HC Deb 04 April 1849 vol 104 cc308-12

The House went into Committee upon this Bill.


begged pardon of the House, if, in his ignorance of the proper form, he had left to that moment the explanation he felt bound to give in consequence of the number of suggestions that had been made to him upon the subject of this measure. He had been urged by all those hon. Gentlemen who had supported the second reading of the Bill, to go still further, and, instead of putting one-half only of the rates upon the owner of the property, to put the whole amount. Several other additions had been urged upon him, but he did not adopt them; because, in the first place, he did not think that he could carry them; and, in the next, he feared that he might lose his Bill altogether, if he attempted to introduce them. He would, however, throw out some suggestions for the consideration of the Government. The county rates were divisible under three heads. The first of these heads, concerning works of a national character, as the maintenance of prisoners, the transport of them, the cost of prosecution, and all matters connected with the criminal jurisdiction of the country, ought to be supplied at the expense of the Government: the second, which was of a permanent character, such as the cost of all buildings in the county for public purposes, ought to be defrayed by the owners of property; and the third to be borne by the occupiers, would be the cost for such smaller items as they received, and perceived the advantage of. Whether the Government would accede to the first part of his proposition, he did not know; but it was notorious that there was hardly a county in the country between which and the Government there was not a misunderstanding regarding the building of gaols and the regulations of prisons. He, therefore, thought it would be well that the Government should pay the whole of this charge. They could then regulate as they pleased, the magistrates having no right to interfere with them. He would thus strike off from the county rates the whole charge for the maintenance of prisoners before and after trial; the expenses of prosecutions, and the removal of convicts; the salaries of gaolers, and all the cost of prison jurisprudence. The greater part of these charges had been already taken in hand by the Government. He would recommend them to take the remainder. Then, with regard to the second item, he thought that whatever expenditure for public purposes in the county was of sufficient magnitude to require that the payment should be extended over several years, should be considered a fair burden upon the owners of property, and not upon the occupying tenant. The remaining charges would be only the salaries of the treasurer of the county, of the clerk of the peace, of the coroners, and one or two other small items, and they would fall lightly upon the occupiers. Now, whether these matters were to be considered by a Committee of the House, or by a number of county gentlemen themselves, he thought it would be well if all who were interested in the question, whether Members of the House or not, were to meet together and try to devise some mode, upon a clear and intelligible principle, whereby they could take upon their own shoulders some of those burdens that were found oppressive to their tenantry. The ratepayers would then see that the landlords were willing to do what lay in their power to lighten the burdens of the people. With regard to the suggestion that had been made to him, that the whole, instead of half, the rates should be paid by the owner, he did not object to its introduction, if it should be the feeling of the House. But, if there were any strong opposition to it, he should prefer adhering to his original proposition, and he trusted that the House would allow the Bill to pass in its present shape.


thought that the whole system of local taxation and expenditure was far from being in a satisfactory state, and that it required careful consideration with a view to its revision. The provisions of the Bill under consideration would operate unequally with regard to expense; and he thought the best and most satisfactory course would be to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, when the whole subject in connexion with local taxation could be considered, and the measure adapted to the circumstances of the case.


agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last that the county expenditure was in a most unsatisfactory state, and that the present system required alteration. He agreed with the principle of the measure of the hon. Member for North Wilts; but bethought that it should provide for the total relief of the rack-rent tenants from the expense in question, instead of half of it; and upon bringing up the report, he should divide the House upon the point. If the principle of relief was good in one case, it was good in the other. There were many evils connected with local taxation and expenditure; and, believing that this Bill would tend to rectify some of them, he thought that the details of it could best be considered by a Committee upstairs.


was of opinion that the whole subject should be dealt with at once, instead of piecemeal. He quite agreed that the best way of settling the question would be to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.


thought that much more ought to be done to improve the system of county rating and expenditure than was contemplated by this Bill. He approved, however, of the principle of the measure, and he hoped that it would be passed into a law. If it was just that the rack-rent tenants should be relieved from half of the expenses of the lunatic asylums, upon the same principle it was just that they should be relieved from the whole of them; and he, as a landlord, was quite ready to bear his share.


hoped the hon. Gentleman would proceed with his Bill. If he adopted the suggestions of the hon. Member for Montrose, and sent the Bill before a Select Committee, he might rest assured it would not pass this Session.


agreed with the hon. Member for Montrose that much advantage would be derived from the consideration of this question as a whole, with a view to some general supervision; and if the Bill he had introduced yesterday was sent to a Select Committee, an opportunity of considering the subject would thereby be afforded. From the recent changes that had taken place, it was necessary that an official control should be exercised, either by the Treasury or some other authority; and he believed the subject was under the consideration of the Government. As to the proposal which had been made, for including buildings not now named in the Bill, it was worthy of inquiry; and he would be glad to give every assistance in his power. He certainly should be sorry to see the Bill postponed, as it had a good practical object in view.


thought it would be scarcely fair to send this Bill before a Select Committee, where new matter might be introduced which would endanger its passing through the House.


objected to the charges being laid upon real property only, seeing that the objects for which they were made were for the benefit of all classes of the community.


said, the principle of the Bill was, that one half of the rates for lunatic asylums should be paid by the landlord, and the other half by the tenant; but this proposal was not approved by the House; the Bill therefore required to be rectified, and he thought the proposal of the hon. Member for Montrose a very reasonable one.


thought it somewhat strange that they should be asked to pass a Bill through Committee which did not contain the views of the hon. Gentleman who promoted it. The hon. Gentleman thought the whole charge should be placed upon the owners, but the Bill divided it between the owners and the tenant. Now, that difficulty might be got over if he allowed the Bill to go before a Select Committee.


thought the proposal to send the Bill before a Select Committee would have the effect of indefinitely postponing it; and all that could reasonably be asked of him was, that he should not press the Bill to a third reading till the Select Committee to be proposed by the hon. Member for Montrose had reported. He did not think that this Bill would at all interfere with the one brought forward by the hon. Member for Montrose, which no doubt related to the settlement of a great national question.


was quite ready to accept the suggestion now made by his hon. Friend, that the Bill should not be pressed through the remaining stages till after the Select Committee had reported. If, however, after the lapse of a certain time the Committee should have come to no conclusion, then he might be permitted to go on with the Bill.


explained that the object of his Bill was to equalise the assessment of the county rates, and to provide for the better management of the expenditure.

Several Amendments were then agreed to. Bill reported. Bill, as amended, to be considered on Wednesday, 25th April.