§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Herbert Lewis)
The object of this Bill is to amend the law relating to the election of aldermen, and to bring the municipal corporations into harmony with that which applies to the election of aldermen in county councils and Metropolitan borough councils. Under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1882, aldermen, other than outgoing aldermen, are allowed to vote in the election of an alderman, but this practice does not apply in the case of the election of county aldermen or aldermen of Metropolitan borough councils. The Local Government Act of 1888 provides that a county alderman shall not, as such, vote in the election of a county alderman. The object of this provision was to secure that aldermen should be chosen only by directly elected representatives of county electors, that is, the county councillors. This step was taken by a Unionist Government with the full assent of both parties. The question came up again in the year 1899, after eleven years' experience of the working of the Local Government Act of 1888. The same rule is made applicable in the case of the election of aldermen of the Metropolitan borough councils, by Section 2 (4) of the Local Government Act, 1899. Here again I would remind the House that both parties were absolutely in agreement. This Bill provides that the aldermen of municipal boroughs shall not as such vote in the election of an alderman of a borough. The Bill also proposes to prohibit an outgoing alderman from voting as alderman in the election of a mayor, and in this respect also, the law is made uni- 1597 form with that appertaining to county councils and Metropolitan borough councils. I feel sure that the House will appreciate the very simple nature of the issues which lie before it, and will not expect me to enter at all elaborately into the reasons for the Bill. I think it is sufficient when it is seen that the present state of the law has resulted in giving to one political party in one town unchecked predominance for a long period, and to another political party in another town the same unrestricted dominion for an equally long period.
I think we shall all agree that that is not a healthy state of things. The House has twice, as I have reminded it, condemned its impropriety and given its assent in regard to the election of aldermen of county councils and Metropolitan borough councils that they shall be elected by the councillors of those councils alone. That is our system of conducting local government, and I believe the continuation of the present state of things is unsatisfactory. I believe it has had the effect of keeping off good men who otherwise would have been of great service to the community, and of preventing them from entering those councils. I hope the House will, without distinction of party, approve of this simple Bill, the only object of which is to bring the law in regard to municipal corporations in this respect into harmony with the law as it relates to the election of aldermen in county councils and in Metropolitan borough councils. I hope, in the interests of good local, self-government the House will assent to this small, moderate, and reasonable Bill.
§ Captain JESSEL
I well recollect, in 1899, the discussion in this House on the question of Metropolitan Borough Councillors. The system which was adopted in the Bill of 1899 has worked exceedingly well in London. The only question is whether under this Bill the aldermen in the municipal boroughs will be able, as they can in London, to vote at the election of the mayor. The hon. Gentleman stated the mayors would only be elected by the councillors.
§ Captain JESSEL
I must have misunderstood what the hon. Gentleman said. If the procedure is the same as in London I am sure it is a Bill with which we all agree. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the aldermen could not vote for the election of mayor.
§ Mr. J. SAMUEL
There is one important point which affects the municipalities. I believe in the Bill in its entirety, but it has one defect, and that is with regard to the election of mayor. The process hitherto has been, and will continue under Sub-section (2) of Section 60 of the Municipal Corporations Act, that the election of mayor must take place as first business of the council on 9th November. The second business is the election of sheriff. Under this Bill, if it becomes law, the outgoing aldermen will not be able to vote for a new mayor, and in some cases, since the aldermen generally represent one-fourth of the council, you might have a mayor elected by a minority of the council. I would suggest that Sub-section (2) of Section 60 of the principal Act should be repealed, so that the election of aldermen would be the first business. After that election of aldermen you would have your council complete Otherwise, as I say, there is a probability of a mayor being elected by a minority, because in some cases ten or seven or five aldermen would be deprived of the right to vote. I know that that does not occur in the election of chairman in the county councils, and I would suggest to the hon. Gentleman that between this and the Committee Stage that this point should be taken into consideration. On the principle of the Bill the change is important, and it is one that has my approval.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Joseph Pease.]
§ Adjourned accordingly at Eighteen minutes before Nine o'clock.