§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER,
in moving that this Bill be now read the second time said, that his apology for having embarked in a measure of such magnitude was that he had for many years been engaged in the consideration of matters connected with road legislation; in connection with the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) in 1865; and subsequently as a member of the Turnpike Trusts Continuance Committee. In October last a meeting on this subject was held at Edinburgh, when a Resolution was almost unanimously passed in favour of such a measure as he now proposed, and he was requested to bring in a Bill accordingly; and although he was aware that, as a private Member, he was incompetent to carry through such a measure, he had not thought it right to refuse the request from such a quarter. So far as the principle of the Bill was concerned he was convinced that it ought to receive the sanction of the House. He did not desire to commit the House to the details of the measure, many of which were doubtless open to and would receive revision in Committee, should the Bill reach that stage, but it was not difficult to show that the principle of the Bill was such as the House might very fairly affirm, and such as had already received legislative sanction for England. The measure was founded on the Report 797 of a Royal Commission of 1859. The Commissioners stated in their Report the effect of the evidence they had received of the evils and inconveniences attending the toll system, and they added that the rapid extension of railways and the consequent diminution of the existing road traffic had materially altered the position of many trusts hitherto prosperous, and whose roads were in good condition, and they said that should there be any further fall of revenue, as was to be anticipated, there was reason to fear that the roads would soon be allowed to deteriorate. If this was true in 1859, it was quite as true and even more so in 1873. If the allocation of the tolls was unequal and unjust then, by what possibility could they be equal and just now? Since 1859 railways had so rapidly extended throughout the country that the argument of the Commissioners as to the result had been greatly strengthened; nor would it be difficult to show that both in Scotland and England the public mind was set upon an alteration of the system of road revenues. So strongly, indeed, did public opinion confirm the Report of the Royal Commission, that since it appeared no fewer that 14 counties in Scotland had, at very considerable expense, obtained private Acts almost exactly carrying out the principle recommended by the Commissioners, and contained in the Bill he was about to ask the House to read a second time. A statement had been prepared which showed the result in those counties which had adopted that principle; and though they did not in every ease bear out his conclusions, yet on the whole they were conclusively in his favour. For instance, in Banffshire, which before they got their private Act raised £3,665, the assessment in 1871 was £4,424; in Elginshire the sum raised by tolls in 1862 was £3,427, and the assessment in 1871 £4,480. Selkirk, again, was a very prominent example of the excellence of the new system as compared with the old. In 1867 the sum raised by tolls in Selkirk-shire was £1,007, and the sum raised for statute labour by the farmers and occupiers of land £2,430—making a total of £3,437. Under the new system the assessment was only £2,252; so that the occupiers who before paid the whole of £2,430 now only paid the half of £2,252, or £1,126. This being the case in Sel- 798 kirkshire, it was not unfair to assume that similar results, though probably not so large, would be found to obtain in other counties. The present Bill was practically, with certain amendments and improvements, the same as that introduced by the Lord Advocate in 1869, but it contained a clause which was not in the Bill of the Government, but which, he thought, was very important. One of the principal objections urged against a uniform rate of assessment of land and heritages was the inadequate share of taxation which would fall on mines, quarries, and public works, where the use of roads was very extensive, and the damage occasioned by the traffic was accordingly very great, and yet where the rental of the land was comparatively inconsiderable; and in order to meet the undeniable specialities of such cases, the Commissioners thought that such properties might be assessed at twice, or even three or four times the amount of the ordinary rate, as the ease might be, on a warrant from the Sheriff or other competent authority, grounded on the certificate of the surveyor, stating that the injury to the roads by the traffic had exceeded double or three or four times the amount of ordinary rate payable in respect of such properties. He had introduced a clause of that nature into this Bill, because he thought that without such a provision it would be impossible to obtain a fair amount of assessment on such properties. At the same time, he did not think it would have any extensive operation, because most large quarries and mines were provided with tramways and did not use the roads at all. The only other clause materially differing from the Government Bill of 1869 was the last, under which power was given to those counties which had abolished tolls, and which were now raising road-funds by assessment, to adopt the present measure in whole or in part, as might be deemed expedient. He did not conceal from himself that there were difficulties involved in the question, and that what might be simple in a small agricultural county might be very difficult in a large metropolitan county. The difficulties were not, however, insuperable, as was shown by the fact that in certain great centres of industry tolls had been abolished, and it was absurd to say that what was done in London could not be done in Glasgow. But of the difficulties by 799 which the question was beset the greatest was that of the debt existing in most cases; but those who were experienced in road legislation must know that a great deal of this difficulty was exaggerated—partly in order to frighten people from bringing forward these measures, and partly in order to maintain an effete system, which was found to suit the officials connected with it. The Commissioners stated the nominal total of the debt on roads and bridges in Scotland to be upwards of £2,300,000—and they added that a considerable portion of this must be regarded as of very doubtful value, much of it being entirely irrecoverable. This was especially the case with regard to the interest unpaid, which had in many cases been kept on the books of trusts without any expectation of its ever being realized, and there would be no doubt that a considerable amount of debt secured on the tolls was in a similar position. In Renfrew, for instance, the unpaid interest was £15,000, while the debt was stated at its full nominal value. The Commissioners said it was absolutely necessary to deal with the question of debt, and expressed their opinion that irrespective of any ulterior legislation, it was imperatively necessary that provision should be made for getting rid of this incubus. The Commissioners asserted that the debt ought to be apportioned equably over each county—which meant that the entire county ought to pay the county's debts. This seemed to be the only principle on which they ought to act. The cases of roads made for merely through traffic might complicate the matter a little, but he thought that on the whole, nothing could be fairer than to say that the debts of a county should be paid by the owners of land in that county. With regard to boroughs, the Commissioners proposed that all turnpike roads within borough boundaries should be handed over to the boroughs which should undertake their future maintenance, and also be liable for the burdens now resting upon them. It was only fair to say that in drafting the clauses of the Bill, he had not absolutely followed the Bill of 1869, on the recommendation of the Commissioners. The Commissioners laid down a rule for apportioning the debt according to the mileage; but in the Bill of 1869 it was found impossible to lay down a hard-and-fast line on this 800 question. There was, however, no reason, where the mileage system was deemed most equitable, why it should not be adopted; and, on the other hand, there was no reason why, in other cases, it should be made compulsory. What he proposed in the Bill was that these mileage questions should be laid before competent persons to be appointed as arbitrators, who would determine what was the fairest way in which the debt should be apportioned. The Commissioners recommended that a commission should be authorized to make a valuation of the debt. He thought he should be hardly treating his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) with proper respect if he omitted to notice the Amendment, or rather the Amendments he had placed on the Paper. The hon. and learned Gentleman had put on the Paper an Amendment, which the Speaker had decided could not be put to the House. This was unfortunate, because he (Sir Robert Anstruther) felt certain that as between the Motion for the second reading and that Amendment, the former would certainly have been preferred. His hon. and learned. Friend had since altered his Amendment into an acceptable form, and he (Sir Robert Anstruther) would read it as it had at first appeared, and as it was now worded. As first put forward, the Amendment was—That this House declines to entertain any legislation involving new or additional local charges until the question of the relief to be granted from imperial funds to local taxation shall have been definitely settled.As the Amendment now appeared, it set forth—That whereas the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Bill involves the compulsory imposition of new local burdens, this House declines to entertain this Bill until the question of the relief to be granted from Imperial funds to local taxation shall have been definitely settled.Now, he was bound to admit that to a certain extent the Bill imposed a new burden, and. be admitted that, in his judgment, local taxation did require assistance from the Imperial funds; but he asked whether the hon. and learned Member for Ayr intended to say, that although by this Bill to a certain extent local taxation would be imposed, yet if they would show that the money would be economically and well spent, he would prevent the carrying of a measure which had the effect of bringing about a, say- 801 ing? The truth was, that the increase of local burdens under the Bill would be not so much an increase in fact as a variation of the incidence of taxation. It appeared that his hon. and learned Friend did not object to the proposal to abolish tolls; once on a time he was in favour of that being done, and of some more equitable system being adopted. His objection to the Bill was that it imposed new local burdens. But having taken the course of objecting to this Bill on the ground stated, the hon. Member ought to take the same course upon all other Bills relating to local burdens. But see what that would involve; almost every valuation Bill would be stopped. He would stop Bills emanating from the Treasury bench, Bills arising from below the gangway, and Bills from the other side of the House. They would have to stop the Juries Bill—indeed, it was whispered that it was stopped already—they would have to stop the Election Expenses Bill, the Bill for the education of Deaf Mutes, the Juries (Ireland) Bill, all the Provisional Orders Confirmations Bills, the Lord Advocate's Bill, and the Poor Law (Scotland) Bill. It was a pity the House took the trouble to throw out the hon. and learned Gentleman's Bill, because his own Amendment would have stopped it. It inferred an increase of local burdens, and his own Amendment would have prevented it from going on. That Amendment, as applied to his Bill, might succeed better than if it were applied to the Government and parties on both sides; but if his hon. and learned Friend did not succeed in destroying him before he destroyed the Prime Minister and everybody else, he (Sir Robert Anstruther) would then have a chance of carrying the second reading of his Bill. He would put himself in the hands of the Home Secretary. If the right hon. Gentleman would give him facilities for going into Committee on the Bill, he would endeavour to make such progress as he could; but, of course, everybody was aware how, in the present mode of conducting business in that House, it was impossible for a private Member to pass a Bill through Committee. If the right hon. Gentleman would give him assistance to pass the Bill through Committee, he would then recommend the whole matter to the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. 802 From the knowledge he had obtained of these Acts, he believed they were working well, and therefore it was not unreasonable to hope that the Government would take an early opportunity of dealing with what they considered to be a very important matter of Scotch legislation. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. ORR EWING,
in seconding the Motion, said, he would not enter into details, but would rather deal with general principles. The spirit of the Bill was that the present system of maintaining the roads was inadequate in its operation, expensive in its mode of collection and management, and also insufficient for maintaining the roads in a proper condition. Roads in Scotland were supported under two systems—one being the turnpike system, by which all those roads which used to be the principal links of the thoroughfares in the country were supported by tolls; and the other system was that known as the statute labour roads. These latter roads were under an Act which passed as far back as 1810. At that time the parts of Scotland in which these roads existed did so little trade that the cost of maintenance was perfectly insignificant. The conditions attached to the statute labour roads were that the landowners had the, power to manage them—they had the power of laying on the assessment, but the payment came out of the tenant-farmers of Scotland. One could hardly fancy at this time of day such a law could be allowed to exist, and that the parties who paid the tolls, which might be 3 per cent of their rental, should have no voice in the management of the roads; but such was the fact. In some parts these roads were very expensive—in some cases, though the assessment amounted to 3 per cent, the roads were actually impassable. In the county of Stirling the length of the roads under the turnpike system only amounted to 165 miles, while under the Statute Labour Acts there were 394 miles, or more than double that under the turnpike system. It was most unjust that such a system of maintaining the statute labour roads should exist. The assessments were also most unjust in their incidence. In one district of Stirling-shire, where the great bulk of the assessment was laid upon land and fell upon 803 the occupier, the valuation of public works and other heritages amounted to £43,000, while the assessment was laid upon £16,000 only; so that the tenant-farmers paid the whole, while those who used the roads most escaped. He should also support this Bill on the ground of the present system being expensive. It was also unequal. One man might have one or two tolls to pay, although he was only five or six miles from a city like Glasgow; whereas another, who might be as far removed from Glasgow, might have only one toll to pay, and perhaps none. He also believed that £3 per £100 was not sufficient for maintaining the roads. This Bill had for its object the total abolition of the toll system, and for raising a sufficient amount of money by assessment. Out of 33 counties 14 were supported by the system which this Bill provided, but there were still 19 counties where they supported the old toll system. He was warmly in favour of the Bill, and regretted that the hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) should take so desponding a view of the probability of its passing this year. He hoped, however, that Lanark and Renfrew would be excepted from the Bill. These counties, having such a large number of people concentrated in boroughs and towns, were in such an exceptional position, that they might reasonably demand legislation specially adapted to their case. Indeed, he saw no chance of passing a Bill this year unless these counties were exempt from its operation. He was, however, quite at a loss to understand the object the hon. and learned Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) had in view in the Amendment which he had placed on the Paper. While he (Mr. Orr Ewing) would willingly do anything to relieve local burdens, he was quite satisfied this Bill would be useful to farmers, who really were an important class; and, as it was not at all likely that the roads would be supported out of the Imperial Exchequer, it was but right that each county should support its own. He could not conceive the reason for the opposition of the hon. and learned Member to a Bill which he might say had the almost unanimous support of the people of Scotland—the conveners of Royal burghs—and the loss of which would disappoint almost the entire body of his fellow-countrymen.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Robert Anstruther).
§ MR. CRAUFURD
in rising to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice—That whereas the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Bill involves the compulsory imposition of new local burdens, this House declines to entertain this Bill until the question of the relief to be granted from Imperial funds to local taxation shall have been definitely settled.said, the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Orr Ewing) was unable to see on what the Amendment was based. It was very simple. The hon. Baronet who had moved the second reading, said he (Mr. Craufurd) had been in past times, if not now, in favour of the abolition of tolls. He could say he had not changed his views on that subject, and he could still show that he possessed the merit of consistency, but he must say that he objected to the way in which this Bill proposed to deal with the question; but while he objected to this mode of dealing with the subject, he was prepared to accept any equitable method of getting rid of the evil against which the Bill was aimed. No doubt the feeling was very general throughout the country, and among those dignitaries which the hon. Member quoted with so much unction—the conveners of Royal burghs—for whom he felt the respect to which they were entitled, though he generally found them petitioning for objects which he believed to be in the wrong direction. If the hon. Member for Fifeshire (Sir Robert Anstruther) was obliged to him for changing his Amendment, he (Mr. Craufurd) was doubly obliged to the hon. Member for putting into his hands one of the most potent weapons he could have desired—namely, the Returns for the 14 or 15 counties who had adopted the new system. The hon. Member had referred to three only of these, and even these did not support his views. One of these, Banff, where they formerly raised £3,665, now raised by assessment £4,584. In another county they now raised £4,886, exclusive of bridges instead of £2,100 which had been paid by statute labour. In Aberdeenshire where they formerly raised £14,971 by tolls and statute labour they were now assessed at 6d. in the pound and expended no less than £21,685; and it was the same in other counties. In fact the hon. Mem- 805 ber had carefully omitted from his statement what was raised under the new burden. His objection to the Bill was that under this Bill there were no limits to the assessment and expenditure—there were no possible means for the ratepayers checking expenditure, and he was convinced that the effect of this legislation would be an immense increase of expenditure without any control over it. Why should the House sanction such an enormous increase of expenditure? As to the Royal Commission, there was a great deal to be said between the state of things in 1859 and the state of things now. It was one thing for a county of its own accord to come to Parliament and say the people were willing to tax themselves in this way, and that in their peculiar circumstances the recommendations of the Royal Commission would benefit them. But here the House was asked to deal by compulsion, and make people follow in the steps of other counties, notwithstanding that some of them had petitioned against this Bill in toto. It was necessary to remember that the circumstances of all counties were not the same, and that a system suitable for one might not be suitable for others. Yet this Bill proposed to apply compulsorily to counties whose circumstances were totally different from those that had obtained local Acts—the system of assessment adopted by the latter, simply because it had been found suitable for them. It was admitted that it was not applicable to some counties—Lanark and Renfrew for instance. Then why not leave it to the counties themselves to come here and get this Bill if they wanted it. If they had wanted it, he thought they would have come here before now. If they persisted in forcing it down their throats when they said it would not suit, and they did not want it—he thought they would impose on them a grievous hardship. The hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Anstruther) had had alluded to the inequality which might be produced by the 47th clause of his Bill. Now, it was partly on account of this very clause that he (Mr. Craufurd) objected to this Bill. He was opposed to any system by which they imposed upon people a charge for maintaining roads utterly disproportionate to the use they made of them. His hon. Friend said that those who used the roads ought to pay for them. He ad- 806 mitted it; but he believed the system of tolls was at least as equitable as that provided for by this Bill. And now as to the mode in which it was proposed to levy the assessments. Clause 41 said that the one-half should be paid by the proprietor, and the other half by the tenant. If this Bill had been proposed by a burgh Member, he should not have been surprised at an arrangement of this kind; but he wondered what his hon. Friend would say to the tenants among his constituents for supporting a scheme by which, in addition to paying poor rates and other things, they would have to pay the half of the assessment on roads? They paid only 1d. in the pound of income tax; under this Bill they would have to pay 3d. or 4d., not only on a third of their rental, but the whole amount. On the whole, he thought it would fall most hardly on the tenant farmers. His hon. Friend had referred to the Lord Advocate's Bill for 1869, and had claimed his Lordship's support for this measure. Now, he thought that the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had given up the Bill showed that he had grown wiser as he had grown older, and that he had become convinced it was impossible to impose an assessment that would be equitable. He quite agreed that the matter was one which could only be dealt with satisfactorily by the Government, and he did not wish to detract from the labours of his hon. Friend, who had done his work in a most able manner, and deserved the gratitude of those who thought with him. He could not help referring for a moment to the Seconder of the Motion. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Orr Ewing) was hardly justified in being so severe on him for his Amendment. He confessed he could not follow his argument, that the Amendment, as originally proposed, would have blocked the way to all the legislation referred to. Putting aside the forms of the House, to which he had been obliged to conform, there was no difference in the Amendments. The principle in the two cases was the same, and the only effect of the alterations would be that he would have to repeat the Amendment to every other Bill he objected to on the same ground. He could not see how his Amendment in either the one form or the other would have interfered with 807 the Rating Bills of the Government or his own Poor Law Bill. In regard to the latter Bill, the hon. Baronet forgot that if he imposed new charges, he simultaneously had clauses giving relief, for he proposed to tax Government property, and he proposed likewise to get a subsidy for lunatics, and an allowance from the Imperial Fund for medical officers. This, however, was not the occasion to defend his Poor Law Bill. The effect of his Resolution was simply this—He wished the House to refuse to read the Bill a second time, because it imposed inequitably the charge of maintaining the roads in a way to create new local burdens. He thought it desirable to point out what the position of local taxation was, but he had no authentic information beyond the pamphlet he held in his hand. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who took up the question a few years ago, and presented to the House full statistics regarding taxation in England, had carefully avoided giving them anything but most general and, he must add, most useless information in regard to Scotland, and he was not aware that there had been any official supplement to that Return. He therefore had to confine himself to the information contained in the pamphlet to which he had referred. Now, shortly, what had been the results in Berwick as shown by the Returns obtained by the Commissioners. The county assessments for the county of Berwick had during the last 34 years increased 246 per cent, while the value of property in the same county in the same period had only increased 48 per cent. To his mind these figures spoke volumes as to the state of local taxation, and showed how enormously the local burdens were being increased. He was not maintaining that grants should be given out of the Imperial Fund for the support of the roads—though much might be said in favour of that—What he wanted was this—that they should settle how the local burdens were to be relieved before they imposed any new ones. He was quite satisfied the feeling of the country was strong against the inauguration of any more local government until an equitable adjustment of this pressing question had been made. He had heard the party of which he was a member decried because it failed to deal with this question. The education of the country was no doubt supple- 808 mented out of the Imperial Funds, and so was sanitary legislation supplemented; but what was wanted was that the whole subject should be taken up, and an understanding come to as to the proportions to be borne by the local and Imperial Exchequer. He did not bring forward his Amendment as any reflection on the Government. He was willing to accept a statement that it was first of all necessary to deal with the Bills now before Parliament. The Prime Minister had declared that the Government accepted the Resolution of last year, and he was willing to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, but he said—do not aggravate the evil; do not increase the burdens, and throw the ratepayers into despair by this legislation which was being forced on them year after year. The Prime Minister had only on the previous day admitted that it was right this principle should be adopted, and intimated that the Government would do what it could to get it acted upon. Under these circumstances, he was willing to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, and he did not see why they should hamper them by agreeing to the second reading of this Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman then moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ After a pause,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "whereas the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Bill involves the compulsory imposition of new local burdens, this House declines to entertain this Bill until the question of the relief to be granted from Imperial funds to local taxation shall have been definitively settled,"—(Mr. Craufurd,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he felt a good deal surprised that the noble Lord should have seconded the Amendment, and rather thought that he had done so out of good nature, to prevent his hon. and learned Friend standing in the ignominious position of not having a Seconder—orperhaps that he had not had an opportunity of reading the Amendment. The Amendment was a very curious one. It desired the House to 809 express the opinion that until the question of the relief of local taxation was definitively settled we should do nothing in the way of legislation on this matter. Now, when would that question be definitively settled? He (Mr. M'Laren) did not believe it would be ever definitively settled, and therefore if they passed the Amendment they would never be able to deal with the question at all. They had heard of measures being delayed for such a reason for three or six months, but here they were asked to postpone dealing with the question till the end of the world. Then the Amendment spoke of the relief to be granted. What relief? Where was the Bill proposing to grant relief to local taxation in Scotland? There was a Bill providing for the relief of local taxation in England, but Clause 2, which was passed in Committee, set forth that it should not be applicable to Scotland and Ireland, and he was not aware of any Bill for granting relief to Scotland. It was therefore altogether irregular and improper to propose that this Bill should be postponed until a relief should, have been granted of which no one knew anything at all—unless his hon. and learned Friend himself had special information on the subject. On the merits he had gone into a great many questions. He (Mr. M'Laren) would not follow him into all these, but he would endeavour to state some circumstances to the House winch he thought it important for hon. Members to know. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the increased rates of assessment in certain counties. Now, there were four or five counties that never had tolls at all; there were others which had obtained Acts for abolishing tolls, and there were 15 now remaining which asked the benefit of a general Act His hon. and learned Friend said that it was found necessary to expend a great deal more under the systems of assessments, and had referred to the case of Renfrew as an example. Well, a Report had been drawn up by the authorities of that county, in which it was stated that £10,000 would be required annually for the next ten years to put certain roads in the same condition as the turnpike roads of the county. No doubt this was a great exaggeration; but admitting it to be true, how had the roads been allowed to get into such a disgraceful state of disrepair as that in which they now 810 stood? Was it not the result of the present system? It was just like a person coming into the possession of an estate where everything had been allowed to go to wreck and ruin. The new proprietor might have to spend two or three years' rent before he got any return, but it was not his management which was to blame for that state of matters. It was precisely the same in regard to the roads. The hon. and learned Member had spoken of this new expenditure which was required to bring things to an ordinary level, as if it were to be perpetual expenditure. This was most unfair, for while the first expenditure was necessary in order to put things right, there was no doubt whatever that it would have the result of greatly diminishing the expenditure in future years. His hon. and learned Friend had referred to a particular clause as imposing additional burdens on landowners and farmers; in fact, he had come forward as "the Farmers' Friend." Well, he (Mr. M'Laren) attended a meeting of the Chamber of Agriculture in Edinburgh which was almost exclusively composed of farmers, and it was unanimously of opinion that a Bill of this kind ought to be passed. Instead of being aggrieved parties, they were the great promoters of this Bill. Instead of being a Bill to impose burdens on land to an undue extent, it would bring in for the payment of assessments hundreds and thousands who never paid a toll in their lives. As the hon. Baronet said, those should pay for the roads who used them, and therefore the small occupier was justly called upon to pay for walking on them, though he might never have ridden in a carriage in his life. He admitted that there was some difficulty in regard to counties like Lanark, with large cities in their centres, and enormous debts, and he thought that if the authorities of Lanark and Glasgow thought fit to propose a clause providing that the Bill should not apply to the county in question, he should have no objection to it; but it was surely too much to ask that because the county of Lanark and the City of Glasgow did not want the Bill all the other counties in Scotland who desired such a Bill should be prevented from getting it. The increased expenditure which had been spoken of had been considerably exaggerated. The Returns for the county 811 of Berwick were said to show an increase of 250 per cent. That was a very high sounding statement, and was calculated to have a great effect on those who did not know the facts. But it was necessary to see what the rates were as well as the percentage. There was a Paper in the library giving an account of the rates levied in all the counties in England, and information both as to the character of the assessments and the rate per pound. Now, there were 15 evil-ties in Scotland that would be affected by this Bill. No doubt English Members would think from the statement of the hon. and learned Member for Ayr that the local taxation in Scotland was very much higher than in England. If they did so, they would make a great mistake. It appeared, from the Returns made by the Secretary of the Poor Law Board for 15 counties, commencing with Anglesea, that the average rate was 4s. all but a fraction. Deducting the poor rates all the ordinary rates amounted to 2s. in the pound. Hon. Members would, perhaps, be surprised to hear that the average rate of all the counties of Scotland affected by this Bill, not including the poor rate, was 3¾d. per pound, and the county of Berwick, with its flaming statement of increase of 250 per cent, paid 3½d. Then, with reference to the allegations that these rates have increased in far higher ratio than the property, he would mention that the valuation of these 15 counties had increased from £190,951—say £200,000—to £7,000,000, which was equal to thirty-six fold, or 3,600 per cent. In Ayrshire, the rate was 3d.; in Forfarshire, 2 2–15d., and so on. But the result was an average of 3d. Now, take a year as a curious illustration. His hon. and learned Friend said he could get no authoritative Returns. Now, by request, every county sent to Oliver and Boyd's Almanac a statement of all rates levied, and the amount per pound. Taking the several rates for a year, the county rate was 4d., the police 1½d., the valuation roll ⅛d., prisons ⅛d., lunacy ⅝d., registration of votes ⅛d., and cattle disease ¼d.—altogether, 3d. per pound for all these charges. In Renfrew, the rates were for prisons 1d., police ld., cattle diseases ¼d., and county assessment ½d.,—in all, 3¼d. In the county of Edinburgh—the metropolitan county—it was still more curious. The rates there were—for prisons ¾d., police 1d., militia stores 1–24th, regis- 812 tration 1–24th, county rate ¼d., lunacy ½d., cattle diseases 1–12th—total 2d. 8–12ths. Yet, in England, 15 counties, as he had mentioned, paid on an average 2s. each. Now, as to the way the taxes were imposed, he would give an illustration of the anomalies the Bill would redress. There was in the county of Edinburgh a palatial residence which had been in recent time the residence of Royalty, and that was rated at £250 of rent. All that the noble Duke who owned it paid for relief of all these charges was 2d. 8–12ths on the £250, which was equal to a sum of £2 15s. per year for rates. There was an hon. Member of this House who occupied a small residence in the same county not two miles from the ducal residence, and this House was rated at £170, but the rates were 1s. 9d. for ordinary purposes, and 7d. for water, making 2s. 4d., and he paid £19 6s., while the Duke paid £2 15s. Then a house in the City he had the honour to represent, rated at £24, paid £2 16s. a-year, or 1s. less than the Duke. The owner of such a house might be a clerk with a salary of £120, and yet he paid 1s. more to the local rates than the noble Duke he had referred to. That showed the wisdom of giving some relief. For the reasons he had given, he supported the second reading of the Bill.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he admitted he had come to the House without the remotest intention of speaking on the Bill, but he felt bound to accept the challenge given him by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren). He confessed the hon. Member was right in his conjectures that he had seconded the Amendment to prevent the debate breaking down, and that he had done so without knowing the terms in which the Amendment was couched. He was, however, perfectly cognizant of the nature of the Motion, and he had confidence in the legal and Parliamentary knowledge of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) to be convinced it would be worded in the best possible form. This was a compulsory Bill, and corresponded with the permissive Bill which he had himself vainly endeavoured to carry against the opposition of the city and county of Edinburgh and the county of Lanark and Glasgow. These two powerful communities were the stopping blocks to any general legislation on the subject; and, therefore, his own county taking a practical view of the subject, applied for 813 and obtained a special Act. Their main road was the principal communication between north and south, and was sufficiently maintained by tolls; but with the railways the traffic fell away, and they were compelled to a change of system. As to what the hon. Member had said about the Duke of Buccleuch, he had forgotten that his Grace likewise paid on every farm of his estate. The question, however, now at issue was not that stated by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, as to what was the best mode of maintaining the roads. There was a new element imported into this matter by the general Resolution which the House had passed in regard to local taxation; it was not a question of the rate of the taxes, but of the proportions which should be borne by the local and Imperial Exchequers. The House of Commons, by a large majority, had decided that this question should be gone into by the Government. The Government had not shirked the task—quite the contrary—they said they accepted the vote and were prepared to give effect to it, and all they stipulated was that they should he left to do it in their own way. After the speech delivered by the Prime Minister on the previous day, he maintained that the Government were not justified in supporting this Bill, or any Bill which proposed to impose additional taxation.
GENERA1, SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
would support the second reading of the Bill, in the hope that certain Amendments would be made in Committee. He claimed for the county of Kincardine, which he had the honour to represent, the credit of having taken the lead, or at least, of having been foremost in the list of counties in removing tolls, and particularly in reducing the rates at toll gates. Except in one part of the country, it was inexpensive to pass over the roads of Kincardineshire, for the toll rates were singularly low. It was also the desire of the county to effect the early removal of all toll-bars. The county had also the merit of having roads in proportion to the area of the county greater than in any other. There were about 500 miles of roads under management to about 388 square miles. These roads were also in very good condition, well looked after, and very fairly maintained. The economy in keeping up these roads was also shown by the Report of the Commission on Roads to be remarkably 814 low; indeed, the average rate per mile for maintenance was as low as in any of the Scotch counties. This was owing to the intelligent and efficient management of the communications of this county; and the result was brought about by confiding to those most interested in the roads—namely, the tenant farmers—the right to look after the roads. They had not hesitated to carry out amalgamation of roads under one Road Inspector, so as to diminish the cost of management and provide for efficient supervision over the communications within fixed areas. He had no doubt that with similar judicious arrangements throughout Scotland a very great reduction of expenditure on roads could be effected. No doubt, this Road Bill had defects, and when it got into Committee he would propose Amendments calculated to effect improvements in the management of roads of Scotland based on the experience of Kincardineshire. And on this understanding he would give his cordial support to the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Fife.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that the question was whether it was most expedient to support the roads and bridges of Scotland by a direct tax on property, or by means of tolls. For himself, while the present system of statute labour lasted, he would confine them to tolls. He admitted that there was great room for improvement, but in his own view those improvements could be carried into effect quite independently of anything in the Bill. He quite admitted that this was a difficult question to deal with in detail, but he did not think there were any difficulties which might not be removed in Committee. He admitted that there were some points which would have to be settled, and probably Lanarkshire and Edinburgh would have to be omitted; and there were many cases in which inequalities would have to be adjusted. It was unjust, for instance, in the case of great towns, that a large proportion of the assessment should fall upon its suburban districts—of course, it would be most unjust to call upon the counties to pay tolls for the convenience of the cities. They might just as well impose tolls on the cities for the support of the roads in the counties. He did not see that there was any ground whatever for interfering with the second reading of the Bill, it appearing 815 to him that the promoters of the measure were willing to make an exemption where anomalies such as he had referred to existed. There was another reason why he was unwilling to throw the Bill out, and that was the necessity of making some suitable provision in the case. At present the debts were on bonds given personally by the trustees, secured on the property of the trust. Now, he thought it most unjust that one class of property should bear the burdens which ought to be cast equally upon all, for the purpose of obtaining a benefit which was to be shared by all. For these reasons, he thought the Bill ought to receive the sanction of the House.
said, that he did not rise to debate the merits of the Bill, because he did not think himself competent to do so, or to give any opinion which it was worth the while of the House to listen to; but he was anxious to make an explanation with reference to a declaration of his which appeared to have been seriously misapprehended by two hon. Friends. He understood that they put a construction upon some words that had fallen from him recently, assuming that he had entered into an obligation on the part of the Government that they would not, during the dependency of the general question of Local Taxation, make any proposal involving an addition to local burdens. It must be obvious that he could not have made any statement involving such a pledge, and that he could not have done so with consistency; because the Government had at that moment Bills before the House which did impose new local burdens—such as the rating of game, mines, woods, and other descriptions of property. What he did say was, that the Government had not overlooked the Resolution of last year, and that they were desirous to avoid raising any question which would interfere unnecessarily with the general question of Local Taxation. And, as an instance of that desire, he might remind the House that in the discussion on the Juries Bill he stated his hope that the Government would make such a proposal as would enable them to withdraw that portion of the measure which was opposed on that ground. He did not shrink from that declaration of the general intention and desire of the Government; but he did seriously deprecate any Resolution of the House that they will decline to entertain 816 any measure by which new local burdens shall be imposed or old ones shifted until a definite settlement of the whole question of Local Taxation shall have been arrived at.
§ MR. ELLICE
said, he did not object to the principle of the Bill, but he thought some of the proposals were highly objectionable, and must be altered in Committee. He did not know that it would be possible to introduce one uniform system into Scotland; but there could be no doubt that there was a general wish in Scotland that tolls should be abolished, and that the means of maintaining the roads should be by assessment. He would remind the House, however, that by the present method of raising revenue by tolls, a large proportion was obtained from the general public who actually used the roads; and a large part of this came from visitors. Of course, if they maintained the roads by assessment, that source of revenue would vanish. He thought there could be no doubt that there were exceptional cases in various localities, and that to apply one general rule to all would be to inflict great injustice, and that these places must be exempted from the operation of the Bill and dealt with separately. There was another point of importance, and that was the question of the debts of various trusts. The trustees of roads in Scotland stood on a different footing from the trustees of turnpike roads in England. The latter were secured on the proceeds of the trust, and the persons who lent the money considered the risk and the security; but in Scotland the money was lent on the personal bond of the trustee, and therefore the creditor was safe to be paid his money some time or other. But it did seem hard that one district of the county —take the county of Fife, for instance—should be saddled with a burden to pay the debt of another, and that would be the result of an uniform arrangement. He hoped the Government would accept the second reading of the Bill as an indication that the representatives of Scotland desired to have this matter fully considered and settled, and that they would take up the question themselves and introduce a more complete and perfect measure next Session.
said, there could be no doubt a toll was in theory more equitable than a rate, because the toll supposed that those paid for the road 817 who used the road, whereas a rate was founded upon the attractive principle of discharging your obligations by putting your hand into the pocket of your neighbour. On the other hand, there were incidental advantages which counterbalanced that—in Wales, for instance, the abolition of tolls had proved a great boon. The whole question was one of expediency rather than of principle.
said, that it was his intention to vote for the second reading of the Bill, and he would state shortly why he proposed to do so. The subject had caused great excitement in Scotland, and as long ago as 15 years a Royal Commission was issued; and a former Government, of which he was a Member, had brought in a Bill on the subject. Not only that, but the Report of the Scotch Committee, who had made a long and exhaustive inquiry, was unanimous against the continuance of the system of tolls. But while he supported the second reading of the Bill, he by no means intended to pledge himself to the details. The county which he had the honour to represent—Renfrewshire—was in an exceptional condition, and so also, though not to the same degree, the county of Lanarkshire which was represented by his hon. Friend (Sir Edward Colebrooke). With respect to those two counties it seemed to him that it would be the duty of the Committee to consider any fair suggestion, and if the justice of their case was not met, it would be necessary to consider whether they should not be excluded from the operation of the Bill. For he agreed with the hon. Member for St. Andrews (Mr. Ellice) when he said, speaking generally, and not with respect only to these two counties, that in a measure of this kind exceptional cases should be exempted from the general rule. He quite agreed that there ought to be some change with reference to the debt on the trusts in Scotland. Altogether there were 160 trusts in Scotland, and in. 16 important counties the debt amounted to £357,000, while the interest had actually risen to £41,000. He thought the question raised by his hon. Friend (Sir Edward Colebrooke) as to the debt was a very proper one, and they ought to consider whether it was not possible to relieve the trustees of their personal responsibility for it—since there existed a common law obligation to repair the roads. In Wales a system not unlike the Scotch 818 system had been found utterly inadequate in many cases to keep up the roads. In consequence an Act was passed dealing with the six southern counties by which the trusts were consolidated and other arrangements made by means of which a small assessment was sufficient to extinguish the tolls. It might be desirable to consider whether in accordance with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. Scourfield), a similar arrangement for Scotland might not have a similar beneficial effect. It was argued that private Acts led to lavish expenditure and to the dissatisfaction of the people, but he did not think that result had followed in those counties which had obtained them. The Acts were similar in principle to the provisions of this Bill. Was there any proof whatever that any dissatisfaction existed at the prospect of this measure becoming law? On the contrary, those counties where the special Acts were in force were well satisfied with the present state of things, and none of them were willing to go back to the old state of things. There had been an increase in the cost of repairing the roads, but that was caused by a rise in the price of labour and material, and perhaps the increase in the population had something to do with it. But besides this there had been an improvement in the character of the roads, and it was a very poor way of looking at the question of economy to consider only increased expenditure without looking for the cause. Improvement of roads was a measure of economy. Increased means of locomotion, and the abolition of restrictions upon it were directly or indirectly a gain to the community; and considering with what spirit public affairs were managed in Scotland, it would be found that in this, as in all cases in which expenditure had been wisely made on a sound system, advantage would follow. It seemed to him that if the people of Scotland called for this measure as they did generally, it was not for the House of Commons to say their wishes should not be gratified. If they were prepared to meet the charge why should they not be allowed to do so? The difficulty now pending respecting the incidence of Imperial and local taxation should be settled as soon as possible; but the delay on this subject should not be used as an excuse for denying to any part of the Empire an 819 improvement in the administration of local affairs.
§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER,
in reply, said, that Returns he had received from counties in which private Acts containing provisions similar to this Bill were in operation fully bore out the statement of the Home Secretary. The statement that had been made to the effect that a very large proportion of the debt on Scotch roads had been secured on personal security of trustees was not correct. In Renfrew the amount of debt secured on personal security was £31,000, and on tolls, £91,000. In Lanark the sum on personal security was £18,000, and on tolls, £284,000. Throughout the whole of Scotland the amount of debt resting on personal security was only £223,000; whereas the amount of debt secured on tolls, and with which his noble Friend would have to deal next year, was £1,345,000.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 124; Noes 115: Majority 9.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Friday 27th June.