§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he must move the postponement of this stage of the Bill. As he had suggested to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson) who had charge of the Bill upon a former evening, the assizes were now proceeding in many parts of England, and many Gentlemen who wished to take part in the discussion of this Bill were consequently now absent. Another ground for the postponement was, that in the course of the ensuing holidays, or immediately afterwards, the Courts of Quarter Sessions would be held in all parts of the country, and it was only right that they should have the opportunity (which he knew many of them desired) of discussing a Bill which so materially affected the magistracy of England. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, said, on a previous evening, that this was not a new Bill, and that therefore the country and the Courts of Quarter Sessions must have made up their minds upon the subject, But he begged to deny that the present Bill was the one which emanated from the Select Committee of two years ago. This present Bill had never been before the Courts of Quarter Sessions at all. The right hon. Gentleman had also alleged the present advanced period of the Session as a reason for not agreeing to postpone the committal of the Bill until after Easter; but it certainly was his own fault that the Bill was not introduced earlier 259 in the Session, and was not now further advanced. He appealed, not only to the right hon. Member for Manchester, but to the justice of the Government, to support him in the object he had in view, namely, that this measure should not be forced on until the magistrates at Quarter Sessions had an opportunity of giving their opinion upon it. He had no wish to throw any obstacle in the way of the Bill; but as the Government appeared seriously to entertain the intention of passing the Bill as it stood, a great deal of dissatisfaction would be felt by the magistracy if, without any charge or accusation against them, they were to be deprived of the power of conducting the pecuniary affairs of the counties in which they lived, and in which they were deeply interested. He had moved for certain Returns to show the practical effect of this measure, and he wished to see those Returns before going into Committee on the Bill.
To leave out from the word 'that' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'this House will, upon Wednesday, the 13th day of April next, resolve itself into the said Committee,' instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he regretted it was not in his power to accede to the right hon. Baronet's request. It might be proper to postpone the committal of the Bill, if there were any absence of information on the subject, or if any party interested was about to be taken by surprise; but there was no reason for supposing that the magistrates were not fully informed of the whole scope and bearing of the measure; and certainly no one understood it better than the right hon. Gentleman himself, who was a Member of the Committee to which the Bill had been referred, and had gone through it clause by clause, and than whom there was no person to whom the Quarter Sessions Justices (as they well knew) could more safely entrust their interests. That the subject had been brought under the consideration of the Justices, there could be no doubt; for he found in the account of the expenditure for the County Palatine of Lancaster a charge of 22l. 6s. for the expenses of a deputation appointed for the purpose of watching the progress of the County Rates and Expenditure Bill in Parliament. This was in May, 1850, and again in the 260 accounts of 1851 he found a charge for the same purpose of 51l. 7s. 6d. As he should be extremely sorry if the ratepayers were put to any further expense on this account, he hoped the right hon. Baronet would not persist in a course which, if successful, must have the effect of throwing the Bill over to another Session. With regard to the information the right hon. Baronet sought in the Returns for which he had moved, he was glad to be able to inform him that that information was already on the table; there was, therefore, no ground for delay.
§ MR. ROBERT PALMER
said, he had always supported the principle of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. Gibson), however, must recollect that this Bill involved a very material alteration from the Bill of the Committee of 1851—namely, as to the principle of the mode of constructing the Boards which he proposed to name. Now, there were no less than three or four amendments proposed on that part of the Bill; and he, therefore, warned him that if he went into Committee to-day, that he would not be able to carry the first clause of the Bill. His (Mr. Palmer's) impression was, that it would be in reality gaining rather than losing time, to consent to the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I wish to state my opinion with respect to this proposal of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Pakington). If the measure under consideration were an entirely new one, or if we were at the third reading of the Bill, I certainly should be disposed to acquiesce in the proposal of the right hon. Baronet. If it were a new measure, I hold that it would be right to take time for further consideration; and if it were the last stage of the Bill in its progress through the House, there might be, I repeat, some reason for now postponing it. But the principle involved in the measure has been under the consideration of the country for several years past; and what we are going to do is not finally to pass the Bill, but to go into Committee in order to discuss the various alterations and modifications which different hon. Members have given notice that it is their intention to 261 propose; and, therefore, in the very spirit of the argument used by the right hon. Baronet, I think that the House ought to go into Committee, for, until it has come to a decision on the various proposals which are to be made with respect to changes in the Bill, the country cannot know what the measure really is. I say, for the purpose which the right hon. Baronet has in view, namely, of enabling the magistrates and ratepayers to know what is the measure which it is proposed to pass into law, we ought to-day to go into Committee in order to decide in what shape the Bill is to be proposed for the third reading.
MR. BECKETT DENISON
said, he believed, if the Committee were postponed until after Easter, the parties interested in this subject would more thoroughly understand the measure than they did at present. He had always been in favour of the principle of the Bill; but if the right hon. Gentleman made the concession which was now asked, he thought that its progress would be much more rapid than if it were now forced upon an unwilling House.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he could not understand why a further postponement of this measure was required; for he saw opposite most of the Gentlemen who had taken an active part in the consideration of the details of the Bill before the Select Committee. The other night between 300 or 400 Members took part in an important division, and be believed a similarly large attendance of hon. Gentlemen might be expected on Friday night; he therefore really did not see how a fuller attendance could be expected on the 13th of April.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he objected to further postponement. The present Bill was in all its material details the same as that which came out of the Select Committee of 1851, and with which the country was well acquainted. The alteration in the first clause might be said in some degree to affect the principle, but that the House had decided on the second reading. The effect of delaying the Bill till after Easter, would, in all probability, be to throw it over for the Session.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, he thought that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) ought to have an opportunity of learning what were the feelings of the magistrates before this Bill passed into a law. If it should pass, he could only say that the noble Viscount would have to provide for the administration of criminal justice in the county with which he (Mr. Freshfield) was connected—the county of Surrey. He believed that the establishment of such Boards as were proposed would materially interfere with the administration of justice.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he probably knew as much about the administration of justice in the county of Surrey as the hon. Gentleman that had just sat down. It appeared to him that if the Bill was to go before magistrates at Quarter Sessions, it was of advantage that it should go in a more advanced stage, so that they might see what shape it was likely to assume. He thought that hunting had as much to do as the Assizes with the absence of many hon. Members.
§ MR. WALTER
said, although his expectations of the benefit likely to result from the measure might not be as sanguine as those entertained by other hon. Members, he believed that if it should fail to accomplish a great amount of good, it would, at least, do little harm. The House, he trusted, would now go into Committee, in which hon. Members would have an opportunity of improving the Bill. He had given notice of an Amendment which, to a certain extent, was calculated to meet the views of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). The right hon. Baronet objected to the Bill because it would have the effect of withdrawing many magistrates from the administration of the county business. To obviate this inconvenience, he (Mr. Walter) proposed that the existing number of magistrates should be doubled. In conclusion, he again called upon the House to go into Committee.
said, he should like very much to know under what Act of Parliament the expenses of those deputations from Lancashire, which the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) had spoken of, were allowed? It was perfectly well known that there were several clauses added to the Bill by the Government, many of which had never before appeared in any Bill. And to two of these clauses he would beg to draw the attention of the House. Hon. Members would re- 263 member that there was a very much vexed question in counties relative to the adoption of a rural police, some counties wishing for its adoption, others still preferring to go upon the old system of parish constables. But by the Bill now before the House, the Home Secretary wished to withdraw the control of the police from the magistrates, who were, it must be allowed, the fittest persons to decide whether the existing police was efficient or not; in fact, he would give the county board the initiative altogether in the establishment of such a force. Now, he considered that a totally novel principle—one upon which time ought to be allowed for consideration. He really could not imagine, after all, what financial power these county boards would have, for very little of the expenditure would be within their control. He thought, therefore, the Government—for he considered it their Bill —should allow the Bill to go before the magistrates of Quarter Sessions before it was further proceeded with.
§ MR. EVELYN DENISON
said, he must appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to allow the Bill to go into Committee. They had already consumed— he had almost said wasted—more than an hour in the discussion as to whether they were to consider the Bill or not. He thought as regarded tactics, the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) was pursuing a very bad course. He was free to confess that the Bill required many emendations, but he trusted hon. Gentlemen would allow them to go into Committee at once.
§ SIR JOHN DUCKWORTH
said, he would suggest that the Amendment should not be pressed. The preliminary question had been sufficiently discussed, and the only way by which they could test the merits of the Bill was by going into the details. If the right hon. Baronet divided, he should feel it his duty to vote for going into Committee.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that although this Bill was confined to England and Wales, Irish counties were, perhaps, even more interested in supporting its leading principle, which was "to establish county financial boards for assessing county rates and for administering county expenditure." He would urge on the opponents of this Bill to allow it to go at once into Committee, where there could be a full discussion of all its details. Near two hours had now been consumed by English Members in urging the great in- 264 convenience of having an English measure discussed between the hours of twelve and two o'clock in the daytime; but when Irish Members object to the introduction of an Irish Bill between the same hours in the night-time, it is sometimes suggested that they are merely occupied in unduly obstructing its progress. Now, he did not mean to insinuate that the present opposition to going into Committee on this Bill was influenced by any such motive; but he would take the opportunity to suggest that upon future occasions Irish Members should receive the same indulgence he was now prepared to extend to English representatives. He had stated that Ireland was deeply interested in establishing the principle of this Bill. From a statistical paper, which had been circulated amongst Members of this House, it appeared that the county rates of Lancashire had increased from 79,986l. in 1835, up to 111,714l. in 1845; and that the county rates of England and Wales were, in 1835, 693,747l., and in 1852, 1,355,645l. Now, the county rates of Ireland were 936,137l., in 1835, and had increased in 1845 to 1,149,923, independent of about 600,000l. for the Irish police force, who were now paid out of the Consolidated Fund. In two localities with which he was connected, the county rates had been enormously increased, partly in consequence of the absence of any sufficient control or supervision over the expenditure. In the county of Tipperary, the county rates amounted, in 1775, to 7,366l.; in 1795, to 20,204l.; in 1815, to 40,785l.; in 1835, to 57,795l.; and 1845, to 82,436l. The county rates for the county and the county of the city of Cork had increased in a similar proportion. They were 9,730l. in 1775; but had increased up to 118,544l. in 1845, independent of the expenses of the county police force. These figures did not include the charges for poor-rate. He would not detain the House with any further statements to illustrate the importance of establishing the principle of this measure, with the view to its future extension to Ireland.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the Bill now before the House was wholly and entirely different from that originally proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) as it also totally differed from the Bill of the Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman, instead of endeavouring to follow the recommendations of the Select Committee, brought in a Bill in the last Session of Parliament of a totally different 265 character. In fact, the consideration of county magistrates could not be given to the subject until the Bill was put into some sort of shape that would evidence a likelihood of its becoming law. Now, he would put it to the Government and to the right hon. Gentleman, whether it was fair to introduce clauses, inconsiderable neither as to their number or to the principle they involved, at so short a notice as ten, or at most fourteen, days? In point of fact, the Bill was an entirely new Bill, and as yet the county magistracy had had no opportunity of coming together to ascertain their individual opinions respecting it. It was, however, still more important that in transferring power into the hands of these new corporations, care should be taken that very material matters might not be let drop between two stools; for he himself had detected in the Bill before the House the absence of many very essential provisions. The Bill should be submitted to the magistrates at Quarter Sessions, and to the clerks of the peace, in order that they should have an opportunity of bringing the objectionable parts under the notice of their representatives.
said, it was not exactly the fact that a number of clauses introduced into the Bill had been originated by the Government. The Bill as presented to the House differed considerably from that recommended by the Committee of 1851. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) having looked at the two measures, preferred the Bill as it came out of the Committee, and consequently the Government informed the right hon. Member for Manchester that they could not consent to the Bill unless it was made like that of 1851. He believed that now the sole difference between the two Bills consisted of the manner in which the Board was to be elected by the Boards of Guardians, and there was already an Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir G. Grey) with regard to that proposition.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, in deference to what appeared the wish of the majority, he should not persist in his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ House in Committee. Clause 1 (County Financial Boards to be constituted).
§ MR. HENLEY
said, the step he was about to take was a practical proof of the inconvenience of proceeding with the Bill under existing circumstances. He was re- 266 quested to move an Amendment applicable to a county with which he had no connexion, in consequence of the unavoidable absence of the Members for West Sussex. In the absence of the noble Lord (the Earl of March), he proposed, after the words "county of Lincoln," to insert "and the western division and the eastern division of the county of Sussex." Although the county of Sussex was under one commission of the peace, for all practical purposes it was divided into two divisions. It had two quarter-sessions—it had separate county rates. The object of the Amendment was to have two financial boards—one for the eastern division, the other for the western division of the county of Sussex—instead of one, as proposed by the Bill. If the clause, as originally framed, were passed, it would have the effect of breaking down altogether the existing system of things in the county of Sussex.
§ Amendment proposed, in p. 1, line 19, after the words "County of Lincoln," to insert the words "and the Western division and Eastern division of the County of Sussex."
§ MR. BAINES
said, he apprehended that this Amendment could not be introduced without a great number of other Amendments to meet the case of other counties. The principle of the Bill was, that there should be a County Financial Board for every jurisdiction which was under one and the same commission of the peace. Each of the three Ridings of Yorkshire had its separate commission of the peace, as had likewise each of the two divisions of Lincolnshire, and there were to be therefore separate Boards for each of them. With regard to the county of Lancaster, for example, there was one commission of the peace for the whole county, but the sessions were held at different parts of it. In Suffolk the practice was the same. In fact, the divisions in question were merely conventional, and rested on no legal foundation whatever.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he could not see that any useful object would be gamed by assenting to the Amendment. He did not think that, as regarded the interests of the county itself, the present divisions of the country worked beneficially. It was, in his opinion, better those divisions were abolished.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, in reference to Suffolk there was a greater difficulty than the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) appeared to be aware of. There 267 was in that county two divisions, and no rate could be made in the county but what was called a divisional rate.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, that the circumstances of the two divisions of the county of Sussex were as different as possible. In the eastern division of the county there was a constabulary, which they had not in the western division. Although the magistrates could act in both divisions, yet the circumstances of one were totally at variance with those of the other. If the clause as proposed were adopted, it would have the effect of throwing into confusion the existing order of things both in Sussex and Suffolk.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he thought more confusion would arise from the adoption of the Amendment than could possibly result from its not being adopted. The divisions of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire had been quoted in support of the Amendment; but it should be recollected that those divisions were of such antiquity as to give them the right of prescription, and they had been repeatedly recognised in Acts of Parliament. Therefore, When they spoke of the divisions of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, they spoke of limitations which were well known and established. But, in the county of Sussex, the division was the result of a merely conventional arrangement, which might be changed to-morrow or next day. In the one case, the divisions were as well known as separate counties; in the other, the division had been made for the convenience of magistrates and individuals, and there was no legal or authentic record of such division. He thought they would get into great confusion if the Amendment was adopted.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, the Members for the western division of the county of Sussex were now absent, attending the assizes, and he could not of course speak with the local knowledge which they possessed; at the same time, he believed what the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had termed a conventional division of the county had been productive of great local advantage; and it was plain that the first clause of the Bill would quite upset this arrangement. The rates in the eastern and western divisions of Sussex were now quite different; but under the operation of this Bill there could be but one common financial Board, which would make rates for the whole county, and this would cause much inconvenience.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he would suggest the postponement of the Amendment until the hon. Members for Sussex were present. The whole subject regarding those divisions were fully considered by the Committee of 1851, and the divisions of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire recognised as separate counties. But that Committee, it was plain, did not consider Sussex so, although they had all the details before them.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, this was a fair specimen of the kind of legislation which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. Gibson) proposed to deal out to the counties of England. The right hon. Gentleman asked the House to go into Committee: the House had gone into Committee, and they were no sooner in Committee than the right hon. Gentleman asked them to postpone the very first clause of this Bill. [Mr. M. GIBSON: I did nothing of the kind.]—Yes, in substance, the right hon. Gentleman did. The right hon. Gentleman, backed by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Home Department, commenced an extraordinary legislative crusade upon the counties of England, but had scarcely commenced when he showed the most absolute ignorance of local details. Yet the right bon. Gentleman persevered in asking the House to pass a measure which would effect radical changes, and be productive of great inconvenience in many English counties, where arrangements incompatible with the provisions of the present Bill had long existed, and been productive of great convenience and advantage.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he apprehended that the postponement of the Amendment and the postponement of the clause were in effect the same thing.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he had not suggested the postponement of the clause, and besides that, he had heard no reasons advanced in support of the Amendment.
said, it was difficult to deal with such matters, except they were in the possession of accurate local knowledge. He would not pretend to any personal knowledge of the county of Sussex, but he held in his hand an official document—namely, the county treasurer's account of East and West Sussex. That document certainly confirmed the view taken by his 269 right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley), for he there found not only that Sussex was recognised in two separate and distinct divisions, but that there were separate and distinct, and altogether different, amounts of rating in each division, and that the salaries for each division to the treasurer were different. In the eastern division the rating was 4½d.—in the western 1½d.; the salary of the county treasurer in one division was 125l., in the other 40l. This showed that the financial arrangements of the western and eastern divisions of the county of Sussex were wholly different. Upon this ground he agreed with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) and should support the Amendment. He might also observe that, in Suffolk also, the amount of rating was different in the four divisions of that county. In one division the rating was 3½d., in another 7¼d., in another 4d., and in another 6d., and the county treasurer's salary was differently apportioned in each. He would ask if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) meant to persevere at present, when such difficulties beset him in the very first clause —difficulties which arose out of local circumstances with which he did not appear to be in the least conversant. Surely the further progress of the Bill ought to be postponed until the right hon. Gentleman had made himself a little more acquainted with details, without a knowledge of which legislation might be productive of the greatest inconvenience and perplexity.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, the only argument that had been raised for postponing the Bill in consequence of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) was this —that a Member had proposed an Amendment, and frankly confessed that he did not know the reasons on which that Amendment was recommended, and on that ground the right hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) was asked to postpone the further consideration of the Bill. That was the most extraordinary argument he ever heard. It was the duty of those who proposed an Amendment to give reasons for its adoption, but he never before heard the House called on to postpone a Bill because a Member could give no reasons for an Amendment.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, the noble Lord had exactly reversed the state of the case. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Henley) proposed an Amendment, and gave his reasons; and the right hon. Member 270 for Manchester replied he did not like the Amendment, but did not know why it should be resisted.
§ MR. BARROW
said, those who supported this Amendment seemed to go on the assumption that the magistrates acted duly on their commissions. If they did so, by what authority did the magistrates of Sussex make more than one county rate? If they had only one commission, on what ground did they divide the county, and make two rates? He presumed that the different rates must be caused by the one division having police, and not the other.
§ MR. ROBERT PALMER
said, he was a Member of the Committee of 1851, to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) alluded, and, in reply to his observation, begged to state that, so far as he knew, the question of the divisions of Sussex was never started before that Committee. He believed there was, unfortunately, great want of unanimity amongst the magistracy of Sussex, so that the orders made at one sessions were often superseded at another. Surely it was a matter of moment to determine, before they adopted the clause, whether the circumstances of the county of Sussex were such as to require what that county now possessed, namely, two separate financial boards. He would advise a postponement of the clause.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, the case of the divisions of Sussex and the Ridings of Yorkshire were wholly different, for in the latter case there were separate Lords Lieutenant, and not in the former. The divisions in the ratings, alluded to by the hon. Member for East Somersetshire (Mr. Miles), were occasioned by there being a police rate, in one division of the county, and not in another. Though the salaries of the treasurer were different in the two divisions, the same person acted for both. He thought one financial board for the whole county would tend more to its interests than the present arrangement
§ MR. HENLEY
said, that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), in his usual facetious manner, had taken the liberty of putting words into his mouth which he had never used. He was prepared with his roasons when he moved his Amendment, and he stated that the effect of adopting this clause as it stood would be to break down the existing arrangements in the county. He would now suggest the postponement of the clause, as being 271 a much more rational course than the postponement of the Amendment.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, in reply to a question asked by the hon. Member for South Nottinghamshire (Mr. Barrow), he would refer him to a clause in the Act of last Session, which was passed to meet the case of Sussex, and which provided for the levying of rates for the several divisions of the county.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, the reason which influenced the Committee in recognising the divisions of Yorkshire and Lincoln, and in treating them differently to the counties of Sussex and Suffolk was, that the divisions of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire were recognised either by Act of Parliament or prescription; whereas in the cases of Sussex and Suffolk the arrangements as to these divisions were merely conventional, and for general convenience. He should have no hesitation whatever in voting against the Amendment.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, he could see no injustice in deferring the consideration of the Amendment until another stage of the Bill. The object of that Amendment being to place the divisions of Sussex in the same position as counties, if it were not possible at a future stage to remedy the inconvenience complained of, then there would be good reason for postponing the clause; but he believed that any such injustice could be remedied hereafter.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he merely wished to say he could discover no argument that had been urged against the Amendment, except that nobody knew why it should be adopted. He presumed however, that the Members for Sussex did know why it should be adopted. It was considered the arrangement which that county had sanctioned was an advantageous one; and when a new arrangement was proposed for Sussex as well as other counties, surely that House was not authorised to neglect the representations which through their Members that county had laid before it.
§ MR. FREWEN
said, there were several 272 counties precisely in the same circumstances with regard to divisions as Sussex. In the case of Suffolk there was one commission of the peace, and the county was divided into four districts, in each of which there was a distinct county rate and expenditure. Lincolnshire had three commissions of the peace, and four divisions, with a distinct county rate and expenditure. And Notinghamshire was another case where these divisions existed. For his own part he confessed he had paid very little attention to the Bill, thinking that it was a matter which had been taken up by the Government, and that they, being well acquainted with the circumstances, would have framed the clauses accordingly.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, he hoped that no exception would be made with respect to his county (Sussex), as it would not be advantageous to it.
§ MR. BAINES
said, that according to his recollection, the question was most distinctly brought under the notice of the Committee upstairs, and the principle laid down was, that wherever a separate commission of the peace existed, there should be a provision made for a separate county financial board. There was a clause in the Bill which would remove some of the difficulties alluded to by the hon. Member for East Somersetshire (Mr. Miles), in respect to such counties as Suffolk and Sussex, where arrangements were in existence by which a larger county rate was levied in one division than another. The 52nd section of the Bill provided that whatever legal powers, with respect to finances, were now possessed by magistrates, should be transferred to the County Financial Board. If any illegal practices had sprung up, of course they would not be transferred, but they would be put an end to at once. The 52nd section enacted that all the powers and duties now devolving upon the justices in respect to the making, assessing, and levying, of county rates, should be transferred exactly as they stood, to the County Financial Board.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, as he understood it, the existing divisions, whether legal or illegal, were to be broken down; the consequence of which would be, if the clause were agreed to in its present state, that if the larger portion of the county, now bearing the greater portion of the expenses were thus allowed the chance, it would, as soon as by this Bill it had the power, immediately incorporate the smaller body, which it would make pay an equal shareof 273 the expenses with itself. He doubted whether that arrangement would be just; but, whether just or unjust, there was no doubt it would be the effect of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 142: Majority 72.
§ Clause agreed to; as was also Clause 2.
§ Clause 3, which excepted from the operation of the Act certain cities and towns, they being counties themselves—namely, Bristol, Canterbury, Chester, Exeter, Gloucester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Norwich, Worcester, York, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, Hull, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Poole (Dorset-shire), Southampton, Berwick-on-Tweed, and the City of London.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he should like to know why these places were exempted from the operation of the Act.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that these places already enjoyed representative administration of their finances; as, being towns as well as counties, they were under the operation of the Municipal Reform Act.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, he could not imagine why those places should not have the benefit of this new measure.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he could only repeat that these places bad already the representative system in operation, under the Municipal Reform Act, and the object of the Bill was simply to extend that principle to counties where, at present, it was unknown.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, that the town of Birmingham was part of the county of Warwick, although separated from it under an Act of Parliament for certain purposes; but it paid its quota to the county rate out of the borough fund. The expenditure of the borough was controlled by the council and corporation, and he should be glad to know whether Birmingham would be affected by this Bill?
§ MR. BAINES
replied, that all the excepted towns were within the purview of the Corporation Act; and, if they were not excepted, they might, being also counties, have been held to be within the provisions of this Bill. There was nothing in the Bill which would affect Birmingham as to its relations with the county of Warwick.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clause 4, defining the constitution of the County Financial Boards,
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he must ask whether the Committee really 274 thought they were in a position to proceed with this clause of the Bill? They had already agreed to three clauses, and they had now arrived at the most important of all that the Bill contained. The first Amendment on the paper was that which he (Sir J. Pakington) had given notice of, and which went to this point, whether they were to deprive the magistracy of England of the powers and functions they now exercised in the expenditure of those rates to which they themselves were the largest contributors, or whether they were to limit the management of the county rates to a very small board, in number only twice as great as the number of Unions within the county, and only one-half of which board might consist of magistrates? He appealed to the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) and the Committee if it would be fair—he might even say decent—to proceed further with a clause which was to arrange the constitution of the new Board, and went to deprive—what should he say, without the returns before him he could not say precisely—but he believed he might say nine-tenths of the gentry of England of the powers they now exercised, and this at a moment when a considerable number of those Gentlemen, having seats in that House, were occupied in the discharge of important duties, which prevented their attendance here, whilst in several cases the Courts of Quarter Sessions had signified their desire to be allowed time to consider the provisions of the Bill before its further progress. Fairer or more reasonable grounds for delay than these he could not imagine; and so strong was his opinion upon the subject, that, in the present state of the Committee he should not even introduce his Amendment. Indeed, so convinced had he been that his appeal would be successful, and that further progress with the Bill would be postponed until after the Quarter Sessions, that he had not requested a single Gentleman to attend in his place to-day, nor taken any of the means which were usually resorted to on each side of the House to ensure a full attendance of Members. Moreover, he believed that many hon. Members were absent under the impression that the discussion on the Bill would not have come on so soon. He had but one opinion as to the excessive injustice of depriving those Gentlemen of the functions they now exercised. He was ready to admit a due representation of the smaller owners and ratepayers who were 275 not at present represented in the existing Courts; but he would resist, in every manner the forms of the House allowed him, the unfairness—even upon the principle of the promoters of the Bill themselves—of narrowing existing rights and restricting the qualification for sitting on the new Boards in the mode proposed by the Bill. He would not, however, enter into the arguments pro or con, as regarded this question. The Committee could not fail to see the importance of the circumstances he had mentioned; and he hoped they would feel that they ought not to proceed to discuss this important question until every Member of the Houser who was connected with the management of county affairs had an opportunity of being present, and they had clearly ascertained what were the views of the Quarter Sessions with regard to this provision of the Bill. Under these circumstances, and not with any hostile intentions, he felt called upon, in order to show his sense of the impropriety of now proceeding with this important clause, to move that the Chairman report progress; and he hoped the Government and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) would admit that the proposition was a fair one.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he must assert that the course pursued by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Pakington) was a "vexatious mode"—he "would not use a stronger term"—of endeavouring to defeat the measure by delay, the principle of the Bill having already received the sanction of the House.
§ MR. ROBERT PALMER
[pointing to time clock], said, the circumstances were very different at four o'clock from what they would have been had it been an earlier hour. But he understood his right hon. Friend was not going to put the Committee to a division upon the subject; and for his (Mr. Palmer's) part, he had no objection to sit there for an hour or two to hear what could be said further in behalf of the new financial boards.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought it would be more conducive to the progress of the Bill if the proposition of his right hon. Friend had been adopted, inasmuch as there were several amendments to be proposed to the clause now before the Committee.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, he would not press his Motion for reporting progress. He regretted to perceive the spirit in which those Gentlemen were met, who, from various considerations, could not give their 276 assent to this measure. For his own part, he really believed the Bill to be founded, in spirit and principle, upon the democratic principle, and he was exceedingly sorry to see the Government, from whatever cause, yielding to such influence. The clause now under consideration related to the constitution of the County Financial Board. It provided that that Board should consist of the several persons elected in the manner stated by the Boards of Guardians. Now he proposed by his Amendment to introduce, before the words describing these parties, the words "the justices duly qualified to act in such county, together with" the parties to be elected under the Bill. He left the Committee to decide in what manner the connexion should be made. All he could say was, that his object was to secure that the existing justices, who were duly qualified, should not be deprived of the functions they had hitherto discharged with so much advantage to the country. The only ground upon which the Bill could be vindicated, setting aside indirect motives, was the fact that in every county there was a certain class of small proprietors paying a portion of the county rate, though a very small portion, who were not usually appointed to stand in the position of magistrates, and who, therefore, had no voice in the expenditure of the county rate. But the Gentlemen who were usually in the commission were large ratepayers; and the amount of their payments being great, was it just to deprive them, the great body of landowners, of that control over their affairs which they had hitherto exercised to the great benefit of the public, and in a manner not open to objection? He trusted the noble Lord the Home Secretary (Viscount Palmerston) would give the result of his experience at Quarter Sessions in Hampshire, by stating whether the Gentlemen of that county who administered its financial business were open to the charge of extravagance, or any other allegations which could justify him in depriving them of the control over their own money. But, he contended, that if the clause was carried in the shape it now stood, without the addition of the words proposed by the Amendment, it would contravene the very principle upon which its supporters relied. That principle was that those who paid the rates ought to have control over their expenditure. Then, how could the supporters of the Bill justify the disfranchisement of the immense numbers of ratepayers which would be the inevitable 277 effect of the measure? A Return had been put into his hands by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) bearing on this question, showing the number of magistrates in each county, and the number qualified to act. This return was to some extent defective and unsatisfactory, inasmuch as in some counties it gave the whole number of magistrates, including Peers and Privy Councillors, whilst in others Peers and Privy Councillors were excluded. From this return he found that there were 715 magistrates in Lancashire, of whom 450 were qualified to act. It followed then that the financial business of the county of Lancaster was transacted by 450 gentlemen; but what would be the case under the Bill? The Bill provided that a minimum of one member, or a maximum of two, might be returned to the financial board to transact the financial business of the county. Now, there were twenty-nine Unions in Lancashire; so that if the minimum number of members were elected, there would be twenty-nine, and if the maximum, fifty-eight, gentlemen returned to discharge those duties which were now performed by 450. The Committee would perceive that in this case the difference was very considerable. Take next the case of the county of Oxford. In that county there were 161 magistrates, of whom 104 were qualified to act. There were eight Poor Law Unions in that county. The difference under the Bill, then, would be, that that which was now done by 104 persons would be done by eight, or, at the most, by sixteen persons. He would next take the noble Lord's (Viscount Palmerston's) own county—the county of Hants. In that county there were 320 magistrates, of whom 224 were qualified to act. There were twenty-eight Poor Law Unions; so that, instead of having the county business done by 224 acting Magistrates, it would be done by a board of twenty-eight persons, or, assuming a possible maximum, by fifty-six. He would only take another case—that of his own county, the county of Worcester. According to the Return, there were 583 magistrates in that county, of whom 258 were qualified to act. He thought, from his knowledge of the county, that these numbers were exaggerated; and he believed that 170 was the outside of the number who had qualified. However, he would assume the Return to be correct. Now, there were only twelve Unions in 278 that county; so that, instead of 250 magistrates, the financial board would be reduced to twelve persons, or at the very most to twenty-four. He thought these figures alone, without going through the entire list, would show that such a change as that contemplated by the Bill was inexpedient and unjust. But he could further appeal to actual experience for the useful results of the present system. He appealed to his friends, whether upon the Treasury bench or otherwise, who had attended at Quarter Sessions when finance business was transacted, whether the attendance on those occasions was not always far beyond the maximum which could be obtained under this Bill? He would also appeal to them, whether such business was not always transacted with the greatest strictness and economy, and with the most just regard to the interests of all classes of ratepayers? He would further ask, what was the practice in any case of an extraordinary nature when it was proposed to incur some unusual expense? In the county of Worcester, at the sessions for which he had had the honour of presiding for a number of years, there had been, during his term of office, many important questions decided. One had been upon the important subject of adopting the Constabulary Act; another the mode of proceeding with regard to lunatic asylums; and another related to the alteration and enlargement of the county gaols. On each of these occasions there was a large assemblage of magistrates, and they discussed the questions as matters in which all classes of ratepayers were interested; they decided them by divisions, and on each occasion there was, even in the minorities, double the number of persons there could be under the maximums of this Bill. Under such circumstances, he could not believe, until he heard it from their own lips, that the promoters of this measure would depart from their own principles, in order to commit an act of injustice; still less could he believe that the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston) was prepared to deprive the gentry of England of those functions which they had hitherto so well discharged. Let the Committee consent that representatives of the ratepayers should be elected if they thought fit; and in fact he saw no reason whatever why one or two ratepayers from each Union should not join the Justices upon the Bench upon financial questions. Let them have a voice in the expenditure of the money, to which 279 he admitted they contributed in a minor degree. To that he had no objection, for he had no doubt that Unions would elect very respectable representatives. It might be said, if his suggestion were adopted, and the rights of magistrates were reserved, that the proportion of the elected members would be too small to do justice to the ratepayers. But he hoped he should not be met on this occasion by such an argument; for he really thought there was no force in it. A Board constituted as he desired would have one common interest. Their interests would not be conflicting; and he ventured to say that the result would be just the same as it was in that House, or in any other large deliberative assembly—that whenever a proposal was founded in justice and good sense it would be received with attention, and considered solely with regard to the general interests of the whole body of ratepayers. No question would be asked whether any special proposal came from an elected ratepayer or not. Still it must be remembered, if the elected members were in a minority, that they represented only those who paid the smallest part of the rate. He could not, however, anticipate any such necessity; for, speaking from his own experience of boards in general, one constituted as he suggested would act harmoniously, all the members having the same objects and interests, and all equally disposed to promote the interests of the ratepayers. On these several grounds he trusted the Committee would assent to the Amendment.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, he could not consent to the Amendment of the right hon. Baronet, for it would be fatal to the Bill, and entirely adverse to the object in view, which was to secure a fair representation of the ratepayers. What the right hon. Baronet proposed was simply this—that these Boards should be elected in the way provided by the Bill, but that their numbers should be increased by adding to them the whole of the rest of the magistrates. In the case of the right hon. Baronet's own county, there were 583 magistrates and twelve unions. The Board, therefore, in that county would consist of twelve gentlemen selected by the ratepayers, and not being magistrates; and there could not be more than twelve, because each Board of Guardians would return two, one of whom would be a magistrate. The maximum number of ratepayers would be twelve; but to this number the right hon. Baronet proposed to add 583 magistrates. 280 This was certainly a homœpathic dose of the democratic principle. He could not, however, imagine that the right hon. Baronet was serious in the proposal he had made. He (Mr. M. Gibson) was quite sure that if the Committee added the whole of the magistracy to the Board, the ratepayers must be in a ridiculous minority, and the whole proceedings would be a farce. As to the rights of magistrates, he thought if that question were investigated, it would be difficult to show that justices of the peace had any official rights, or any prescriptive or vested claim to expend the money of the ratepayers of the counties without responsibility or control. All the authority that the magistrate derived in virtue of his commission was the power of administering justice and of acting in a judicial capacity; but he was at a loss to know whether this "right divine" was derived from his having an irresponsible control over the expenditure of the taxes of the people. With regard to magistrates themselves being great ratepayers, and being very respectable men, nobody denied that; but the very same argument might be adduced against the existence of the House of Commons. It might be said that the House of Lords was composed of highly respectable men, of men possessed of large property, and themselves paying a great portion of the public taxes; and it might be held that they ought therefore to be the sole and exclusive guardians of the taxation of the country. The right hon. Baronet's proposition was just as if they were to add tell Members of the House of Commons to the House of Lords, and then fancy they had constituted a proper and fitting assembly to control the expenditure of the public taxation. He hoped that hon. Gentlemen most adverse to the Bill would not agree to so eccentric a proposition, and he called upon the Committee to reject it.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he should support the Amendment. He had understood that the principle agreed to in the Bill was the control over the expenditure by election. The Amendment of his right hon. Friend (Sir J. Pakington) only proposed to add to this principle. The question involved more than mere party considerations. In counties like Middlesex and Lancashire it might be consistent to introduce new machinery for the purpose in view, but in smaller counties it would be felt as a very heavy tax, more than commensurate with the assumed advantages. The Bill provided 281 that a new machinery should be set up by the Board—a clerk, new buildings, &c. The county records were now in the hands of the county officers. The Bill would separate these records, and involve the necessity of two receptacles for their deposit and safe-keeping. In practice also it was known that a very limited number of magistrates took part in county business; therefore the danger of the elected body being swamped by the justices was delusive. He (Mr. Henley) found the action of mixed bodies—in the case of the lunatic asylum in his own county for instance—to be very harmonious. The Bill, however, created two independent bodies in a county; which would lead in practice to great difficulty—as he doubted if it would be competent for the clerk of the peace, acting as clerk for the magistrates, to act for the new Board to be formed by the Bill. There was another question apparently not provided for in the Bill—namely, the liability. Repairs were provided for in the case of bridges, for instance; but not the liability. It was evident to him, therefore, that those who had drawn up the Bill were very little acquainted with county matters. He had no doubt there were other defects equally great in the measure, and he should, therefore, support the Amendment.
said, it seemed as if there were something horrible in democracy to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that they opposed this Bill because it was supposed to give an increase of democratic power. This democratic power was simply giving the people the same management of their financial affairs in counties as in towns. He was sorry to see objections raised to this moderate course of reform, and he hoped hon. Gentlemen would allow the Bill to go on. The subject was, no doubt, complicated, but he saw no difficulties to the operation of the Bill which could not be overcome. The county gentlemen would have their fair share of power under the Bill as now framed, and he saw no reason why they should expect more. In the county of Norfolk, with which he was connected, the accounts were kept with great accuracy; but still the ratepayers of the county were all in favour of this Bill.
§ MR. BUCK
said, he should oppose the Bill, because he was not prepared to disfranchise, if he might use the term, the magistracy of this Kingdom. The country was greatly indebted, in his opinion, to the magistrates for the peace and security which prevailed; and he believed, as the 282 representative of an agricultural constituency, that his constituents considered themselves under deep obligations to them for the manner in which the affairs of the counties were managed. What was the effect of this representative system in a large municipal town in the county of Devon? Why, that the ratepayers paid 9¾d. in the pound as against 2¾d. in the pound paid by the more agricultural parishes.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he had always supported the principle of the Bill; but that principle was simply that some persons elected by the ratepayers should be joined with the magistrates to consider the expenditure of the county. Beyond that he would not go. He did not think it would diminish the amount of the rates; but a foolish feeling had been set on foot in Lancashire in favour of the Bill, and he wished the ratepayers to be satisfied that their interests were well and sufficiently looked after if the Bill came into operation. He could not consent to set aside the magistracy as it had existed for five or six centuries, and that was the real intention of this Bill. If there was any irresponsible power, it rested with the Home Secretary, who was guided by Acts of Parliament sanctioned by that House; and if this Bill passed, he would have no means of putting in force those Acts of Parliament. The whole Bill was perfectly impracticable, and the more it was discussed the more that would be apparent. Different counties differed from each other as much as England, Scotland, and Ireland; and although this Bill might do very well for Lancashire, of which he knew nothing, for agricultural counties, of which he knew something, it was perfectly inapplicable. Here, then, they would sit, Wednesday after Wednesday, until they had knocked it into the heads of the admirers of this Bill how totally impracticable it was to carry it into effect. Their Bill was as impracticable as it was evil designed, but they were not to be so convinced, convinced as they were, on the contrary, that whatever was good or seemed good for Manchester gentlemen, must, as a matter of course, be good for everybody else. The right hon. Gentleman appeared determined to force his measure forward by mere dint of eternal reiteration.
§ MR. FELLOWES
said, the effect of the Bill would be to set the County Financial Board above the justices of the county; course, which, he thought, should not be 283 sanctioned. He quite admitted that the smaller ratepayers should have a voice in the county expenditure; but he conceived, if the House established the two boards as was proposed, that the working of the measure would be impracticable, and that endless disunion, dissension, and disagreement would be the consequence.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, the Committee seemed quite to understand that the proposition of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) really involved the whole principle of the Bill under consideration; the object of that Bill being to establish a Board of limited numbers, to whom should be confided the financial arrangements of the country, which Board should derive its origin from election. He was of opinion that that was a good principle. It had been affirmed by a Committee of that House in 1851, upon which were Gentlemen not at all representing the democratic principle, but who were as anxious for the maintenance of the institutions of the country as the right hon. Baronet himself could possibly be. It was clear, therefore, that it was only claptrap to say that the Bill was a democratic measure, arising from a desire to overturn established institutions, and to bring into disrepute the gentry and magistracy of the country. The question which the Committee had to decide was, whether the proposition of the right hon. Baronet was consistent with the principle of the Bill, and would be practical in execution. The right hon. Baronet had proposed an Amendment, the result of which would be to add a very small number of elected Members to—in one case which had been mentioned—450 existing magistrates. Now, he candidly asked the Committee whether it was possible to suppose that that Board, consisting of 450 members, plus the number to be elected, would be a body which could practically, and with any advantage, administer the finances of a country? Why, it would be that House in Committee. It would be a county Parliament. Well, that was out of the question. It was very curious to hear the different views which hon. Gentlemen of the same colour of politics took of the same measure. The right hon. Baronet had proposed an Amendment which would lead to the establishment of a Financial Board, consisting of nearly 500 members in one county which he had instanced. But an hon. Member (a magistrate of Hampshire), who was of the same political opinions as the right hon. Baronet, and who disap- 284 proved of the principle of the Bill, had that very morning represented to him (Viscount Palmerston) the inconvenience that would arise in Hampshire from having so large a Board as that to be composed of two members elected from each of the twenty-eight Boards of Guardians, and had urged upon him that each Board should elect one member only. He thought that the argument of the right hon. Baronet was answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), who said that practically your large number of magistrates never would attend, or could take part in the county business. A great number were old, some infirm, and some absent; so that, in practice, the number at present attending would be reduced to a very small proportion. Then what became of the argument of the right hon. Baronet, that it was necessary that a large number of magistrates should continue to be members of the Board, in order that they might be represented—and represented against what? Did the right hon. Baronet imagine that the small number of persons elected by the ratepayers were greatly to increase the burdens of the country? if so, it would be fitting that the larger ratepayers should be elected in a larger proportion to save themselves against the extravagant and prodigal votes of those small ratepayers. But the whole object of the Bill was to exercise a control over what was supposed to be the present lavish expenditure of the county rates. Not that he agreed in that opinion, because he believed, practically, that the expenditure would be found to be much the same, though, certainly, the satisfaction would be greater. Upon these grounds he decidedly objected to the proposition of the right hon. Baronet. He believed that it would defeat the entire object of the Bill, which was to establish an elective body, to whom should be confided the financial arrangements of the counties; that, if the Board were really to be composed of 450 or 500 members, it would be totally unfit for all practical purposes; and that, if it were to be composed only of a select number of magistrates, it would be more satisfactory that that select number should be the result of election rather than of the absence of persons whom infirmities or other peculiar circumstances compelled to absent themselves. It was quite clear that the Boards of Guardians who had to select the magistrates would select those who were physically capable of attending, and whose intelligence and knowledge of county 285 matters would entitle them to the greatest amount of confidence among the ratepayers.
said, the principle of the Bill had been conceded, and the question was how to arrange the details so as to carry that principle fairly out. He would suggest that the election of the magistrates should be left to the Quarter Sessions themselves, who would elect those that were peculiarly qualified to administer Financial Boards, and that to those magistrates should be added an equal number of the elected members of the different Boards of Guardians. The infusion of new blood would thus be equal to the old, and he believed they would by this means obtain a good Financial Board.
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, he should support the Amendment, which he thought the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Visct. Palmerston) had not quite fairly represented.
§ MR. PORTAL
said, in his eager pursuit of his object the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson) had actually proposed to give the franchise to persons who were not assessed. In the Winchester Union there were eleven parishes, none of which were assessed to the county rate, yet the guardians of those parishes would, under the provisions of the Bill, have a voice in the election of the Financial Board. This showed how little the right hon. Gentleman knew of the matter upon which he was legislating.
said, that in the Isle of Wight, which he had the honour to represent, there was but one Union, so there would be but one ratepayer elected to infuse new blood into the Board.
§ MR. SPOONER
said, he was decidedly in favour of the principle of this Bill; but as there were several Gentlemen who wished to express their views, and as it was then too late for them to do so, he would move that the Chairman do report progress.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report progress.