§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
My Lords, this is a very simple Bill for increasing the Police rate. As is stated in the Memorandum, the present amount of the Metropolitan Police rate is fixed by the Act of 1912 at 11d. in the £, of which 4d. is payable by the Exchequer Contribution Account. The increase is necessary in view of the amount of bonuses paid to the Police, amounting to 12s. a week, with 2s. 6d. for each child. During the present financial year the full amount of the remaining 7d. has been raised by the rate. The amount required for the coming financial year cannot be stated with absolute certainty, but it is estimated that a rate of 8d. will be required. If the men now serving with the Forces and those employed at the Admiralty and War Office should return to the Police force while the economic conditions are the same, and therefore still necessitating the war bonus, the sum required might be increased. It is therefore proposed to raise the limit of the rate from 11d. to 1s. 1d., but if the rate is to be raised beyond 1s. a Minute will be laid before Parliament giving the reasons. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Sandhurst.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, this is a Bill which is interesting from the point of view of the London County Council, and it is from that point of view that I desire to say a few words upon it. It is also of interest to many of your Lordships other than those who are now adorning these Benches, because the larger proportion of the members of this House are ratepayers in London, and the position of the Police rate and the relation to that rate of the Imperial contribution are facts which might, I think, have attracted a larger 1169 number than at this moment is to be found here.
The facts are these. The noble Viscount opposite has stated that, in lieu of an 11d. maximum, a 1s. 1d. maximum is now to be provided; and for 10d., which formerly was the limit which did not require a statement to be laid before Parliament, 1s is now substituted. My Lords, that is a considerable increase, and I may remind the House that the Police rate has been steadily rising for a number of years. In the year 1908–9 the Police rate was 6¾d. In 1912–13 it was 8¼ d. That increase was not regular or progressive because in one year it somewhat fell but the increase, although not regular by years, was substantial, over the term of years, as your Lordships see; or, to put the tiling in another way, the Police rate in ten years increased by 3¼ d., meaning an addition of £830,000 a year to the rates of which most of us pay our share a sum which will be increased to a considerable amount if the Bill of the noble Lord is carried. The Exchequer contributed about £110,000 a year of the increase. In the year 1908, with a sort of splendid gesture, the Government decided that it would pay £100,000 to the London Police in consideration of the Imperial character of that force. Lump grants of that kind sound very well, but of course their relative value greatly diminishes as the total charge continues to increase, and the general effect is that the London Police Force, over which the ratepayers have no control whatever, is paid for by the ratepayers to the extent of two-thirds. My Lords, that is a significant state of things.
We all know the arguments which have prevailed for making the Police force of London not a municipal but an Imperial force. It is generally assumed, where control is exercised, that at any rate a considerable part of the cost of the service is payable by those who have to exercise control. That salutary rule is entirely departed from in the instance of the London Police. A Departmental Committee on Local Taxation, which reported in 1914, recommended that one half of the cost of the London Police service should be borne by the Exchequer. That proposal was adopted by the Government, of which I was a member, and was inserted in the Finance Bill of 1914, which your Lordships will remember was afterwards withdrawn. If we had proceeded with that Bill, and it 1170 had been passed when the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer, half of the increased expenditure of late years would have been borne by Imperial funds, and the rate during the last few years, instead of being 8¼d., would have been just over 6d., with a saving of something like £600,000 a year to London.
I really do not know what case the Government can make out for imposing this new extra charge on the rates of London. It cannot be said that the extra payments of a war bonus, and so on, which add to the cost of Police, are in any sense due to municipal action, or to any increase in the cost of municipal services. They form, as I should have thought only natural, part of the burden placed upon the country generally by the war. The war allowances are only paid to the Metropolitan Police as to other public servants, and in considering how much of the share of the Police work is to be regarded as national and not merely local, I confess we should have thought and it is a grievance that is deeply felt by Londoners—that the Government might have done somewhat more towards meeting the large burdens placed upon us locally. The London rates, as your Lordships know, are no small matter, and an addition of this kind, which appears to us to be gratitutious, is deeply felt by those who speak for London on the County Council. I wish there was some possibility of the Government taking this case into consideration with a view to further action.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
I have just one or two words to say, in reply to the noble Marquess. I have followed his résumé with great interest and sympathy, because it so happens that, being a Londoner and my only place of residence being in London, I know something of the weight of the London rates. The noble Marquess will see in the Memorandum that the bonuses, which he mentioned, do account for a large, sum of money. I quite agree with what he said upon that. It is about £580,000 a year, or equal to a rate of 2½d. Whether, of course, that should be placed on the rates or should be a national burden is rather a larger question. But in regard to his hope that the Government would take into consideration the whole incidence of this taxation, may I point out that it was stated last night by the Secretary of State for the Home Department that he 1171 was willing to consider the matter in the future, but, of course, before the end of the war he was unable to take any practical steps.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.1172
§ Moved, That the House do adjourn, except for Judicial business, until Monday next.—(The Earl of Crawford.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at fifteen minutes before six o'clock.