HC Deb 12 June 1902 vol 109 cc565-71

As amended, considered.

(9.0.) MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)

moved to omit Clause 9. He said that under this clause the East bourne Corporation proposed to take from the Board of Guardians the right to collect the poor rates. That right they had enjoyed since 1837, and they were very much opposed to any alteration being made in this direction. Unfortunately the guardians did not appear by petition in opposition to this Bill when it was before the Committee. He confessed he raised the point at this stage of the proceedings with great reluctance, and he should not do so were it not for an important principle, as he thought, involved. The Board of Guardians were influenced, he might say, in abstaining from petitioning for two reasons. The first was because they received a circular from the Local Government Board stating that they had suggested to the Committee that the clause should be disallowed, and considering and hoping that the Committee would be advised by this suggestion, and having regard to the expense of petitioning against it, they abstained. But so strongly did they object to this clause that they had urged the Council of the Poor Law Associations of England and Wales to seek to save them from the imposition of this clause. The Council of the Poor Law Association had again and again discussed this question, and they were strongly opposed to any such alteration as was proposed. The Guardians felt that it was right they should retain in their hands the appointment of the men who collected the funds which they had to administer. He was aware that the Local Taxation Commission made some recommendation in the direction of the clause, but with references to that there was an instruction, at least a recommendation, from the Local Government Board placed before the Committee when dealing with this Bill, in which they said that the Royal Commission on Local Taxation had recommended that the collection of all rates in boroughs should be made by the Borough Councils, but the Board submitted that if the law in this respect was to be altered this should be done by a general measure, and not by local Acts as regarded each particular case. The Board of Guardians, of course, had the right to oppose the Bill in the House of Lords, and that they had unanimously resolved to do; but surely it was very undesirable that a public body should have to use the funds drawn from the rates in resisting on the part of another public body a proposal such as was contained in this clause. He ventured to express the hope that there would be such a co-operation of opposition on the part of that House against an important question of this kind being dealt with by a private Bill that an appeal to the House of Lords would be rendered unnecessary. By the transference of these powers from the Board of Guardians to the Borough Councils there would be no saving to the ratepayer. He hoped the House would see fit to eliminate this clause from the Bill.

Amendment proposed.

"To leave out Clause 9:—(Mr. Spear.")

Question proposed, "That Clause 9 stand part of the Bill."

MR. HOGG (Sussex, Eastbourne)

said he had listened with great interest to the arguments used by the Hon. Member for Tavistock in favour of the Amendment, but he was at a loss to understand how he could for a moment expect the House to reject his clause which had actually been passed in Committee. Why was not this question raised before the Committee? It appeared to him a matter of detail and not of principle, and he thought they had too frequently of late departed from the traditions of the House in matters of this sort. If the Committee, after due consideration, did not see fit that this Clause should be eliminated, why was not evidence brought before the Committee, so that they might hear both sides? The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down appeared to speak as Chairman of the Guardians' Association. He failed to see what he had to do with the Eastbourne Division. On their side they might have brought forward the Chairman of the Borough Councils. But that, in their view, was unnecessary. The House had always supported its Committees, and they looked to the House to support the Committee now. He would like to point out that a corresponding clause had been passed in Bills for Brighton, Hastings, Portsmouth, St. Helens, West Ham, Scarborough, York, and Hull. Not least they had the London Government Act of 1899, which give a similar power to that which was being asked for here. In addition to that, there was a poll on this Bill at Eastbourne, and the result was 4,700 of the ratepayers in favour of it to 2,000 against it. The collectors opposed it, he was told, but afterwards they agreed to it on certain conditions, which had been embraced in the Bill. He maintained that the cost of collection would be considerably less, because the same men who collected the district rates would collect the poor rates. He did not think there would be any difficulty as to payments, because everything would be done to meet the wishes of the ratepayers. In 1900 the Local Taxation Committee said that the collection of all rates and taxes in boroughs should be made by the Borough Council, and in urban districts by the Guardians. If the House departed from the old traditions of carrying out the decision of the Committee they would have had an absolute waste of time, and all their work would have been abortive. He begged to oppose the Amendment.

CAPTAIN NORTON (Newington, W.)

thought the House should support the Committee, because the Guardians who were now opposing this clause had ample opportunity of doing so before the Committee, and did not take advantage of it. It seemed to him that the opposition to the clause was an afterthought on the part of certain persons interested in the collection of rates, and he hoped the House would not consent to the rejection of the clause.

MR. J. W. WILSON (Worcestershire, N.)

, as a member of the Committee, could not agree with the argument that a small reform of this sort should wait until a public Act was passed. Where good cause was shown, and there was no strong local opposition to such a clause, it was the practice to grant it, more especially as this Clause coincided with the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation, and it was evidently in the interests of economy and good administration that the rates should be collected under one head. He believed it was a convenience to the public not to have several different collectors. He thought the Committee were fully justified in granting this Clause, as had been done in so many other cases, and he therefore supported their action.

SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, North wich)

said he believed he was correct in saying that every corporation which had asked for the right of collecting the poor rates had been granted the power. At St. Helens an annual saving of £800 had been effected. The Local Government Board was, it should be remembered, an overworked Department.


said it was stated in the circular of the promoters that this was necessary because the Local Government Board could not take away the power to appoint these collectors of poor rates when once it became vested in the guardians. That was not so. This matter opened out the question whether local authorities should be allowed to get, by private Bill, power which they could get under the general law if they showed good cause to a Government Department. He failed to find any reason for disagreeing with the usual course that the particular clause should not be granted. The clause, as he had shown, was hardly necessary, and it was a pity there should be a fight between the Board of Guardians and the Town Council, because whoever won the ratepayers had to pay the costs of both sides, and that ought to have been avoided. He pointed out that the collectors of poor rates were poor law officials. Whether they drew together two offices in one man or not, they might keep a distinction between the offices. The right way for the Eastbourne Corporation to have proceeded in this matter would have been not to have put their constituents to this expense, but to have gone to the Local Government Board and shown cause why they should have had transferred to them the right to collect the poor rates. He took three objections to the Bill. In the first place, it took from the Local Government Board its statutory discretion; it also promoted a Parliamentary contest which might be very expensive to the ratepayers; and it added a class of new officers of whom the law had no cognisance. He would feel it his duty to vote against the Clause.

MR. LUKE WHITE (Yorkshire, E. R., Buckrose)

said he hoped the House would not support the Amendment. The Committee on the Bill had followed a precedent which had been already sanctioned by the House, and no new principle was involved. In the case of Eastbourne, it was proved before the Committee that the Local Government Board had, by order, given the Borough Council the power to appoint overseers and assistant overseers, and the Committee considered they should go a step further and enable the Council to appoint collectors. A petition was presented against the Clause in the Bill as it originally stood, but the Borough Council altered the Clause so as to give proper compensation to officers. If the Clause were passed, the House would be following the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Board of Guardians was an authority extending over a much wider area than the borough of Eastbourne, and it was desirable, in the interests of local government,

that this power of appointing collectors of rates should be entrusted to the Borough Council.


said as they would have another opportunity of expressing an opinion, he asked leave to withdraw the Amendment.


No, No.


said he was a member of a Committee on a Bill containing a similar clause, but he did not remember a single case in which objection was taken from the point of view to which he understood objection was taken that night—that was the point of view of the Board of Guardians of Eastbourne. It did seem that the most satisfactory way would be to re-commit this Bill to the Committee, thus giving the Eastbourne Board of Guardians plenty of time to bring forward any objections they might urge against this particular Bill. There were very strong arguments against the Clause which he would like to have threshed out. His own opinion was that they only had objections from the general point of view, and not had any real discussion upon what he understood was the important question, that was whether the Board of Guardians should have the power of appointing overseers taken away from them, and whether it should be done by a private Bill and not by some public Act applicable to the whole administration of the country.

(9.35.) Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 150; Noes, 38, (Division List No. 222.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Bell, Richard Cogan, Denis J.
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Bigwood, James Coghill, Douglas Harry
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Boland, John Condon, Thomas Joseph
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Bond, Edward Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)
Allan, William (Gateshead) Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)
Ambrose, Robert Bull, William James Crean, Eugene
Anstruther, H. T. Bullard, Sir Harry Cripps, Charles Alfred
Arkwright, John Stanhope Caldwell, James Dalkeith, Earl of
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan
Arrol, Sir William Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire Delany, William
Bailey, James (Walworth) Cawley, Frederick Denny, Colonel
Barry, E, (Cork, S.) Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Dillon, John
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Channing, Francis Allston Donelan, Captain A.
Beach, Rt. Hn Sir Michael Hicks Charrington, Spencer Doogan, P. C.
Douglas, Et. Hon. A. Akers- Macdona, John Gumming Rigg, Richard
Elibank, Master of MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Esmonde, Sir Thomas MacVeagh, Jeremiah Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Roche, John
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward M'Crae, George Ropner, Colonel Robert
Ffrench, Peter M'Kean, John Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Fisher, William Hayes Middlemore, John Throgmort'n Sharpe, William Edward T.
FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Morgan, David J (Walthamst'w Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Flannery, Sir Fortescue Morrison, James Archibald Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Flower, Ernest Murphy, John Smith, Don. W. F. D. (Strand)
Flynn, James Christopher Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Spear, John Ward
Gilhooly, James Myers, William Henry Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Goddard, Daniel Ford Nannetti, Joseph P. Sullivan, Donal
Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)
Groves, James Grimble O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid Thompson, Dr EC (Monagh'n N.
Hammond, John O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Hayden, John Patrick O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Helder, Augustus O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Hickman, Sir Alfred O'Malley, William Webb, Colonel William George
Holland, William Henry O'Mara, James White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Horniman, Frederick John O'Shaughnessy, P. J. White, Patrick-(Meath, North)
Houston, Robert Paterson O'Shee, James John Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Howard, John (Kent, Faversh'm Partington, Oswald Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Jones, William (Carnarv'nshire Pemberton, John S. G. Wilson, Fred, W.('Norfolk, Mid)
Joyce, Michael Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.
Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.) Plummer, Walter R. Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Layland, Barratt, Francis Power, Patrick Joseph Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Leamy, Edmund Purvis, Robert Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.
Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington Randles, John S. Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Leigh, Sir Joseph Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Leng, Sir John Redmond, John E. (Waterford)
Levy, Maurice Redmond, William (Clare) TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Mr. Hogg and Captain Norton.
Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Reid, James, (Greenock)
Lonsdale, John Brownlee Renwick, George
Lundon, W. Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Banbury, Frederick George Heath, James (Staffords, N. W. Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)
Bignold, Arthur Henderson, Alexander Newdigate, Francis Alexander
Blundell, Colonel Henry Hudson, George Bickersteth Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.) Percy, Earl
Brassey, Albert Laurie, Lieut.-General Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Carlile, William Walter Lawson, John Grant Stone, Sir Benjamin
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Loyd, Archie Kirkman Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Macartney, Rt. Hn. W G Ellison Williams, Rt Hn J Powell-(Birm
Cranborne, Viscount Maclver, David (Liverpool) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinburgh W Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Finch, George II. M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)
Fison, Frederick William Manners, Lord Cecil TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Mr. Reddy and Mr. Thomas O'Donnell.
Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.
Gretton, John Morrell, George Herbert

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill to be read the third time.