies into direct connection with the Government Department, and to establish between Hammersmith and Fulham and the Local Government Board the same relationship which at present exists between such towns as Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool and that Government Department. I need not dwell upon this part, because every Member on the other side has denounced the conferring of these powers by this Bill, and have declared their intention of moving Amendments, and I cannot imagine a Measure more likely to dissever sympathy amongst the various component districts of the metropolis than a Measure which disturbs the tie involved in the consent of the County Council. But there is a more important observation to make in regard to this part of the Bill, for not only is the fetter upon the power of the local bodies to borrow removed by the Bill, but the fetter on the part of spending is also removed. These municipalities get precisely the same powers of spending the ratepayers' money as is possessed by the great municipalities of the provinces. They have all the powers which are to be obtained by reference to the Borough Funds Act. The powers in regard to promoting and opposing Bills in Parliament have been referred to them. and they have also the power of assisting and resisting litigation as well as legislation, and they may oppose or may promote any legal proceedings which in 242 their view affect the interests of the inhabitants in the area with which they are connected. This is an exceedingly wide and extremely loose provision, and the width and grossness of it may be inferred from the fact that the House of Lords are considering the question in their judicial capacity whether or not a corporation may use the ratepayers' money for the purpose of opposing the granting of licences to public-houses, an act which will, no doubt, be received with favour by my honourable Friend behind me, but which may be looked upon with suspicion by honourable Members opposite. We have a suggestion in the pregnant extract which I read from the article in "The Times" newspaper a moment ago, that these municipalities are competent to repel any attack which may be made upon them by the central authority with a view to their absorption. In other words, having the power of the purse, you are to endow them also with the power of the sword, and they are to be able to-repel all attacks and all attempts to incorporate them which may be made by the larger central authority with a view to their absorption into the community of London. You do not imagine that this will not be the cause of friction, and a separatist feeling will be caused which will have its darker side, and a feeling of local jealousy and hostility will arise in these new bodies, existing side by side, and pursuing and exercising different functions; and thus you will have a fruitful source of litigation, expense, and extravagance in the future. With regard to-the transfer of powers, I think that is the last stage of this destructive process in its application to the London County Council. What is the object of the transfer of powers from the London County Council to the new bodies? Well, to use a phrase which was used earlier in the evening, it is a "denudation" of the County Council and of the central authority. If that be not its object, why is an elaborate provision made for it? If it be not intended to transfer by the operation of these clauses the functions of the central authority to the district councils, why this carefully elaborated mechanism with a view of accomplishing that result? It may be said that this mechanism is introduced with a view of readjusting powers between the central body and the district body. But if its object be readjustment, why 243 is the mechanism not reciprocal? If the object be not merely to denude the 'County Council in favour of the district council, but to allow the district council reciprocally to transfer its powers to the central authority, why are provisions enacted to transfer in one direction only? There is no power under this Bill for any district council to get rid of a power which it is unable to exercise and transfer it to the London County Council; and you find that the whole operation of this machinery must strip the County Council, and in no case reclothe it, and therefore I think you might put a marginal note in the draft of this Bill and write upon it nulla retrorarum, because it is obvious that it is a step which is intended to be of advantage to the district councils which are subordinate to it. One honourable Member who spoke a short time ago said that we need not fear the operation of this machinery of transfer because it would be a dead letter. He said there was no reason to suppose that the district councils would seek to transfer from the central authority any of the powers which it possessed. But if this is a dead letter, and would not be used, why in the world is it inserted in the Bill? Is it not obvious that while human nature remains as it is this machinery will be put into the most active operation, for have you not the very strongest motive on the part of the wealthy districts of this metropolis to obtain a transfer to themselves of powers which are at present being exercised by the central authority? They have a very strong motive for the diminution of rates in the districts in which they reside. One need not go through the financial argument, because the House will have already accepted it, but inasmuch as the richer districts contribute in accordance with their rateable value, and the measure of their contribution is judged by the extent of their population, the richer districts must contribute towards the expense of joint institutions in a much larger proportion than is contributed by the poorer districts with a larger population. Therefore, by severing from the central authority the maintenance of common institutions and appropriating them entirely within their own districts, they will be able to save very largely the cost of the maintenance of those institutions, and the first result which will follow the passing of this Measure will be a cry in 244 favour of the transfer to the wealthier districts of London of those institutions, which transfer must involve a diminution of their contribution by way of rates to the cost of the maintenance of those institutions. With a strong and definite motive of this kind there can be no doubt that this machinery will be put into very rapid operation, and if it is put into operation, it is obvious that the whole authority of the County Council will very quickly disappear. The Measure contemplates that after the transfer of a single function to a single district has taken place the transfer of the same function in regard to other districts will follow as a matter of course. Now I invite the House to study the extraordinary provision made by that clause. If any Members have not taken the pains to look at it closely, let me tell them in a word or two what is the nature of that machinery. When it is proposed to effect a transfer you must first obtain the consent of the district to which the transfer is to be made, and of the County Council which is to make it. Having once transferred that function to a particular district, the County Council loses all voice in the transfer of that function to all the other districts until a majority of the districts have elected to take the transfer of that particular power. Then when that has been done, all the rest follow, although the County Council protest, and although the district councils resist the attempt to transfer to them this power. That machinery can only be likened to the operation of bringing down a fabric by taking away the foundation on which it rests. You have only to get the consent of the council in a single district, and then all the other councils will have transferred to them by the operation of this provision in the Bill from the central authority the same function. I doubt very much whether the mere consensus which is the basis of this proposed transfer of powers is defensible on the grounds of wise legislation. Are we to allow the central authority of London to transfer the interests of a great body of the people of London to a district council because by an accidental—it may be a temporary one—majority in these two bodies there may be an approximation of views in regard to the merits of some particular proposal? The majority may exist to-morrow, and you may have agreement to-morrow, and the 245 mere fact that you have established a fortuitous agreement at a particular date declares for all time forth the interests of the inhabitants of other districts are involved in proportion. Of course, it is said that you have the Provisional Order system, but we in this House know how small is the practical value of a check of that kind. Where it occurs in the Bill that an agreement between two bodies is to be the motive because they effect a legislative and administrative change, the Government can operate with them to override the views of the two public authorities which complied with the condition specified in the section, and you will there fore have by the operation of this machinery a gradual transference of the functions one by one of the County Council, which will be stripped of many of its most beneficent powers. For a long time this machinery puzzled me, and would puzzle any dispassionate critic of this Bill; but after a very careful consideration it became clear to me that whenever a district obtained the extension to itself of a power which up to that moment was enjoyed by the central authority, that the central authority would consider that it should be natural and proper that the other districts should have extended to them the same power, not because the central authority thought that the original concession of the power was right, but because they would feel that you had by the concession in a single case destroyed the uniformity of administration for the whole of London, and if you give a power to Marylebone, or to Westminster, or to Poplar, you cannot call upon the County Council to administer the mere remnant of the metropolitan area which is left after you have cut out these important districts. Therefore, if you once allow concessions to take place in this matter, they will be followed by the wholesale abandonment of functions which are at present possessed by the central authority, and it is impossible to close our eyes to the practical result of machinery of this kind. You will have the richer districts in London seeking to emulate the exclusiveness of the City, and the City of Westminster has already appeared in the field. The right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has told us that the City of Westminster is ancient and historic, and the memorial 246 which has been read to us shows that they have pretensions to entire separation with regard to municipal and administrative powers. But the moment such exclusive power is given them it will be impossible to resist its claim to possess in an equal degree with the City of London all the municipal functions which pertain to municipal life. It will, equally with Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, say, "Why should you give to Manchester and Birmingham a control which you deny to us?" Having once established a municipal entity with strong claims to a separate municipal life and the functions attached to it, it must naturally follow that the claim for full incorporation is one which no Government Department is strung enough to resist. As the result of the operation of this machinery, the richer districts of London will manage to get rid of their obligation of contributing to the maintenance of the poorer sections of the metropolis. The Equalisation of Rates Act, to which reference has been made, is an adjustment which was devised by Parliament in reference to the existing state of things. It will be entirely insufficient to accomplish an equitable adjustment in regard to the state of things which will ensue after this legislation is pased, and without a very extensive alteration the contribution which is stipulated for under the Equalisation of Bates Act will be quite inadequate to meet the state of things under which you will have a large reduction of the common functions discharged by the central authority, a state of things arising from the transfer of those powers to the districts. At present you have the burdens of local government pressing lightly upon these districts which can bear them easily, and pressing heavily upon those districts which are least able to bear them. These features are fatal to this Measure—fatal not only in regard to the present state of society, but fatal in regard to the future. I have not heard any of the honourable Members who have addressed the House say anything in reference to the probable condition of local government in London after some 20 years have elapsed. If the extension of civic administration during the next 20 years is to bear any proportion to its development during the last half century, there are many functions which at the present 247 time are either not discharged at all or are discharged by private enterprise which will fall within the scope of municipal socialism, which is now the guiding policy in our local affairs, because the means of communication, the means of locomotion, the methods of lighting and watering, the supervision of health, safeguards against disease, and all the manifold forms of local Government are not stereotyped under the state of society under which we live. In future, when these powers will be much larger than they are at present, it seems to me of the utmost importance that we should take care that these powers are placed in strong hands, and in hands which will administer them equally throughout every section of the large urban areas among the population of this country. It is because I believe that the tendency of this legislation will be to weaken the whole of the County Council as a central authority upon the whole of London in regard to the administration of its functions of civic government, and because it will tend in their administration to destroy uniformity, and to give to localities separate and local administration apart from a harmonious and uniform system, that I think the Motion of my honourable Friend the Member for West Leeds is one which we ought to support, for the reasons which I have submitted.
§ * SIR E. CLARKE (Plymouth)
I regret that my honourable and learned Friend appears to have paid no attention at all to the appeal which was made by my right honourable Friend the Member for Bodmin with regard to the conduct of this Debate. My right honourable Friend the Member for Bodmin deprecated the expenditure of time in this discussion upon speculations of what the intentions of the Government were lying behind the Bill, or speculations upon questions as to who had been the adviser or inspirer of this proposed legislation. My honourable and learned Friend who has just sat down spent the first half of his speech in saying that he believed that there was at the back of this Bill an intention to destroy the London County Council, and in tracing to this Measure a defence of what he called the antiquated, the un-reformed, and the obstructive Corporation of the City of London as the direc- 248 tion which this legislation was taking. Apart from those two topics the whole of his speech was an argument against any Bill for the improvement of local government in London. Why, for the last 60 years it has been the accepted principle of all who have studied the problem of local government in London that there must be a division of London into local areas under some name or other, and that it is only by the division of a great area like London into smaller areas that you can expect to get from the people Jiving in London itself that activity and knowledge of public service which will enable them to do good under local government. There were one or two criticisms of my honourable and learned Friend upon certain special parts of this Bill. He said, first, that there was the division into local areas. Well, the division into local areas is the one thing that is desired by everybody who wishes to see a better form of local government in London. He said that there was a transfer of powers, and he used the word "denudation" as applied to the London County Council. But earlier this evening my right honourable Friend the Member for Fife had spoken upon this subject, and he had said that one of the things he desired to see was a large and generous transfer of powers from the central body to the local bodies. You cannot have the existence of effective local government in the various districts of London without giving to the persons whom you invite to take their share of the onerous burden of public work some work to do which will justify the devotion of their time to it. Really what is it that the Opposition here are discussing or challenging in this Amendment which has been proposed? Do they suggest that there should be no reform of local government in London at all? Surely they do not venture to suggest that, for both sides in politics and all parties have for many years agreed that there ought to be some amendment in this respect. Can they challenge the lines upon which such a reform shall take place? It has been laid down, and there has been practically no dissentient voice for a long time, until I come to the year 1894, when my right honourable Friend propounded a scheme upon which I wish to say a word or two presently. But let us start half a century ago. In the Report of the 249 Commission of 1854, which consisted of names not notable for belonging to the political Party to which I belong, there is at the close this passage—We think that if an attempt were made to give a municipal organisation to the entire metropolis by a wider extension of the present boundaries of the City the utility of the present corporation as an institution would be destroyed, while at the same time a municipal administration of an excessive magnitude, and therefore ill adapted to the wants of the other parts of the metropolis, would be created. But we see no reason why the municipal institutions should not be extended to the rest of the metropolis by its division into municipal districts, each possessing a municipal government of its own.Now, nearly half a century has passed since that passage was written, and it has been a subject of universal agreement that London was too large for a single municipality, and that no single municipality could attempt to deal with the vast area and the varied characteristics of that great province of houses which we call London. And when we come to a later time, even in the year 1868, Mr. John Stuart Mill, who at all events was not a retrograde Tory politician, when he was speaking upon this subject, used words which were practically an echo of the passage I have read, and, after pronouncing against the idea of one municipality, he said—There is a good deal to be said for having only one municipality for the whole metropolis, but the business entrusted to its management would be too great, and it would give it the control of too large an amount of area, and it would be useless to ask for the consent of the House to such a Measure, for it is better to have local municipal bodies for the different boroughs, and the central board should not be troubled with any business but such as is common to the whole.Now, those are the words of Mr. John Stuart Mill in the year 1868, when the extent of London and its population bore practically no comparison to the state of things which we have at the present time. Our metropolitan area, if we include the various areas dealing with various metropolitan matters, contains over 600 square miles, and over five millions of people. It has been calculated—and I saw the calculation only the other day—that if the same rate of increase goes on in future years as has gone on recently, in half a century's time we shall practically have a population of 15 millions in one continuous 250 area of buildings. Now, it is idle to talk about a population like that being governed by one municipality. It has not, indeed, been suggested, and the only thing which has been suggested in the way of a municipality which would include in any sense the whole area is the suggestion that was made by the Commission with which my right honourable Friend the Member for Bodmin was connected in the year 1894. I do not want to enter into any controversy with regard to the formation and behaviour of that Commission. Each was equally doubtful. There was a very peculiar form of reference to that Commission, which, according to the interpretation of the Members of that Commission, disabled them from investigating the questions whether an amalgamation between the London County Council and the corporation would be desirable, because the terms of the reference made that the hypothesis on which they were to act; and I do not think the terms of reference were very creditable to the Government of that day. I think, also, that the Members of that Commission somewhat strained their powers in refusing to receive from the Corporation of the City of London and its representatives evidence on points which were afterwards dealt with in the evidence of the representatives of other bodies. Now, that Commission, which was limited by the terms of its reference, and which was certainly not inclined to favour the policy which I think was the right one, left upon record a Report which gives strength and support to the Bill which is now before the House. That Commission indicated 19 places in London which were so united, and so situated with regard to their suitability for Local Government, and the effective administration of those areas, that they were considered capable of at once being elected into something very much like independent bodies, and that Commission, if I remember rightly, suggested that the heads of those bodies should be called mayors. The question whether they would be called councils, district councils, or councillors of a municipality, is a matter to which I do not think we need attach much importance. I think if I wanted to obtain a justification for these bodies being called by the traditional and honoured name which is accepted throughout the 251 country in our municipal corporations, it would be furnished by the closing sentence of the speech of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for East Fife, who spoke of the corporate dignity with which the bodies in this country should be invested. So that on the main principle I say that there has been no divergence since the time of the Report which was made in 1854. It is true that the numbers have increased since 1854, when those Commissioners suggested that there should be seven municipal boroughs created in addition to the City. At a later date, in the year 1884. the Corporation of the City of London, in an elaborate and well-considered Report, pointed out that there were 10 places which were capable of receiving immediate incorporation. Then we come to 1894, when my right honourable Friend's Commission pointed out 19 places which were capable of immediate development into independent centres of local action.
§ * SIR E. CLARKE
Then the Commission indicated that 19 of those localities were ready for immediate promotion to that position which local bodies were to assume, and indicated that there were others which might by some process of adjustment be rendered fit for the purpose. So that upon this point there is no challenge, and we have the continued judgment of the country and of both sides in politics, extending over a period of 60 years, that it is in that direction that the work of the reform of London government should go. But the next step is this. If you are to give these areas a sort of independent existence—and I pass for the moment the question of the name by which they are to be described—what powers have you to give them? There is no difference upon this point—as the Report of the Commission of 1894 pointed out. There never has been a stronger expression of opinion than is to be found in that Report of 1894, that all the powers should be enjoyed by the local bodies which could not be more usefully exercised by the central body. That is to say, and it is a sound principle, that when you are calling upon men in the 252 different districts of the metropolis to enter into the laborious work of the administration of public affairs, you should reward them for their devotion to public service by entrusting them with the care of everything with regard to which it can reasonably be said that they are the fit persons to exercise authority upon it. [Opposition cheers.] There will be no division on the Second Reading if this goes on, and if we get much further in the way of agreement. This is entirely agreed, and I need hardly go to the next sentence to say that you discourage and dishearten men who are giving themselves to local work in any respect whether it be with regard to finance, or buildings, or any other detail of public affairs, if you put over them an authority which is not obviously necessary for the purpose of good administration. Everything beyond that is a derogation from the honour that they have, and the pleasure they derive from public life, and if you desire to induce men to do public work and to do it without pay, the least you can do is to give them the very fullest measure of independence. So now we have come to this point—there must be local authorities, and there must be local divisions, although my honourable and learned Friend is far behind the rest of the House apparently on this matter, for he protests against any local divisions at all, and calls them, "the dislocation of London into sectional areas."
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON
I have never protested against anything of the sort, but what I did protest against was the establishment of any bodies which would interfere with the development of the central authority.
§ * SIR E. CLARKE
I would not on any account misrepresent my learned Friend. His exact words were, "The dismemberment of London and the dislocation of London into sectional areas." I would point out to him that if he objects to the division of London into sectional areas then he objects to any improvement in Local Government in London at all. Now, there was a very interesting part of my right honourable Friend's speech on which I should like to say a word, because in dealing with the questions which came before the Commission of 1894 he and his colleagues 253 made the suggestion that there should be a sort of large and extended municipality all over London, and that there should be other municipalities subject and subordinate to it. He stated this evening his opinion as to what he thought would be the true development of London if you treated London as you have treated every one of the other great towns of this country. The right honourable Gentleman threw out a challenge—and I do not think it will be very profitable to discuss what might have been, or to follow him in that discussion—and asked whether anyone would dispute that that would be better than what we have now. Well, Mr. Speaker, I do dispute it. I do not think it would have been better in any respect, and I think my right honourable Friend's view on this matter is not correct in its historical basis, and that it would not be advantageous in its results. In the first place, London is not one city that has grown from one centre. In the earliest time of which we have any record at all from which we may suppose that any city existed on the banks of the Thames in this place, it was not one city but two, the City of London and the City of Westminster, and the great Cathedral Church of London and the great Abbey of Westminster marked what were the centres of a certain amount of civic life long before two-thirds of the municipal corporations which now flourish in this country had been heard of at all. But not only that. London and Westminster were the twin cities, so to speak, from which this great province of houses, this great London of to-day, takes its rise. But they were disconnected. There were places not growing out of London at all. Islington did not grow from London, Kensington did not grow from London, Camberwell did not grow from London. They were places growing themselves, with the elements of local life in its various manifestations, while there were country fields between the places where they existed and London itself. And so it is an entire mistake to speak of London as one place, which has grown from one centre. Historically, that is not true. Historically, it is a place which consists of many centres of population, which have so grown up that now they are joining hands; and we, during the 254 last 20 or 30 years, have seen places once absolutely disconnected from London now indistinguishable from it, because now you can go I do not know how many miles without finding a break in your line of houses. And so, historically, I think my honourable and learned Friend is not correct. But I will say a word upon the other point. He asks, Did anybody say that it would not be better to have the state of things which would have existed if a single municipality had grown up and covered the whole than what we have at present?
§ * SIR E. CLARKE
Well, my right honourable Friend says, with subordinates. I do not wonder that the honourable Member jumps at that. He does not understand it, I think. That subordinates could be added now? But let us work it out. Suppose there had been this growth of London from one centre. Suppose there had been this great municipality. When would the subordinates have come in? Why, they would not have come in until this gigantic municipality had been tottering along under burdens too heavy for it to bear, and breaking down at every part of its administration because it could not cope with the duties that it had to perform. Now, supposing it had extended in that way. What is the first comment I should make upon it J It would be a. national danger. If you had now—if you could have: you cannot hay and so I am only following my right honourable Friend in discussing impossibilities—a single municipality erected, with a single body of aldermen and councillors and a mayor at its head, which effectively represented the whole population of London at this time, you would have a national danger. You would have a force represented by another body than Parliament with which Parliament would find it extremely difficult to deal. There are influences—the honourable Gentleman laughs, but I ask him to consider the point, just to imagine the strength that there would be if you could have—you cannot, I am glad to say—one homogeneous body representing the great population of this area, an area increasing, and, therefore, by the 255 hypothesis, increasing in strength from year to year. At the present time you would have a power with such authority that it would be dangerous to the free action, and effective action, of Parliament itself. Well, now, I confess that I take an entirely different view with regard to this matter. It is clear, of course, that there must be a central body. In a large area like this there are certain matters.—of course, the main drainage is obviously one of them—which must be dealt with by a separate body, and it interested me immensely to hear my honourable and learned Friend who just spoke talking of a central body having existed in London for the last 50 years. That is true, but who was it that was talking last night, or the night before, about the dishonoured grave of the Metropolitan Board of Works—I remember the phrase well. The Metropolitan Board of Works, it is true, was a. central authority to deal with matters of interest which were common to the whole community, and I think that the Metropolitan Board of Works was the best, the most economical, the most effective instrument of central government that this country has ever known. There were circumstances in the year 1888 which have served as an excuse to those who have known or cared very little about the history or the services of the Metropolitan Board of Works, to cast discredit upon that body as if it was a body that had not faithfully served London.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
The attack on the' Metropolitan Board of Works came from your side of the House.
§ * SIR E. CLARKE
I do not see that it is relevant as to which side it comes from—I am quite content to accept it. In the year 1888, when the Local Government Bill was about to be passed, it so happened that through the misconduct of, I think, two members of the Metropolitan Board of Works and of one of its officials, there were some scandals connected with it, and an opportunity was taken—I think taken carelessly and recklessly—of putting an end to the Metropolitan Board of Works. I thought then, and I think now, that injustice was done to that body, and a mistake was made in putting an end to 256 an organisation which had served the country well; and I am bound, thinking as I do with regard to that, and having known a great deal with regard to the Metropolitan Board of Works, to enter this protest against any such phrase being used as the dishonoured grave of the Metropolitan Board of Works"—a body which gave to this metropolis advantages and benefits far exceeding anything that the London County Council has ever touched during its existence, and the history of whose administration was marked by the doing of great public works which ought to make us grateful indeed to the men who belonged to it. But let me pass from that. It is true that there has been for 50 years past in the Metropolitan Board of Works, and now in the London County Council, a body to deal with central affairs. Of course, some such power must always exist. We are all agreed upon that. I think we are all agreed upon another matter, and that is, that no power should be given or left to that body which can be effectively discharged by the local body.
§ * SIR E. CLARKE
No, I beg your pardon; I did not say more effectively. If it were a question of competition between the two bodies, and a matter of doubt whether the power could be best exercised by the local or the central body, then I should say you would be bound to give it to the local body; the burden would lie upon you of showing that that was a power which ought to be taken away from those who are discharging the duties of Local Government. If that is so. is not there another way of looking at this question? Surely the idea of a gigantic municipality which is to have other municipalities under its enormous sway is something to which we have no parallel and of which we have no experience. I do not know of any municipality having municipalities under it in this country. It seems to me to be a contradiction in terms. What you do want is effective municipalities to represent local interests and local aspirations, and you want a committee of these municipalities which shall deal with matters which are common to all. And here I come upon what I confess I do think is a defect in the Bill 257 with, which we are now dealing. I had greatly hoped that the Government would have seen their way to provide that each of these municipalities should send a representative to the London County Council, in place of the aldermen who are elected by the members of that Council. I think it would be most desirable that there should be some connection between the London County Council and the local bodies. It is idle to talk about connecting them by having each member of the London County Council a member of the local body. He has too much to do at the London County Council; and I hope I shall be forgiven for saying that there are a great many members of the London County Council who are elected because they are useful and valuable as political supporters on one side or the other, and whose presence upon the Local Government body would not be of very much advantage to it. But if you make the connection the other way there can be no possible objection to it. Let each local body, each municipality, send its best man, or its best two men, to sit upon the London County Council, and you will find them the most immediate and most effective check to that political Party spirit the effect of which you regret. When the Metropolitan Local Management Act was in force and (he Metropolitan Board of Works was in existence, who thought about the politics of the man who went from his vestry to the Metropolitan Board of Works? There never was a question of politics raised. I know the part of London in which I was living. I know the very capable men sent from that part to the Metropolitan Board of Works. One of them, by-the-by, if I mistake not, is now vice-chairman of the London County Council—Mr. Strong. I think he was in the Metropolitan Board of Works, and one of the best and ablest men that we have had for local government work. But there was no question of politics. Each vestry sent the best two men that it had, and it was bound to send them, because it wanted to have the interests of the vestry defended at the central council and advocated at the central council by the best men. And if the Government now see their way to provide that in place of the aldermen who now sit on the London 258 County Council there should be an arrangement by which representatives who are sent from the municipalities of London should sit there, I believe they would do a good deal, not only to improve the administration of London government, but to secure a steady harmony of working between the central body and the local bodies upon matters in which they are all interested. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to discuss details with regard to this Bill, although more than two-thirds of the criticisms that were lodged against the Bill by the right honourable Gentleman who proposed this Amendment, and by my honourable and learned Friend, the Member for Haddington, who spoke afterwards—and I am sure they will agree with me—were really directed to Committee points, and could be dealt with upon Committee, and must be dealt with upon Committee, in any Bill referring to London government which could be brought before the House. But I should like to say a few words upon one or two other matters. One is this matter of improvements. Now, it was said from the other side of the House that it would be a bad thing for London if the power of making improvements should be transferred to the local bodies, and it was suggested—I understood from the speech of the Solicitor-General, though the particular illustration was not quite appropriate—with regard to Bethnal Green, that if an improvement had been carried out there and at the cost of Bethnal Green instead of the whole of the metropolis, it would have imposed such heavy burdens upon the rates at Bethnal Green that that-community would certainly never have undertaken it. Yes, but there is a consideration which I think meets, and more than meets that. Why is it that the London County Council has notoriously failed during its term of office to carry out public improvements in London? Why is that these improvements, obvious improvements, which should have been carried out, or partially carried out, years ago, have now been allowed year after year to go untouched, and are becoming more and more costly with every year that passes? Well, the reasons I need 259 not discuss. The point which I was going to put to the House is this. A great many of these very important improvements, if they were taken promptly in hand, would cost very little money indeed. They can be dealt with by the locality in which the difficulty itself arises.
§ * SIR E. CLARKE
Under powers proposed in this Bill, as I hope and believe. I will meet the honourable Member. I hope and believe that the effect of this Bill will be not only to transfer the powers which are specified in the Bill, but to establish these local bodies with so much effective authority of administration that they will have further powers from time to time, and I believe one of the best powers that can be given to these local bodies would be the power of making improvements with regard to the widening of streets and the like, which I believe they would do very much more cheaply than the London County Council has done. Well, I do not know that there are other matters with which I need deal, but I will say just one word with regard to the question of finance. It is suggested that these local bodies ought to have no authority with regard to finance—with regard to raising loans, and so on. Why not? If, through the great power of the London County Council, and its being able to raise loans at a, very small rate of interest, the London County Council can raise these loans more cheaply than the local authorities can, you may be quite sure that the local authorities will be very glad to raise their loans through the London County Council. But the local authority ought to be in a position to deal with its own affairs, and, if it chooses, to deal with them without reference to the control of the London County Council. That is one of the ways in which I think the unnecessary control, the unnecessary subordination to the County Council, would go some way to diminish the advantage which you desire to have from the passing of this Bill. There is just one other matter I want to deal with, but I will not say very much this evening, with regard 260 to the City of London. The City of London has been defended by my honourable and learned Friend the Solicitor-General against the attack which has. been made upon it. But that attack is a monstrous and a wanton and a most unprovoked attack. The Corporation of the City of London is denounced as being an antiquated and unreformed and an obstructive corporation. Mr. Speaker, antiquated it is. It has a splendid antiquity. It has a grand history, and it has an unbroken history of public service properly and soundly rendered, and if you were to put the question to examination as to which body, the London County Council or the-Corporation of the City of London, had discharged its duties best, with the least noise, with the least friction, with the clearest desire and success in carrying out the practical work it has to do, I think the judgment would not be in favour of the London County Council. But I was interested to hear in the speech of the right honourable Gentleman who proposed this Amendment an attack, and a violent attack, upon the proposal to establish the Greater Westminster. He attacked it, because he appeared to say, from the sarcastic way in which he read out an address which had been written by someone in Westminster, that he did not recognise that there had been any great antiquity or historic splendour about the position of Westminster, and he spoke somewhat slightingly of it. If he thought it was necessary for the maintenance of a great corporation that there should be historic splendour, that there should be a long record of public service, he had only to look to the City of London, and he would have found it. It is an actual question, I think, whether the City of London or the Parliament of this country was the first to adopt the practice of first, second, and third reading of Bills; and the history of the City of London has gone on over all these centuries, and when there has been a question of inquiry into it, as there was in the year 1835—what was it that the Royal Commission of that year reported with regard to the City of London? I should like to read one passage from the Report of the Royal Commission on 261 Municipal Corporations in England and Wales, in 1835—The Common Council of the City of London presents a striking exception to the system of self-election for life, and it affords a remarkable instance of the absence of those evils which were referred to. The Common Councilmen of this City are annually elected by a numerous constituency, yet changes seldom happen among them; the important requisites of experience and the power of control by the electors are there effectively united, and produce that efficiency and confidence which are wanting in most other corporate towns. The history of the Common Council of London is that of a body which has watched vigilantly over the interests of its constituents, and for a long series of years has studied the improvement of corporate institutions, with great earnestness, unremitting caution, and scrupulous justice.That was what was said of the City of London by the Royal Commission in the year 1835. Sixty years have passed since then, and those 60 years have been a history of 60 years of administration which would justify any Commission today expressing the same opinion with regard to the work that has been done by the City of London. It is called antiquated. I admit it. It is the pride of the City of London that its corporation is a corporation of great antiquity, dignified by its history as well as by its public services. It is called unreformed—unreformed because it wants no reform. There is no need for reform. The members of the Common Council are elected by all the ratepayers of the City; the Lord Mayor is elected, not by the same constituency, but by a constituency of 8,000 men, and for the position, for the intelligence, for the wealth of the men who belong to it, there is no constituency in the Kingdom that can compare with that constituency which elects each year the Lord Mayor of London. I do not want to go into details with regard to it, but I heard somebody use the word "audit." Is the honourable Gentleman who used that word "audit" aware that every year the accounts of the City of London are brought here and placed in the Library of the House of Commons, and that the auditing of many of the accounts of the City of London is performed under Acts of Parliament, that the accounts—all the accounts 262 —of the City of London are published every year? There is no secrecy of any sort or kind about them, and the most vigilant critic of the City of London, the most vigilant member of the London County Council, even in its time of fiercest antagonism, has never been able to find anything wrong with the audit of the City. And so, Sir, I venture to say that the City of London was entitled to consideration on the part of the Government. There is the other epithet, which I had nearly forgotten, that it is obstructive. The City of London is obstructive in what respect? The City of London has more than once proposed to bring within its boundaries, within the advantage of its corporate government, certain outlying areas, and with the full consent of the City of London I supported a Bill for bringing back effectively within its limits that part of Southwark which used to be associated with the City, and which is now only a nominal portion of its area. It would not have been at all unwilling to extend the boundaries of the City of London, and what has it done that it is obstructive with regard to this matter? All that I know is that in the year 1884 the City suggested the creation of other municipalities in London, and in that way suggested very much the policy which is being followed by the Government now. But I do want to put this question to those on the other side who attack the City of London as being antiquated and obstructive: What would you like to do with the City of London? Do you want to extend its area? If you want to extend its area, why not suggest it? It is possible to suggest it. It might be done. The City of London might be made an even more important corporation than it is at the present time, if you desire so to do. Well, I have never seen a suggestion of that up to the present. The Corporation of the City of London represents the greatest and most important community in the world. You talk of your square mile. It may be a square mile, but what a square mile it is‡ Take any hour of the day, and consider who they are within that area of a square mile, who 263 are carrying on their business, and who are working in the great industries—the financial industries, and the commercial industries—which have their home and centre in the City of London. I do not think I need go farther. The City of London will be left by this Bill discharging its duty, which it has well discharged for centuries, and, I hope, discharging great national duties. It has never dealt with those great possessions of which it has the stewardship as if they were the property of the square mile. It has dealt on very much larger principles, and with regard to the public weal. I do not agree with the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Bodmin that the carrying of this Bill will not secure the position of the Corporation of the City of London. I think it will. I think that when that old corporation is surrounded by other corporations of great influence and great authority, associated with it in the work of municipal government, it will be strengthened against any attacks which may be made upon it. That is one of the reasons why I am glad to 6ee this Bill. That is one of the reasons why I think in proposing this Measure Her Majesty's Government have done a great service to the cause of Local Government in London, and in carrying this Measure they will add to the great honours that have come to our Party in years past in connection with Local Government. It was our Party which in 1888 gave Local Government to England: it was our Party which, a little later, gave it to Scotland: and it was our Party which last year gave it to Ireland. I trust that the giving of a sound and effective system of Local Government to London may this year complete the work which the Government has to do in the direction of Local Government, and crown the successes which they have achieved in this direction.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
The honourable and learned Member's eloquence is so persuasive that the House must guard against accepting his conclusions too implicitly. He says that these accounts are annually placed in the House of Commons Library. What 264 has this to do with the audit? No honourable Member of this House examines or certifies them. Take another remark which the honourable and learned Member made. He said that we had not one ancient city in London, but a number of cities of that description. But, Sir, the illustrations which he took were particularly unfortunate. He spoke of Camberwell, Islington, and Kensington. None of these would have existed except for London. They were small suburbs drawn out of London, one after another. Camberwell was one of those many interesting suburbs in the ancient times so styled, I believe, because there was a well there. At Islington, the dairy of London existed; and as far as Kensington is concerned, it was, and is, simply a place in which London goes to sleep. Therefore, these parts of London would not have existed except for the one great City of which they form a part. As I see the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Bodmin here, I should like to make one remark on the speech he made at an earlier hour of the evening. That speech possessed two characteristics which all the speeches of the right honourable Gentleman seem to me to possess. In the first place, it was most interesting, and showed great knowledge of the subject on which he spoke; and, secondly, it seemed to me that all the arguments of the speech were such as would have led anyone but the right honourable Gentleman to an entirely different conclusion from the one at which he arrived. He brought forward most powerful arguments in support of the Amendment, and then he said he would vote against it. He delivered a most smashing attack on the Bill, and then he said he would vote for the Second Reading. But the basis of the right honourable Gentleman's speech seems to me more extraordinary still. He said that municipalities throughout this country gradually extended their borders, and that London would some day extend its borders in the same way. Nothing of the kind. In every other place there was an unreformed corporation until 1855. In that year this House did its duty and enabled the provincial muni- 265 cipal centres of life in this country to get their corporations reformed. As a result of that Act, we have seen those centres develop throughout the provinces; but what is the reason that the Corporation of London was never reformed] The reason is that this House never did its duty to London, and that is what makes the present occasion so important. We have now got a great opportunity, and if we happen to take a wrong turn, it may be years, and even generations, before the people of London have another opportunity. Therefore, I think the right honourable Gentleman should not have treated this matter so lightly, but should have helped us to try and make this Bill a useful Measure. I quite agree with the criticisms which have been levelled at a good many speakers, that they have gone into details, instead of dealing with the great principle involved in the Bill. But perhaps, Sir, the reason is that it is extremely difficult to discover what that principle is. I would ask the right honourable Gentleman in charge of the Bill what is the principle? It seems to me that there is no definite principle in it. The Government are halting between tenification on the one hand and unification on the other. They are between two stools, and I wish the Government would choose which stool they are going to sit upon, for then we could address ourselves to criticism in a manner which would not be so much objected to in this Debate. Now, Sir, not only is there no principle in the Bill, but there is another fundamental objection to it. None of us can tell under what law we shall be governed in London. We shall be partly under the Metropolis Management Acts, and partly under the Municipal Corporation Acts; partly under Commissioners appointed under the Bill, and partly under schemes to be prepared by the Privy Council, the Local Government Board, or the new bodies which are to be created. I think this is a matter which ought to be taken into serious consideration when the Bill goes into Committee. I have said, Mr. Speaker, that it is very difficult to discover the principle of the Bill. However, I suppose we must try and get at it as well as we 266 can. As far as I can see, the principle is to establish in the Metropolis a number of municipalities independent of each other, in the first place, and in the second place, having no direct relation with the central municipality. There is no similarity with regard to the municipalities which are going to be established. They differ altogether from any other areas which exist. Some are large, like Westminster or Wandsworth; some are small with 70,000 or 80,000 population, like Chelsea. They do not agree with the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1894 that the areas should correspond with the Parliamentary areas or with the County Council area, or, indeed, with any existing area. They are carved out according to some rule of which we know nothing whatever. Equally, Mr. Speaker, there is no uniformity between the proposed municipalities and the central authority. The right honourable Gentleman in charge of the Bill said at least half a dozen times that they could still borrow of the County Council. Well, if so, why are they also enabled to borrow from the Local Government Board or any other channel? No uniformity is established between the municipalities which are set up, and there is no direct connection with the central authority. Let us therefore ask, in the first place, whether it is practicable to set up these separate municipalities. Now, that brings me to the principal argument of the honourable and learned Member who has just sat down. The honourable and learned Member laid down the proposition that we could not establish a unified system throughout London without attacking the City. I agree that the unity of London will never be complete until we deal with the City, but there is a unity which we might secure in the Bill we are discussing without touching the City. A uniform principle might be adopted so far as possible in creating the areas which are to be constituted, and in establishing connection between them and the central authority. But no attempt is made under the Bill to do this. We could obtain some guidance on the subject if we did not argue so much between ourselves, but tried 267 rather to look upon it in the light that history has thrown upon it. The honourable and learned Member who has just sat down quoted a, Report of the Commission in 1854. I accept his description of that Report. That Report was followed by the Bill of 1855, which attempted under the name of Vestries or District Boards, to set up municipalities in London much in the same way that the right honourable Gentleman in charge of this Bill is trying to set them up to-day; and if the House would profit by the experience of 1855 it would throw a flood of light on what the Government is trying to do. The honourable and learned Member was perfectly right when he argued that the idea in 1855 was to set up municipalities. They were to be endowed with greater independent power in some respects than the municipalities which the right honourable Gentleman is trying to establish now. But even in 1855, as the honourable and learned Member admits, we had to recognise the necessity for a central council, and so the Metropolitan Board of Works was established. But it was a very cumbrous institution, and the intention of the Government was to make the central body small, insignificant, and unimportant, and the local institutions as strong and independent as possible. Now, the question I want to ask is, Did that attempt succeed? Any one who will allow his memory to run back for the last 40 years will see in a moment that the attempt failed just as it will fail now. During that period a great number of municipal duties have been conferred upon corporations everywhere. Let us see how they were distributed in London. Did Parliament give them to the local vestries or to the central authority—the Metropolitan Board of Works? In 1857, the question arose as to what authority should be entrusted with the duty of dealing with parks and open spaces, and this was allocated to the Metropolitan Board of Works. Then in 1860 there was the question of gas inspection. Surely, that would strike anyone as a power that the local authorities might exercise. But no; the power was given to the central authority. Then there was the ques- 268 tion of building the Thames Embankment. Why was this not entrusted to the local authority? Then fire brigades were created, and the management of these was given to the central authority, as also was the management of tramways and the duty of securing a constant supply of water. In 1875 the provision of artisans' dwellings, in 1877 the duty of freeing the bridges over the river, and in 1878 the care of the public in theatres, were all entrusted to the Metropolitan Board of Works. Finally, in 1885 the power of inspecting common lodging-houses was transferred from the vestries and undertaken by the central authority. What was the result? The result was that the central authority grew stronger and stronger until at last this House felt that its constitution must be reformed, and it became the London County Council; while the authorities in the localities remained much as they had been created in 1855. There is another way of looking at this question more interesting still. We have been speaking of municipalities, and the Solicitor-General made one or two fundamental mistakes in the analogies he drew in regard to London. He spoke of Manchester and Salford as a parallel case to the relations which might exist between the central authority and the municipal authorities which are to be created. The great right of a governing body is to levy rates, and so the local authorities that were created in London were given absolute power of rating, while the central authority was given at first only the small power of levying rates necessary for making the sewers. How did this right of rating develop? Gradually the Metropolitan Board of Works obtained the right of making a charge for all the services that I have mentioned. The great principle of the equalisation of rates was inaugurated in 1871, and was extended in 1888 and again in 1894. Thus in 1888 we find that a common rate is levied from the central authority of 4s. in the £ all over London. Now, the question which I want to put to the honourable and learned Gentleman is, Does the Manchester rate extend to Salford? The honourable and learned Member also referred to the case of 269 Brighton and Hove. Has Brighton the right to levy a 4s. rate on Hove? Of course not. There is, therefore, not the slightest parallel between these cases and the case of London, and so the learned Gentleman has been Working out an entirely false analogy. There is no place like London in these respects. Now, I believe I have laid my finger upon what is really the great defect in the proposal which the Government has brought forward. Instead of studying the growth of institutions in London, the promoters of the Bill have taken their analogy from the Municipal Corporations Acts. This is how they have got all the bad proposals which the Bill contains. There is not a single speaker who has taken part in the Debate on the Bill who approves of the provisions for auditing the accounts of the local bodies to be created in London. Where does the right honourable Gentleman get his ideas from? He gets them from the Municipal Corporations Act, and almost every mistake made in the Bill has been got through pursuing this wrong analogy instead of studying more closely the growth and development of our institutions in London. Is the attempt that the Government is making to set up these independent authorities in London practicable, having regard to the failure of previous attempts in the same direction? The right honourable Gentleman has not up to the present shown any determined hostility to a reasonable Amendment. We have listened with a great deal of interest to what the Solicitor-General said on that point this afternoon. He is generally put up when the Government has to turn some difficult corner, and as a Scotchman he may be trusted not to say too much. The only really pregnant remark that I discovered in his speech was where he agreed that many points that have been mentioned could have been dealt with by Amendment. Now, I quite agree that a great deal can be done by Amendment, and if we may gather from this remark that the Government will look upon Amendments with a favourable eye, a great deal may be done to improve the Bill in Committee. In the part of London which I represent this matter has always excited the 270 greatest interest, because everyone has got his conception of what the government of London means. Every citizen is conscious that there are two entirely different features of municipal government in the metropolis. One set of duties is discharged by the local authority; others of far greater importance by the central authority. The citizen has to look to both of these for all these services which are vital to their existence. This dual aspect of London government is a peculiar feature of London which does not exist anywhere else. There is only a single authority in every other city, and, therefore, this particular feature is one which the Government should have kept before their minds, but which I think they have neglected altogether in formulating the Bill. If it were fully recognised that we should establish harmonious relations between the central authority and the new bodies to be created, we should accept the conclusion that all experience teaches us, that the most important authority is the central authority, which is charged with all the greater duties. It is all very well to speak of creating these independent municipal boroughs in localities. They cannot discharge a single function which municipalities are expected to discharge. I have shown that three-fourths of the duties are now discharged by the central authority—the supply of water, open spaces, sewers, and the management of tramways, fire brigades, etc., are, and must still remain, in the charge of the central authority. I would remind the right honourable Gentleman the Leader of the House that while he has a great majority in this House, in the London County Council, which represents London in all these local matters, there is an equally great majority opposed to the policy which the Government is supposed to represent. I therefore appeal to the right honourable Gentleman not to press the ideas of the majority unduly. He will have to choose between two evils. He will either have to injure this Government or to injure London. I am quite sure that he does not desire either. I appeal to him, therefore, to consider the proposals which may be brought forward in as broad and generous a spirit 271 as he possibly can. This is a local matter on which the opinions of the people of London were invited a year ago. Every argument that has been presented to this House was presented 12 months since, and the people answered by saying that they trusted the present County Council to deal with the matter. Now, I appeal to the right honourable Gentleman—for he will doubtless carry the Second Reading of the Bill with the strong majority which can carry him through any difficulty—inasmuch as this London question is full of pitfalls, to be guided by the opinion of the London County Council. We have had as yet no indications that any concession will be made. Nothing to this effect was stated on the first night of the Debate, and the Solicitor-General has said nothing to-night. Unless, therefore, we find some broad and strong pronouncement made of a different character from anything we have heard up to the present, I believe that we shall have to fight this Bill, not on the Second Reading stage only, but in Committee, and that there will be very prolonged discussions upon it, because it is a matter of vital importance to London.
§ MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)
I beg to move that the Debate be now adjourned.
Debate further adjourned till tomorrow.