HC Deb 18 May 1870 vol 201 cc854-78

(Mr. Buxton, Mr. Thomas Hughes.)

Order for Second Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, it was now recognized on all hands that the time was come when the anarchy which had hitherto prevailed in the metropolis should cease, and that London should be provided with self-government organized upon an intelligible basis. Many schemes had been set on foot for the attainment of that end; but one by one they had all faded away, except the plan contained in the Bills, the first of which he had now the honour of moving. The broad outline of that plan was this—It was proposed, first, that for the administration of all great metropolitan affairs the whole of London should be formed into a corporation, with a Lord Mayor at its head; and, secondly, that for all local purposes the 10 existing Parliamentary boroughs should be raised into municipal boroughs, and endowed with an organization of whatever kind might be thought most suitable, but complete for the management of their separate affairs. First, and foremost, came the question—what system of self-government should be organized for the metropolis as a whole? That was the grand question. The question of how the comparatively petty affairs of the minor divisions of the metropolis should be dealt with was one of great, but it was of less importance than that respecting the government of London as a whole. That government had to be created from the very foundations. At present it did not exist. The only attempt at an approach to it was the Metropolitan Board of Works; but the functions of that Board were confined to a few specific duties. It was never intended to be, and it could not be, regarded as a municipal government of London. What was really wanted was a strong central government for the whole metropolis—a government that should have control over the police and the administration of justice, over all sanitary measures, improvements of streets and other public works, including sewerage, gas, bridges, gaols, workhouses, asylums, and so forth. The demand for such a central government for the metropolis had become too loud to be resisted. Her Majesty's Government distinctly admitted this last year, and promised their aid in carrying out this much needed reform; so that, without doubt, ere long—and he hoped before the Session was over—this reform would be carried out. Starting, then, from this incontrovertible fact that the government of London had to be created, the question was, what its form should be? Now, his proposal was not characterized by any revolutionary daring; he simply proposed that London should be dealt with exactly as every other important town in this country had been dealt with—namely, that it should be formed into one great municipality, with a corporation constituted on the usual model. A right hon. Member of the present Administration had argued against thus following the pattern of municipalities existing elsewhere; but he (Mr. Buxton) had never been able to discover any reason, except the mere passion for novelty, for departing from the ancient, time-honoured, and, in most respects, successful system of self-government which had prevailed for so many ages in this island, and had been free from the evils that had at one time injured its efficiency. The mere size of London, so far from being an objection, was, in fact, an advantage. It had always been found that the larger the area of government the better, as a general rule, that government became; while, vice versâ. petty government was usually petty and mean in its character. A Governing Body, elected by 3,000,000 of people, would be sure to include many men of high education and intelligence, and its career would be almost certainly distinguished by superior wisdom and vigour. The corporations of the largest towns in this country—Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow—had shown that the great size of large cities tended to good government. Now, under these Bills, the chief magistrate of the metropolis would be styled the Lord Mayor of London, that title being taken away from the chief magistrate of the City proper, who would in future be called, the Deputy Mayor, and would always step into the place of his chief in his absence. On the principle on which these Bills were founded, the City Corporation would, in fact, be elevated and extended so as to cover the whole metropolis. It would, therefore, follow inevitably that the property now belonging to that corporation would in future belong to the government by which it would be superseded. That would be an essential part of the scheme, and he rejoiced to find that some of the most intelligent and important members of the City Corporation not only perceived this, but assured him of their most cordial approval of such a transfer. The fact was, that the property which the City had inherited had not been originally intended for the benefit of a small body of persons, living in a restricted area, but for London, the metropolis of the kingdom. It was only by the merest accident that a check was put upon the original tendency of the City to absorb by degrees the whole of London. Had that not been done all Londoners would have shared in the enjoyment, and have had a voice in the administration of this great revenue. The coal and wine duties, which had helped to swell the City purse, had been gleaned from the whole metropolis. In fact, at the present time every inhabitant of the whole metropolis, in an area extending 15 miles from Charing Cross, was compelled to contribute to this revenue, and was absolutely entitled, therefore, to share in directing its expenditure. He ventured to say there was nothing in this country more inconsistent with all principles of sound government than that the inhabitants of a vast area should be heavily taxed, and that the employment of the revenue thus created should be in the hands of a minute fraction of those inhabitants, selected not by any choice, but solely on the ground of their living within certain narrow limits. This arrangement seemed to him so impolitic and so unfair, that it could not any longer exist. He proposed, then, that the City Corporation should, be elevated and expanded, so as to become the corporation of the whole metropolis, and that the new Governing Body should be endowed with all the functions, prestige, and property of the former one. In making this proposal, he certainly was not acting as the enemy of the City. He was himself a freeman of the City, and highly appreciated the splendour of its mediæval history, and the importance which it still enjoyed. Of late years the City, like most other public bodies, had shared in the vigorous impulses of the times, and had displayed a far more liberal, energetic, and patriotic spirit than that which used to characterize it; but the worst enemy of the City would be he who should advise it to stand out against this inevitable reform. Happily this truth was admitted by some of the most important members of that body. In fact, some three years ago a select committee of the Court of Common Council made a report most favourable to a scheme similar in its general outline to the present plan; and the far-seeing among the members of the City Corporation must now be well aware that the only result of rejecting this plan would be that the Metropolitan Board of Works would be converted into a municipal council for London, with its powers so enlarged as to enable it to deal with all the affairs of the metropolis. That was the only alternative; but under that plan the City would be utterly ignored, and be treated as nonexistent. Now, for his part, he thought that it was only due to the City, that the existence of an institution so ancient, so powerful, so intimately connected with the history of the realm, and which still retained a position of such commanding dignity, should be clearly recognized in dealing with the government of the metropolis; and surely it would be a more wise and statesmanlike course to accept existing facts, and, so far as possible, to build upon them rather than to pretend that they did not exist and take no account of them whatever. In fact, he did not believe that anyone wished to set aside the City as of no consequence, unless, indeed, the City were so incredibly rash as to stand in the way of all reform, until by damming up the flood it should cause its own annihilation. He believed that no one would deny the fact that, at the present moment, London was suffering from the want of a vigorous central government. It was only strange that her inhabitants should have so long borne with the state of anarchical confusion under which they lived. The Edinburgh Review said— Nothing is more discreditable than the anarchy of London and its circumjacent cities. Nothing is more unworthy of the nation which professes to govern distant Empires, than the fact that its own capital is in the hands of a mediæval corporation, and parochial boards all at war with each other. It added— The municipal government of the metropolis being established on a proper footing, the great questions of pauperism, crime, police, public works, the water supply, markets, sanitary measures, improvements, and local taxation, would, of course, be dealt with. The fact was that London was divided into 39 districts for one purpose, 16 for another, 90 for another, 54 for another, beside a multitude of other divisions. It was differently divided for the police and the police courts, for the county courts, for duties under the Registrar General, under the Building Act, for postal, militia, revenue, water, gas, and Parliamentary purposes, and these districts crossed and interlaced each other in a manner reminding one, as he had said last year, of Dr. Johnson's definition of network—"a decussated reticulation, with interstices between the intersections." More than 100 Acts of Parliament were in force for the government of London, and there were no less than 7,000 honorary officials, besides a host of paid ones. The variety of the authorities and the divisions and subdivisions overlapping and crossing each other, the confusion of their powers and the cross purposes of those endowed with them, involved the ratepayers of the metropolis in a vast amount of needless expense and litigation; and, as usual, extravagance meant inefficiency as well. A Parliamentary Paper showed that over £100,000 had been spent in contests on the gas supply alone. The consequences of this state of anarchy appeared in the defective arrangements bearing on the sanitary and social position of the people as regarded the water supply, gas, the adulteration of food and drink, and so forth; and it was not wonderful that at last all sensible men had agreed that the metropolis of the Empire should be supplied with some system of self-government. A highly important Resolution distinctly advocating that idea had lately been arrived at by a special committee of the Metropolitan Board of Works. So much for the first part of the scheme contained in these Bills. The second part was that for creating local governments in the several portions of the metropolis for the administration of those minute affairs which would not be so frugally or effectually conducted by the central government of so vast an area. With this view he proposed to take the 10 Parliamentary boroughs into which London was already divided, and that each of these boroughs should be completely organized for the management of its own local affairs. Nothing could be simpler than this part of the scheme. Those boroughs already existed for Parliamentary purposes. There was no difficulty in giving them municipal institutions. The only question was, what shape these municipal institutions had better take? At one time it was proposed to elevate each of these boroughs into an ordinary municipality, with a corporation presided over by a Mayor. They had thought it wiser to drop that feature of the plan, and it would probably be much better to give each of these boroughs a less dignified, but, at the same time, a less cumbrous form of self-government. That, however, was, after all, a mere question of detail which would be very well settled by a Select Committee. The City, of course, would retain its corporation; the remaining divisions would be Westminster, Chelsea, Marylebone, Finsbury, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Lambeth, and Greenwich, containing, on the average, a population of 300,000 persons each, making, in the whole, a population of about 3,000,000. The third of these Bills was for the extension of the county of London from its present City boundaries to the whole metropolis, and was a necessary corollary from the other two. There were, then, two broad facts before them. There was, first, the fact, that at present the metropolis had no municipal self - government whatever; secondly, there was the fact that on all sides this grievous deficiency was recognized. The City itself, though it could not yet make up its mind to any sacrifice of personal dignity, had fully recognized the truth that some great reform was needed, and on all hands it had been distinctly admitted that the anarchy of London ought to come to an end, and that a strong system of government should be organized in its stead. No doubt, through the native vigour of Englishmen, we had contrived to muddle on somehow hitherto; but the want of due self-government had led to grievous waste of money and of power, waste of time, waste even of the life and health of their fellow citizens, and of their happiness and comfort. He might apply to this state of things the picturesque words in which John Bunyan described the Valley of the Shadow of Death—"It was every whit dreadful, being utterly without order." It must be remembered that effort after effort had been made to remedy this state of things. In 1835, when all the towns in the island were provided with the machinery of self-government, the City would not permit, and unhappily was powerful enough to prevent, the introduction of such self-government for the metropolis of the Empire. Repeated efforts were afterwards made in that direction, but with no success, except that a temporary compromise was made in 1855, when the Board of Works was established; but the antagonism between the City and the Board of Works had been a terrible evil to the ratepayers of London. Under these Bills these two opponent bodies would be blended into one, and the energies of both would be utilized and developed. The plan of which he was the humble advocate, had been the result of profound and careful consideration by men best versed in such topics, and he felt bound to refer especially to the very great services to this cause of Mr. James Beal, who had laboured to forward it for many years with admirable energy and ability. He would only add that it was most highly important that another year should not be lost. At present everything was paralyzed by the uncertainty as to what would be done; and really it was no slight misfortune for such a vast City to have everything hung up for a whole year, no one venturing to move in any improvement, because they were waiting, as they naturally must wait, to see what the new government of London was to be. He rejoiced that Her Majesty's Government were disposed to accept the principles of these three Bills, and he earnestly hoped that ere another year had closed, London, like every other great town in Europe, would enjoy a complete and organized system of self-government.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Buxton.)


said, he had felt it to be his duty in three successive Sessions to move the rejection of Bills on this subject. On each of these occasions he had addressed the House very briefly, and he should now have followed the same course, but for certain remarks made by his hon. Friend who had just spoken. He was at a loss to discover how his hon. Friend had arrived at the astonishing conclusion that all schemes had vanished with the exception of the one which he (Mr. Buxton) had brought forward. The opinion of the House, so far as it had been expressed at all, had been pronounced in favour of the Report of the Committee of 1866 and 1867, which was prepared by the present First Commissioner of Works. Of that Committee he (Mr. Bentinck) was a Member, and, with the single exception of himself, it was composed of the most eminent Members of that House. It was gratifying to learn that the hon. Member had at last discovered that the Members of what he might term the "Beal faction" were not the only municipal reformers in London; and he thought there would be no difficulty in indicating a plan which would be infinitely preferable to that advocated by the hon. Member. An opinion that some alteration was required in the government of the metropolis had existed for several years, and the first step in the matter was taken by the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), when he proposed to unite the City and metropolitan police forces. That scheme, which unfortunately failed, would, he thought, have been a most valuable one. In 1866 a Committee was appointed to inquire into the local government and taxation of the metropolis; and after sitting two years, and examining every witness that could possibly be brought forward, it acquired a vast mass of evidence, and unanimously agreed to the able and exhaustive Report, to which he had already referred. The "Beal faction," represented by Mr. John Stuart Mill, opposed that Report, both in Committee and in the House; but the rejection of their Resolutions was moved by the present Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, and carried without a Division. Thus two Ministers of the Crown were committed to the plan proposed by the Select Committee. In 1868 Mr. Mill brought in a Bill on this subject, the object of which was to set up a corporation in every borough, with all the powers exercised by the present vestries, and others in addition. That scheme met with no approbation out of doors, and at a public meeting held at St. James's Hall it was unanimously condemned. It was only suported by the City interest, who desired to see these municipal institutions transferred to other boroughs in order to save themselves. Last year, Mr. Mill being no longer a Member of that House, a scheme was introduced by his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton). It was simply a modification of the scheme introduced by Mr. Mill. There were to be mayors, aldermen, and councillors, with power to raise borough rates, and the ordinary powers of the vestries. After some discussion the Bill was withdrawn. The measure which his hon. Friend now brought forward was totally different from its predecessors, both in detail and in principle. With regard to its details, he was surprised that a Gentleman of business capacity like his hon. Friend should put his name to a Bill which made no provision for the election of the wardens and councillors whom it proposed should be appointed. To the principle of the Bill he must state some objections. It proposed the transfer of the powers and property of the vestries to district Boards. He could not agree in the hon. Member's views of municipal institutions, for he did not see how an institution could be really municipal unless it had control of all affairs usually vested in such, bodies; and he could not suppose that the hon. Gentleman, in his most enthusiastic moments, ever imagined that Her Majesty's Government would relinquish the control of the police and the administration of justice in the metropolis. His chief objection to this Bill, however, was that it failed to secure an efficient central government; and there was the further defect in the measure that it left such important matters as the lighting and repair of thoroughfares to the local bodies from whose mismanagement so much inconvenience arose. When his hon. Friend said that there was no rival scheme before the House, he denied that statement, because the scheme proposed by the Committee in 1867 was still in existence, and, as far as he knew, had been received by the public with much greater approbation than had been accorded to the scheme of the "Beal faction." The Report of that Committee recommended the reconstitution of the Board of Works as the central authority of London, and urged, not only that its constitution should be altered, but that its name should be changed and its powers enlarged. If any fault could be found with it at all, it was that it did not go far enough; and he believed that had the Committee been sitting at present, it would have been in favour of a still further enlargement of the powers of the Board. It was not true that the Committee's scheme ignored the City. But this Bill would raise a storm of opposition in the City, because it went further in the direction of destroying City privileges than even the scheme proposed by the Select Committee of 1866. It would be found that the hon. Gentleman's proposal had well nigh frightened the City authorities out of their wits. The Remembrancer, in a pamphlet which had that very morning been left at his house, said it was obvious that the Corporation of London could not admit the principle involved in the Bill, for the scheme would destroy that Corporation, and transfer its property, charters, privileges, and honours to the proposed new corporations. He was sorry to say that the root of all the opposition to municipal reform lay in the City itself. No plan had yet been brought forward for the benefit of the whole metropolis, which had not met with opposition in that quarter, led by some frantic or frenzied alderman. In this way the Board of Works, the main drainage, the tramways, and the making of new streets had each been received with disfavour. The new road from Blackfriars to the Mansion House had been strongly opposed, though a strong desire had subsequently been pretended to preserve it from the encroachments of railway companies. He feared that until the City were prepared to surrender something, until they recognized the existence of others outside their own limits, there would be no chance of a satisfactory solution to these difficulties. He would venture to suggest that the City should agree to relinquish its jurisdiction over sewers, and should treat its property as belonging to two classes—the first including property vested in them for distinct and clearly-defined purposes, and the second comprising property held for public benefit, and which should be applied for common purposes. The suggestion that the local bodies should be abolished deserved attention, and he saw no reason why a central body, elected in the mode pointed out by the First Commissioner of Works, should not effectually administer all the districts of the town by means of various committees. He trusted that the Secretary of State for the Home Department would not consent to refer these Bills to a Select Committee, for by such a course he would convey the impression either that he admitted the principle involved, or that he was seeking for a policy, and sending forth the hon. Member for East Surrey as a species of will-o'-the wisp, merely to lead the unfortunate ratepayers into unutterable darkness and hopeless obscurity. The right hon. Gentleman stated last year that this question could only be satisfactorily dealt with by the Government of the day. He would suggest that the matter should be allowed to stand over till next year, when the Government would have ample time to consider the question. As the Committee could not sit before the Whitsuntide holidays and the end of the Session was approaching, the appointment of a Select Committee could be attended by no practical result. For these reasons, he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time upon this 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. Bentinck.)


said, he concurred in the opinion that this was a subject with which the Government themselves ought to deal. The Secretary of State for the Home Department last year promised a deputation that he would undertake it when opportunity served. But it was not the fault of the Government that they had not taken up the question this Session. If, at the beginning of the Session, the Secretary of State for the Home Department had given any intimation of his intention to move in the matter, the only result would have been to take the question out of the hands of private Members, and to defer any real discussion of it for at least 12 months. He was not so sanguine as his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton) that if the Bill went to a Select Committee the subject could be sufficiently considered to admit of legislation in the present Session; but one advantage would be gained—namely, that the Secretary of State would have an opportunity of considering the various points during the autumn Recess. When the right hon. Gentleman should come to deal with the question he hoped he would give due weight to considerations on which a general concurrence of opinion would be found to prevail. The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Bentinck) had stated that the Bills of his hon. Friend had no support except from "the Beal faction." Now, he would say that, in the matter of the gas question, Mr. Beal had conferred benefits on the City which, but for his zeal and assiduity, it would be far from obtaining up to the present time, and if those benefits had not been extended to the whole of the metropolis it was neither Mr. Beal's fault nor his own. The hon. Gentleman had said that a meeting in St. James's parish had passed resolutions in opposition to the proposals before the House. To that he attached no great importance, for there were very few subjects indeed upon which it would not be almost possible to get a decision on one side or the other in a metropolitan parish from a meeting. The Bills which dealt with the question were divided into two, one of which proposed to establish 10 municipal boroughs conterminous with the existing Parliamentary boroughs, and the other to create a corporation which should have jurisdiction in certain matters over the whole me- tropolis. The Corporation of the City had pronounced in favour of one part of the scheme, that for establishing municipal corporations, and the Metropolitan Board of Works was in favour of the other—namely, that one central body should be created which should have larger powers than was possessed by that Board at present. As to the scheme of 1867, it was enough to say that since that year no one had seen fit to propose that it should be carried out. Again, the Board of Works had full opportunity in 1865 of improving its constitution, but did not do so. It was quite clear that if they waited for the action of the Board of Works reform would be postponed indefinitely. Many of the objections which the hon. Member had made to the measures of his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton) regarded points which might be properly dealt with in Committee; but there was one great error under which he laboured. The hon. Member had taunted his hon. Friend with not having provided any machinery for the election of councillors; but if he would look to Clause 8 he would find it laid down in the most exact manner. With respect to the police, whatever change might occur, he presumed that the Secretary of State for the Home Department would still have a general control over it. As to such matters as gas and water being intrusted to a general authority, and not to the municipal boroughs, as far as he had considered the subject he was inclined to agree in that opinion, because the direction in which gas and water pipes ran was entirely independent of the boundaries of the proposed municipal boroughs. Practically the opposition to these Bills was, in the main, opposition to the establishment of 10 municipal corporations for London, provided for in the first Bill; the second Bill being in substance the scheme of the Committee of 1867 for creating a central body. If they were starting with a tabula rasa, he was not going to say that he should approve the first part of the scheme of his hon. Friend; but we had to deal with interests long established, and in undertaking a project of reform it was not wise to run one's head against stone walls. London was not like any other town on the face of the earth. It was not only larger, but, owing to the circumstance that it had been allowed to grow to its present size without any central government, it was in many respects peculiar. There was the City, which might be regarded as the kernel, and it comprised only 130,000 residents, but had a vastly larger number of persons who came to their establishments every day, and contained a greater amount of wealth than any equal number of acres on the face of the globe. We could not, therefore, apply the analogy of such places as Liverpool or Manchester to the City of London, Take, for example, the question of the police. The property of the City was immense, and, therefore, the authorities were not prepared to hand over its custody to a number of police such as might be sufficient in other parts of the metropolis. The proposal of his hon. Friend was more statesmanlike than that of the Committee of 1867. In dealing with men of English blood it was better to reform than to revolutionize. The proposal of his hon. Friend was to reform, that of the Committee of 1867 was to revolutionize. Practically, we must have only one body governing everything, or else adopt the policy of division in regard to local concerns. Now, he challenged anybody to point out a division of the metropolis which would be more natural or would fall in better with our ways of thought than that of the Parliamentary boroughs. One objection might be raised on the ground that party politics as understood in that House would be too strong an element in the election of the local town councillors. But it would not be difficult by adopting one of the modes of taking votes so as to give effect to the principles of proportional representation to insure one political party should not monopolize the whole power of the council. His hon. Friend had done well not to let the question sleep this year. We were now passing through a period of reform; we did not know how long it might last, and how soon the period of torpor which usually followed might set in.


said, he rose to make an appeal to Her Majesty's Government. He had attended now for a very considerable period to the discussions on this question, and he had a very strong conviction that nothing but Her Majesty's Government could cope successfully with the immense difficulties that stood in the way; and not even Her Majesty's Government, strong as it might be, unless it set to work to secure beforehand the co-operation of the great municipal bodies at present existing. Having sat on the Committee of 1867, and having, on three different occasions, held an Office which had necessarily brought him into close communication with the representative bodies of the metropolis, his conviction was, that the Corporation of the City of London, the Metropolitan Board of Works, and, to a perceptible degree, the other local bodies, were conducting the matters committed to their charge, if not in a manner altogether satisfactory, at least in a way very creditable to them, and one which was gradually winning the confidence of the inhabitants of the metropolis. He had never joined in the condemnation bestowed on the Corporation of the City of London or the Metropolitan Board of Works. He had only regretted the alienation of feeling, so to speak, between these two great bodies. He regretted extremely that Bills of this nature should be brought forward by private Members, though he admired the ability and spirit which had been shown on the present occasion. He believed there was no dispute as to the facts, and he did not anticipate that any new light would be thrown on the subject by the labours of a Select Committee. In the circumstances of the present Session it was out of the question that the Government could take any steps with regard to this subject; but he should be glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that next Session, or even the Session after, he would relieve private Members from the trouble of attempting to legislate on these important matters. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Buxton) had said that this was a question which affected 3,000,000 of people, or, in other words, the population of an independent kingdom. Well, then, a population having such various interests and such various representative bodies could not be successfully dealt with except by the mature and well-instructed judgment of Her Majesty's Government.


said, the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) had remarked that the different bodies in the metropolis were acting in a way which gave satisfaction. Now, he did not mean to say that they were not doing their duty as well as they could in the positions in which they were placed; but all must be aware that the Corporation of the City and the Metropolitan Board of Works were continually coming into collision, and one of the worst features in our present system was, that they not only quarrelled, but in doing so they levied a very heavy expense on the ratepayers of the metropolis. When these bodies came into antagonism, and fought their battles before Committees of this House, who paid for it? He was in favour of having one body to govern the metropolis; and his hon. Friend (Mr. Bentinck) would recollect that, as a Member of the Committee on which they both served, he made a proposition that the Corporation of London should be extended over the whole metropolis, and that the metropolis should be divided into wards, each with an Alderman, for he would not call him Warden, but give him the more ancient and honourable name. "Alderman" in ancient times was one of the most distinguished titles a man could possess, and he thought it more honourable than that of Warden, for among the Anglo-Saxons the Ealderman, from which the modern word Alderman is derived, was the highest office in the kingdom. Where was the great difficulty, if they divided the metropolis into wards, of making them each a component part of a great corporation, with Aldermen representing the wards, as they did now in the City? His hon. Friend was not quite aware of all the duties performed by the Court of Aldermen, and they might arrive at a better decision than to do away with what might be called "the House of Lords" of the Corporation of the City of London. In each ward an Alderman had a deputy who represented him, he being one of certain number of common councilmen by whom regulations were made for the good government of the ward, and much to its advantage. He did not think that them would be any advantage in making each of the Parliamentary boroughs in the metropolis a corporation, with 20 common councilmen, because he thought that this number would be too small to work well. The 42 members of the Metropolitan Board of Works were too few; he believed they were always in Committee, and that the greater portion of the business was performed by the whole body. But in the City of London the Common Council was divided into Committees, which considered the particular subjects referred to them, while the whole Board had to decide on their reports precisely in the same way as they did in this House. The view he took of the matter was shared by a number of the members of the Common Council of the City, for he had road with great interest a debate which had occurred a short time ago, in which excellent arguments were adduced in support of the plan, that, instead of having these different corporations established, the whole metropolis should be divided into wards, and that there should be one corporation for its government; and this view was strictly in accordance with the principle upon which the City acted when centuries ago they included within their bounds such districts as Cripplegate-without, Bishopsgate-without, and Farringdon-without.


said, he concurred in the view taken by the noble Lord (Lord John Manners) that this was a question which could be dealt with successfully only by the Government itself. In hesitating to give his vote in favour of the second reading, he did not wish to be understood as admitting that the administration of the City of London was satisfactory, On the contrary, he thought there was great room for improvement. This question had been sent to a Select Committee on a former occasion, and had been very carefully examined; but the matters involved were too important to be dealt with satisfactorily in such a way. It was for the Government to decide what should be the constitution of the bodies which should be appointed in the place of those which now existed. There was no desire abroad that all these municipal boroughs should be created in the metropolis. On the contrary, there was an impression that their creation would load to very considerable expense. It was not suggested by those who advocated the present scheme that there would be any very great economy in the management of the affairs now intrusted to the vestries, the district Boards, and the Metropolitan Board of Works. It appeared to him there was but one mode of dealing with the subject—that suggested by the hon. Member for South-wark (Mr. Locke), thought it might be a very grave question for the Government whether such a municipal body for all London would not be almost too powerful for the Government itself to deal with. The tendency of late years had been to create special Boards for special purposes, as might be seen in the Metropolitan Board of Works, which was established to carry out the main drainage, to take charge of lighting, and to perform other works, and in the bodies which had been created by the Poor Law Board to look after the interests of the poor. He hoped to see a body that would represent the metropolis upon the matter of education. The present Bill, however, would be antagonistic to this principle, and besides, if there were eight or ten municipal boroughs, there must be frequent contests among them, and consequently heavy expenses would, be cast upon the ratepayers. He ventured to think that this subject could be fairly dealt with only by the Government.


said, he entirely concurred with most of the observations which fell from the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners). He still thought that this great subject could only be adequately dealt with by Her Majesty's Government, and it was not, in his opinion, inconsistent on their part to assent to these Bills being referred to a Select Committee, which would be able, doubtless, to render useful assistance to the Government in their future attempt to legislate on the subject. He admitted that there were many evils connected with the present management of local affairs in London; but he could not in justice concur in the general and wholesale aspersions that had been cast upon it. He acknowledged that the supply of water in London was inadequate, and that large improvements might be made in its sanitary condition; but yet if they compared London with Paris and Vienna, or even with the large cities of this country—such as Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow—they would find that the comparison, in a sanitary point of view, was greatly in favour of London. The shortcomings of the metropolitan vestries and other bodies had arisen perhaps quite as much from deficiency of power as from the want of personal goodwill or of personal ability, or any other cause. In submitting these Bills to a Select Committee, Her Majesty's Government was not necessarily bound to the principles which had been laid down by his hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton). There would be nothing in the reference to that Committee which would prevent it from considering other schemes, and drafting as much of them as they thought proper into what they might recommend should be the future constitution of the metropolis. The objections, both to the Bill prepared by his hon. Friend last year, and also to his improved measure of this year, appeared to him to arise as to the difficulty of apportioning the powers between the central body and the new local authorities which he proposed to create. If the central authority was to be what it ought to be for a great city like London, it must take to itself almost the whole of the important functions now exercised by the municipal bodies generally throughout the country. All the larger powers of conducting the administration of justice, the police, drainage, burials, the supply of water and of gas, and other matters must be taken by the central authority, and then what remained for the local bodies in the separate districts would be so inconsiderable and trifling that they would be hardly worth the notice of any very dignified body. That was the difficulty which met them on the very threshold of this question, and one of those questions upon which the Select Committee would most usefully occupy itself was, whether there should be nine municipal bodies constituted, as proposed by his hon. Friend, with very small powers, or whether the proposition of the hon. Member for South-wark (Mr. Locke) should be adopted, which practically came to this—that there should be a great central body, with separate committees, but without any of those distinct local municipalities. He was not sanguine enough to believe that the Select Committee could complete its inquiries into that important subject in time to lead to legislation this Session; but still he thought its labours might afford valuable assistance to the Government in the arduous and difficult task of preparing a scheme which should meet the approval of the House. It was not his intention to enter into the details of the Bill of his hon. Friend; but there was one question which would require, and would no doubt receive, a very careful consideration at the hands of the Committee—namely, whether or not the power of appointing and regulating the police should be given to the municipal authorities which might be created. London stood in a different position in that respect, owing to its vastness, from any other town in the country; its police force was almost like a standing army of some 10,000 men. A minor part of that subject was the separate management of the City police. He could not see the advantage of that separation; and, for his own part, he hoped the whole question as to the police of London would be fully examined by the Committee, and he could not but think that the result of its deliberations would be, that there should be one police for the metropolis, and that that police should remain as at present under the immediate supervision of the Government, who would always be held responsible for the peace and good order of the metropolis, which was the seat of government. With respect to the redistribution of the property of the City, if the Committee would carefully consider that question, the Government would be extremely glad to have their assistance in dealing with that subject. It was by no means easy to solve the distinction between what was public and what was private property; but he thought that portion of the property which was generally admitted to be public property ought to be handed over to the newly-created municipal body. From all he had heard and read, he could not doubt that there prevailed throughout the country a great desire that there should be a strong central government for the whole of London. He thought there was much in the proposition of his hon. Friend which commended itself to general acceptance. The principle of dealing with the institutions of London on the model of the other municipal institutions of the country was one which, primâ facie, had much to recommend it. On the other hand, it was well worthy of consideration whether there were not exceptional circumstances connected with this great metropolis which would render it necessary to deal with this subject radically upon a different basis. There should be no desire to interfere unnecessarily with an institution like the Corporation of London, which had played so large a part in the history of the country; and if, instead of superseding it, they could extend it and adapt it to the general requirements of London, it might be ad- vantageous to do so. But they must not allow their love of ancient forms to interfere with real improvement. In conclusion, he had no doubt that in choosing the Members to servo on the Select Committee his hon. Friend would see that all varieties of opinion were fairly represented, and then he felt that their labours would tend to promote and assist the work of future legislation. For these reasons he, on the part of the Government, assented to the second reading, in order that the Bill might be referred to a Select Committee.


said, he had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department; because he collected from it that the Committee would not be tied down to those particular Bills, but would enter upon the general question of what was the best mode of providing for the government of London. There would be no opposition offered to that by the Corporation of London. They certainly could not assent to some of the provisions and principles contained in those Bills; but, at the same time, they felt the necessity for an inquiry into the subject; and, on their part, he was authorized to say that they were most anxious that that inquiry should be instituted, and that they would render all possible assistance in its prosecution.


said, as a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he did not assent to the principle of that Bill, or desire to see it carried into effect. He believed the whole question to be a very simple one indeed, and that with a little goodwill and good temper on the part of the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works, no difficulty in settling it satisfactorily need arise. In early life, he had been connected with the Corporation of London, and he had been asked to become an Alderman, but he had no desire to accept that honour. As a member of the Metropolitan Board of Works, he represented a parish with 130,000 inhabitants; and a vestry of 60 members returned him once in three years as their reprepresentative in what was a sort of Parliament in its way. The vestry attended to the ordinary operations of the sewage, cleansing, and lighting of their district. The whole existing arrangements were, he thought, about as well conceived and carried out as they could be. The City of London sent to the Metropolitan Board three of the ablest men among them—namely, one Alderman and two Common Councilmen. Unluckily, there came in the great influence and social position of the Corporation of London; but advancing civilization would, no doubt, cure all that, and dispose of the "barbaric pearl and gold." The wards and districts beyond the City proper required to be better divided, and the police force of a town, comprising 3,000,000 of inhabitants, could not be intrusted to other hands than those of the Government. The City Commission of Sewers ought to be united in some measure with the Corporation of London. The Metropolitan Board had, he believed, done its work well. The main drainage system of the metropolis—one of the greatest works of the world—had been successfully carried out; and the new streets and other improvements made by them, both in respect to the manner of their execution, and the expedition with which they were completed, reflected no discredit on the Board. He believed the Board had done its duty, although he did not say it was perfect. The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) thought that, instead of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Corporation of London ought to be made a great authority. Any body of Englishmen, whether the Metropolitan Board or the City Corporation, would, he believed, do what was required. The matter of taxation, which fell heavily on the inhabitants, was very important; but he thought it would be carefully watched either by the one body or the other. In his opinion, things would not work well if there were two authorities; but, he repeated, with a little goodwill and good temper on both sides, matters might be easily arranged.


said, this question had not excited as much general interest as one would have expected from its importance. Throughout this debate, he thought a great fallacy had run. The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Buxton) said his object was to place London on the same footing as Manchester, Liverpool, or any of the large towns of the country. But the metropolis was not a town or city, it was the agglomeration of various towns and cities, and possessed no such unity as a town or city did. Calculating the future by what had already taken place, the population of the metropolis would, in the course of something like 30 years, have increased to 6,000,000; but there was nothing in the Bill to provide for its augmented dimensions. At that advanced period of the Session it was impossible to refer the question to a Select Committee, with the hope that they could give that attention to it which it demanded. It was the unanimous opinion of the inhabitants of the City of London that their police was the most efficient and best-constituted body to be found in any metropolis in the world; and if there was one thing upon which they were more determined than another, it was the retaining the control of the police, to look after their interests, instead of having to send to Scotland Yard. Speaking generally, they thought that the contemplated municipality would be too vast for efficient working. There could not be the slightest unity of feeling between Woolwich and Belgravia, or between Blackwall and Clerkenwell. If the creation of a county for London was adopted, the principle would apply to Birmingham, and other large towns standing in two counties. He thought no benefit would be gained by sending the Bill to a Select Committee; but he should not divide the House upon it. He must condemn the action of the Board of Works in introducing measures affecting the City of London without first ascertaining the feeling of the City upon the subject. The City of London deserved well of Parliament. It had always been the abode of freedom; and, though free from the charge of being moved for party purposes, had more than once thundered at the doors of the House until the liberal principles which it advocated were adopted by the Legislature.


said, that, with the exception of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Motion for the second reading, all the speeches made in the course of the debate were against the principle of the Bill. The speech of the Recorder on behalf of the Corporation, the speech of the hon. Member for Bath (Sir William Tite), representing the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, were all condemnatory of the Bill; and yet the House was asked to read it a second time. He thought very great inconvenience resulted from the practice of reading Bills a second time, when the principle of the measures was not sanctioned by the House, because when they were sent to a Select Committee, that Committee was trammelled by the principle. It was obliged to keep within the four corners of the Bill. That was what any Committee, to which this Bill might be sent, would be obliged to do. The intention clearly was to shelve the Bill for this Session, and it would be much better to refer the question itself to a Select Committee, without any Bill. He hoped it was not too late to adopt that course, even after what had fallen from the Secretary of State.


said, the City of London was entitled to the respectful consideration of a reformed House of Commons. It was a successful representation of a democratic institution that worked admirably; then why should Parliament interfere with it? The City of London had always been foremost in the defence of liberty. He considered that it would be a waste of time to refer the Bill to a Select Committee.


said, he was of opinion that the House ought to adopt the suggestion of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and send all three Bills to a Select Committee, because then it would be impossible to pass them this year. The question had been before the public 24 years; but they had not obtained sufficient information how to establish a successful imperium in imperio. He was, however, afraid that a Select Committee would take away some of the old and esteemed rights of the City. He deprecated the interference with the City in the management of their police as likely to introduce the French system, which would be so repugnant to the feelings of Englishmen.


, in reply, said, he would consent to the three Bills being sent to a Select Committee. Though, after much consideration, he thought his own scheme the best, he was not wedded to the details contained in the Bills. All he wanted was to establish a good system of local government for the metropolis.


said, he wished to express his concurrence with what had been said by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Samuda), as to the extreme inconvenience of reading Bills a second time, on an understanding that the second reading affirmed nothing as to the principle of the measures themselves. He apprehended that, after the second reading of this Bill, it would scarcely be competent for the Select Committee to go into the question, whether it was expedient that the metropolis should be divided into municipalities, as that was the very principle of the Bill. All they could do would be to determine the number and boundaries of the municipalities, and other details requisite for giving effect to the principle. It would have been better if they had appointed a Committee on the question generally, before reading the Bills a second time.


said, in explanation as to what he stated should be the latitude of the inquiry by the Committee, though the Bill was entitled "Municipal Boroughs Bill," he had already explained that the proposed municipalities would not resemble the present municipal institutions throughout the country. They would bear the name of Councils, instead of vestries; but they would not have one tithe of the power exercised by the municipalities of the various boroughs throughout the country. The Committee would have to inquire into the number of the municipalities, and the powers with which they should be invested.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 66: Majority 64.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed to a Select Committee.

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