§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, said he would not ask the House to pass the Bill exactly as it now stood, but to give it a Second Reading with a view of affirming the principle that there should be, in some shape or other, a more effective control by the ratepayers over the management of the county rates than at present existed. He would be the last person who would knowingly seek to diminish the force of those motives which induce gentlemen to take part in county business. He could not but recollect how much the nation owes to the class of country gentlemen. Many who had been trained at quarter sessions had risen to be among the most valuable members of cabinets, and had been the authors of great improvements, even in matters to which country gentlemen were little accustomed. He well knew the devotion to the public interests exhibited by so many magistrates in every county. He had known examples of country gentlemen passing many weeks of their lives annually in a miserable lodging at a county town, with no other object but to serve the State. He had been much struck, too, with the remark of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, who, while he was understood to say on a former occasion that he was not indisposed to assist, so far as the general object of this Bill was concerned, yet warned him (Sir John Trelawny) that in making a change he might be throwing away the substance for the shadow. Now he (Sir John Trelawny) did not believe that country gentlemen would, under this Bill, cease to be the persons 99 chiefly employed in carrying out local business. His object was to give the ratepayers some power in the way of selecting from the justices those most competent to be vested with powers of taxation. The ratepayer might now complain that the justices are a fluctuating body, meeting at different county towns, some at one time, some at another; many were clergymen who had little or no stake in the hedge, and the persons chosen to be justices were put into the Commission as seemed fitting to the Lord Lieutenant. The whole effect has been, that ratepayers in many counties of England were not satisfied with the growing amount of county-rate expenditure, and considered that according to constitutional principles, it ought to be to a certain degree subjected to their control. It had frequently been said that the incidence of the tax is upon the class of country gentlemen, they are the persons who should most appropriately levy and expend it. But, then, it did not follow that the fittest persons were made justices of the peace. The incidence of a tax may seem very clear, but where would rents be but for the tenants and labourers? And are county rates only ordered by the State for the benefit of landowners? Had not property its duties as well as its rights? Suppose justices should say that county rates were exclusively their affair; and that no more should be raised would not the State interpose? And, indeed, is not this precisely what has happened on the cases of the custody of lunatics, rural police, and such cases? The justices failed to satisfy public opinion, and laws have been made to compel them to satisfy it. The Bill consisted of 123 clauses, but of these only about thirty were important for his object. The first clause contained the main principle of the Bill. It provided that there should be constituted in every county a financial board, to be elected on a certain day in each year—the board to consist of two members chosen by each board of guardians; one to be a guardian, and the other a resident justice of the peace, both rated to the value of £100 a year. There were various Acts of Parliament in force with regard to the duties and powers of magistrates in respect of the constabulary and the construction and repair of prisons, which were measures of a financial character affecting the county. He proposed that each county financial board should regulate all matters of expenditure, while the magistrates retained 100 their administrative powers and all that belonged to them in their judicial capacity. In the case of jails, &c., he would give to the magistrates the power of making repairs that might be necessary between the meetings of the board. He provided by this Bill that the magistrates should retain their power in the management of pauper lunatic asylums, but everything connected with the economical management of those asylums should be under the control of a committee of the county board. One main feature of the Bill was to secure an effective audit. In carrying out these objects he claimed the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire as he was a great stickler for local government. He confessed that in dealing with the question of church rates the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman on that point were the most difficult he had to cope with, and, therefore, as a county Member, be claimed his support to the present Bill. The great increase of the county rates and expenditure showed the necessity of some such measure as he now proposed for the better management and control of them. The subject had been under the consideration of various Committees and Commissions who had each made different recommendations. He would refer to the Reports of the Lords' Committee of 1835, and of the Commons' Committee of 1834, and of the Commissioners of 1836, and of the Royal Commission on Local Taxation in 1843; and, in particular he wished to direct attention to the Report of the Committee in 1850 on the same subject, which pointed out many abuses of the system. With regard to the increase of expenditure it was shown in the Report of the Commons Committee of 1834, that the county rate increased between the years 1793 and 1833 from £184,000 to £757,238. And by the last return, for the year ending Michaelmas 1859, the expenditure was, in round numbers £1,163,000. The Report of the Lords' Committee 1835 also noticed the "progressive and considerable" increase in county expenditure, showing an advance between the years 1792 and 1832 of 148 per cent; county charges for prosecutions during the same period showed an increase of 389 per cent; the increase of population meanwhile being only from 55 to 60 per cent, insufficient to account for the advanced charges. The Report of the Commissioners of 1836, and of the Commissioners on Local Taxation of 1843, described the 101 origin of the county rates. The present system, dated from an Act of the 12 Geo. II. c. 29, before the passing of which Act there were seven distinct rates leviable for different county purposes. The Act alluded to authorized one general county rate in lieu of these, and it was further modified and amended by an Act 55 Geo. III. c. 51, which gave power to the justices in quarter sessions to assess all the parishes equally according to a certain pound rate of the annual value of the property rateable to the relief of the poor therein. The justices are free from liability to account or audit, and no proper provision exists for checking the accounts of their accountants, treasurers, &c, with regard to this system the words of the Commissioners of 1843 (Geo. Nicholes Esq., Sir George Cornewall Lewis, and B. W. Head, Esq.) are—"It appears to us that nothing can he more rude and incomplete." He now came to the Report of the Committee of 1850, to which he had alluded. He would cite five of the Resolutions to which they came—7. That if it should be thought desirable to give a more popular constitution to the authority by which county finances are administered, there is so much difficulty in determining the best mode of effecting that object, the details which it involves are so complicated, and the interests concerned are so important that, in the opinion of this Committee, the arrangement of such a change ought to be undertaken by Her Majesty's Government.8. That the evidence which this Committee has received, has led them to the conclusion, that improvements might be effected in the present mode of transacting the financial business of counties, some of which would require Legislative Enactments.9. That economy of county rates would be promoted, if clerks of the peace remunerated for their services by fixed salaries instead of by fees, and the duties of their office would in such case be as well, if not better discharged.10. That notices of the financial and other business to be transacted at each quarter sessions for counties, ought to be previously advertised in the county newspapers for two or more weeks, for the information of the ratepayers at large, and that copies of annual financial statements ought to be distributed to every union within each county for circulation.11. That the financial accounts of counties ought to be annually audited by some efficient and responsible public officer; and the right of inspecting all vouchers and accounts of public expenditure ought, under proper regulations, to be given to the ratepayers.He would now proceed to some cases of specific complaint. Let them take the Sunderland case, a case of unequal valuation. A property paid £4,000 a year; a new valuation took place, and the result was an estimate of £15,000, which the 102 justices fixed at £11,000. The Guardians were appointed in December 1860, as a deputation to wait on the Secretary of State, on financial mismanagement of the lunatic asylum. The accounts were in disorder, capital and revenue mixed. A sum of £10,500 was levied, whereas, with proper accountancy, £2,600 would have sufficed. The justices admitted that they had not bestowed upon the financial affairs of the asylum the attention they required. Again, he had heard of £10,000 charged to the general county accounts, which should have been charged to the special police rate. In 1857 Sunderland Dock was returned to the county rate at £6,290, which the justices surcharged £2,044, making £8,334, the revenue of the dock being then £26,000. It had since reached £42,000, and yet the justices had reduced the (assessment £4,900. Mr. George Reed said at a meeting of guardians and overseers of Sunderland, they had succeeded in getting £13,000 taken off the Sunderland parishes, and £12,000 added to others. Such were the irregularities complained of the Sunderland case. He would next advert to a Durham case, which seemed to have induced the committee of guardians unanimously to recommend the adoption of this Bill. He found county expenditure increasing in a period of five years by £4,100 5s. 10d. a year. The guardians ask for inspection of accounts; that the clerk of the peace should be paid by salary, and that the treasurer should not be allowed to charge for extras. He would now take the case of Lincoln (parts of Lindsay). At the end of one account, the balance due to the county was £3,018 15s. 9¾ d, which, added to a balance on the police account, made altogether £4,902 3s. 2d. And yet another halfpenny rate was required. The hon. Baronet referred to other cases of unnecessary expenditure arising from want of sufficient control on the part of the ratepayers—referring in particular to the case of the clerks of the peace. These officers enjoyed very great emoluments, and were paid for other duties beside those of clerk of the peace. The duties of the clerks of the peace should be defined. The comities were entitled to the whole of their time, and they should not be mixed up in partnerships which excited suspicion. He understood that very large balance a were sometimes allowed to remain unnecessarily in the hands of the treasurers, subject to considerable risk, The Com- 103 mons Committee of 1834 state in their Report that they consider no arrangement so efficient for effectual control of county expenditure as "the establishment in each county of a permanent Finance Committee." Sometimes the ratepayers doubted whether they should be called upon for a new rate when the old rate was not exhausted, and it would be desirable to have those balances placed in a bank. He thought it time that the light of day should be let in upon the system, and that the public should know whether they got money's worth for their money. There was no regular plan of examining the treasurer's accounts and vouchers. Magistrates were asked to sign the accounts, and they did so, but it was often merely a matter of form. Under the Bill he had the honour to submit to the House facilities would be afforded to ratepayers to be present when the accounts were passed, and to see that the vouchers were correct. He would not take up the time of the House by observations on the details of the measure, to the subject involved in which his attention had been directed in consequence of perusing a book written by De Tocqueville on Centralization in France, which satisfied him that no kind of taxation should be left uncontrolled in this country, and that no power useful to the Constitution ought to be allowed to grow rusty. De Tocqueville, speaking of the causes of the French Revolution, remarked that administrative centralization and the omnipotence of Paris were allowed to have had a great share in the overthrow of the different French Governments during the present century, and had also contributed largely to the sudden and violent destruction of the old monarchy. He would quote one of the passages to which he alluded—It is pretty generally admitted, I believe, now that administrative centralization and the omnipotence of Paris have had a great share in the overthrow of all the various governments which have succeeded one another in France during the last forty years. It will not be difficult to show that the same state of things contributed largely to the sudden and violent ruin of the old monarchy, and must be numbered among the principal causes of that first Revolution which has produced all the succeeding ones.If the principle of centralization did not perish in the Revolution, it was because that principle was itself the precursor and the commencement of the Revolution; and I add that when a people has destroyed aristocracy in its social constitution, that people is sliding by its own weight into centralization.And in confirmation of these views, M. de 104 Tocqueville mentioned the following anecdote—The Marquis d'Argenson relates in his memoirs, that one day Law said to him, 'I never could have believed what I saw when I was comptroller of finance. Do you know that this Kingdom of France is governed by thirty Intendants? You have neither parliament, nor estates, nor governors. It is upon thirty masters of requests, despatched into the provinces, that their evil or their good, their fertility, or their sterility entirely depend.This was an important consideration, and he thought that his Bill, instead of superseding the country gentlemen, would probably strengthen their position, by giving more life and animation to these local bodies in the transaction of the public affairs of the counties. In this way he was acting as a true Conservative, and he now moved the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
rose to move by way of Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. This matter bad already undergone some discussion in that House, and in 1854 the right hon. Gentleman now President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson), asked the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton, whether the then Government intended to introduce a measure similar to the present Bill, and the noble Viscount expressed a hope that after Easter, in 1854, he should be able to bring in a measure based on the elective principle in respect to the financial administration of county affairs, Nevertheless, that intention had never been realized, and the question remained absolutely dormant until last year, when the hon. Member for Tavistock (Sir John Trelawny) brought in a Bill, the order for the second reading of which was, however, discharged. The Bill submitted to the consideration of the Select Committee of 1850—which Bill was cognate in character with the present one—was described as likely to have the effect of excluding a numerous body of gentlemen in every county from the transaction of financial business, in respect of which they had a great interest, and which they had performed for a long period to the advantage and satisfaction of the public; and of substituting a small and fluctuating body of men less fitted, generally, for the discharge of such duties. It was considered that if it was thought desirable to establish an elective body for 105 county financial business, the interests concerned were so important and the details so complicated, that the arrangement of such a plan ought to be undertaken by the Government. This had not yet been done; but the recommendations of that Select Committee had in many respects been carried out; and in his own county the Bills against the county underwent a detailed process of examination. It was not his wish to derogate from the value and importance of the representative principle, which might be teemed the vitality of the Constitution, and in virtue of which every Member held his seat; hut at the same time he must say that it was a serious thing to infuse new principles into ancient institutions, which were the growth of centuries, and the practical working of which had not been proved to be defective. In his opinion the present system was not effete or exhausted, and did not call for the alteration proposed. The hon. Baronet desired the simplification of county accounts; but the present measure would create confusion, bickering, jealousy, anger, rivalry, as it introduced jarring elements of everlasting discord arising from conflicting jurisdictions in the most important points of county administration. The pith of the Bill was contained in the clauses which might be called the constituent clauses, and in some other clauses, which might be styled "enabling" clauses. The fourth clause provided for the constitution of county financial boards, which were to be formed in part by persons elected by the boards of guardians; but he thought it unlikely that bodies so composed, many of the members residing at a distance from the places of meetings, would give such a close attention to matters of account as justices meeting for the transaction of county affairs. Nor did he think that such bodies were in any way calculated to carry out in a fair and just spirit that course of policy to which that House was pledged by various statutes passed during the last few years. If dissatisfaction had arisen from the increase of the county rates in certain parts of the country, it must be remembered that a vast portion of expenditure was forced on the justices; 75 per cent of it being incurred by the magistrates only ministerially. Another effect of the passing of the Bill would, in his opinion, be the introduction of an inferior class of officers, inasmuch as the tendency of the new board would, in all probability, be to lower existing salaries, to remove the most 106 efficient public servants, and to substitute inferior ones at a lower rate of pay. Upon that, as well as the other grounds which he had stated, he thought no case had been made out sufficiently strong to justify the substitution of the proposed system for the existing system, which had come down to us from centuries past and had always worked efficiently; and he therefore begged to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he should support the Bill on the general principle, although he was not prepared to pledge himself to details. He believed that the county rates were the only instance in which Her Majesty's subjects were taxed for any public purpose without having a voice in the disposal of the money. He was not prepared to say that the money at present was badly spent—he was quite willing to admit that the management of the expenditure by the Board of Magistrates of the West Riding was excellent, but the anomaly was felt to be a great grievance. This was in fact growing stronger every day, because the amount of the county rate expenditure was growing larger every day, and the ratepayers would be dissatisfied until they possessed what they deemed to be their right—the power of spending their money as they choose. Another reason why he thought this Bill should be passed was that the want of representation in the expenditure of county rates stopped the way to other improvements. For instance, he did not think it would be possible for the Home Secretary to pass the Parochial Assessment Bill, much as some such measure was wanted, until the principle of representation had been introduced into the expenditure of the county rates. He wished that the right hon. Baronet himself had brought in a Rill on this subject, and if he would say that he would bring in a Bill this year or next, or as soon as public business would allow him, he (Mr. Forster) would advise the hon. Baronet who had brought in this measure to withdraw it. It was a matter that could be better dealt with by the Government than by a private Member. With respect to the details of the Bill, he had many objections to them, but these could be dealt with in Committee. To its principle he gave his cordial assent.
§ MR. CHARLES PACKE
said, if the Home Secretary would introduce a well-digested Bill on the subject of county expenditure, he would give it his support, for no one in the House was, perhaps, so competent to deal with it. But he objected to the Bill now before the House as altogether unsatisfactory and impracticable. It was so crude and insufficient that no Committee could reduce it into shape. All the great items of county expenditure made by the magistracy under the proposals of this Bill required the previous consent of the Secretary of State. Was it to be supposed that gentlemen who had to travel from great distances, and who had their own affairs to manage, would give regular attendance at meetings where they were to do nothing but register the directions of the Home Secretary? He was sure they would not; the management of the boards would, therefore, fall into the hands of a few idle men who lived near the place of meeting. Another objection to this Bill was that it gave control to the board over the maintenance and clothing of pauper lunatics, and the salaries of officers. But these charges were paid by the local parishes; they did not come out of the county rates at all. In that the hon. Baronet (Sir John Trelawny) must alter the title of his Bill if he proposed to include that subject. Many of the recommendations of the hon. Baronet, who had brought forward his Motion in a moderate and temperate manner, were already carried out in many counties—certainly they were in his own county. He was not opposed to a proper superintendence over the expenditure by the ratepayers, but he objected to the present Bill, which had been drawn up ten years ago, and had reference to a state of affairs in counties which had long ceased to exist. He was quite certain that the county magistrates would be very ready to give up the troublesome and invidious duty of controlling the county expenditure if any gentleman competent to undertake the duty satisfactorily could be found. He recommended the Government to prepare a Bill on this subject, which he thought would meet with general support.
§ SIR JOHN SHELLEY
said, the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicestershire was in favour of the principle of the Bill, though he objected to the details. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman appeared to make it more a question of confidence in men than of measure, for he ad- 108 mitted that if the Government would bring in a Bill he would support it. He (Sir John Shelley) agreed with him in that, and if the Home Secretary would take it up, the best course to be taken by the promoters of this Bill would be to withdraw it. When eight years ago the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson) brought in the former Bill, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who was then Home Secretary, said it was a Bill that should be brought in by Government, hut nothing had been done from that time, and it was, therefore, quite time that attention should be again drawn to the subject. He did not believe that this Bill would lower the dignity of the county magistracy, and it would certainly place them on a better footing with the ratepayers, and so far from producing strife and chaos, as the hon. Member for Northumberland feared, he thought that deference would always be shown to the county magistrates which their position warranted. The proposition in the Bill was that one-half of the members of the Board must be magistrates; but the other half might be magistrates also. His hon. Friend alluded to the question of police. Now although the question as to the establishment of the police was not left to the magistrates, yet they had the power of saying how many constables there should be in a district, subject, no doubt, to the Secretary of State. Practically, however, the Secretary of State would agree to what the magistrates recommended. He did not say the magistrates had overdone the matter with regard to the police, but he did say that the rate payers thought they had incurred too much expense under that head. He believed that this dissatisfaction would disappear if the ratepayers had any voice in the matter. He did not think that the effect of adopting the principle of representation would be to cut down the salaries of officers. The matters spoken of by hon. Gentlemen on the other side would be more properly discussed in Committee, when he, as one of the promoters of the Bill, would be ready to listen to all reasonable Amendments. The great authorities on both sides had given their opinions in favour of the principle of the Bill. Sir Robert Peel, in 1853, said he thought that representation in respect to county expenditure ought to be to some extent allowed. Sir James Graham expressed himself to the same effect, and the noble Lord then at the head of the 109 Government did not oppose the second reading of the Bill.
MR. G. L. PHILLIPS
said, he had for many years been actively engaged in the administration of the affairs of the county with which he was connected (Pembroke shire), but he could not say that be had derived either pleasure or profit from the business, unless he might regard as such the acquisition of considerable experience in "long addition;" there was very little to do except in the way of administration. He thought the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock, when asking the House to give a second reading to his Bill, should have produced some case to prove the bad working of the existing system. The hon. Baronet had been unable to cite any case except one of dissatisfaction with a certain valuation in the parish of Sunderland; but differences of opinion in questions of valuation were so common that no system could justly be condemned on account of them. Allusion had been made by the supporters of the Bill to the non-examination of vouchers; but, so far as his own experience went, he never knew of a quarter sessions passing without every voucher being submitted to the magistrates and carefully marked off. Nor could he agree with the last speaker, that the number of the police in any county was a matter within the discretion of the magistrates. In the county with which he was himself connected, the magistrates fixed upon a number below that recommended as necessary by the Inspector, but they were obliged to rescind their Resolution and to increase the force in accordance with the suggestion of the Inspector in order to obtain the usual allowance from the Government. The truth was that it was the necessity of procuring the Government allowance which in almost all cases determined the number of the police, and consequently the expenditure for police purposes. Another large item of county expenditure was the cost of gaols and lunatic asylums. Here, again, the expense was forced upon counties by the requisitions of the inspectors. If the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock wished to reduce county expenditure the most direct, if not the proper, mode of proceeding would be the suppression of Inspectors and Commissioners. He believed all county gentlemen would bear him out in saying that an inspector or a commissioner never visited a county without inflaming its expenditure, because he knew that if he did not find 110 fault, and make work for himself the country would begin to think that his services might be dispensed with altogether, and so he would be deprived of his handsome salary. Now whatever differences of religion or politics might exist among men, he never found any differences of opinion on. this—that if a man had a salary of £800 a year he wished to keep it. By far the greatest part of the county expenditure was forced upon magistrates; they had no control over it whatever; and if the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock would look into the matter he would find that only a very small sum, indeed, would remain for his financial boards to exercise their ingenuity upon. The great object should be to secure a good administration in counties; but that object, as far as he could see, would not be attained by the present Bill. They might make a bad road into a good one; but there were some things which all the legislation in the world could not do, and one of them was to alter distances, making thirty miles the same as three. In Pembrokeshire the turnpike roads were managed by a board consisting of two elected members who were not magistrates, and of a certain number of magistrates chosen at quarter sessions. At first the magistrates were taken from all parts of the county with the view of securing a fair representation of the whole district; but it was soon found that the meetings of the board were attended only by those who lived near the place of meeting, those residing at a distance invariably staying away. Such would continue to be the case in almost all parts of the country if the present Bill were passed to-morrow. He objected to the Bill, therefore, not because he had any horror of the elective principle, but because the election of a board would be of no use unless the attendance of the members could be secured. There was no charge of wastefulness on the part of the magistrates; but even if there were, and if the accusation could be proved, he did not see how the plan proposed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock could introduce greater economy into the administration of county affairs. He trusted the Home Secretary would favour the House with an expression of his views upon this subject; for, although he was not prepared to go so far as the hon. Member for Leicestershire, who had intimated his willingness to agree to anything which the right hon. Gentleman might propose, yet there was no man who understood 111 county matters better, or to whose opinion he would be disposed to attach greater weight.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
When it is said that the principle of taxation and representation being co-extensive is universally applicable to our local institutions, it should be remembered that that proposition is subject to considerable exceptions. Reference has been made to the Act of Elizabeth for the relief of the poor; but it must be in the recollection of the House that by the original constitution of the authorities for the distribution of relief the overseer had the entire charge of the business. He was an officer appointed by the magistrates; he made the rate, and the magistrates allowed it. Until the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act, therefore, the distribution of relief was under the control of the magistrates and their local officer; and the popular element of election was introduced into the administration for the relief of the poor for the first time by the Poor Law Amendment Act. In the case of the highways the surveyor, I believe, is nominally elected by the vestry, but in practice he is appointed by the magistrates. The popular element does not, in truth, at all enter into the administration of our highways. Turnpike roads are under the management of trustees, who are named in the Turnpike Acts; there is no popular election with respect to them. So it is in other cases. In fact, the only local rate into which, according to our original local constitution, the popular element enters to any considerable extent is the church rate, which is voted by a majority of the vestry. The rate for the relief of the poor is now under the administration of a board composed partly of ex officio guardians being magistrates resident in the union, and partly of persons elected by the ratepayers of parishes. If the Legislature should agree to a Bill relating to the management of our highways which is now before this House, the administration of that branch of our local interests will also be confided to a body into which the popular element will enter. But I think I have shown that it is necessary to lay down the principle of the coincidence of taxation and representation in regard to the management of our local affairs with considerable reservations as respects the original system in this country. The hon. Baronet, the Member for Tavistock, referred to the case of France as showing the advantages of local government; but he should re- 112 member that the writer whom he quoted plainly points out that, according to the ancient system of France, the Government deprived the provincial aristocracy of all share in the management of their local affairs, leaving them nothing but odious privileges, stripping them of all power of being useful to their neighbours, or of attaining that popularity which would have been the natural result of a proper discharge of the functions of local government. The system of this country, on the contrary, has been to leave local interests to the management of local authorities; but it has not in every instance introduced the principle of popular representation. I am quite ready to admit, however, that to the extent to which we can proceed with prudence and propriety it is desirable in the administration of our local affairs to couple representation and taxation. I at once subscribe to the advantages of that principle. We have already introduced it into the management of the poor; and, as far as the principle itself is concerned, if nothing more were involved in the second reading of the present Bill, I should be prepared to give my vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Tavistock, at the same time reserving to myself a very ample discretion for objecting to the details of the measure; for I confess it does not seem to me that, whether the principle of representation is to be wholly or only partially applied to the management of county affairs, the Bill before us affords a satisfactory solution of the problem. In the first place, I think it is very questionable whether the plan of indirect election is always a successful or an advantageous one. It has been applied to the Metropolitan Board of Works which is appointed by the vestries of the different parishes; and I understand the result is that those vestries generally elect one of their own body. Doubts are entertained as to the beneficial working of that system, and I think it is open to question whether, if you are to establish the elective principle in counties, it would be desirable to vest the power of election in the board of guardians—a body appointed for a different purpose. At present boards of guardians are elected simply with the view of administering the law for the relief of the poor; but if you make them colleges of electors they may be chosen with the view of electing the members of county financial boards. You would, then, have something like the system by which the American President 113 is elected, for that great functionary is elected by an electoral college appointed by a popular vote, and you might, without intending it, vitiate the constitution of the boards of guardians by making them so many sets of delegates whose principal object would be the election of county boards. Such is one of the obvious objections to which the proposed plan is liable. Another part of the Bill—that, namely, which provides that one-half of the board shall consist of magistrates elected by the guardians, and the other half of persons with the same qualifications who are not magistrates—appears to me to be equally open to criticism. In Scotland the county finance is under the management of a board of commissioners of supply, and every person is a commissioner of supply who owns property in the county to the value of more than,£100 a year. There is no popular election; but, of course, the number of persons so qualified is considerable. I am told it rarely happens that any large number of commissioners of supply attend the meetings, except on some important occasions, and that, in fact, the management of the county finance falls into the hands of a few of the principal landowners, and particularly those who live near the place of meeting. I apprehend such would be the case in England whatever might be the principle of election applied to the appointment of county boards. In ordinary times persons residing on the edge of the county would not frequently attend, and the attendance would be composed chiefly of gentlemen within a more easy distance of the county town. There is a great difference between parish business and county business, inasmuch as every person can easily attend a meeting in his parish, whereas it is not so easy for farmers and others, who would probably be elected as members of financial boards, to give much of their time to the management of county affairs. I need not say that the Bill before us, if read a second time, would require very considerable amendment in Committee. It still retains, as the hon. Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) has remarked, a clause which must have been drawn up prior to 1856, because it assumes the existence of a voluntary introduction of police. Every one knows, however, that in 1856 an Act was passed making the introduction of police compulsory upon magistrates; and so far, therefore, the Bill is inapplicable to the present state of affairs. That example alone must satisfy any hon. 114 Gentleman who examines the Bill that the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock cannot have spent much of his time, or consumed much of his midnight oil, in considering the details of his own measure. In mentioning some of the evils that attend the present system, the hon. Baronet cited a dispute which had arisen in the county of Durham with respect to a valuation for the parish of Sunderland; but he should recollect that, however a valuation may be fixed, there is ultimately an appeal to the quarter sessions, and, therefore, I do not see how any difference of opinion that may have arisen upon the valuation of a parish can afford any argument for or against the existence of county financial boards. It has been suggested that this question should be taken up by the Government, and that they should introduce a Bill on the subject. There are a great many subjects which are constantly pressing upon the attention of the Government, and upon which the Government are invited to introduce Bills. But I am sorry to say that when Bills are introduced by the Government there is very little time devoted to their consideration, unless they are of first-rate importance; it is consequently the duty of the Government to consider, before they bring forward a Bill, whether or not it is likely to receive the sanction of Parliament. There are two main grounds upon which a subject may be said to require legislation. One is when there is proved mismanagement; the other is when there is great discontent with any existing system. Can it be shown that there is any considerable mismanagement with respect to county rates? It is true that the amount of the county rates has increased of late years, but it is also true that the charges imposed upon the county rates by the Legislature have been increased likewise. Some hon. Gentlemen have said that the Government have forced certain additional expenses upon counties. It is true that the Home Department has a certain control over these expenses, but it should be remembered that the expenses are imposed, not merely by the authority of the Government, but by the authority of Parliament itself. With respect, for example, to police, prisons, and lunatic asylums, we have imperative legislation to which it is the duty of the Home Secietary to defer just as much as it is the duty of county magistrates to defer to the requisitions of the Government. Looking at the great advantages which have been con- 115 ferred upon counties by different Acts of Parliament, I cannot think that the charge upon the county rates is at all immoderate. The average poundage, according to the last Returns, seems to be about 4d. or 5d., which is the real measure of the burden of the county rate. The hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock somewhat exaggerated the aggregate amount of the rate when he said it was £2,000,000. In that sum of £2,000,000 are included a variety of items. One is a balance from the previous year of £217,000; another is an allowance from the Treasury of £219,000; and a third consists of miscellaneous receipts to the amount of £366,000; so that instead of the aggregate amount of the county rate, strictly so called, being £2,000,000, it is no more than £1,198,000. Upon the whole, then, I do not think it can be maintained that there is at present any proved mismanagement of the county funds. It is true that county magistrates are not necessarily ratepayers. For the most part, however, they reside in the county, occupying a house, if not land; and I apprehend that, as a matter of fact, they almost invariably are ratepayers. But they are also, in general, owners of land in the county; and the county rate is unquestionably, in its practical operation, a deduction from the rent derived from land. When a person takes a farm he makes an estimate of his permanent outgoings, and the rent he offers is calculated upon that amount. Practically, therefore, the incidence of the county rate is upon the landowners, and they are the persons who have the strongest pecuniary interest in the economical management of the county affairs. Hence, although it is true that the managers of the rate are not chosen by the votes of the ratepayers, still the administration is vested in those who have a more powerful motive than any other class could have for avoiding extravagant or wasteful expenditure. But is it a fact that, although the general management may be good, there is any general discontent with the present system? I believe that in rural counties the existing administration works very smoothly; but it is true that in some counties—in those counties where the house property is large, and where there are many towns without municipal corporations—there is a certain jealousy and dissatisfaction with respect to the power of the county magistrates. The same feeling exists in the metropolitan county. Nevertheless, I cannot say that 116 there is at the present moment such an amount of discontent in the populous counties as would induce me to take this Bill out of the hands in which it is now placed, or to promise to bring forward a measure of my own either in the present or in any following Session. I admit that the existing system is not altogether free from objection, and that it might be desirable to introduce into it something like that partial representation which prevails in the South, Welsh counties with respect to the management of roads; but, at the same time, knowing the danger of making a promise which circumstances might prevent me from fulfilling, I must decline to enter into any formal engagement on the subject, and I must leave the hon. Baronet the Member for Tavistock to wind his way through the syrtes of the Committee, where I cannot help anticipating he will be assailed by numerous formidable objections to some of the most important provisions of his Bill.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman had placed him in considerable difficulty. He had come down to support the second reading of the Bill, if he could do so with any prospect of coming to a satisfactory settlement of this important question. But that could only be attained with the co-operation of the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, though he appeared to assent to the second reading, had made a speech totally opposed to the principle of the Bill. There was a considerable feeling among his constituents that they ought to have some voice in the actual management of the county rates, and he was prepared to give them what they desired if it could be satisfactorily done; but there were difficulties in the way which it would be impossible to overcome without the assistance of the Government. He concurred with those who thought it was the duty of the Government to take a question of such vast importance into their own hands, for it could not be dealt with satisfactorily by an independent Member. The glaring defect of the Bill, as it stood, was that it established in the counties a conflict of jurisdictions. There was one body of men who had only to look to the economical discharge of the duties intrusted to them, while another body was held responsible for the peace and good government of the country without the power of carrying their decisions into effect through the conflicting 117 jurisdiction of the financial boards. All this might have been amended in Committee; but he did not see much chance of effectual amendment unless they had the co-operation of Government. He thought they might constitute county boards, so as to give the ratepayers power of election under the magistracy; but there seemed no chance of an arrangement, as the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be altogether hostile to the principle of election.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
I did not express myself as hostile to the principle of election in county boards. I said it was a question of time and circumstances, but I did not express myself hostile to the principle; on the contrary, I expressed myself friendly to it.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
would still vote for going into Committee if he could take what had just fallen from the right hon. Baronet as an assurance of Government support to a modified system of representation; but the measure as at present framed would never carry out the objects intended, and he saw so little prospect of a satisfactory solution being arrived at that he should advise the hon. Member to withdraw this Bill and frame a new one.
§ MR. BARROW
thought those who supported a measure with faint praise did it more harm than good; and as one of the Members whose name was upon the back of the Bill he would venture to say that since the hon. and gallant Member's constituents desired to have a voice in the matter of the county expenditure if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would vote for the second reading of the Bill it could be so amended in Committee as to enable them to do so. He was in favour of the elective principle in this matter, and he believed that the magistrates would have their authority strengthened as conservators of the public peace by being separated from the financial responsibility which was now thrown upon them. He believed that the separation which this Bill would effect between the financial and administrative functions of the magistrates would be most conducive to the advantage of all parties. He would say of the great body of the ratepayers of the kingdom that they were perfectly competent to manage the financial matters of their own districts. The financial business of the State was vested in a different branch of the Administration from the Executive; and in all municipal corporations the financial matters were carefully kept separate from the func- 118 tions of the magistrates as conservators of the peace. Why should not the same principle be extended to counties? For ten years past he had been labouring in support of that principle, and it was for that reason he had placed his name with that of the hon. Baronet at the back of this Bill. The right hon. Home Secretary said there was no general discontent in the country on this subject. What, then, was the meaning of the petitions which for ten years past had been presented week after week praying for an alteration of the present system? Believing that this Bill would effect the object he had in view he should certainly support the second reading.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
This discussion will have at least one good result: it will show to the tenant farmers in the several counties of England who are their real friends. This is substantially a tenant farmers' question. The tenant farmers of England are not satisfied with the way in which the county rates are assessed and expended. They have been dissatisfied for some time. But the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, using now very much the same argument he did last Wednesday against the Bill of the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Locke King), says he is not prepared to vote for the principle of the Bill, or to entertain the subject, unless there be general discontent. I could not help smiling when I heard the hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Packe) say he was prepared to accept any Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman. I gave him credit for infinite simplicity and credulity, but I now feel satisfied that the hon. Member has some understanding with the right hon. Gentleman, and that he knows perfectly well that the Secretary for the Home Department has no intention whatever of bringing in any Bill, either for the reform of the constituency or on county rates. The treatment of this subject by the right hon. Gentleman was most extraordinary. After going through a long argument against all the principles of the Bill—after saying, in fact, that the present system of the management of the county expenditure is as nearly perfect as it could be—he declared he should, nevertheless, vote for the second reading of the Bill, with the view of destroying it in Committee. Is that the part which the Government is called upon to act in this House? We perpetually hear from the Treasury bench that we are wasting time; but is not the course proposed by the right 119 hon. Baronet precisely that best calculated for wasting the time of the House? He pooh-poohs the principle altogether; but he says he will vote for the second reading in order that he may destroy the Bill in Committee! The House has a right to expect that the Secretary for the Home Department would rather have shown himself a bold assassin; if he dislikes the Bill why does he not stab it at once, not going into Committee, as if luring my hon. Friend into a corner, that he may strangle him in the dark? The right hon. Gentleman said there is no discontent. I wish I saw the two hon. Members for East Cornwall in their places; they would have told the right hon. Gentleman that there is the greatest discontent in that county as to the manner in which the county rates are managed. The whole bench of magistrates there have lost the confidence of the ratepayers, and the next election for Cornwall will go very much on the question of financial boards. I have here a statement relative to the county of Worcester—and there is no county where the rate is so high—in which Mr. Best, formerly the deputy clerk of the peace, states that he was on several occasions shocked to see the mode in which the consultations of the small committee for the management of the county rates were carried out. The magistrates dine together and form a club, and for any magistrate not on the committee to oppose the adoption of the report would be considered almost personal insult. Mr. Best states that he had known the chapel of the Worcester county gaol pulled down three or four times since it had been built in 1812. Surely some account should be given of these things! I know that in the counties with which I have been connected the tenant farmers are universally discontented. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say the rates are not excessive; but what the ratepayers object to is the mode in which the rates are managed and laid out. These things are felt simmering in all the counties of England, and is it right that it should be left to a private Member to bring in a Bill of this sort? The right hon. Gentleman says this Bill is not of that class that Government should interfere with. I want to know what is the class of cases proper for the Government to interfere with? Is the Highway Bill of greater importance? The Parochial Assessment Bill has been referred to a Select Committee; and I cannot help thinking that my hon. Friend, the Member 120 for Tavistock, will do wisely if, instead of withdrawing this Bill, he refer it to that Committee. It is something of the same nature with the Parochial Assessment Bill; and as the Government have so little to do now, they cannot do better than devote their attention to the subject. The right hon. Gentleman should be the last to argue against this Bill, for he himself drew up the Report of the Royal Commission in 1843 for inquiring into these local rates. What the right hon. Gentleman then said was this—"Nothing can be more rude and incomplete than the management of county rates." But the right hon. Gentleman was only a Poor Law Commissioner then—he is Secretary of State for the Home Department now. I would call on the House to put some pressure on the Government to compel them to bring in a Bill of their own. I almost despair of any Bill brought forward by a private Member. Last Wednesday the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Locke King) was patted on the back and kicked at the same time. This Wednesday there is another victim to the seductions of the right hon. Baronet. But I want to know what Session could be better adapted than the present for the right hon. Gentleman to take up the subject? We have no public business and very little private business. ["Hear!"] Well, what there is generally referred to Select Committees, and the House, in its collective capacity, has had hardly any serious demand upon its attention. We shall have plenty of time after Easter, and we ought to urge the Government to bring in a Bill on this subject on their own responsibility. In the meanwhile, I call on the House to affirm the principle of this Bill, and then refer it to the Committee on Parochial Assessments.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) had asked the pertinent question why the tenant farmers should not be admitted to a share in the assessment and management of the county rates; and he (Mr. Deedes) had to state in reply that he believed no Member of the House had any objection to that principle if it were embodied in a practicable and a well-considered measure. But no such measure had yet been brought under their notice, and the present Bill was not certainly one of such a character. The question was not a new one, and which rendered it the more remarkable that those who brought the question forward did not deal with it in a manner that would afford some pros- 121 pect of a satisfactory result. He must say that after having heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department, he shared in what he believed was the general astonishment of the House at the conclusion at which the right hon. Gentleman had arrived. Every argument used by the right hon. Gentleman went directly against the Bill, and he was, therefore, bound to state plainly that he would not waste the time of the House in asking them to go into Committee on its provisions. He (Mr. Deedes) repeated that he was perfectly prepared to admit the tenant farmers to a share in the management of county rates; but he could not support a proposal which it would be utterly impossible to carry into operation, and he hoped that the measure would not be pressed to a division.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I wish to join with the hon. Member for Kent (Mr. Deedes) in expressing an earnest hope that the hon. Baronet will see fit to withdraw this Bill, and not put the House to the trouble of dividing upon it. In all my Parliamentary experience I have scarcely ever heard a measure so powerfully opposed, and so feebly supported, as this one has been to-day. The hon. Baronet who introduced it no doubt spoke with the moderation which always distinguished him. Indeed, I doubt whether he is not one of the most dangerous persons in this House, for he has the peculiar habit of bringing forward the most extreme proposals and of advocating them with extreme moderation. He was followed by the hon. Baronet the Member for West minister (Sir John Shelley), whose name stands second on the back of the Bill, but who, from the beginning to the end of his speech, evinced the greatest anxiety to get rid of his charge, and to hand it over to the Home Secretary. Next came the third hon. Gentleman, whose name is on the back of the measure, the Member for Nottinghamshire (Mr. Barrow), who entreated us, by a sort of appeal ad misericordiam, to agree to the second reading, and he would promise to do everything in Committee that would make the Bill as different as possible from what it is now. We have great reason to complain of the carelessness shown by those three hon. Members. They have simply taken up the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman now the President of the Board of Trade in 1853, and thrown it on our table without giving themselves the trouble to look through its clauses and see whether 122 they are applicable to the present day. They have brought unexampled ridicule on their own proposals by giving us a Bill, several clauses of which have actually been superseded by the existing law of the land. I allude to the enactments for the regulation of the rural police, which used to be optional but are now compulsory. The hon. Member for Liskeard said little in favour of the measure, but is anxious to see it referred to a Select Committee. I must now touch, which I do with great regret, the speech of the Home Secretary. There is no man in this House—nor in the country—more conversant with questions of this nature than that right hon. Gentleman; and it was impossible that the right hon. Gentleman could have cast his eyes over the Bill for one moment without seeing that it would not work, and that it is inconsistent with the existing system of administration in the counties Of England. Well, the right hon. Gentleman's speech was from first to last a condemnation of this measure. He told us—what every one acquainted with the subject knows in his conscience to be true—that there is nothing to complain of in the present financial management of the affairs of our counties; that there is no extravagance, no mismanagement, but merely the honest discharge by the gentlemen of England of the functions which the law imposes on them. But what is the result at which the right hon. Gentleman arrived? After having throughout his speech condemned the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman came to a conclusion which he heard with astonishment and regret. The House must, I think, feel that there is too much weak vacillation on the part of the Government; for this is not the first Bill this Session they have been unable to approve, but have feared to condemn. I say it is unworthy of a Government, unworthy of a man of the high character of the right hon. Gentleman, to make a speech from beginning to end impugning a measure, and then to wind up with the lame and impotent conclusion that he shrinks from voting against it. The hon. Member for Liskeard told us that in Cornwall there exists great dissatisfaction with the present administration of county rates, and a great demand for a financial board. From the information which has reached me, I believed that that statement is correct. But what is the reason for that discontent? I understand that in Cornwall the real fault of the magistracy has been that, following too much 123 the desire in the county for economy, they abstained, most unwisely as I think, from the adoption of the rural police until the Act of 1856 forced it upon them. That has, of course, involved the county in an expense which it did not previously bear. About the same time the county gaol was found too much out of repair, and the magistrates were bound by their duty to raise the money to improve it. The result of these two unaccustomed burdens being thus simultaneously thrown upon the county has been to increase the rates, which were formerly very low, to 4½d., which, after all, is not very high, and to produce an outcry among the ratepayers. The hon. Member for Liskheard also said that the rates in Worcestershire are high. That is the fact, and it arises from two accidental causes not within the control of the magistrates—namely, that from the increase of the population and the consequent increase of crime they were obliged to enlarge their gaols, and that the Legislature, rightly, as I believe, rendered the erection of lunatic asylums compulsory on counties—operations both of which necessarily entailed a heavy though temporary augmentation of expenditure. The hon. Member read a letter purporting to come from Mr. James Best, once the deputy clerk of the peace for the county of Worcester. I know that gentleman, and I believe that if he had had the least idea that his letter would be read in this House he would never have written it. As to Mr. Best's description of the mode of transacting business in the county, all I have to say is simply that it is not true. I may perhaps add that, being deputy-clerk of the peace, Mr. Best was very anxious, on a vacancy occurring, to obtain the more lucrative appointment of clerk of the peace. He failed in that endeavour, the result being that he also lost the deputy-clerkship. I leave the House to judge how far these facts may have influenced him in writing the letter. The hon. Member for Tavistock stated that I had concurred in desiring a more effective control over county rates. I never said that; but upon the introduction of this Bill I avowed that, abstractedly, I could uot have—any more than any enlightened Englishman an objection to the representative principle. That principle the hon. Mover of the Amendment in his very able speech described as the vital principle of the Constitution; and I said I should willingly join in its adoption wherever it could be 124 safely and beneficially applied. The hon. Baronet also referred to my warning to him that he should not throw away the substance for the shadow. Well, I think that in seeking to square the institutions of our counties to a preconceived theory he incurs the risk of sacrificing that local management of their own affairs to which Englishmen are so much attached. What would be the effect of this Bill in Worcestershire? In that county there are, I think, 12 unions. To each of them this measure would give two representatives; so that 12 magistrates and 12 other persons would constitute the financial board. Now, in that county there are at least 200 magistrates, who meet together with an attendance varying from 40 or 50 to 80 or 90, to transact this description of business. But for the sake of an abstract theory the hon. Baronet would disfranchise these gentlemen, who hare the strongest interest in the economical administration of funds to which they are themselves the largest contributors. The four main items of county expenditure are the police, the administration of justice, the maintenance of the gaols, and the lunatic asylums. How could a financial board deal with these? The police is regulated in connection with the Government; so are the gaols and the asylums; while as to the charges for prosecutions, whatever they are they must be paid, without their having any control over them. Surely, then, it is not worth while occupying the time of Parliament by trying to bring about these changes. Let me ask the right hon. Gentleman who has been so vacillating in his conduct to-day to recollect the serious nature of this proposal. It aims at effecting a complete revolution in a system which has long existed, and never operated better or more economically than at present; and all this upon no pretence but the shallow or theoretic ground that I have stated. Now, let me add that if this question is to be dealt with at all, it ought to come before us with all the weight and authority of the Government. That was the recommendation of the Committee of 1851. This identical measure was introduced in 1853 by the present President of the Board of Trade. It went before a Committee and was withdrawn, because the present Prime Minister, then the Home Secretary, undertook, very properly under the circumstances of the hour, to deal with the subject as the head of the Home Department. Probably, the noble Lord and 125 the right hon. Gentleman then talked over this matter; but now that they are sitting in the same Cabinet that promise is forgotten—probably they came to the tacit conclusion that no legislation ought to take place on the subject—no legislation has taken place, and from that day to this they have never revived this question. Now we have another Home Secretary, who says "This is altogether a bad Bill; no case has been made out for it; nevertheless, I will vote for it." And he adds, "Let it wind its way through the Committee and take its chance there; but, mind, that I as Home Secretary, have nothing to do with it, and will give no promises." I repeat that such a proceed is unworthy of a Government, and affording no possible prospect of any useful results.
§ MR. WYLD
said, the reason for the dissatisfaction in Cornwall did not arise from the expenditure on the police, but because a large sum of money had been spent in the ornamentation of the gaol, and because the justices had resolved to allow the governor of the gaol and the superintendent of the lunatic asylum to retire with very nearly their full salaries. In passing that resolution they had suspended the Standing Orders, and the result was that they had been obliged to go to the Court of Queen's Bench in order to set aside their illegal decision. It was no wonder, therefore, that the ratepayers desired to have some control over the rates raised from them. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis) seemed to have a particular affection for those institutions which taxed the people without their consent, though he had, at the last moment, agreed to vote for the second reading—he supposed for the purpose of gaining the support of some hon. Gentlemen on his own side of the House. The Government had denied reform to the working classes; would they now create dissatisfaction amongst the tenant farmers by refusing them a voice in the expenditure of their rates? He hoped that the Government would—at least in Committee—afford the Bill their support.
said, he had heard with regret the announcement of the Home Secretary at the close of his speech, that the Government had no intention to take this subject into their own hands. The question was one of very great importance, and could not properly be handled by any private Member. He would not say a word as to whether the Bill would be agreeable to this or that section of society in the 126 counties; but, certainly, the well-working of their police, the gaols, and the lunatic asylums, would entirely depend upon the mode in which that measure was dealt with. What sort of example had they had to-day of the expediency of entrusting a great subject to be dealt with by a private Member? Not only had the same Bill, which was before the House eight years ago, been taken, but no care had been exercised to remove any of the objections that were then raised against it. No one who knew anything of the subject would venture to say that the machinery proposed by the Bill would work satisfactorily. But all the promoters of the Bill asked of the House was, "Only assent to the principle, and the details could be altered in Committee." Well, what was the principle? Much had been said about the introduction of the representative principle, and, in order to carry out that principle, the Bill curiously contrived that all real power should rest with the Home Secretary, and that was called introducing the representative principle. The existing authorities were to name the officers of gaols, lunatic asylums, and other county institutions, and to fix their salaries; but the county financial boards would very frequently differ from them as to the amounts, and in those cases the decision would rest with the Home Secretary. In addition to that interference of the central Government, there was to be a treasury audit. Was that local representative government? It seemed to him to be the complete destruction of it; it was, in practical effect, taking all control out of the hands of the local magistracy and placing it in the hands of the central Government. He opposed the Bill because it could not work and would only increase expense. A Secretary of State would not be particularly careful in sanctioning works which he had not to pay for, and it would be very easy to make out a case of efficiency, and the Home Secretary would have nothing to look to but efficiency. It was more than doubtful whether the ratepayers would derive any benefit from such a change. He (Mr. Henley) was connected with a lunatic asylum, the management of which was in the bands of different bodies from two counties and five boroughs, all of which sent representatives. They had hitherto managed their affairs very smoothly; but this Bill would make a complete hash of the whole business. According to the Bill the county financial boards were to 127 provide clothing and food for the lunatic asylums. In such a case as he had referred to, with two Counties and five town councils interested, which of them was to provide the food and clothing? Would each of the seven bodies have to make separate contracts, or would they not rather leave those matters to be dealt with by the Very body from whom the Bill proposed to take it? One clause of the Bill proposed that in case of special necessity the managing body of a lunatic asylum might spend the amount of £10 upon a single patient without the authority of the financial board, but that such expenditure should not be allowed unless it had been properly expended. But in the case of his own asylum, with seven different bodies, each exercising an independent opinion, supposing there was a difference of Opinion among them as to the expenditure of £10, what was to be done? He thought this Bill was very imperfectly prepared, and he was not inclined to allow it to go into Committee in order that it might be completely remodelled. He agreed with the Home Secretary that if they were to have a representative system it should be one including the ratepayers generally. He disapproved electoral colleges, and he also thought it was undesirable to have two antagonistic bodies to deal with the county funds. If the Bill passed there must be a distinct class of clerks and other officers appointed in each county; the clerk of the peace was appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and could not be appointed clerk to the financial board; and, as in many counties the clerks of the peace had accepted salaries instead of fees, the result of the Bill would be to relieve them of one-half their duties without diminishing their emoluments, and the county would have to pay another officer to perform the work now done by the clerk of the peace. Something had been said about a strong feeling of discontent being prevalent upon the subject of county expenditure; and, therefore, he had taken the trouble to see how many petitions had been presented upon this subject. He found that this year there had been thirty two petitions presented, with an aggregate of 184 signatures. He might be told that some of those petitions were under seal from boards of guardians, and that was the case. There were twenty-seven petitions under seal, out of about 700 boards of guardians in this country. He was only surprised that there was not a stronger feeling upon this question after the mau- 128 ner in which some hon. Members had spoken of the sacred union of taxation with representation. Those hon. Members now came forward with a Bill and said, "Only agree to the principle and here is something that will not carry it out." Here is taxation and representation, and the whole matter is to be left to the Home Secretary. He, for one, was not inclined to proceed further with a Bill without knowing more about it. Reference had been made to petitions from Cornwall, and he thought the House would like to hear a paragraph from a petition from Penzance in that county. The petitioners were of opinion "That provision should be made in the Bill for the payment of the out-of-pocket expenses of members not being Justices of the Peace of such financial Board, as it would be unreasonable to expect persons to pay such expenses in addition to the loss of time which such attendance would involve." That suggestion did not appear likely to promote economy, for the bills for expenses would form a considerable item in the county accounts, while whatever might be the faults of the justices they at least did not ask payment of their expenses for attending sessions. He repeated that he could not agree to proceed further with so incomplete and unsatisfactory a measure, and thought that so important a subject ought not to be left to take its chance in the hands of a private Member, but should be dealt with by the Government, which had the best means of knowing what sort of legislation should take place. By the present Bill all power over money was taken from the magistrates, but there was no provision for the payment of costs of defence in cases where the county was indicted. The financial board might disapprove the defence, and then who was to pay for the costs? He said now, as he had said on former occasions, he had no objection to the introduction into the management of county funds of a proportion of representatives fairly elected by the ratepayers, provided that care was taken to insure the proper working of the machinery. He did not believe the change would save a single shilling of expenditure, but if it would give satisfaction to any considerable body of persons he should not oppose a Bill introduced by the Government for such a purpose.
§ SIR HARRY VERNEY
believed that if these county boards were appointed the county expenditure would be much reduced; nor did he think the passing of the 129 Bill would at all diminish the influence of the county gentlemen as had been alleged by the right hon. Member for Droitwich. The same argument had been used in relation to the passing of the Poor Law Bill, but had been completely falsified by experience. In his opinion the police force in many counties was too largo and might be reduced with great advantage to the country.
§ MAJOR WINDSOR PARKER
said, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Lewis) had put forward this question as if it was a landlord's and not a farmer's question; and had asked what right farmers, who took their farms on certain conditions, had to interfere in county matters.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
denied that he had said any such thing. What he actually said was that ultimately the incidence of county taxation fell on the rent.
§ MAJOR WINDSOR PARKER
said, he must have misunderstood the right hon. Baronet. It was his conviction that the farmers had a deep interest in the public expenditure, and were, therefore, entitled to have a voice in that expenditure. He did not agree with the hon. Baronet who had introduced the measure in the way in which he had dealt with the question, and he accused him of attempting to strike a blow at the Church, by expressing his opinion that clergymen would be much better employed in looking after their parochial duties than in dispensing justice on the county benches. At all events, if he wished to deprive them of the magisterial position he ought also to deprive Nonconformist preachers or ministers of a seat on the bench.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he could easily conceive that a Bill might be framed containing conciliatory provisions, which would obtain the sanction of the House; but to this Bill, which did not contain such provisions, he greatly objected, and for two reasons; first, as regarded the payment of the expenses of the elected members of the board, for it was unreasonable to expect that the elected members would attend four times a year from all parts of the county without being paid their expenses. Then, again, the county gaols and lunatic asylums were managed by committees of magistrates, and required very careful and minute supervision; and the introduction of elected members on such committees would, in his opinion, lead to very great inconvenience, for the elect ed members would not be able to attend 130 regularly to these duties. If a good measure of the kind were proposed by the Government there would be a chance of carrying it through the House; but he should vote against the second reading of the present Bill.
§ SIR JOHN TRELAWNY
in reply, said, that this had been a very curious debate. Whilst it had been observed of him that he introduced sweeping measures, he found that four or five country gentlemen distinctly admitted the value and importance of the principle of the Bill—that principle being the connection of taxation with representation. But against that advantage he must set the injurious support of the Home Minister, which again was itself, as it were, balanced by the beneficial opposition of the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington). That right hon. Gentleman had benefited him (Sir John Trelawny) by overstating his case, since in saying that business in counties was well managed by magistrates, and that all was couleur de rose, he was met by the positive assertion of the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Deedes) that discontent certainly exists. It was curious that the Conservative party—such friends of the tenant farmer, and so anxious to extend the franchise to his class rather than to the inhabitants of towns—were now grudging him the control of rates to the extent of 2d. in the pound. He (Sir John Trelawny) suspected that something would be heard about this at the hustings. It had been remarked that his Bill contained clauses which the alteration of the law of 1856 making the adoption of rural police compulsory, has rendered inapplicable, no doubt. But, surely, this was hardly a fair statement. He distinctly asked for a reprint of the Bill of 1853, and begged to have it read a second time in order to go into Committee, and there cut out such clauses as the progress of legislation of late years had rendered unnecessary. Many of the other objections raised were like this one—objections suited to the consideration of a Committee. As to Mr. Best's letter, which the right hon. Member for Droitwich thought he (Sir John Trelawny) should not have published—[Sir JOHN PAKINGTON disclaimed any charge of breach of confidence.] He felt almost bound by what had passed with Mr. Best to take care that Mr. Best's memorandum, given to him (Sir John Trelawny) after an interview with Mr. Best, should be known, that he might have the credit of 131 the suggestions it contained. He would conclude by moving that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 125; Noes 163: Majority 38.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for six months.