HC Deb 11 February 1875 vol 222 cc236-40

, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill for creating a County and Municipality of London; and for other purposes connected therewith, said, that at the present stage, he only proposed to make a brief explanation of the Amendments which had been introduced into the Bill since it had been circulated among hon. Members. The question of the government of the City of London had been so often before the House, had been so freely canvassed in the Press and elsewhere, that it was only necessary for him to say that the object contemplated by the measure was to bring about in our great metropolis improved, harmonious, and economical government, by establishing unity of administration. It was believed this could be done by extending the City Corporation over the whole of London; in fact, by walking upon the old lines of the City Constitution, guided by the light and chart of the Municipal Act of 1835. A Bill, based upon this general principle, was drawn up last autumn, and taken to the Secretary of State at the Home Office, in the hope that Her Majesty's Government would be induced to take up the question—a question which previous Ministers had said was one of first importance, and one which ought to engage the attention of Parliament at the earliest possible time. The Government received the promoters of the Bill most civilly, but expressed no direct opinion concerning the course they intended to take. He did not ask on the present occasion for any direct statement of opinion from his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary; indeed, he would rather his right hon. Friend would silently allow the Bill to be brought in, because it differed very materially from the Bill which was presented to him in the autumn. For his own part, though he approved the general principles of the Bill as it was presented to his right hon. Friend and circulated in the Press, he wished to state that he never saw it until it was actually in print. What he held himself to be individually responsible for was the Bill as it had since been altered. The changes introduced must render it more acceptable to the Government, to the House, to the Corporation of London, and to the metropolis in general. They might be stated in a very few words. In the first place, the changes would secure Imperial authority if they created a great united municipal government over 5,000,000 of people. This would be done by giving a veto to the Secretary of State, or to some authority on the part of the Crown, whose approval would be necessary for the appointment of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the Recorder, and the Common Serjeant. Then, as regards the police, in the Bill as originally drawn, they were placed wholly under the control of the Corporation; but it was manifest that the objections urged against this proposal rested on sound grounds, and it was now proposed to do nothing at all in reference to the police, but to leave it to the Secretary of State and the House of Commons in Committee to decide how they would deal with the Imperial question of the police of this vast metropolis. As regards the question of property, he had always stood up in that House as a defender of the rights of property, and he should be the last man to countenance any encroachments on the rights of property. Under the original Bill, there was a clause for taking possession of the property of the Corporation of London, with a view to spread it over the whole of the new municipality; but it was now proposed that property accumulated by that ancient Corporation should not be taken from it without its consent. Next he came to the question of persons. The Bill took the greatest care of vested interests, and all rights, privileges, and immunities were reserved in the Bill as it originally stood. Still, he thought it might have done more in reference to one officer at present existing. Under Mr. Mill's Bill on this subject, introduced some years ago, there was to be a Chairmanship of Committees, and the then existing Chairman of the Board of Works, Sir John Thwaites, was directly appointed by that Bill as the first Chairman of Committees, at his existing salary. It was now proposed to follow the precedent of Mr. Mill's Bill, and the present Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works was named in the Bill, first Chairman of Committees, with the same salary he now received and the same tenure of office, which was from year to year. Lastly, he came to the question of vestries. It was proposed in the altered Bill to recognize the existence of the vestries, which the Bill, as it originally stood, did not recognize. The existence of the Metropolitan Board of Works was recognized, and its members would for the first three years be taken into the General Municipal Council. It was proposed, therefore, that the vestries should be recognized as an existing corporate body, having to do with the local government of the metropolis, by inviting them to nominate one or two members of their own body to form part of the General Municipal Council. He believed that if the scheme were adopted, the best men of the present Local Boards would become members of the now municipality. These were the changes he proposed to make in the Bill as it was originally drawn. He believed they were improvements, and he hoped he should be allowed to lay the Bill, as amended, on the Table of the House.


said, he could not congratulate his noble Friend on the alterations he had made in his original Bill. In his opinion, the principal so-called amendments were any-thing but improvements, and made the measure more objectionable than it was before. He referred especially to the proposed alteration by which the Secretary of State was to have the power of vetoing the appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the municipality, as well as having a veto on other appointments made by the municipality. A provision of that sort would destroy the principle of municipal government, and overthrow the first principle of those municipal liberties which were a part of the Constitution of the country and of its history. The principle of municipal government was self-government—the government of the municipality by the representatives of the people themselves, subject to the law, and not to the Executive authority of the State. The municipality ought, above all things, to have the power of electing their own Chief Magistrate. He was aware that under the present system it was the custom that the Lord Chancellor should express the sanction of the Crown to the appointment; but that was virtually a matter of form, as was the case also with respect to the election of the Speaker. The House did not suppose that the Crown had any veto upon the election of the Speaker, and the City of London would consider themselves deprived of their right to elect their Lord Mayor if the election was to be subject to the veto of the Secretary of State. It would amount to the introduction of the French system of electing mayors, which he did not think the people of this country would approve, and he should use his best efforts to withstand it. He believed the noble Lord's scheme to be an impracticable one. A corporate body comprising the whole of the metropolis would, in his opinion, be unwieldy; such a plan would not work at all. It would be an immense system, including some 4,000,000 of people—a population equal to that of many kingdoms. It would require the management of the finances by a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a very extensive machinery. Another objection to the Bill was this—that the proposed municipality might in troublesome times be found to interfere materially with the prerogative of the Crown and the authority of Parliament. He was entirely opposed, too, to the provision of the Bill which would place the police of the City of London under the control of the Executive Government. It was acknowledged that the police in Scotland Yard were not equal in efficiency to the police of the City of London, and there was no reason whatever for the change suggested by his noble Friend. For his part, he believed that an Act to enable districts to affiliate themselves with the Corporation of London would meet all that was required, and such boroughs as wished to have a municipality of their own might come to the House for an Act of Parliament to enable them to give effect to their views.


observed, that the speech of his hon. and learned Friend had evidently been prepared against the original Bill, and not against the Bill, as amended, which he asked leave to introduce. His hon. and learned Friend had therefore had to perform the difficult task of making his intended speech fit an altered state of things. He had, however, admitted the case of the metropolis to be an exceptional one, and it was only in such an exceptional case that the principle objected to could be applied. He would remind his hon. and learned Friend, too, that not only in the case of the election of Lord Mayor, but in that of the election of Recorder of London was the approval of the Crown required.

Motion agreed to. Bill for creating a County and Municipality of London, and for other purposes connected therewith, ordered to be brought in by Lord EICHO, Mr. KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH, and Mr. STAVELEY HILL.

Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 61.]