§ [SECOND READING.]
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(The Marquess of Lansdowne.)
§ THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, I do not think I can allow the Second Reading of this Bill to pass without repeating the opinion which, as your Lordships are probably aware, has been unanimously expressed by the County Councils Association — namely, that the charge for providing and equipping rifle ranges should not fall upon the it rates, but should be paid from the general revenues of the country. This is rather a difficult question to discuss in your Lordships' House, because there is some doubt whether a charge upon rates can properly be inserted in a Bill by your Lordships. All I wish to say on the present occasion is that I trust before the Bill goes into Committee the noble Marquess will be able to inform us what conclusion the Government have come to in respect to these charges. I may add that I do not think there will be any disagreement on the part of the county councils to defraying the cost of making the inquiries under this Bill, but I believe the noble Marquess will find that there will be almost unanimous opposition to any attempt to place on the rates any charge in connection with the provision and equipment of rifle ranges, which are matters connected with the defence of the country generally, and the cost of which should be defrayed out of the Imperial Exchequer.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I will enter into the subject more fully at a later stage, but I would point out that this Bill leaves an absolutely free hand to the local authorities. All it does is to 1434 render it possible for them, if they desire, to co-operate with Volunteer corps and the War Office for the purpose of providing rifle ranges and their necessary equipment. I read with much interest the resolution of the County Councils Association. I observe that the association approves generally of the Bill and of the power conferred to hire land for ranges; but it urges that the expense of providing and equipping ranges should be met by Parliament and not out of the rates. I gather, from what the noble Earl said, that the desire is that the rates should bear no part in providing the land on which the ranges are to be built.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I am glad to know that, because the wording of the resolution was a little ambiguous. I agree with the noble Earl as to the importance of securing the cooperation of these local bodies in acquiring sites whether the money is paid by the local authorities or not. The Government, as a rule, are not very successful buyers. It is very difficult for the representative of one of the Departments of the State to go into the local land market; and if we try to buy through the officer commanding in the district, we sometimes find that a great soldier and an excellent military administrator is likely to be defeated ingloriously by a solicitor in a country town.
§ On Question, agreed to.
§ Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday, the 21st June next.