HC Deb 12 May 1873 vol 215 cc1819-41

in rising to move the following Resolution:— That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire and report whether the existing Areas and Boundaries of Parishes, Unions, and Counties may be so altered and adjusted as to prevent the inconvenience in matters of Local Administration and Taxation which now arises from the limited extent or subdivision of certain Parishes, or the overlapping of Parishes in two or more administrative areas, or from Parishes and Unions being situated in more than one County, with power to recommend whether any and, if so, what measure should be taken to give effect to their Report, said, he ventured to state that the terms of the Resolution alone were a sufficient recommendation, or would be to those who were familiar with the question, for there was hardly any hon. Member of the House who was not fully conscious of the incongruities, and of the inconveniences consequent upon the incongruities, of the areas and boundaries of fiscal and administrative jurisdiction in this country. The Union was an aggregation of parishes, but the parishes sometimes overlapped the Union, and the Union overlapped the boundary of the county. The object of the Committee would be simply to take into consideration the inconvenience of the existing anomalies, and to advise the House and the Government whether it would not be possible, and worth while, to endeavour to accomplish some simplification of, and harmony in, the area of these boundaries. The first area with which they had to deal was the parish. Probably, most hon. Members were aware that there was a distinction between an ecclesiastical parish and a civil parish; but he did not know how many were aware that at present there were in England and Wales no less than 15,453 of these civil parishes. A definition of a civil parish, sometimes called a township, was this—that it was a place in which poor might be settled and overseers might be appointed for the collection of the poor rate. The House would also understand that if there were about 16,000 civil parishes in this country, a great many of them must be far too small, both as regarded area and population, to have any reassonable cause for their existence. Besides the smallness of many of these parishes, it was well known that many parishes extended into three or four or more counties; and the Ordnance Map afforded clear demonstration that a very great many parishes were subdivided, having outlying parts miles from the mother parish. Without troubling the House too much, he was bound to give some instances which he thought would be curious, and perhaps some of them unexpected, of these anomalies. In the first place, with respect to the area of parishes; some of them were very small: in the county of York he found that in the Union of Howden there was a parish called Cheapside, with only 7 acres, number of houses 15, and population 41. In the Union of Clitheroe, in the county of Lancashire, there was a parish called Clitheroe Castle, consisting of 6 acres, 1 house, and a population of 9. In the county of Cumberland, in the Union of Carlisle, there was a parish called Eagles-field Abbey, consisting of 5 acres, 11 houses, and a population of 49. In the Union of York there was the parish of Mint Yard, consisting of 4 acres, 11 houses, and a population of 59. In the Union of Bristol there was the parish of St. Werbergh, consisting of 3 acres, 5 houses, and a population of 18. In the Union of Belford, in the county of Northumberland, there was the parish of Monks' House, consisting of 1 acre, 3 houses, and a population of 3. In the Union of York there was the parish of Davey Hall, consisting of a quarter of an acre, 4 houses, and a population of 14. He hail taken these figures from the Census Returns; but on referring to a Return made for the Local Government Board, which was slightly irregular and somewhat incorrect, it stated the population of such and such a parish to be one old woman, a pig, and a donkey. These were, no doubt, exceptional cases; but he would now refer to a number of inhabited houses and the population of a certain number of parishes. There were 880 parishes containing less than 10 inhabited houses in each; there were 515 which contained less than 10, 92 contained 4 each, 89 contained only 3 each, 18 contained only 2 each, and 96 contained only 1 each. The Returns of population were still more curious. There were 782 parishes in which the population did not exceed 50. The number of parishes containing 40 inhabitants and not exceeding 50, was 173; the number of parishes containing 30 inhabitants and not exceeding 40, was 189; the number of parishes containing 20 inhabitants and not exceeding 30, was 168; the number of those containing 10 and not exceeding 20 inhabitants, was 150; while 98 parishes contained only from 1 to 10 inhabitants, and 14 parishes were positively uninhabited. He had spoken of the number of parishes which traversed the boundaries of counties. It was not so large as that of the Unions, but still he found no fewer than 150 parishes which were in more than one county, and no fewer than 400 which were partly within, and partly without, the urban jurisdictions and borough districts. With reference to the detached parts, perhaps that constituted one of the greatest anomalies of the present system. He would mention a few of the cases taken, not exceptionally, but at random, which were extremely remarkable and instructive. In the Northern Division of the county of Durham there were four townships, each of which had one detached part, and the extent of area of the detached portions of these four parishes varied from one acre to 10 acres. There were two townships, each of which had two detached parts, the area of such detached parts varying from one acre to 27 acres. Three townships had each three detached parts, with areas varying from one acre to 55 acres. There were four townships, in each of which there were four detached parts, the areas of the detached parts varying in area from 0.38 of an acre to 392 acres. One township had five detached parts, varying in area from four to 67 acres. Another township had seven detached parts, varying in area from three to 52 acres. Then there was one township with no fewer than 19 detached parts, which varied in area from 0.29 of an acre to 258 acres. He would now give one or two more instances in other localities. In the ancient ecclesiastical parish of Holme, in the county of Cumberland, the number of townships and the numbers of the detached parts were 7, 22, and 46 respectively, and a marsh common to three of the townships. In Durham there was the parish of Lanchester. It contained 17 townships, only one of which was entire, the remainder having from one to 19 detached parts. Again, in the West Riding of the county of York there was the ancient parish of Whitgift, in which one township—Swinefleet—happencil to have no fewer than 97 detached parts. To a certain extent, that question of parishes and their detached parts had been already dealt with by legislation, though not with reference to the subject-matter of the present proposed inquiry. What he proposed now to do was to consider areas and boundaries purely from an administrative point of view; but he wished to draw attention for a moment to the Boundary Act of 1832, which followed the passing of the first Reform Act. At that period 42 of the political counties contained detached parts of parishes which were themselves in other counties. Of those 42 counties, 26 were dealt with by the Boundary Act of 1832, which annexed the de- tached parts of the parishes for political purposes to the counties by which they were surrounded. Sixteen counties were not dealt with, he presumed on account of political reasons affecting the minds of those who had to deal with the question at that time. In 1844 another Act, founded on the statute of 1832, was passed. It dealt only with those parishes and detached parts which had formed the subject-matter of the previous Act, and it made them a part, for all county administrative purposes, of the counties in which they existed. The question, therefore, was in this position—There were a great number of parishes with detached parts in some counties, and with detached parts in other counties; consequently, where the detached parts of a parish lay in another county, they formed a part of that county for political and for county financial purposes, while for parochial or Poor Law purposes, the detached parts remained as they were prior to the passing of the Act of 1832. Again, many parishes crossed the boundaries of administrative boundaries. With regard to these a different state of things existed, because the Union was built up out of the parishes by the labour of the Poor Law Commission in 1834. He had been satisfied that the Poor Law Commissioners of that period felt that they were bound to construct the Unions by an aggregation of parishes mainly with respect to questions of administrative convenience—namely, such as the most convenient town for building the workhouse, and the assembling of the guardians for the discharge of their duties; and in many cases they were compelled to transgress, in the composition of their Unions, the boundaries of the county proper. The result was that out of 647 Unions, 177 overlapped the boundaries of counties; 133 of those Unions were in two counties, 31 were in three counties, and three Unions were in four counties. There were only two counties, Cumberland and Northumberland, the areas and boundaries of which coincided with the Unions which were contained in them. Now, his purpose was simply to deal with the question from the point of local taxation and local government and administration, but he wished to state that the Registrar General had referred, in 1851, in reference to the Census Returns, to the inconveniences and perplexities caused by the variety of ecclesiastical, military and civil, judicial, ancient and modern, municipal and Parliamentary subdivisions of the country, and had suggested that in any future Census all administrative arrangements would be greatly facilitated by the adoption of an uniform system of territorial division, and a similar opinion was again expressed in 1871. To secure, on that data, what he hoped the Committee would undertake to consider and report, was, first of all, whether it would not be possible to endeavour, it was of the highest importance to have by consolidation, to reduce the number of these 15,416 civil parishes, and a large proportion of which he had indicated to be of too small a character to justify their separate existence for purposes of taxation. In the next place, the Committee might consider whether an end should not be made of all these subdivisions, and of the existence of these detached portions—whether, in fact, each parish should not be its own ring-fence. That would not be a work of insuperable difficulty, but it would involve a certain amount of labour for which hon. Members familiar with the work of local government would be qualified. Another question would arise in this way—When we had to form a local government district under the Sanitary Acts we were bound to form it with reference to certain conditions. We could not look to Union boundaries; we had to look to the actual and probable future growth of the nascent urban population. It was a common thing to be called upon by the inhabitants of a town which was not yet a borough to define boundaries with reference to this expected growth, and to define municipal boundaries with reference to the same considerations. It might, therefore, be very advisable, when districts of this kind were constituted, to have the power of saying that those parts of rural parishes which had been made urban should be either attached to the town or constituted into parishes themselves. The next question would be, whether it was not only desirable, but absolutely necessary, that every parish and every Union should be brought entirely under the same administrative jurisdiction. It was also a matter of serious consideration whether it would not be advisable that for all administrative purposes there should be the same county area. In the next place, having arrived at a conclusion on these various topics, it would be for the Committee to report its recommendations, and how they could be best carried into effect. There were many matters which could be managed by the ordinary Staff of the Local Government Board; but one of these subjects was, however, exceptional, and that was the assimilation of the area of boundaries of parishes, Unions, and counties, and that he thought, would be best investigated by an independent Commission. Amongst all these questions that was the most important and the only difficult one, for there were 150 parishes which crossed the boundaries of counties, and 177 Unions which did so. There were three methods by which that object might be accomplished. It might be done by simply altering the boundaries of parishes and Unions. When the present First Lord of the Admiralty instructed the Inspectors of the Poor-Law Board to study the question in their respective districts, the general result of their inquiry was to the effect that such a scheme would not be feasible, consistent with the necessities of the case, and certainly not consistent with the burdens of the Boards of Guardians. The next method would be to deal with the boundaries of counties, and not to touch the boundaries of parishes and Unions. He however did not think that was a course which the House was likely to adopt, for as far as he was concerned, he confessed he thought the boundary of a county was the last that ought to be touched; that we ought to try every other method to accomplish our object, and that we ought to be satisfied, by independent inquiry, of the necessity, if it should prove to be one, of changing the boundaries of counties to any serious extent. The third method would be to combine both the measures named, in what proportions would have to be defined; and he thought it might be possible to alter Union boundaries more than the Inspectors thought advisable, without detriment to local administration and without an unnecessary alteration of the boundaries of counties. The House would sympathize with the general object that every smaller area should be embraced entirely within a larger one, and he did not think he could guarantee that that object could be attained, without in the last resort dealing in some eases with the boundaries of counties themselves. Whether the political boundary of a county should be dealt with was a question entirely beyond the scope of the subject, and he did not propose to touch it. He should be able to prove to the Committee, if it were appointed, that we could alter the administrative county without trenching upon the county political, though he had no objection to the Committee discussing the boundaries from the political as well as the administrative point of view. He was conscious of the advantage of the uniformity and identity of boundaries for all purposes; but he could undertake to show that no serious inconvenience would follow from leaving the political counties exactly as they were, and altering the boundaries for administrative purposes; but that if we did not reconcile and harmonize boundaries for administrative purposes, we should incur serious disadvantages in future legislation. Suppose boundaries altered for administrative purposes, there would be an alteration of the area of county taxation for all purposes. County rates, however, were comparatively the lightest, and the variations in them were slight compared with the differences between other rates in different counties. Another effect would be the changing of highway districts conterminous with existing boundaries; and a third effect would be the alteration of petty sessional divisions. The latter, supposing the alterations of county boundaries to be trifling, would not be a matter of serious inconvenience, and it would be attended with positive convenience, by enabling Unions to transact their business at one petty sessions instead of two. Justices in the commission for one district could; if necessary, be placed in a second commission. His first object, therefore, would be, as far as possible, to make boundaries of parishes and Unions without touching counties in any case; and, in the second place, if he were driven, in certain cases, to impose modifications of county boundaries, it should be for administrative purposes only, leaving the political county where it was. These were the proposals he should have to make to the Committee if the House should grant it. He had argued the question so far simply on the ground of convenience, supposing they had no further measures of constructive legislation to propose. But he should fall very short of expressing the motives which impelled Her Majesty's Government in the action they proposed to take, if he confined himself to a statement of that kind. The three Bills which had already been read a first time dealt with matters of considerable practical importance. They dealt with the abolition of exceptions from rating; with uniformity of assessment for all purposes, whether of Imperial taxation or local rates; and the third Bill dealt with the consolidation of rates. His next proposal was to enable the Government to address themselves to a matter of far greater importance and interest, and for which a Committee was in their view a necessary preliminary—namely, the reform of the system of local self-government itself. Now, the reform of the system of local government meant, inevitably in the first instance, the reform, the reconstruction, if necessary, the simplification, the harmonization of the areas of local government, and when they had prepared the way by simplification of areas, then the time would come when they might address themselves to the question of the construction and functions of the local government that should preside over and administer local government law within those areas. Now, the construction of these bodies must in their view be based on the principle which pervaded almost all the institutions of this country, and which belonged to its oldest traditions—he meant the representative principle. The problem of the best government, to his mind, was the problem of the best self-government. From the smallest local government that existed—from the vestry of the smallest parish to the High Court of Parliament itself, they found the principle of self-government, and of representative self-government, had obtained throughout the history of this country. There was only one exception to that rule, and, strange to say, that exception was to be found in the very largest and most important area of local government which the country possessed. In the counties the functions performed by the justices were insufficient; he thought much more might be done from an administrative point of view; but whether these functions were sufficient or insufficient, it was a remarkable fact that what he might call the missing link in the chain of representative self-government was to be found in the area of the county, where local government assumed its highest functions in the widest extent, and came into direct contact with Imperial objects. The recent history of the government of counties was somewhat curious. He found in 1850 Mr. Milner Gibson introduced a Bill for the formation of County Boards. It was referred to a Select Committee, which reported against it and it was dropped. In 1861 a Bill with similar objects was introduced by Sir John Trelawny, Sir John Shelley, and Mr. Barrow, which after some discussion was also dropped. But in 1868 a Select Committee reported in a very different sense on the question of the constitution of County Boards. That Committee was appointed to inquire into the present mode of conducting financial arrangements in the counties of England and Wales, and whether any alteration ought to be made in the persons by whom or the manner in which those arrangements were conducted. It recommended, that in order to give satisfaction to the ratepayers, Boards of Guardians should elect representatives, who should be admitted to take part and vote at all meetings of magistrates held in their counties for the consideration of questions of county expenditure; that in Poor Law Unions a representative might be elected for the county where there were at least six parishes, and where there were a less number, the parishes might be added to the adjoining Union for the purpose. The House would, therefore, see that that Committee had attempted, though by means which he thought imperfect and insufficient, to overcome the incongruity of the boundary line between Unions and the county. Subsequently, a Bill was founded on the Report of that Committee by the present Under Secretary for the Colonies (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), and that Bill also was not passed. There had been considerable difficulty in dealing with the question; he had experienced it himself; but, since the House had of late years given attention to sanitary legislation and administration, it had begun to perceive that there were many duties which a County Board might perform, besides the administration of taxation and expenditure. Last year, when he introduced the Public Health Bill, he explained to the House that dealing with the question of County Boards implied also that of county boundaries; that that question was a delicate one, and could not be approached with any prospect of success, except through the medium of a Committee of the House of Commons, probably to be followed by a Commission of Inquiry. Those considerations, he thought, went in favour of the re-construction of County Boards. It would be premature for him at the present moment to endeavour to suggest what functions should be assigned to such bodies. Whether those functions were attributed to them at once, or were accorded to them by natural growth, he had no hesitation in expressing his conviction that they were destined to become great institutions in the country. He ventured to remind the House that in the administration of the Department over which he had the honour to preside, he had given some evidences of the importance of enlarging the areas of local administration, and, if possible, of considering the question of administration within even the smaller area of counties. During the last year or two he had done his best to promote county conferences of Boards of Guardians, to discuss, among themselves, the principles of Poor Law administration; and the meetings which had taken place for that object had, he believed, been productive of great good. Local administration in these matters would, he felt convinced, tend to render easy and to simplify the relations between local and Imperial government; and he trusted that the most qualified men in the country would be induced to take part in bringing that result to pass, and would make it the object of an honourable ambition. When the time came to make proposals on the recommendations of the Committee—and he did not think that time would be far distant, the time would also come for considering the financial aid to local burdens which Her Majesty's Government would give, and in moving for the Committee, which, unfortunately, the state of his voice compelled him to do in fewer observations than he should otherwise think desirable, he wished to be allowed to record this conviction. He believed when the time came that we should have a complete system of local government, that financial assistance which the House desired, might be afforded without those dangers which were likely to arise if that aid were given at the present time. He believed it might be afforded then without any danger of enervating the spirit or relaxing the fibre of local government. He believed that aid might be afforded so as to stimulate its spirit, to add to its independence, and especially so as to minimize that detailed interference, that supervision of Government departments which he could assure the House was as objectionable to the minds of the Members of the Government as it could be to those of any other persons. Lastly, he believed that aid could be rendered under such conditions as not to make local expenditure careless, extravagant, or lax, but so as to stimulate that spirit of efficiency and economy which ought to be inseparable from the administration of local government in this country. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for the appointment of the Select Committee of which he had given Notice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire and report whether the existing Areas and Boundaries of Parishes, Unions, and Counties may be so altered and adjusted as to prevent the inconvenience in matters of Local Administration and Taxation which now arises from the limited extent or subdivision of certain Parishes, or the overlapping of Parishes in two or more administrative areas, or from Parishes and Unions being situate in more than one County, with power to recommend whether any and, if so, what measures should be taken to give effect to their Report."—(Mr. Stansfeld.)


said, the country would be somewhat disappointed at the measures which Her Majesty's Government offered on the subject of local taxation. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that they only touched the very fringe of the question; but after the Resolution of the House passed by such a large majority last year, every one had a right to expect that Her Majesty's Government would have gone a great deal deeper. The House had a long explanation from the right hon. Gentleman the other night, pointing out the difficulties of this really difficult subject, and saying a great deal about the want of information on the part of the Government, and how they did not feel justified in laying before Parliament propositions dealing with the whole matter, until they had made more inquiries with a view to obtaining complete information. That might be all very well; but the House and the country would not forget that, some years ago, Her Majesty's Government stated that they were prepared to deal with the question; and not only that, but the present First Lord of the Admiralty laid before the House a series of propositions for the purpose of giving certain relief. Therefore, Her Majesty's Government were either now delaying what were really useful practical measures on the plea of want of information, or two or three years ago they were guilty of laying before the House measures with regard to which they had not that information which was required. He did not see how Her Majesty's Government could escape from the horns of that dilemma. Having said so much, he was by no means averse to the appointment of the Committee; but the right hon. Gentleman must expect great difficulties when the Committee met in re-adjusting the boundaries of which he had spoken. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the counties, of the highway districts, of the towns, of the Poor Law districts, of the petty sessional divisions, and so on. But it should be remembered that those various divisions had all been formed, because they appeared the most suitable for the special purposes for which they were designed. It was all very well to carve out England into a certain number of squares, but when the Committee came to deal with the question, they would find a great number of interests, some pulling one way and some another. Take, for instance, the question of municipal towns and Unions. It might be very convenient that the boundaries of the two should be identical; but everybody knew that persons living in the country, just outside the town, derived great advantages from their position, and that the town was entitled to call upon them to contribute something to the poor rates. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it would be wise to have the same administrative county—or, in other words, that the boundaries of the present county should be enlarged in order to take in some of the adjoining townships. But by doing that, they might entirely change the incidence of the county rate, they might be bringing a set of ratepayers who had hitherto had a small county rate into a county where the county rate might be very large. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to revise the municipal boundaries. Un- fortunately, there was scarcely a single borough in England which was not very deeply involved in debt; and he could not help thinking that the debt was multiplying at so rapid a rate that some day or other it would be found to be a great evil. Indeed, in many cases the rates of the boroughs were so heavy that people were leaving them and going into the country to live in order to escape the burden. The right hon. Gentleman proposed, in order to make a nice arrangement on paper, that everybody within a given red square should contribute in the same proportion.


said, the hon. Gentleman had entirely misunderstood him. He would explain that he had simply suggested it would not be advisable that some portions of a parish in a given area should be severed from other portions remaining outside, and he had endeavoured to show it was advisable to make the area of parishes coincide with the municipal boundary.


said, that practically the injustice he deprecated would be done. If certain parishes at present suburban were joined to a municipal borough, the ratepayers in those formerly suburban parishes would be called upon to contribute for the liquidation of debts they had no voice in incuring. He did not for a moment object to making the boundaries intelligible; but would say it must not be forgotten that all these modern divisions for highways, for petty sessions, and for Poor Law Unions had been made for some special reason, and that the object in view had been a just distribution of burdens. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think it would be easy to alter the boundaries of counties; he trusted, however, that the House would not consent to disturb those boundaries.—[Mr. STANSFELD dissented.]—The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but he had distinctly contemplated altering the boundaries of counties, and that he (Mr. Cross) trusted the country would not permit. The boundaries of counties were well understood, and any alteration in that respect would result in endless confusion. The proposed changes were suggested by an increase or decrease of population in particular parts, but population was very fluctuating. For instance, the discovery of a mine near any particular town would materially increase its size; but the increase might be only temporary. Why, then, should historical divisions be upset, for what might be a merely temporary condition of things? With regard to the proposal for establishing County Boards, the right hon. Gentleman would find no jealousy existing among the magistrates respecting the proposed method of administering the funds. The justices had existed many years, and as they did the work for which they were originally appointed well, other duties had been cast upon them. The administration of certain local funds arising within the limits of their jurisdiction had been left to them, and they had discharged the obligation as best they could; they were not to blame if they had not done this additional work as well as they did that for which they were originally appointed. He feared the same course was being adopted with regard to the Boards of Guardians. They were appointed for a specific purpose and did their work well; it seemed as if there was now a determination to break their backs as a reward for their diligence. Although there would be no jealousy on the part of the magistrates with reference to the proposals on that head, he felt convinced from what he had seen of the administration of local funds that administration by the county justices was far more economical than by Boards of Guardians or by municipal authorities. In conclusion, he would hope that we should not have anything like the system of centralization which was growing up at the Home Office and the Local Government Board, and remarked that if any of these measures tended to decentralization, he should rejoice at the appointment of this Committee.


said, he differed from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, for he could not allow that a boundary once fixed would be the proper one for all time to come. If he had any fault to find with his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, it was, that his Motion did not include within its scope the boundaries of the municipal boroughs. He considered that if it was necessary, and if they wished to review the area of taxation, this should be effected completely and on a just and proper basis. In this there need be no insuperable difficulty. In the borough of Middles- borough, the area of the town had been considerably enlarged, and by negotiation and compromise, the taxation had been adjusted, in such a way that the area was increased without injustice being done to the outlying districts. But this should not involve, as it does at present, all the trouble and cost of a private Act of Parliament; there should be some public authority which could be appealed to, and which, after proper inquiry, should have power to enlarge the boundaries of municipal boroughs. To show how much this was required, he would, as an example, point to the municipal borough of Banbury, forming a part of the Parliamentary borough represented by himself. It contained 4,000 inhabitants, whereas the urban population was 12,000. Three police rates were levied in the town—one by the municipality and the others by two counties. It was the same with the poor rates, but the three districts were, for all purposes of residence and occupation, a single town. There were many instances of streets with one side in the municipal borough, and the other side in the county; others with the front-doors of houses in the borough, and the backdoors in the county. Such anomalies required to be rectified, and he thought the Committee for which the right hon. Gentleman had moved ought to have power to remedy them. He would, therefore, move the insertion after the word "parishes" of the word "municipal," so that the Committee might be empowered to consider the area of municipal boroughs.


in seconding the Amendment, said, that a growing evil in the present day was that rich persons carrying on business within a borough resided outside the borough, and so withdrew themselves from the natural area of taxation to which they ought to be subject. That was a matter which must be considered soon, and ought to be considered now.

Amendment proposed, in line 3, after the word "Parishes," to insert the words "Municipal Boroughs."—(Mr. Samuelson.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


did not object, neither did he suppose that the House would be disposed to object to the appointment of the Committee which had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. The question of the rectification of boundaries was, no doubt, a very important question, but it was not one that was prominently incumbent on the House to initiate. He believed that the Government, in its Poor Law Department, possessed all the knowledge and information on the question which they required, and if the Committee were appointed, it was incumbent on the Government to point out what were the alterations and rectifications which they wished to suggest. So far as the rectification of Union boundaries was concerned, the subject had been in the hands of the Poor Law authorities for the last 30 years, and they had had the power to make rectifications, but they had neglected to do so; and, therefore, he thought it was rather hard upon that House at so late a period of the Session, and at the termination of a Parliament of long duration, to begin a process which required the new energy of a new Parliament. The difficulty in rectifying Union boundaries arose out of the registration, which applied to the Union, so that if any change were made in the Union the registration would no longer be available for the purposes of comparison. That, however, was not a fatal or insuperable objection. The present First Lord of the Admiralty would remember that when he was at the head of the Poor Law Board he had the opportunity of rectifying the boundaries of the Unions that lay between adjoining counties when the Gilbert Unions were broken up, but he did not use such opportunity. So far as regarded the boundaries of Unions, if anything could be done in the way suggested he thought it would be a great advantage, but he was not sanguine on the subject; and if all the controvertible points were referred to a Committee a long Session would be spent before the inquiry was concluded. With regard to the proposal to aid local expenditure out of the Votes of Parliament, the great bugbear was that it would interfere with local self-government. The sanitary legislation of last year, however, provided for that very assistance. The proposal made by his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) was to increase the contribution from the Votes of the House towards the police expenditure of coun- ties and boroughs. Now, he contended that whether the contribution of the State towards that expenditure was to the extent of one-quarter or one-half, it would make no difference with regard to local administration, for the tendency of the local authorities as to police administration was towards economy, while the tendency of Government interference, as shown in the requisitions of the Government Inspector, was towards extravagance. The case of the lunatics was an analogous one, so far as any experience had been obtained. The lunatics might be said to cost 9s. a-head against a pauper expenditure of 4s. ahead; but would anyone affirm that the influence now exercised by the visiting justices in behalf of economy would be interfered with if Imperial aid were given to the county expenditure? Only yesterday, he received the Report of the Lunacy Commissioners upon the lunatic asylum in his county. They reported it to be in an admirable and satisfactory condition, but the apartment appointed for Divine service was scarcely adequate to the number capable of attending public worship; and so it was hoped the visiting justices would lose no time in building a new chapel in a convenient situation for the accommodation of the lunatics. That was the sort of pressure exercised by Government Inspectors upon the visiting justices; and so long as the Government gave these large powers to the Inspectors, it was quite reasonable that Parliament should assist in bearing the expenditure. The Government interference, in fact, was altogether in the direction of additional expenditure, while the distinct desire of the local authorities was for economy. He believed that if the Government, avoiding the difficulties which beset a plan for the re-organization of the whole of our local government, had been content to accede to the terms of his hon, Friend's Motion, they would accomplish all that was desired by the ratepayers, and save themselves and the country a great deal of embarrassment and delay.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had made no mention of the metropolis, although it was included in the terms of his Motion. He wished to know, therefore, whether it was intended to include the metropolis in the reference to the Select Committee. There were several different areas in the metropolis for different purposes. There was one area for the Metropolitan Local Management Act, another for the police, and a third for Poor Law administration, and although the metropolis had been frequently dealt with, in reference to Poor Law management, there had been no attempt to simplify its local administration. In fact, the only municipal government possessed by the metropolis was in an area of 709 acres, and containing about 100,000 of the population, out of about 3,250,000 souls. The metropolis, moreover, extended over Middlesex, and parts of Essex, Kent, and Surrey. Was it intended that the inconvenience arising from the overlapping of areas and of administration in the metropolis should be dealt with by the Committee, and were they to have the power of recommending some system of local administration? Some vestries and local boards had control over the streets, while others had not; and were they to be subordinate to the Metropolitan Board of Works or the City of London? These were questions that had been carefully avoided by successive Governments during the last 10 or 12 years, and he wished to know whether they were to be met by any special reference to the Committee?


said, he was very glad to hear the question which had been put by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith). When this Committee was first referred to, it was supposed that it was to supply further information for the purpose of carrying out more effectually the three Bills which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced, and not for the purpose now disclosed by the right hon. Gentleman. He would certainly vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Banbury. Boundary Commissioners were appointed under the Municipal Corporations Act; but the subject was found to be so difficult, that the Government of the clay shirked the question. If the question of boundaries was to be tacked on to the subject of local taxation, it was not the present or even the succeeding Parliament that would be able to grapple with relief from local burdens. He was at a very great loss to understand what all the talk about small parishes, small number of houses, and small number of inhabitants had to do with the object for which the Committee was to be appointed, and he complained that the right hon. Gentleman had failed to bring forward any measure for reforming the rate. The Imperial taxation for the purposes of the property tax and house duty was based not upon the Union, but upon the old system of tailings, and these tailings often ran into two or three parishes, so that unless the word "tithing" was introduced into the remit of the Committee it would be impossible for the Committee to accomplish anything. He was not at all certain that any great benefit was to be obtained from defining the boundaries of parishes. The parish, as a parish, had nothing to do with the amount of rating, or the mode of expenditure, for they had to a great extent been superseded by the Unions. Every overseer was bound to take the Union Valuation List as the basis of the rate, and he had nothing to do but to obey the orders of the Board of Guardians. If they wanted a basis for a consolidated rate, they must take some area according to which Imperial taxation was levied—such as the parish, Union, or county. Areas, under Local Improvement Acts, were constantly shifting their boundaries; in many cases they extended simply as the area of lighting extended. In his opinion, collectors should be appointed for a Union instead of for each parish—a proceeding which led to increased expenditure. He hoped the House would vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Banbury, because its adoption would delay the progress of the measure.


thought that they could scarcely hope to discuss the matter in a satisfactory manner at present; and, indeed, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) was singularly general, and he proposed to refer all matters of detail to a Select Committee. The scope of the present measure would be very large—indeed, immense; and one objection to it was this:—they had usually given to the various local authorities borrowing powers, which had been liberally exercised; and what a task the Committee would have to consider all these financial matters. He supported the proposal for forming County Boards. Such local Boards furnished the only guarantees they had against the centralizing power, which was so much increasing. The right hon. Gentleman's speech appeared to hint at the relief of local taxation by subsidies; but he (Mr. Corrance) deprecated that mode of relief, believing there were many better ways in which the relief might be given. At the same time, he was inclined to agree to the Government proposal, if it could be carried out; and he thought that they were quite right in asking for a Select Committee, for it would be a great boon if, by means of that Committee, the Government should be able to master the subject.


supported the Amendment, and hoped the Government would in some way consider the question of municipal boundaries. It was true that the persons living outside towns had, in many cases, had no voice in the expenditure incurred therein, but that was also the case with many urban inhabitants, the expenditure having been forced upon them by external authority. He did not think that it would be so very difficult to settle taxation between county and borough.


thought the House would not consent to an alteration of the boundaries of counties, and yet that was one of the subjects proposed to be submitted to the Committee. The Union boundaries also had been carefully fixed by the Poor Law Commissioners with regard to the local demands of the country, and more harm than good was likely to result from tampering with them. If he had an opportunity he should certainly vote both against the Amendment and the Motion for the appointment of the Committee.


thought the object of the right hon. Gentleman in moving for the Committee was to shelve the question of local taxation for a considerable time. [Mr. STANSFELD dissented.] At all events, the practical question was, whether the House meant to act in pursuance of the Resolution passed by a large majority last year, in favour of relieving local taxation of the burden now unjustly imposed upon it, or whether they intended to allow the Government to proceed with the Bills, which were to be read a second time on Monday next. He appealed to the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon to know whether he was satisfied with the proposed measure. He (Colonel Barttelot) was opposed to it, particularly as they had not had placed before them the three Bills concerning local taxation, which the right hon. Gentleman had already introduced into that House. He wanted to know whether the Government were going to avoid the responsibility cast upon them by the vote to which he had referred, respecting a measure for the relief of local taxation. [Mr. STANSFELD stated that the Bills were out.] They were not out when he came down to the House, and, certainly, they had not yet been delivered to hon. Members. Local authorities were most economical in managing the funds entrusted to their care, and even the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom many persons considered the most economical Member of the House, might learn a lesson in that respect from some of those county Members, whom he regarded with a compassion that was almost akin to contempt. He should be glad to divide, if he could, against the Motion for the appointment of the Committee.


repudiated the idea that his right hon. Friend's Motion was intended to shelve the question of local taxation. The Committee, he submitted, was a practical one for its purpose. He entirely agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Colonel Barttelot), that the local authorities were far from being extravagant with the moneys they got from the State; indeed, he did not hesitate to say that if County Boards were established, they would not manage the county finances more economically than they were managed at the present time. But his right hon. Friend wished to establish County Boards, because he considered that they would be of great advantage in the case of licensing and other administrative questions. With regard to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for East Suffolk (Mr. Corrance) the time had come when overseers were less needed than formerly, but to abolish the office would necessarily involve the expense of paid collectors. It had been suggested that the metropolis should be included in the inquiry. But the Government thought that the inquiry as now proposed would be sufficiently long, without including an additional 3,000,000 of people.


said he believed the desire for these County Boards had sprung up from the idea that the whole amount of the county rates was disposed of by the magistrates. But recent Returns had dissipated that notion, and had shown that out of the £2,000,000 of rates little more than £250,000 was at the magistrates' discretion. He confessed he did not feel any very keen interest in this matter, because, not being a very young man, he did not expect to see the end of the inquiry, or any legislation founded on it.


assured the House that no efforts of his should be spared to bring the proceedings of the Committee to a successful and speedy issue.


expressed himself favourable to the extension of municipal boundaries, but at the same time, would advise the hon. Member for Banbury to withdraw his Motion.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Select Committee appointed, "to inquire and report whether the existing Areas and Boundsries of Parishes. Unions, and Counties may be so altered and adjusted as to prevent the inconvenience in matters of Local Administration and Taxation which now arises from the limited extent or subdivision of certain Parishes, or the overlapping of Parishes in two or more Administrative areas, or from Parishes and. Unions being situate in more than one County, with power to recommend whether any and, if so, what measures should be taken to give effect to their Report."

And, on May 22, Committee nominated as follows:—STANSFELD, Sir MICHAEL HICKSBEACH, Mr. LOCKE KING, Mr. CROSS, Sir JOHN ST. AUBYN, Colonel BARTTELOT, Lord. GEORGE CAVENDISH, Mr. GOLDNEY, Mr. CANDLISH, Mr. FLOYER, Mr. LEEMAN, Mr. RIDLEY, Mr. WOODS, Mr. WELBY, and Mr. HIBBERT:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.