§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. WYLD
, in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that the subject had occupied the attention of the Legislature during the past thirty years, and had been reported on by Select Committees of both Houses of Parliament, and by Royal Commissions, in every case to the effect that ratepayers should have some control over the expenditure of County Boards. This opinion had been supported by many statesmen of acknowledged wisdom. Sir Robert Peel stated that—He should admit, what he was prepared to admit, that the representative system should to a certain extent be adopted in the administration of the county funds.The Earl of Derby in 1848, speaking on the Petty Sessions Bill, said—In the county with which he was connected the county rate had risen from £77,000 in 1823, to £175,000 in 1848, and it did seem an anomaly that such a sum should be assessed by the local magistrates without the control of the ratepayers.1543 If this were his Lordship's opinion in 1848, with a county revenue of £175,000, how much more strong should it be now, when, in 1865, the expenditure had increased to £251,754, and when the valuation had increased from £6,000,000 to £10,000,000? Sir James Graham had expressed his opinion—That some check founded on popular election, and consisting of ratepayers acting with the magistrates, was now necessary and ought to be established.And the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley)—Wished it to be understood that he had never expressed an opinion against the ratepayers having a control over the expenditure, if a right system could be chalked out.And upon another occasion—He begged to state that he did not object to the principle of establishing popular control over county expenditure.The present Secretary of State for War did not object to this principle, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had upon more than one occasion promised to support it. Lord Palmerston, when First Minister of the Crown, had promised—That, at the beginning of the next Session, Her Majesty's Government would propose to Parliament such measures as they might think fit, founded on the principle of popular representation as regards the administration of county affairs.But Lord Palmerston's promise is unfulfilled, and the county rate is the only tax of all our fiscal arrangements which is levied and expended without the consent of the ratepayer or his representative. And the anomaly was sufficiently apparent to all who had studied the question to render further argument or illustration unnecessary. It had been said that the landowners paid the county rate, though indirectly, and that the magistrates being large landowners had the sole right to control its expenditure. Sir James Graham in 1856 demolished the fallacy; his words are—It was said in reference to this measure, that the magistrates of England, who exercised this irresponsible power were the great proprietors, and had the greatest interest in the expenditure of the county rate; and that, therefore, it was perfectly sale to allow them to regulate that expenditure to which they themselves most largely contributed, without the check of popular representation. That seemed to him to be a very odd argument to use in the House of Commons. Why, on the very same ground, they might entrust the taxation of the whole country to the House of Lords without any interference from the representatives of the people. The House of Lords consisted generally of the large landed proprietors of the country. They, therefore, it might be said, 1544 had an interest in keeping down taxation—yet was it found necessary to have the check and control of this elective assembly."—[3 Hansard, cix. 826.]The large landowner may be represented by the justices at quarter sessions, but the small freeholders are not in the commission of the peace; they are a numerous class, and freehold land and building societies have added to their number. The properties they possess may in the aggregate be equal to the properties of the justices, and yet they have no voice in the levying and expenditure of the county rate. What has raised the assessment for the county rates from £65,000,000 in 1860, to £77,000,000 in 1868, but the improvement and increase of the smaller properties? Then there is the tenant occupier. It is said the landlord pays the rate; that when the tenant takes the farm or the house, he knows the amount of the rate, and pays a rent minus the rate. This proposition might have some force if the rate was invariable, but it changes from year to year. In Cornwall the amount levied for the county rate was—
These examples show that the rate increases, and in some few counties diminishes. Does the landlord deduct the increase of rating or charge the diminution of rate to the tenant? If not, then he can pay indirectly only a portion of the rate, and the tenant is entitled to some control over the portion of the rate he pays. Where the tenant has taken a lease, he must, from the annual increase in the rate, be a direct contributor to the county rate, and yet as the law now stands he has no share in its management. The remedy he proposed was simply that suggested by a Select Committee, which had reported on the subject. His Bill would be permissive. The majority of the Boards of Guardians in a county would, under his 1545 Bill, in the first place, decide whether they would prefer that the Act should take effect in their county, and when a majority of the parishes had concluded in favour of it the county magistrates would be required to endorse their decision. The Boards of Guardians would then proceed each to elect a representative from among their number, and the justices would elect a like Dumber from among themselves. The assembly thus consisting of one-half of county magistrates and one-half of elected Members from the Boards of Guardians, would form the County Financial Board. The qualification for a seat would be a fixed £50 occupation, either in ownership or tenancy, and it would not be necessary that the representative should be a justice. Its members to go out of office annually, but capable of re-election. The duties of the Board to be strictly financial, not judicial, and consist in controlling the county finance; it would regulate the charges for the police of the county; the raising of rates to defray the expenses of building,; hiring of stations, lock-up-houses, and would have the power, with the concurrence of the county magistrates, of suggesting to the Secretary of State an increase or diminution in the number of the police in each county; and the chief constable of the county to attend its meetings. It would have power to determine the salaries and superannuations of the officers of gaols, and of all questions arising as to the structure, but would have no control over the internal arrangements of the prison; but its members would have power to visit the gaols. In case of difference arising between the Board and the county magistrates in the matter of salaries, the appeal to lie to the Secretary of State. With regard to lunatic asylums the Board to have the control of all expenses attending the structure, but all power as to the internal regulations to remain with the county magistrates and the committee of visitors; its members to have the power of visiting the asylum, except in cases where it would be detrimental to a lunatic, and in case of disagreement appeal to the Secretary of State; and all powers given to the justices by the 15 & 10 Vict., c. 81, would be given to the County Financial Boards constituted under the Bill; and an audit on the principle suggested by the Select Committee would be held under it. He fully believed that the county funds were generally administered by the magistrates with great care 1546 and judgment; but the system failed to give satisfaction to the great body of the ratepayers, who very naturally thought they were entitled to some control over this expenditure. The question was the more important on account of the increasing amount raised annually by county rates. In 1793 that amount was only £184,000, whereas in 1866 it had reached £2,415,000. The proposal to associate persons elected by the Boards of Guardians with the justices might, perhaps, encounter objection; but it should be remembered that those Boards already exercised important functions with regard to county rates. Whatever views might be held as to the machinery he proposed, the present irresponsible administration was an admitted anomaly, and he believed the adoption of the principle of representation would be hailed with great satisfaction by the ratepayers. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
£ s. d. £ s. d. 1864 17,156 17 8 per cent 1 17 10 1865 18,843 5 11 per cent 2 1 7 1866 25,059 13 5 per cent 2 15 3 County of Derby— 1863–4 15,883 2 5 per cent 1 7 1 1864–5 14,490 12 5 per cent 1 5 4 1865–6 16,053 8 8 per cent 1 7 5 County of Lancaster— 1863 119,753 0 0 per cent 1 14 8 1864 111,979 0 0 per cent 1 12 5 1865 135,097 0 0 per cent 1 19 1 County of Northampton— 1864 9,957 10 7 per cent 1 1 10½ 1865 11,834 6 10 per cent 1 6 0½ 1866 12,802 13 5 per cent 1 8 1½
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second; time."—(Mr. Wyld.)
§ MR. KENDALL
, in seconding the Motion, said, he hoped the Bill would be referred to a Select Committee. His own experience led him to believe that much discontent existed with regard to the manner in which county matters were managed; not that blame was imputed to the justices, but that the system was held to be faulty. Nine-tenths of the ratepayers had no control over the application of the rates. It sometimes happened that after a farmer had taken a lease at a certain rental, extraordinary outlay on prisons, lunatic asylums, or police stations led to a serious increase in the county rate, and the farmer was thus saddled with much heavier burdens than he had calculated upon. He did not say that such outlay was unwisely incurred; but when it was sanctioned by an irresponsible body complaints naturally arose. Very huge powers were possessed by the visiting justices of lunatic asylums; they could double the staff or the salaries, and even the magistrates in Quarter Sessions often could not interfere. For his own part, he devoted much labour and care to county expenditure, and he believed; his fellow-justices did the same; but it was impossible to convince the ratepayers that they were not entitled to a voice in that expenditure. While approving the principle of the Bill, and thanking the 1547 hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld) for having introduced it, he thought it would require considerable revision; and in case it were referred to a Select Committee, he hoped some Irish Members would be placed upon the Committee, for they would be able to give valuable information as to the grand jury system, which was far superior to any machinery existing in this country.
said, he did not deny the right of ratepayers to some control over county expenditure; but he thought it was not correct to say that, at present, they had no control whatever. The items, though not the details, of that expenditure were fixed by Acts of Parliament, and in the passing of those Acts the ratepayers had a voice. The county rate in his own county for current expenditure was only 4d. in the pound on the rateable value, and he believed that, when some Returns which had been moved for were presented, it would be found that whereas the poor rates reached from 3s. to 6s., and the highway rates 1s. 10d. or 2s., county rates did not often exceed 6d. in the pound. The amount being thus small, and no fault being found with the working of the present system, he doubted whether it was desirable to take action further than by referring the Bill to a Select Committee. In its present shape, it would lead to constant collisions between the Financial Boards and the Finance Committees of the Quarter Sessions, for it appeared to place the Financial Boards in a position superior to that of the Quarter Sessions. It transferred the constabulary powers to the Boards, and it required the chief constables to attend their meetings. Being accustomed to attend certain committee meetings of the justices, they would be puzzled to know which masters to obey. Moreover, the salaries of prison officers were to be fixed by the justices and Boards, and, in the case of disagreements, by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Such disagreements would be very unfortunate. The Bill, too, omitted to provide for representative powers in other than financial matters. Now, on such questions as the adoption of the Highway Act, which was carried in his own county, notwithstanding that seventy petitioners out of seventy four objected to it, representative powers were as much required as with regard to financial matters.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
said, that 1548 if the present system were changed he should prefer a purely elective Board to one of a hybrid character, composed partly of justices and partly of Poor Law Guardians. As ex officio members, magistrates would have less influence at the Board than if they were elected by the ratepayers. The management of gaols and asylums by the justices was efficient, and, considering the results, economical, whereas the administration of the Poor Laws by guardians was infamous and costly, and this did not offer much encouragement for making the change proposed. As to the transfer of the police management to the Financial Boards, in his county it had recently been thought advisable, on account of the number of Fenians employed in mines, to enlarge the constabulary force in as quiet a manner as possible; but Boards would be tempted to pay exclusive regard to economy, to the neglect of other considerations. He believed the present system, though an anomalous one, worked well. The Bill, if it became law, would introduce far greater anomalies.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that, while of opinion that much of the feeling which had been shown of late years on this subject was due to misconception, he admitted that that feeling was entitled to consideration. As had been already pointed out, a great number of items of county expenditure depended on Acts of Parliament, the justices having control only over the details. The expenditure on gaols, lunatic asylums, and police, for instance, was imposed by statute, and the only question was, whether in any case magistrates sanctioned excessive expenditure. Now, he believed that, in the main, great judgment and economy were displayed, and in the county with which he was acquainted the Finance Committee devoted an enormous amount of labour and time to their task, checking the expenditure as efficiently as any other machinery which could be devised. He could see no advantage in referring the present Bill to a Select Committee. In the first place, it was a permissive one, and he thought such legislation should be discouraged. That House was at least as capable, as were the guardians of the poor, of arriving at a conclusion as to whether any change ought to be introduced into the system of managing the affairs of counties; and if such a change was to be made it was, in his opinion, desirable that it should be introduced by the direct authority of that House. Moreover, 1549 the Bill was what he might term a Japanese, or dual one, for the clauses relating to gaols, asylums, and police would bring about an immediate dead-lock between the justices and the Board. It was true that the hon. Member for Bodmin. (Mr. Wyld) did not propose that the Financial Board should interfere with the officers of gaols or of the police in the discharge of their duties; but those officers would be dependent upon the Boards for their salaries; and it was impossible that those who had the control of the purse-strings should not interfere with and exercise an influence over the officials. Upon the whole, he was convinced that the Bill in its present shape would not be productive of benefit to the counties, nor would it carry out the purpose of the hon. Member for Bodmin. He believed there had been no inquiry into the subject since 1853 when a Bill brought in by the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Milner Gibson) was referred to a Committee. That fifteen years should have elapsed without any measure having been, introduced, or, at all events, without any discussion on the question, seemed to show that the conclusions or that Committee had not commended themselves to the acceptance of Parliament. During the last two years. Chambers of Agriculture had been established in various parts of the country, and had shown considerable interest in the question, In the interests, therefore, of the county magistrates, who were to a certain extent attacked, he thought an inquiry should be made. He objected, however, to referring to a Committee a Bill which required entire re-modelling in order to make it acceptable, and which, proposed a Board not constituted in accordance with any recognized principle, its members being chosen, not by the ratepayers, but by guardians who had been elected for another purpose, and it being left to the majority of Boards of Guardians to decide whether thay adopted the change or not. The hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Kendall) had suggested that Irish Members should be placed on the Committee; but Irish and Scotch Members would be only embarrassed by the details of the present Bill; and the Committee would be better able to decide whether the complaints which were commonly preferred were well founded — whether much would be gained by a considerable change, and whether that change should be in the direction of the Irish or Scotch system, if no particular measure 1550 were before them. He should be prepared to move as an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading of the Bill—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present mode of conducting the financial Arrangements of the Counties in England and Wales, and whether any alteration ought to be made either in the persons by whom or in the manner in which such arrangements are now conducted.He should prefer, therefore, the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the whole question, so that their Report might lay down principles on which any Government might frame a measure more consonant with the interests of the ratepayers and more acceptable to the House. Another reason for this course was the fact that the hon. Member for Thirsk (Sir William Gallwey) had given notice of a second Bill on this subject.
said, he had understood the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld) to desire the adoption of the representative principle, the machinery by which it was effected being a matter of detail. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Secretary of State for the Home Department) had pointed out weighty objections to the machinery of this Bill; and he doubted whether it would be possible to reconcile the functions of the justices and those of the proposed Board. He thought it would be much better to send the whole question to a Select Committee than to have a Select Committee on the Bill itself. The result of sending this Bill, with its 140 clauses, to a Select Committee would be that all legislation on the matter would be postponed till another Bill was framed; because he thought the opinion of the Committee would be that the measure now before the House was impracticable. It might be said that it was important to have the principle of the Bill affirmed by reading it a second time. He doubted, however, whether one word would be said against the principle of the Bill. On the contrary, he believed that the tone of the discussion on the second reading would be equivalent to an affirmation of the principle of the Bill. Under these circumstances, he would recommend his hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin to accept the offer of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He was afraid that, at present, the finance business of counties was got through in a rather hurried manner at Quarter Sessions; and, as it could no 1551 longer be said that the rate was levied on land exclusively—far the larger portion being raised from non-agricultural property, such as mines, docks, houses, railways, &c., which were frequently unrepresented by the justices—the time had come when a change should be made. The best manner of effecting this change would be a proper subject of inquiry before a Select Committee.
said, the feeling out-of-doors was strongly in favour of inquiry into this subject, as the number of petitions presented every year in reference to it proved. He concurred with the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken in thinking that it might be more satisfactory to the body of the ratepayers to give them a direct representation in the body to which the county finances were intrusted; but there were difficulties in the matter which this Bill did not meet, while it would give rise to other difficulties. He thought that under this Bill they would not get responsible persons to be visitors of gaols and lunatic asylums. It certainly seemed to have been drawn with great care; but how could the prisons and lunatic asylums be managed by persons not conversant with those places? [A laugh.] He did not mean persons who had been confined in prisons or lunatic asylums, but persons like himself, who, as county magistrates, had been in the habit of visiting such institutions. Those who had been members of the visiting Boards knew how often it occurred that strange things arose which required action on the moment. The manner in which the Bill proposed to limit the powers of the visitors of lunatic asylums to an expenditure of £10, under extraordinary circumstances, showed how difficult it was to deal with their management in a Bill. The great principle of the Bill was to create a dual government; but it was already seen that such a government might come to a dead lock; and if it did there would be a reference to the Secretary of State, and that would be a most expensive matter. He did not think that the finances of counties would, under ibis Bill, be more economically managed than at present; and he believed that the proposal of his right hon. Friend ought to be adopted if they desired to arrive at a proper conclusion upon the matter.
§ MR. REBOW
said, he wished to point out that assessment committees in counties were most useful bodies; and that under the Bill there would be great difficulty in 1552 obtaining the assistance of practical men on those committees. He did not object to the principle of the Bill, but he thought that the course suggested by the Secretary of State was the one to be pursued.
§ MR. BARROW
said, he took a very strong interest in this subject, because he felt that taxation and representation ought to go together. He brought, this subject before the House some fifteen years ago, and it was not well received. Since that time it had slept, but it now found general approval. The best mode of procedure would be to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, for nobody disputed the principle of it.
§ MR. CLIVE
said, he thought that County Boards should be elective, but that they should consist of few members, as that would be more conducive to economy—the great object of the Bill. He differed from his right hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Bruce). He thought that, as a rule, the finance business of counties was not conducted in a hurried manner. But he believed the difference could be accounted for in this way, that his right hon. Friend was chiefly connected with a manufacturing; county, while the county with which he (Mr. Clive) was connected was purely agricultural. He objected to many of the details of the Bill, and he believed one advantage in sending it to a Select Committee would be, that it would be rendered much shorter.
§ MR. READ
said, he was glad that so much unanimity was shown in the House in favour of the old constitutional principle that taxation and representation should go together. Allowing the Courts of Quarter Sessions to levy a rate was as objectionable in principle, as it would be to allow the House of Lords to tax the country. As to the dual principle, he would state, as far as his own experience went, that the magistrates and elected members worked very harmoniously together. They were told, as an argument against his Bill, that the landlord paid all the rates. That might be very good in theory, but it certainly was not entirely so in practice; for if 50 per cent were deducted from the poor rates the landlords might soon come to claim the advantage of it; yet if 1d. or 2d. were saved upon the county rate it would assuredly go into the tenants' own pocket. At the same time, he did not doubt but that the magistrates very generally managed the county expenditure with great 1553 economy; he knew they did so in Norfolk, and he believed their management would contrast favourably with that of town councils and other borough expenditure. But, on principle, the elective system ought to be introduced. Believing that permissive legislation was the worst of legislation, he objected to the Bill because it was permissive. Some of the details of the Bill were objectionable, and a few of them were actually mischievous. He therefore thought the hon. Member for Bodmin would do well to act on the suggestion of the Home Secretary; and in the name of the farmers of England he thanked the hon. Gentleman for introducing the Bill.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he also was glad to see so decided an agreement in the principle of the Bill. He hoped his hon. Friend would accept the offer made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He knew that in doing so his hon. Friend would be making a great sacrifice, now that a general assent was given to the principle of his Bill. But he hoped his hon. Friend would see that in this way he was more likely to attain the object he had in view; for it was now plain that no Bill would pass through Parliament this year; and if the question were ever to be properly settled it must be taken up by the Government of the country. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Clive), though he (Mr. W. E. Forster) did not represent an agricultural constituency, he represented a borough which, not having a separate Quarter Sessions, was rated by the county magistrates; and he was of opinion that the time had come when they must apply self-government, as regarded local affairs, to counties as well as to boroughs. For his part, he would rather deal even with the mistakes of elected bodies than with the most common sense arrangements issued from the Home Office; because in the former case the feelings of the people would be with the Board. He trusted the result of this debate would be, not only to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, but that various other questions in connection with it would receive full consideration. He did not believe that, by any change that might be made, they would get a better or more economical expenditure than they had from the county magistrates. He believed that under an elective system they would have the same men to regulate these affairs, but with more power 1554 than before, because they would be backed by the support of the people.
said, that so far as his own experience or observation went, the privilege of county magistrates to look; after the county expenditure might be looked upon in the light of a damnosa hereditas. The duty was troublesome and onerous. As to the complaints made against the system, he agreed with those who represented it as a sentimental grievance. The noble Lord (Lord Henley) had stated the case with great clearness and fairness. The difficulty experienced was not that the magistrates spent too much, but rather that they could not be induced to spend what they ought to do, especially in the matter of prosecutions. Besides, most of the county expenditure was statutory, and not in the control of the magistrates; and he believed the utmost saving that could be effected would not amount to more than 2d. in the pound. The whole question was one of the administration of details. What was wanted was to satisfy any feeling existing in the country on the subject, and at the same time to preserve an effective machinery for business. He would recommend that a limited number of elected members should be added to the board of magistrates, where their advice and assistance would be given with great advantage. This Bill, containing 140 clauses, was not calculated, in his opinion, to effect the object in view. He hoped the hon. Member who introduced the Bill would be satisfied with the expression of opinion which had been evoked, and would act in accordance with the recommendation of the Secretary of State. There was no desire on the part of the magistrates of this country to conceal anything from the ratepayers, their only wish being to secure celerity in the transaction of public business.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he understood that the last Speaker was opposed to the principle of the Bill. [Mr. SCOURFIELD: No.] The recommendation of the Secretary of State, that the general subject should be investigated by a Select Committee, was but a courteous way of shelving the Bill altogether. No question had ever been so frequently discussed, and under so many forms, as the present. The grievance had been spoken of as a sentimental one, but he was sure it was a practical grievance as well. He trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would re-consider the matter, and allow this Bill to go before a Select Committee.
approving the principle of the Bill, and not desiring the subject to be shelved, hoped the hon. Gentleman would withdraw his Bill and that the House would unanimously assent to the proposal of the Government. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bruce), that the business at Quarter Sessions was usually transacted hurriedly. In the county with which he was connected, at all events, the greatest possible attention was paid to the county business and expenditure. He was likewise unable to concur in the remark of the right hon. Gentleman, that other property than land paid the greater portion of the rates. He hoped, indeed, that such a state of things would soon exist, but he feared that it did not at present. "The wish was father to the thought." In the counties with which he was acquainted the land and houses bore all the large and daily increasing burdens borne by parochial and county rates. It had been said by the hon. Member for East Norfolk (Mr. Read), that the dual principle had been found to work well wherever it was applied. But though it might do so in the case of Boards of Guardians, Cattle Plague Boards, Highway Boards and the like, it might not do so in the case to which it was now sought to apply it. It must be remembered that while the ratepayers were for the most part irresponsible persons, the magistrates were responsible for the peace of the county, for the safe custody of prisoners, and for the care of lunatics, as well as for the buildings; and they must see that the proper amount of money was spent for those purposes.
§ MR. THOMAS PAGET
said, there were two points which he considered to be highly objectionable in the Bill. The first was the permissive clause, and the second was the placing the representation in the hands of those who were themselves representatives of others. The elections, he thought, ought in every case to be directly made by those who were interested in the question. He therefore thought it wiser that the hon. Member should withdraw his Bill on the understanding that the whole subject should be taken up by a Committee. But he should feel bound to support the hon. Member if he proceeded to a division.
§ MAJOR PARKER
said, he did not deny the expediency of forming Financial Boards, but he wished to say that, whether the power of arranging county finances remained, 1556 as at present, in the hands of the magistrates, or whether a large ratepaying element were introduced, the influence and power of the local authorities would be exercised to little purpose so long as the Government were permitted to interfere with the magistrates, as in the case of the inspection of gaols. He had been led to make these observations in consequence of a very objectionable course which was taken in the western district of Suffolk, which he had the honour to represent, and which course had led to a lengthened memorial from the magistrates to the Home Secretary. That memorial might perhaps be under the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment. He ventured to hope that the remarks which had fallen from several hon. Members in the course of this discussion might have some influence in inducing the right hon. Gentleman to weigh the matter well before he came to any decision upon it.
§ SIR WILLIAM GALLWEY
said, that though he gave his assent to the proposal before the House, he did so most unwillingly, and he regretted the course that had been taken. The Secretary of State for the Home Department had informed him the other day that he could not consent to refer his Bill to a Select Committee, because it had not been printed. He (Sir William Gallwey) could not disguise from himself the fact that the House might almost be said to be a body of magistrates, and they seemed to think that a question affecting the interests of ratepayers might be postponed for any length of time. There was a strong feeling out of doors, among those who were deeply interested in the matter, that it ought to be dealt with as soon as possible. He was unable to discern any reason why the Select Committee should not make his and his hon. Friend's Bill the basis of its investigations.
§ MR. SPEAKER
interposed, and remarked that this was not the time for the hon. Member to discuss the question of the Bill going to a Select Committee. That could only be considered when the Bill had been read a second time.
§ SIR WILLIAM GALLWEY
said that was undoubtedly so, but the Secretary of State for the Home Department had already stated the course he meant to take with regard to his Motion when it came forward. However, for the purpose of the present argument, he would simply assume that the Secretary of State might decide 1557 that the principle of a Bill should be referred to a Select Committee. Now, what valid reasons would there be against adopting such a course? If the Committee had something substantial to consider there would be a much greater chance of attaining the objects in view than if it had merely to decide upon an abstract question of principle, which, indeed, had been already discussed before more than one Committee. It had been asserted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) that the landlords, either themselves or by their tenants, contributed very largely to the rates of the county; but he entirely denied that landlords paid anything vicariously by their tenants. Would any man say that the rents of farms had been lowered in consequence of the payment of rates by the tenants under the Union Chargeability Act? Indeed, if the tenants did not pay rates, why were they called upon to fill the office of guardian?
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, he thought the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Wyld) was entitled to have the principle of the Bill verified in the ordinary way. If that were done it might then be referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would divide the House, in which event he should certainly follow him into the Lobby. It appeared to him that the Government were simply trifling with the question. The Leaders on either side of the House were wont to give advice to independent Members, and why should not the latter occasionally give advice to their Leaders? For his own part, he did not care either for his Leader or his party. He had independent opinions of his own, and always expressed them; and in the present instance he clearly thought the House ought to divide on the second reading. He had never been a magistrate, and had no desire to be one as long as magistrates were unpaid. The magistrates might generally do their business pretty well; though he confessed that, looking at certain recent appointments, they were not exactly the sort of persons he should like to trust. At all events, the ratepayers naturally wished to have some control over the application of their own money. What was the use of introducing Bills if those who had charge of them did not divide upon them. He should support the second reading, if it were only to show the Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench that they 1558 should not take everything into their hands. They wished to take everything and to give nothing. Adverting to the useless debates which had lately consumed the time of the House, the hon. and learned Member remarked that, unless they made more rapid progress with the business, it would be impossible to have a dissolution for two or three years.
said, he hoped the House would not attribute any weight whatever to the remarks just made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had but just entered the House, and, consequently, had not heard the discussion.
said, he thought it an unfortunate thing that the unanimity of the House should be disturbed by remarks like those which had fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman. It was agreed on all hands that the Bill was good in principle, but that it was not in working trim, and therefore the proposition made by the Government had been almost unanimously acceded to.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, that in order to give his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State an opportunity of again addressing the House, he would formally move for the appointment of a Select Committee.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present mode of conducting the Financial Arrangements of the Counties in England and Wales, and whether any alteration ought to be made either in the persons by whom or the manner in which such arrangements are now conducted,"—(The Judge Advocate,)
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that in 1853 a Bill, similar to the present, was referred to a Select Committee, but nothing resulted from it. He now proposed that an inquiry should be made into the whole subject, in order that the Government might have the information necessary to enable them to bring forward a satisfactory measure.
§ MR. WYLD
said, there had been a unanimous expression of opinion in favour of the principle of the Bill, though several Members had pointed out that some of the details were faulty — an objection always made when a measure was introduced by a private Member. He 1559 was quite willing to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, in order that the details might be amended. He confessed, that the proposal of the Secretary of State was somewhat disappointing to him. He was, however, willing to assent to the proposition of the Government if it was to be understood that, on the Resolutions of the Committee being reported to the House, the Government would undertake the duty of bringing in a Bill. He added that the question was one which the Government ought to take in hand; it affected most important interests; and the present state of things was felt by a large, wealthy, and influential body to be a grievance. A measure of this kind ought never to be in the hands of a private Member. The promoters of this Bill would be delighted to afford the Government every assistance.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he could not possibly pledge himself and the Government as to what should be done. He presumed the Committee would inquire into the subject, and, when they had reported, the Government would be able to consider the question thoroughly. The views of the Committee and those of the Government might not be in accordance, or the Committee might be in direct opposition to the hon. Member.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
was dissatisfied with the answer of the Home Secretary, and insisted upon a division.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question,"
§ The House divided:—Ayes 46; "Noes 154: Majority 108.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present mode of conducting the Financial Arrangements of the Counties in England and Wales, and whether any alteration ought to be made either in the persons by whom or the manner in which such arrangements are now conducted.—(The Judge Advocate.)