HC Deb 24 May 1875 vol 224 cc796-865

Order for Second Reading, read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that although he had already explained its general object to the House he could not help—looking at the Amendment of which Notice had been given by the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), and the rumours which were afloat as to the great interest which was taken in that Amendment—feeling some uneasiness lest, in a discussion which might turn out to be something between a Social Science discussion and a great Party fight, the provisions of the measure itself might be lost sight of. He was therefore anxious to make a few remarks with respect to it, and at the outset to take the opportunity of correcting a statement which he made on its introduction, as to the amount of the deficiency in the case of advances made from time to time by way of loans. He then said that since the commencement of the system some £70,000,000 had been advanced, and £67,000,000 only repaid; he found, however, from a Return which had since been made that the figures were somewhat different. The fact was, that a number of advances which were origin- nally made as advances were afterwards found to have been intended as grants, the net result being that the whole amount advanced since the beginning of the system was £67,000,000, the whole of the repayments being about £68,000,000; but as that covered interest spreading over a period of 70 years, there was practically a considerable loss to the Treasury, as the interest in this last year alone was £466,000. Now, as to the Bill itself, he wished briefly to point out the position in which the House stood with regard to it. There were a Public Works Loan Acts Amendment Bill and a Consolidation Bill, both of which stood for second reading. The first made several important changes in the law as it stood, but the latter simply put together, with very little change, the existing Acts, and what he proposed was that the House should give the Amendment Bill a second reading, and that both measures should be referred to the same Select Committee, with a view to their being amalgamated into one, so as to form an Act which he should propose as the basis of a system on which the Government intended to proceed. He thought there would be very little difficulty as to the feasibility of that proceeding after they had heard the evidence of the draftsman. In adopting this plan he intended to make an arrangement for future proceedings, and to introduce separate annual Bills to give effect to the intentions of Parliament. But as the system was not intended to come into operation until next year, it would be necessary this year to introduce a Loan Bill for the purpose of providing the money authorized to be raised under the Acts which had been already passed, and for which there was at present no provision. That, however, had nothing to do with the system which it was proposed to introduce for future years, and that was all he believed he need say with reference to those two Bills. As to the position in which the Government stood with regard to the question of local taxation as affected by the measure at present under consideration, the view which the Government took of the matter was this—that there were two classes of questions to be considered, the placing of the relations between Imperial and local finance on a proper footing, and the alteration and amendment of local finance within itself. The former of those considerations the Government had deemed it right to place on the first line as being the most important and pressing, but the reverse view was taken by right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they had to deal with the subject. When they were asked to make some provision for the relief of local taxation from the burdens which it was said were unjustly imposed upon it, they generally met the difficulty by urging that the local finance system should, first of all, be placed on a proper footing, and then steps taken in the direction of dealing with Imperial funds. That mode of proceeding had led to little or no result, though it was accompanied by a great deal of sound doctrine. When, therefore, the present Government took up the question, they felt that it could not be satisfactorily dealt with in that way, and that, in point of fact, it was expedient to reverse the process suggested by the Predecessors. They thought it right in those matters to settle their policy first and the machinery after, because the policy being settled, the machinery could be adapted to it. In pursuing the opposite course, they were of opinion that right hon. Gentlemen opposite were wrong, for what were local taxation and local government? They almost invariably involved more or less Imperial considerations. There were questions of education, sanitary questions, and a number of others in respect to almost all of which that observation applied. Taking, for example, the administration of justice, he would ask whether it was not most important that questions affecting that subject should be settled by Imperial authority before the position of the local authorities in connection with it was considered. The hon. Member for Hackney, whenever he spoke on local taxation, told the story of an election incident in Cornwall, in which one of the candidates was told that he had no chance of winning, because he had voted for giving a superannuation allowance to the governor of the prison, the moral being to show how important it was that the ratepayers should exercise some control over expenditure. But what were the merits of the question? In all probability the visiting justices knew what they were about in granting a retiring allowance, and it might have been an unfortunate thing to have en- trusted to the matter to the ratepayers, who were, perhaps, incompetent to decide upon it. In these questions it was important to consider—first, how the service was to be done, and, next, to whom it had best be entrusted. The matter was not to be looked at as one of saving money. Now, the administration of justice, which was a difficult and complicated question, could not be dealt with on the principles which the hon. Gentleman advocated. They had to consider how far it was an Imperial concern, and if it was admitted to be an Imperial concern, how far it was right that Imperial funds should be devoted to the defrayal of its expenses. The question had been raised in different forms at different times. When the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) first raised it, he objected to the unequal manner in which certain classes of property were taxed. But as the discussion proceeded, he and those who acted with him abandoned their attempt to readjust local taxation so as to make it embrace all classes of property, and in 1872 came forward with a Resolution in the following terms:— That it is expedient to remedy the injustice of imposing Taxation for National objects on one description of property only, and therefore that no legislation with reference to Local Taxation will be satisfactory which does not provide, either in whole or in part, for the relief of occupiers and owners in counties and boroughs from charges imposed on ratepayers for the administration of justice, police, and lunatics, the expenditure for such purposes being almost entirely independent of local control. That Resolution, which was adopted with the concurrence of most of those who now sat on the Government side of the House, was the basis upon which the Government had been proceeding since they came into office. They had dealt with it to a certain extent; they had taken up the questions of police and lunatics, and if they had not yet entered into that of the administration of justice, it was partly because of the complexity of the subject, and partly because the financial position of the country was not sufficiently favourable for such an attempt. But it was a question which had not been forgotten, and which, no doubt, they would be prepared to deal with at the proper time. Having adopted that Resolution as the basis on which to go, the Government naturally took the course of proposing certain subventions. They thought it wrong, however, simply to give subventions without at the same time obtaining some security for the proper application of the funds that were to be granted in aid of the local rates. They proposed, therefore, to bring the sums granted for police and lunatics under a certain amount of control, and with that object, so far as the police were concerned, he intended that evening to move for leave to introduce a Bill. Such were their intentions with regard to subventions. But the Government wished to do something more than merely adopt the principle of those subventions; they wished further to bring the conditions of local finance more directly under the notice of Parliament by the introduction of a "Local Budget." An annual statement of that kind would be very desirable, not only in regard to direct taxation and expenditure, but there was another question to which they thought attention should be directed, and that was the question of indebtedness. There was a very great risk of local authorities increasing their indebtedness without the fact being properly observed, and the Government felt it was important, on the one hand, that steps should be taken to enable local authorities to provide the funds necessary for the purposes they were called upon to execute, and, on the other hand, to bring the process by which they were increasing their indebtedness clearly and properly before that House, and to do so annually in each Session of Parliament. It was, however, important to bear in mind that a great proportion of the services—such as education and sanitary improvements—for which local authorities incurred debt were rendered for Imperial reasons and by Imperial legislation. It was therefore quite reasonable that the Imperial authority should assist the local authority not only in the way of direct subventions, but also by facilitating the borrowing of money and by putting their operations on such a footing as might best guard against abuse. With that end in view the Government had introduced two Bills—one relating to the Public Works Loans Commissioners, and the other to Local Authorities' Loans. What the Government aimed at was, in the first place, to secure the Treasury against inconvenient, inexpedient, and irregular calls being made upon it through the Public Works Loans Commissioners. Public Works Loans were what might be called the "rage" of the present day—everybody who had an improvement to propose or new legislation to suggest turned to the Public Works Loan Fund as the means by which the thing was to be done; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had given Notice of his intention to introduce a Bill, the effect of which would be to plant colonies in different parts of Ireland for the purpose of cultivating the waste lands of that country, for which, of course, he would require loans of public money in advance. As the guardian of the public expenditure, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was bound to see how the system would work, and he therefore endeavoured to make these calls more regular. That was one object they had in view. Another, as he had already explained, was to bring before Parliament, and through the action of Parliament to bring before the local authorities themselves, the progress of local borrowing and expenditure; and in connection with that the Government proposed to introduce also the principle of audit. In that way he believed they would pave the way for a steady and progressive improvement in our local financial system. Now, they were told they were not doing anything for local self-government. Well, it was perfectly true that they were doing little or nothing in that matter; but the fact was that what they had found in connection with all such schemes of local self-government was, that they were used much more as instruments to create demands upon the Treasury than as schemes to carry out the objects for which they were ostensibly projected. It would certainly be possible to bring forward some ingenious plan for reconstituting the local authority of the whole country which might make a great sensation, and afford opportunity for declamation and display; but he very much doubted whether any great good would be effected in that way. Far better would it be to throw as much light as possible on the subject, and to facilitate the improvement of the existing machinery. By that means he believed it would be found that an improvement of the system could be effected without any violent organic changes. At the same time, it must be understood that Her Majesty's Govern- ment would not decline, when the proper time came, to consider the measures which would have to be undertaken in reference to the improvement of the local constitution of the country. There could be no doubt that one of the most important measures which would have to be undertaken at an early date was a Bill for a fresh valuation—a measure which lay at the foundation of all improvement in local taxation. In the present state of Business in the House it would be impossible to have undertaken such a Bill with any prospect of carrying it through Parliament, without, at the same time, setting aside other measures which seemed to the Government more pressing and more important, but it would not be neglected. There was also great room for improvement in the mere matter of re-arranging questions of machinery; but time would also be required for this, and meanwhile it would be wiser to accept an instalment of reform than none have at all. He, therefore, thought the House would act unwisely if, at the bidding of the hon. Member for Hackney, it rejected a measure introduced with an object which he believed approved itself to every hon. Member of the House as a foundation for further improvement, merely because everything was not done that the hon. Member thought ought to be done. He would wait, for the House would speedily hear from the hon. Member such arguments as he had to adduce; but, whatever course the debate might take, he would ask the House not to be in a hurry to adopt their adversary's plan rather than that of the leaders and planners of the campaign. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.

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


, in rising to move as an Amendment— That, in the absence of other and adequate proposals for the reform of Local Taxation and Local Government, this Bill cannot he regarded as meeting the necessities of the time or the expectations which have been raised by Her Majesty's Government, and this House is of opinion that further delay of legislation on these subjects is calculated to impede the social and economic progress of the Country, said, he regarded the present as an appropriate occasion on which to bring forward the question of local taxation and administration, because the present Bill was, as far as he could ascertain, the only one of four measures referred to by the Prime Minister on the opening night of the Session, as likely to be introduced by the Government in order to deal with local taxation, which had up to the present been introduced to Parliament. Although it was not desirable to lay too great stress upon the professions of a Party when in Opposition as compared with the performances of that Party when in office, yet he might be permitted to remark that if such inconsistency was allowed to go beyond a certain limit, no inconsiderable harm might be done to the reputation and character of that House. When the Party now in power was striving for office at the last General Election there was not a voter—at all events a county voter—who was not asked to believe that when the Conservatives came into power the question of local taxation and local government would not be nibbled at, but would be taken up and dealt with in a comprehensive spirit, and, in fact, he believed that many men who had been Liberals voted for Conservative candidates in order to secure that reform. But the Government must know perfectly well, if they watched the signs of the times—the recent election in Wales for instance—what was beginning to be the feeling of the constituencies in reference to the manner in which the promises of the Conservatives had been kept. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that the difference of principle between him and the late Government was, that he wished to determine his policy first and arrange his machinery afterwards. It was not for him (Mr. Fawcett) to defend the late Government, its Members were well able to defend themselves; but it was open to an independent Member to ask whether the present Administration had given any sign of possessing a policy at all with reference to local taxation and administration? They had, it was true, made certain grants to local rates, and intended to make more, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer had informed the House that further grants were to be given from Imperial funds in aid of local taxation, and he had also announced a scheme for the reduction of the National Debt; but it had also been made clear that on the Budget of the year the right hon. Gentleman had not a shilling to spare. That threw new light on the financial proposals of the Government, for it was well known that the present grants in aid of local taxation must at least be doubled in order to carry out the principle of what was known as Sir Massey Lopes' Resolution. It might be all very well to make these grants, but if made in a partial, haphazard, and spasmodic way they were likely to injure the principle of local self-government, and at the same time to perpetrate great injustice. He had a vivid recollection of complaints made from the Opposition benches by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now in power about the way in which personal property escaped taxation, and the burden was thrown upon land, houses, and business premises. One of the most prominent among the hon. Members making those complaints was the hon. Baronet to whose Resolution he had just referred. He spoke then as if those he represented were suffering under a keen feeling of injustice and wrong; but they never heard his sweet voice now. He had been so securely silenced that he was obliged to see the very wrong he so often denounced greatly aggravated and intensified. Last year in his Budget Speech, the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted the justice of the complaint, and laid down the sound principle that as you could not get direct contributions from personal property to the local rates, you should make it contribute to the Imperial Revenue, and then pay it from that source to the local finances. Having laid down that doctrine, what did the right hon. Gentleman do? He was a Member of a Government which sanctioned proposal after proposal throwing new charges on the local rates, and he accompanied these new charges, not with any attempt to make personal property contribute more to the aggregate taxation, but with positive proposals to diminish the taxation on personal property to the amount of 33 per cent. He would show by an example how these grants in aid of local taxation from the Imperial funds, instead of diminishing the burden on the most overburdened ratepayers, greatly intensified the injustice under which they suffered. He would put a case—Suppose a clerk, a clergyman, or a half-pay officer with £200 a-year. He had to keep up a respectable appearance on that income. He paid £30 for his house and £8 a-year in rates. Contrast his position with that of the fundholder of £20,000. He had a very small establishment. Everything that was done—whether to make the life and property of the wealthy fundholder more secure, to make the city in which he dwelt more healthful, by embanking rivers or sewering streets—to every one of those objects the poor man, with his £200 a-year, had to contribute, while the wealthy fundholder almost entirely escaped contribution. But to go a little further, this injustice was accumulated. Where did these grants from the Consolidated Fund come from? They were not a bounty rained down from heaven; they represented taxation, every sixpence of which was taken out of the taxpayer's pocket. Five-sixths of the entire Revenue were raised from taxation on commodities; five-sixths of these grants in aid were therefore paid by the consumers of commodities; and therefore, if they increased those grants in aid at the same time that they diminished the taxation on personal property, they very largely increased the burden of the already overtaxed ratepayers. Who contributed most, in proportion to his income, to the taxation on commodities? The man with moderate means. Every article almost consumed by men of moderate income was far more heavily taxed than the articles consumed by the wealthy. Beer and cheap claret paid a much higher percentage of taxation than the best clarets and the more expensive wines. Tobacco was taxed 400 per cent, while the best cigars were taxed only 25 per cent. The best tea was taxed not more than 15 per cent, while the poorer sorts were taxed 45 per cent. Therefore, if the grants in aid from the Consolidated Fund were increased, it was easy to see that they did nothing to relieve those most in want of relief, but that they rather increased the existing inequality of taxation under which they suffered. Leaving what the Government did last year, he would now come to its proposals for the present year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the discussion of this Bill would probably be lost sight of in the general discussion; but, for his own part, he (Mr. Fawcett) thought he should deal with it as amply as the right hon. Gentleman could desire. What the House had to consider was this—Did this Bill give any security for future reform? Did it lay down any basis on which a superstructure of future reform could be raised? In the first place, what did the Bill not do? It did not touch the incidence of local taxation. It did not deal with the subject of local self-government. It did not do a single thing to check increasing expenditure. It did not provide one single guarantee for economy, but, on the contrary, it was likely to lead to great extravagance. It facilitated borrowing on the vicious principle, that in the present state of taxation, the entire burden of the loans should be thrown on the occupier as distinguished from the owner of property. It did not deal in the slightest degree with the areas of rating, so as to make them less confused. It did not seek to introduce any new principle of uniformity in the assessment or in the valuation. It did not attempt to remove a single iota of the existing chaos with respect to the local government. On the contrary, the Bill was accompanied by a great mass of legislation which would throw additional work on the already overburdened local authorities. And yet this was the chief measure introduced by the Government on local taxation—professing to deal in part, at least, with a subject which, to use the words of the Prime Minister, probably involved one of the greatest violations of justice that could be conceived. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also told them that local taxation was an object of the highest national importance; and he followed up that statement with the remarkable declaration, that at the present moment local taxation was in a worse position than indirect taxation before Sir Robert Peel began his great reforms. When they remembered these declarations, the House would agree with him that the Government were trifling with a great question—they were not touching the source of the evil they admitted, and were intensifying much of the injustice they had themselves so often denounced. But, now, according to the Amendments, of which Notice had been given by two hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House, it seemed that this excuse was going to be set up for the Government—and it had been hinted at by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech—" Oh," he said, "we want time; our plans are not matured!" "Want time!" "Our plans not matured!" What was the plan of the same party when the late Government was in office? Everything was to give way to the reform of local taxation and local government. The Conservative Party said that the measures of the late Government were on too great a scale, and that that was one of the reasons why it lost the confidence of the country; but they never lost an opportunity of declaring from the Opposition Benches that the subjects of local taxation and local reform were subjects of such urgent importance that they ought to have priority of everything else. Working up by degrees, how long would it take to reach anything worthy of attainment at the present state of progress? They might as well be told to wait for the journey of a tortoise from John O'Groat's to the Land's End. Now that the Conservatives had come into office, they seemed so paralyzed with inactivity, so destitute of motive power, that they could only gratefully accept a crumb of assistance from whatever quarter it was offered, and the only thing they had done with regard to local taxation was to adopt the measure originally introduced by the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld)—a Bill which in his hands had been contemptuously rejected almost without discussion. Bight hon. Gentlemen opposite were, no doubt, accustomed to startling statements; but he ventured to think the Chancellor of the Exchequer was never more surprised than when he heard this modest, unpretentious Bill—a measure introducing some administrative changes—a mere Treasury Bill—suddenly raised by the Prime Minister into national importance as indirectly connected with the question of Local Government. The Bill was happily described as homoeopathic, and as a Cambridge man he approved the simile which was used when it was said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in attempting to make a mountain out of this little molehill, displayed that peculiar kind of analytical power known to mathematicians as calculating the effect of a small disturbing body on objects of much greater magnitude. What did this Bill amount to? It was said its object was three-fold—first, to give timely notice to the Treasury of the demands to be made on it for loans; secondly, it dealt with what was known as the unexhausted credit system of the Public Loans Commissioners; thirdly, the loans were to be consolidated so as to form a sort of local budget. All these objects of the Bill, as departmental changes, were good enough in themselves, but was it not extraordinary that the Government should endeavour to palm off a measure of this kind, which was nothing more than an attempt to deal in a small way with local administration as being one of the utmost importance to the country? If, however, the Bill was as important as Her Majesty's Government represented it to be, why had it been introduced by the Representatives of the Treasury instead of by the Minister in that House who was responsible for the local government of the country? It became evident from the very first hour that the present Government came into office that, having risen to power by the cry of local taxation, they were going to perform the old feat and kick down the ladder by which they had ascended, because the very first thing they did was to cast a most unusual and unwonted slight upon the Department which was responsible for that local taxation and self-government to the country. For many years previous to the accession of the present Government to power, the Minister of that Department had always been a member of the Cabinet; but the right hon. Gentleman who now presided over the Local Government Board with so much ability was not admitted to a seat in the Cabinet. He was not about to repeat the various rumours that had reached him on the subject; but he might point out that if the head of a Department were not in the Cabinet, the Department was in danger of being ignored, and he was divulging no official secret when he stated that the slight thus cast upon the Local Government Department had been most rightly and keenly resented by those who seemed most interested in its successful working. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the result of the measure would be that a complete local budget would be laid before that House, something after the manner of the Indian Financial Statement; but the truth was, that as only a very small portion of the sums borrowed by the local authorities was lent by the Government, the local financial statement to be made under this Bill would present a most delusive and misleading view of the real state of affairs for it would deal with only a very small portion of the amounts so borrowed. He feared that if the measure were passed, so far from forming a basis for a local budget, the question of the amount to be advanced to the local authorities would be brought more immediately and directly under the control of party and political influences, and henceforth money would be advanced or withheld, not according to the merits of the case, but according as the Representatives of the borough seeking to borrow were supporters or the op-posers of the Government of the day. If that was the case, this was a Bill which, so far from being any reform, was calculated to produce the most mischievous results upon Imperial and local finance, for these loans ought to be granted by bodies as far as possible independent of political influences. No language was too strong to describe the admirable manner in which the Public Works Loan Commissioners had hitherto done their duty, and they had not been influenced by political or Party considerations. Further, except when they had been interfered with by Parliament, they had, during the course of the 30 years they had been in existence, never lost a shilling by bad debts. Nothing more mischievous could be done to Imperial and local finance than to let political influences, which must necessarily be powerful in that House, have the least weight in deciding whether loans should be granted to local authorities, and at what rate of interest. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said it was impossible to take up the whole subject in the present crowded state of the Order Book. The question, however, was not whether the Order Book was or was not crowded, but whether the Government were pursuing the right course in their ordering of Public Business, or whether, indeed, they were pursuing the course which they themselves had said ought to be pursued. The Government had this Session pursued a course of business exactly the reverse of that advocated last year by the right hon. Gentleman, when he said that if they attempted to carry out sanitary and educational measures and schemes for improving the dwellings of the working classes and encouraging providence through friendly societies, while, at the same time, they left the system of local taxation and government unreformed, they would meet with resistance from the local authorities, and would not receive that willing co-operation which was essential to the success of such measures; and the question was whether they were right in doing so. What was the present position of the question of local taxation? The great increase in local taxation had been caused chiefly by perpetually calling new rates into existence, and he would prove how peculiarly unjust was the system of throwing every shilling of the capital and interest of loans for public works upon occupiers and not upon owners. He would take the Artizans Dwellings Bill as an illustration of his proposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said that although the Bill would, in the first instance, involve a considerable charge in order to carry it into execution, yet the ratepayers would ultimately be remunerated and recompensed even in a pecuniary sense. Admitting that statement to be strictly accurate, what did it amount to? Supposing £600,000 were required to be raised in order to provide dwellings for the working classes, it must be borrowed on the principle that the whole of the money, principal and interest, should be repaid in 21 years. To do that, it would be necessary to impose a shilling rate, the result being that at the end of that term, the municipality would, according to the supposition of the Home Secretary, find itself in possession of a property worth £800,000. But every shilling of the additional rate would have been paid by the occupiers, while not a farthing would have been contributed by the owners of buildings, or by the owners of the land on which they stood. If, then, the occupiers had given to the municipality a property worth £800,000, the rates would be reduced; if the rates were reduced, rents would be raised; and it came to this—that the occupier of a house would be rated in order to enable the owner ultimately to put the money into his own pocket in the form of increased rent. It was difficult to imagine anything which involved a greater infringement of the principles of financial justice. There could be no doubt that if, for the sake of effecting any improve- ment, money was borrowed and a new rate imposed to pay the principal and interest of the loan, every shilling of the rate would be paid by the occupiers as distinguished from the owners of farms, houses, and business premises. To bring out the point in a still more striking light, he would state another case which was not an imaginary one. It represented a bit of real life in a parish not very far from the place where they were assembled, where there was a clergyman whose tithes had been commuted for £700 a-year, a non-resident landlord, whose income was supposed to be£10,000 a-year, and who had two farms which were let on long leases. There was also a wealthy stockbroker who rented for £200 a-year the mansion of the non-resident landlord. In consequence of a sum of money having had to be borrowed in order to put the roads in a good state of repair and to make new roads, a shilling rate was to be imposed for a considerable number of years. In what proportion was that shilling highway rate paid? The farmer paid £50 a-year, the non-resident landlord did not pay a halfpenny, the clergyman who kept one carriage paid £35 a-year, and the wealthy stockbroker with, perhaps, £20,000 a-year, and who kept six or seven carriages, paid only £10 a-year. It was impossible to conceive any instance of a more flagrant character, and he did not see how they could be surprised at the opposition shown by local authorities to the imposition of new rates. Did Her Majesty's Government think that their best supporters, the farmers and clergy, would be satisfied, when suffering under such grievances, with a petty proposal for altering in an unfortunate way the relations between the Treasury and the Public Works Loan Commissioners? The Chancellor of the Exchequer was doubtless correct in his statement that that resistance of the local authorities to the imposition of new rates would be so formidable as to prevent that local agency and co-operation without which almost all our efforts at social reform would come to naught. It was equally beyond dispute that the head-quarters of the agitation on local taxation had been the Local Taxation Committee of the Central Chamber of Agriculture, and he wished to direct attention to the constitution of that Committee because it might almost be said to wield Minis- terial power. It included 62 influential supporters of the Government in the House of Commons, and no fewer than 13 Members of the present Government were members of it. The Marquess of Salisbury was a member, and so was one of the Secretaries to the Treasury, who acted as Government Whip; and if he were to go through the entire list, it would be seen that the Government were bound hand and foot not to do anything displeasing to that committee, which recently issued an instructive and significant report, congratulating its supporters on the circumstance, that in five years it had caused to be withdrawn, defeated, or altered no fewer than 35 out of 41 measures, because they imposed new charges upon the rates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that that ought to teach us a lesson with regard to the inertia and resistance we should meet with from local authorities, as long as our present system of local taxation and local government remained unreformed; but yet the right hon. Gentleman had not done what might have been expected to neutralize it, for they had been constantly asked to pass Bills which imposed new charges, and the object of his Motion was to remind the Government of the lesson they ought to have learned. He would turn to the Artizans Dwellings Bill, respecting which, the House would remember, there was a strange mystery about the Home Secretary's declarations with regard to it. He (Mr. Fawcett) could never understand why permission should be given to abolish rookeries only in towns containing 25,000, or more, inhabitants; but the report of the Local Taxation Committee let the secret out. That Committee said they would have opposed the Bill, on the old principle that it imposed new charges upon rates; but they refrained from doing so, because it was only permissive, or, in other words, because it was worthless in its character, and only applied to the large towns. He could give another illustration. He had in his possession the report of a most influential meeting held the other day at the Central Chamber of Commerce, which was presided over by a great Friend of popular education—one who, he willingly confessed, had rendered great services to that cause; he meant Lord Hampton. Some Members of the present Government and several of its most influential supporters were also present. What was the language employed at that meeting? "Desirable," it was said, "as we consider to be the spread of education in the rural districts, we are determined to resist its spread if it involves any-additional charge upon the rates, as long as the systems of local government and local taxation remain in their present position." Did not such language, coming from such a quarter, solve another mystery? He was bound to say that nothing had caused many hon. Members at that side of the House so much disappointment as the strange disinclination shown by the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council to do anything for education in the rural districts; but no one would be so unjust to the noble Lord as to suppose that he was less anxious now for the spread of rural education than he was formerly. The fact was, that he could not now do anything to promote it. He was a member of the local taxation committee, and knew that if he proposed to do anything with that view, in the spirit of that language, he must be prepared to meet the ratepayers' opposition, and the opposition of the Committee of which he was a member. Well, he (Mr. Fawcett) had already shown the injustice of throwing the entire burden of new local taxation upon one kind of property. Since 1841 no less than £6,000,000 was raised annually in England and Wales, in consequence of new charges upon the rates brought into existence by the House of Commons. Within the last few years they had called into existence 12 new rates, and now another was added. What was the present position of Imperial as compared with local finance? In the case of the former they had had constant remission of taxation, amounting to £27,000,000 in 17 years, or at the rate of £1,750,000 a-year, accompanied by a reduction of Debt; in the case of the latter they had had within 20 years an increase of taxation to the extent of 8 per cent, and the enormous debt created of £80,000,000, which was being added to at the rate of about £3,000,000 a-year. In the metropolis, in one year, within 20 per cent as much was raised by loan as by taxation, and the whole debt of the Metropolitan Board was borrowed on the principle of paying off the total amount of the loans and the interest within a certain number of years. That debt amounted to no less than £9,000,000, and by the principle of payment the house occupiers of London would have to pay the entire debt, in order to make a present of it to the owners of property. But a still greater difference between Imperial and local taxation was shown by this fact—Supposing that any great loss were sustained in the Imperial finance, the attention of the whole country was directed to it, but deficits in local taxation attracted little attention, and though the loans raised were increasing in amount, as were the amounts collected under this head, little notice seemed to be taken by the country generally. Everything connected with it was in such confusion; its administation was so complicated; there were so many authorities and systems of collection that it was impossible for the ratepayers to know what was taking place, or to exercise any sufficient control. In fact, local government and local taxation were so indissolubly mixed up together that the one could not be reformed without the other being also dealt with; and he contended that no attempt to reform local taxation would produce any permanently good effect unless it was accompanied by a reform of the local government under which those taxes were levied. An impression seemed to prevail amongst many persons that this question of local taxation applied only to the residents in the rural districts, or that it had very little to do with the inhabitants of the towns; but that was a mistake. The whole country was almost equally interested in it; but if there was a distinction it was a graver question for the towns than for rural districts. Of the new charges imposed since 1841, amounting to £6,000,000, three-fourths had been borne by the towns. The relative contribution to local burdens by land and by houses was constantly altering. In 1814, seven-tenths was borne by land; in 1842, the proportion had sunk to one-half, and it was now one-third. In 1814, three-tenths was contributed by houses; in 1842, four-tenths; the proportion was now half. It came to this—that whereas in. 1814 land contributed 100 per cent more than houses to local taxation, at present houses contributed 50 per cent more than land. Again, rates, as a general rule, were twice as high in large towns as they were in rural districts. He would take the case of four counties, represented by four distinguished local taxation reformers. In South Devon the rates in the rural districts were 3s. 2d.; in Plymouth they amounted to 6s. 10d. The rates in the rural districts of Wiltshire were 3s.; in Salisbury they were 7s. 10d. In South Leicestershire the proportion was 4s. 4d. as compared with 8s. 7d. in Leicester; and in Norfolk 3s.1d., as compared with 7s.1d. in Norwich. He adduced these facts to show that nothing could be a greater delusion than to suppose that this question was of greater interest for rural districts than for the inhabitants of the towns. There was an unfortunate impression that prevailed upon the subject, for it was by some supposed that although local taxation was increasing in England, it was not augmenting in proportion to the general wealth of the people and the number of houses. He found, however, that in the parish of Liverpool since 1841 the contributions levied from each ratepayer had increased by 340 per cent. In some of the suburban districts the rates of increase had been 300 per cent. Great as had been the increase it had been inadequate to meet the increase of expenditure, for there had been added to the debt of Liverpool in 30 years an augmentation of 360 per cent. Anyone who looked into the system of local government would find that every guarantee for economy was destroyed, and all administrative efficiency taken away, and unless those were supplied by an improved system of local government it was impossible to reform local taxation. What occurred in town and county respectively? In towns there were usually four rating authorities—the town council, the local board of health, the board of guardians, and the school board. These authorities employed in some places a different basis of assessment and valuation; and further, the rates were collected by different officials, and at different times. There was no reason why the Government should not have introduced a Bill putting all this upon an equal basis. The position of the counties was in some cases better, in others worse; but generally there was great confusion of areas and not the smallest share of representation on the part of the ratepayers. The farmers must have expected that on the first day of the Session the present Government would have brought in a Bill establishing financial boards for county expenditure; but they did not seem likely at present to get the smallest shadow of representation in expending the county rates. In counties there were three authorities—the highway board, the Poor Law guardians, and the county magistrates. What, however, was worse than this conflict of authorities was the indescribable confusion that prevailed in everything connected with the taxation and assessment of property. A former Member of that House—Sir Edward Kerrison—had in an extremely able letter pointed out that there were three different bodies to levy the rates and taxes on property, and three different principles of assessment—namely, the commissioners of property tax, the assessment committee for poor rates, whose action varied in every union, and the committee of quarter sessions for the county rate. Sir Edward Kerrison said that one simple reform would be to adopt one uniform principle of valuation, and to get rid of the waste and loss of efficiency from having so many conflicting bodies. Besides, these local authorities often had to administer statutes which absolutely baffled interpretation. Mr. Justice Wightman, in deciding a case as to rating waterworks, said that it was absolutely impossible for any person in the world to interpret the statute, and he added that he thought it quite as likely that his decision was wrong as that it was right. This local taxation was not a mere fiscal matter, and he would show that it had a serious bearing upon the social, as well as the fiscal condition of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget Speech of last year, referred to the wonderful prosperity of the country and to the great reduction of taxation; and he went on to say that there was one dark and dreadful blot in our social condition—namely, that the country was at the present moment spending more for the relief of the poor than before the great financial and commercial reforms of Sir Robert Peel. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had also spoken of our prosperity increasing by "leaps and bounds," and yet the unprecedented accumulation of wealth was powerless to arrest the increase of pauperism. This growth of pauperism was intimately connected with the system of poor relief. Whenever a check was put upon out-door relief, pauperism declined; but whenever out-door relief was encouraged, the people were demoralized. The Irish were generally regarded as a thriftless people, and the Scotch as prudent and careful, and yet because out-door relief was given in Scotland with a lavish hand there was in Scotland five times, and in the Highlands of Scotland 12 times, as much pauperism as in Ulster and Con-naught. In some parishes of Scotland 1 in 8, 9, or 10 of the population was in the receipt of parish relief; and in some of the rural districts of England where out-door relief was allowed, 1 in 12 and 1 in 14 of the population were paupers. Contrast this with the remark-able decline of pauperism in London. The House had often heard of the pauperism of the East End, but there was less pauperism there than in almost any other part of England. While in the rural districts 1 in 14 were paupers, in Bethnal Green only 1 in 39, and in Shoreditch only 1 in 44 were in receipt of parish relief. The reason was that outdoor relief had been discouraged in the metropolis by a Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), which made it the interest of the parish authorities to give as little out-door relief as possible; and so well had that Act worked, that the Local Taxation Committee were of opinion that if a similar scheme were adopted for the rest of England equally satisfactory results would follow. The subject had, therefore, something more than a financial bearing, but went down into the social and moral condition of the people. The Government had excused themselves by the plea of want of time for not giving their attention to this important subject. That, however, could not be the case, because last Session they had such an abundance of leisure that night after night they occupied their spare time by attempting to pass a measure they did not understand. Surely, when they could restore the semblance of Purchase in the Army, they could have contrived to give the agriculturists some share of representation in connection with local taxation. He would not do the Government so much injustice as to suppose they had no plans ready, and that after years of clamouring about local taxation, they were in entire igno- rance of what was required to provide a remedy for a state of things they had so repeatedly declared to be fraught with injustice. He was not going to explain their strange inactivity; all he would say was that he believed it was an inactivity which would not meet with the approbation of the country. He had had frequent occasion to refer to the Local Taxation Committee of the Chamber of Agriculture, and he could assure the House that their reports were a perfect mine of information. Before he sat down he should like to refer to a speech which only a few weeks since, in April last, had been given by an hon. Member whom they all highly respected, and who was regarded as a great authority on the subject of local taxation—namely, the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), who was Chairman of that Committee. That hon. Gentleman said, at the close of a very able speech— That it must not be supposed because he was a Tory he was prepared to make any concession to the present Government on the subject; on the contrary, he should pursue exactly the same course in respect to it towards Mr. Disraeli that he had adopted towards Mr. Gladstone," adding that "he was by no means satisfied with the time which had been taken up by the present Government in reference to it. Those remarks had been made only a few weeks ago, and yet not much had been done in the matter since that time. But the hon. Gentleman went on to say that— He should take every opportunity in their name of expressing the dissatisfaction which they felt not only by words, but by taking every opportunity of dividing the House, even if only 10 Members went with him into the lobby. That remark was received by the meetings with cries of "Bravo," in which the Members of the Government who were present, it appeared, heartily concurred. The hon. Gentleman concluded his speech by some observations which excited the enthusiasm of the assembled farmers. He said— If I do all this, you must do something in return, and if you only support me as you supported Sir Massey Lopes, we shall bring this question well under the notice of Her Majesty's Government. Now, it would, he felt, be presumptuous on his part to add a single word to so forcible an avowal of opinion and so admirable a declaration of policy, and he would conclude with the words adopted by the Local Taxation Committee, to whose report he had occasion so frequently to refer in terms of approval, that— The reform of local taxation and local government is not a question cither of party or individuals, but the common interest of every man in Britain. In conclusion, he thanked the House for having so patiently listened to him, and begged to move his Amendment.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the absence of other and adequate proposals for the reform of Local Taxation and Local Government, this Bill cannot be regarded as meeting the necessities of the time or the expectations which have been raised by Her Majesty's Government, and this House is of opinion that further delay of legislation on those subjects is calculated to impede the social and economic progress of the Country,"—(Mr. Fawcett,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he had listened with astonishment to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), and begged to congratulate the whole race of Local Taxation Reformers on the unexpected support which they now received from a recent ally who appeared in the light of a Nineteenth Century Columbus to reveal to them a new land. He could not help thinking, however, that the series of marvellous facts with which the hon. Gentleman sought to startle the House had been long well known. But where, he should like to ask, was the hon. Gentleman when the Resolution of his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) was carried by a majority of 100, and what evidence was there in the inconsistency of a Welsh constituency of any inconsistency on the part of the Government? He, for one, could not forget how the question of local taxation was met some years ago by the Friends of the hon. Gentleman. The Government of that day treated the grievances complained of as being of no consequence, and, indeed, as mere fictions. And when, thanks to the efforts of the hon. Member for South Devon, the question came to be better understood, the right hon. Gentleman then at the head of the Government had recourse to mysterious warnings, and argued that the subject had better be left alone. The hon. Member for Hackney regretted that the Government had not dealt this Session with the question of local taxation. He (Mr. Paget) joined the hon. Member in that regret; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already explained that one of the reasons why the Government had not done so was a financial reason. Surely, it was not any fault of the Government that during the last year the commercial prosperity of this country ceased to advance with those leaps and bounds which delighted the Chancellors of the Exchequer of the late Government. It must be recognized that we had now a Government that had attempted to do something with this question. An Act was passed last year by which buildings and property of the Government were made liable to rates. At the same time, a reform was introduced into the expenditure, by the extension of the principle of granting Imperial subvention for Imperial objects—and half the police rate and a share of the expense of lunatic asylums was now borne by the Imperial Exchequer. The hon. Member for Hackney had in no way exaggerated the importance of the subject. The gigantic sums which were raised by local taxation were divisible into two distinct classes—namely, remunerative and unremunerative taxation. They were so divided in the Reports of the Local Government Boards. With regard to remunerative taxation—namely, that which was for local improvements, no question arose as to an Imperial subvention. The money was raised for local purposes, and must be raised from local sources. But as to unremunerative taxation—namely, the money raised for the protection of life and property and for the relief of the poor—that gave rise to most, if not all, of the grievances of local ratepayers. The sums raised under the head of unremunerative taxation were increasing rapidly. In 1853 the amount raised under that head by local taxation was £6,500,000; in 1874 the amount raised was £12,342,000. It was quite true that the poor rate had decreased, because wages had increased; and for the additional reason that, in many instances, the Poor Law was conducted on a sounder system than it had ever been conducted before. For the support of elementary schools, which the nation had declared should exist everywhere, there was raised in the year 1872 by local taxation £302,000; and in the year 1874, £539,000. It might be objected that voluntary subscriptions were not local taxation—but to him it appeared these voluntary subscriptions were very like the free-will offerings of the people to the sons of the priest—"Nay, but thou shalt give it to me, or else I will take it by force." A statute was in the immediate back ground; let the subscriptions cease for a moment and a school board and school rate was the inevitable consequence. Such items as these ought, he considered, to be taken into calculation in any investigation into the aggregate amount of the local burdens of the nation. Under the head of highways, local expenditure was increasing from year to year, because turnpike trusts were being rapidly abolished. From a recent Return which had been presented to the House, it appeared that in the month of February of this year there was a material decrease of pauperism as compared with the same month last year. But then, as regarded South Wales, there was a material increase, a large part of the burden of which must be borne by the small tradesmen and small farmers of that district, who thus would have to pay for the unsettled state of coal and iron. Hon. Gentlemen had been accustomed to lament the rapid decay of freeholders; but he did not think the ingenuity of statesmen could devise anything better adapted to lead to that result than the imposition on them of rates which by any possibility they could not support. He would give an illustration of the way in which a tenant-farmer was affected by local taxation. A penny in the pound of local taxation was, in many cases, equivalent to three or four times that amount in the shape of income tax. For instance, the income of the occupier of a farm whose rent was £300 a-year would be taken for the purpose of income tax at one-half, or £150. From that sum £80 would be deducted, and the addition of a penny in the pound income tax would make a difference of only 70d. But let a penny in the pound be put on as local taxation, and what would be the result? The rateable value of the farm would probably be £270, and therefore a penny rate would yield 270 pence, or nearly four times as much as a penny income tax. Let hon. Members contrast the position of such an occupier with that of a man living by his side, and enjoying an income derived, perhaps, from railways, of £150. He would probably live in a house of £15 a-year rent, which would be rated at £12, and a penny rate on him would yield 12d. instead of 270d. Who could wonder that the occupiers of land should feel such a state of things as a great grievance? But the grievance was not confined solely to occupiers of land; it also affected occupiers of houses to an enormous extent. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone), who had taken an interest in this question, some years ago told the House in an instructive speech that in Liverpool he had found incomes of £15,000 a-year rated at 1 per cent, while the earner of a weekly wage of 24s. had to pay at the rate of 4 per cent. In fact, there was ample evidence that this question affected small occupiers to a greater extent than almost any other class. There had grown up an artificial system since the days of Elizabeth. The Act of Elizabeth was not a charge on land for the maintenance of indigent poor, but on every inhabitant to contribute to his ability, and had it been so enforced down to this time, they would have heard but little of the grievances of local taxation. He was delighted to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it was the intention of the Government to assume, as an Imperial charge, the administration of justice, and that he felt, also, the immense importance of having a new valuation Bill. On previous occasions the House had heard of his readiness to support a Consolidated rate, and it was to be hoped that the Government would announce before long that they were alive to the necessity of dealing with the subject of highways and turnpikes. There was to be an annual presentation of local accounts. These were all the things for which he and his Friends had been asking. They could not be expected all at once; but already there had been a substantial instalment of justice, coupled with distinct assurances of further progress in the same direction. Though there was much in it which demanded reform, it must be allowed that local taxation had within itself elements of great advantage to the nation. It was intimately bound up with self-government—a principle of which it was impossible to speak in terms of too high praise, which stimulated all loyal citizens to devote themselves to the various departments of local administration, which brought about a mingling of classes united to consider subjects of common interest, and in which the humblest ratepayer had as great a right to be heard as the noblest in the land. There was much danger in that constant professorial craving after an Utopian optimism, which seemed to expect that everything should be done, and that everything should be done at once. That cry was generally linked with another—that the Government should step in and do everything. Now, he viewed with profound suspicion every attempt to introduce the Imperial finger into the local pie. Nothing should be done tending to interfere with or destroy the principle of local self-government. The hon. Member for Hackney said the Government were inconsistent and had not fulfilled their pledges, so that they could not be looked to for relief. But could the late Government be looked to? There, at least, was a Government which had done nothing, while the present Government had done something. More than 20 years ago the Premier, to his great credit, was the first statesman to direct attention to the subject of local taxation, and, equally to his credit, he had been the first statesman to deal practically with the question and give some relief to those who bore this burden. He (Mr. Paget) did not desire to over-estimate the good works of the present Government—he was fully aware of all the difficulties and intricacies of this important subject—he knew its details far too well not to feel sure that it would tax, and tax severely, the energies and abilities of the strongest Government. What local taxation reformers desired was nothing but straightforward justice. The question was an intricate one. He desired that it should be settled on the old-fashioned principles laid down by Adam Smith and endorsed by the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright)—"that every man and every description of property should be called upon in just proportions to support the burdens and meet the necessities of the State." Looking to the antecedents of the Ministry, at what they had done and were doing even in the Bill now before the House, he was sure that they were both able and willing to deal with this question fairly, and therefore he felt satisfied that those who wished for reform in the matter of local taxation would do well and wisely in leaving their interests in the hands of Her Majesty's Government.


said, that he had placed on the Paper an Amendment, in the event of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) becoming a substantive Motion, to the effect— That, inasmuch as Her Majesty's present Government have during their tenure of office recognized to a greater extent than any previous Administration the necessity of redressing the inequalities and anomalies of Local Taxation and Local Government, it is, in the opinion of this House, inexpedient to hamper or embarrass their action in this direction. He had been told by some of his Friends that the words of his Amendment expressed too great satisfaction at the conduct of Government in the matter. Such, however, had not been his intention. His object, in the first place, was, from an independent point of view, to challenge directly the obstructive Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney, so as far as possible to prevent the Government from being pressed too hardly or too prematurely, and, at the same time, to encourage them to persevere in a prudent and practical manner in the course upon which they had entered by that kind of gratitude known as a lively sense of favours to come. The Successors of the late Government had acceded to power pledged to a greater extent than their Predecessors to reform in the matter of the local administration of taxation; and, therefore, when upon the Motion for the second reading of this Bill they were met by an Amendment which imputed to them a want of policy, it appeared to him that a comparison between the conduct of the late and the present Government in that respect became inevitable. Since 1868 there had been a succession of measures introduced on the subject by the right hon. Member for the City (Mr. Goschen) and by the right hon. Member for Hali- fax(Mr. Stansfeld), all of which had come to nothing, and the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) had carried in 1872 by a large majority—he believed 100—the principle that local taxation must be dealt with in a liberal and comprehensive manner. He thought that since their accession to office the present Government had shown a disposition to act upon that Resolution of the House, and that they were not open to the complaints which had been urged against them in this respect. The hon. Member for Hackney wanted to compel Her Majesty's Government to produce an all-comprehensive scheme of reform. On a Bill which was no doubt a step in the right direction, he raised a large question which had nothing whatever to do with it. Surely, however, the position he had taken up would not meet with the approval of the House or of the country, and in particular of those who had dealt with the subject in the late Parliament, and who were conversant with the difficulties surrounding it? The late Government might have done more if their measures had been less heroic, and if, like reasonable statesmen, they had tried to deal in a more piecemeal way with the difficulties which were before them. His (Mr. Ridley's) contention was, that the Government had done a great deal in the right direction, and that while there was no intention that they should stop, or even linger in the path they were now pursuing, it was unwise and unfair to ask them to do what was impossible. He now came to the performances of Her Majesty's Government. The proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last year with regard to local taxation were received with considerable satisfaction both by that House and the country, although they met with considerable criticism by the late Prime Minister. The majority of that House, however, thought the grants which were made last year were not given one moment too soon, while they were made in such a manner as in no way to impair the guarantee which then existed with regard to local economy. It was perfectly reasonable, however, after the promises made by them, that the hon. Member for Hackney should expect great things of the present Government. At the end of his Amendment, the hon. Member laid considerable stress upon the delay which he alleged the Government were causing in the natural, social, and economical progress of the country by refusing to legislate in this direction. That they were doing something in the matter, however, was evidenced by the Artizans Dwellings Bill and the consolidation of the Public Health Acts; and, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman had said about their neglecting education in the rural districts, the House would not forget that the Revised Code was received with signal favour by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). Neither could it be said that the Government were not sensible of the advantages of education, nor that they were not doing great good in putting Friendly Societies upon a sound footing, and thus encouraging provident habits amongst the people. The practical relief given by the £1,011,000 voted to the police and pauper lunatics was a great benefit to the country, and the rating area was increased thereby. He did not suppose that any Government could do all that was expected of them by any class of local taxation reformers. If the hon. Member for Hackney meant to say that it was now fairly expected that the Government should prepare and carry through a complete scheme for revising all these grievances of local reform and local taxation of which he complained, he (Mr. Ridley) thought the House would agree that that demand was of a most unreasonable character. The country had no reason to doubt the willingness of the Government to carry out what they could, or for distrusting their declarations, when they were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that what they had done and were doing was only an earnest of what they intended to do. Whatever was done, they should bear in mind the principle that all persons who paid towards local taxation had unquestionably the right to control the expenditure. The hon. Member for Hackney spoke of the importance of a proper administration of the Poor Law, especially with regard to out-door relief, and there was no doubt that, as the relief of the poor was a national object, it was one which might be contributed to from Imperial resources. That principle had been admitted by the Government in making the grant for the police and for pauper lunatics; and there was no reason in principle why they should not go further in the same direction, without in any degree impairing efficiency of administration or encouraging extravagance on the part of local authorities. With regard to amalgamating and improving the administrative authorities throughout the country, that was a point to which they ought to attach considerable importance. No time should be lost in attempting in some way or other to bring men who were capable and willing to act in the country into one common centre and means of action. He looked forward to seeing at some future period the financial departments of our quarter sessions re-constituted and the county financial boards so constituted as that they should be the mainspring and centre of all our local government in the counties. That was a principle which had been advocated by men of all political parties. It should, however, be kept in mind that in his own county—and the same might be said with equal justice of other parts of the country—nothing could exceed the laborious and painful regard to economy with which the accounts were supervised; nor did he think the ratepayers could secure by means of any representation on county financial boards better or more economic management. In conclusion, he would simply observe that, though deeply interested in agricultural matters, he should be sorry to be supposed to advocate the taking of rates from one class of property and placing them on another. It was an established fact in political economy that in order to secure equality and uniformity in taxation it was only necessary that there should be an equitable and uniform assessment upon all classes of property subject to taxation, and he urged the levying of taxes in such a way that ultimately the largest producers and consumers would become the largest taxpayers.


regretted the deserted state of the House on the discussion of a subject of so much importance to the country. He did not propose to speak on the subject of local rating, which had been introduced by the hon. Member for Hackney as an Amendment to the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer further than by saying that with regard to local taxation, he strongly condemned the present system as being a mass of confusion and involving a great deal of unnecessary expense. In respect to the Public Works Loan Acts Amendment Bill, of which the right hon. Gentleman had moved the second reading, he contended that the Government scheme, as at present drawn, affected the independence of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and exposed the Treasury to the temptation of giving grants for political ends. With respect to the two Loan Bills, he was glad to hear that they were to be referred to a Select Committee, which he thought was a very wise course on the part of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Great advantage to the country would result from a well-considered arrangement for granting loans on guarantees which, though not acceptable to bankers and others, might be safely accepted by Government. He would suggest that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should annually, at the beginning of the year, assign a lump sum to the Commissioners for them to issue during the course of the year in the shape of loans to parties able to give the required guarantees, so that upon satisfactory security being given, advances might be made as soon as applications to borrow were received. Such a course would obviate the great delay which so often occurred in connection with these transactions, and which were so much complained of. The mode in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to have the Estimate of the loans in the year ensuing detailed, must involve the delay of a year. It was of the utmost importance that immediately the localities could arrange for the final carrying out of any project, the loan should at once be granted by the Commissioners, on their own responsibility, without the necessity of applying to departments for authority. Even as matters stood, he thought that there was too much tendency on the part of the Board of Trade to usurp the place of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and he considered that the Bill now before the House erred in that direction. On the whole, he thought the measure would prove advantageous, in that it would, if the details mentioned were removed, encourage and render comparatively easy the construction of public works of great public utility.


said, the measure before the House, though estimable in itself, did not strike him as being ade- quate to meet the expectations which had been raised by Her Majesty's Government. He could not, therefore, go the length of the Amendment which had been placed on the Paper by his hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Somerset (Mr. Paget). His hon. Friend the Member for North Northumberland (Mr. Ridley) had given Notice of an Amendment affirming that the present Government had recognized to a greater extent than any previous Administration the necessity of reducing the inequalities and anomalies of local taxation and local government. This statement might be perfectly accurate; but, giving the Government the full benefit of the terms of the Motion, he thought it was not worth much. On the whole, he should have felt inclined to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) if it had proceeded from a less exceptional quarter, and had it not been inconsistent with former utterances of the hon. Gentleman. He could not disguise from himself that the hon. Member had, even during the present Session, given evidence of a disposition not to alleviate the grievances to which ratepayers were subject, but in so far as in him lay to aggravate them. This was particularly the case with the proposal of the hon. Member to throw the cost of elections upon the taxes. While he declined to entertain the hon. Gentleman's Motion, he must say he regretted that they who had the good of the local taxpayer at heart had been left to fight the battle, as it were, with the rank and file. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government appeared to have followed the example of one of the Kings of Rome, who, when an Ambassador came from a neighbouring Monarch to consult him as to the best way of putting down sedition, took him into his garden and cut off the heads of the tallest lilies. He had made a bouquet of the choicest flowers in the local taxpayer's garden, and had transferred them to the garden of the Treasury Bench, where they blushed unseen, Wasting their sweetness on the desert air. But they who remained must fight as well as they could, endeavouring when they thought the Government oblivious of their engagements to interpose and remind them of the position of the case. The whole of the grievances of the local taxpayers had their origin in confusion. As time went on the burdens under which they suffered became heavier and heavier, and had it proceeded much longer there was no saying to what length it might have been carried. It was quite intelligible that the payment of the Alabama Claims and the expenditure connected with the Navy and Army should be thrown on Imperial resources; but it was on those intermediate demands, partly Imperial and partly local, that the difficulty arose, and the largest of them was the poor rate. Then there were the improvements which modern civilization demanded. These imposed new burdens on the unfortunate ratepayers—education, turnpikes, gaols, the administration of justice, and even such small matters as vaccination and the registration of births and deaths. The Local Taxation Committee had set their faces against the system of imposing fresh burdens on the rates', and an indiscriminate slaughter had been made of measures which had been proposed with that object. Various measures were suggested, some of them apparently promising—the imposition of an octroi indirect tax, such as prevailed on the Continent—locally collected licences, and other plans all of which culminated in the Motion carried by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon by his famous majority of 100. Then there was the offer of the house tax by the right hon. Member for the City of London, which though certainly a valuable suggestion, yet in its application it would have been unjust, because it gave to London, which only contributed one-fifth, one half of the rate, and assigned the greatest amount of relief to crowded and dirty districts, where low-class houses and high rates were generally found together. He did not mean to deny that the Government had done something in this matter, but there were plenty of other ways in which relief Could be afforded the ratepayers. He did not ask any more at present for lunatics; but he thought the police had had of late become more and more of an Imperial charge; and should be thrown as in Ireland on the Imperial resources. The administration of justice was another heavy item which ought to be provided for from the Consolidated Fund. Last year they had money to afford this relief, and if they had it not this year the fault was their own. The hon. Baronet the Member for South. Devon had in his famous speech asked for the whole charge connected with the administration of justice, half the charge for lunatics, and half that of the police, and the present Government were so far committed, having voted for the hon. Baronet's Resolution. As comparisons had been instituted between the present and the late Governments, he might remark that, although the late Government proposed to consider last of all the question of grants from the Imperial Exchequer, yet their scheme included other subjects which had not been dealt with by the Government now in office. If it was urged that the present Government had not sufficient money at their disposal, he would point out that the two first schemes could be brought in without money. A Valuation Bill and a Consolidated Rate Bill might have been introduced this year by Her Majesty's Government. Again, the Government might have dealt with the chaotic condition of the local administrative units which overlapped and confused one another in so puzzling a manner. And here, in justice, he must say that with respect to what had been done by the late Government, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stansfeld) was the only person who had contributed anything towards reducing the confusion which existed under the present system; because he had brought the administration of the laws affecting health in the country districts into a more intelligible form. That was a point which ought not to be overlooked in discussing the credit which ought to be given to the late Government. The present Government, he trusted, would not mistake the feeling of the country on this subject. The country was under the impression that the Government had been playing fast-and-loose; that they had promised largely, especially before the last General Election, and had not performed what they promised. ["No, no!"] Why, that evening the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though vaguely re-assuring, had given the House no definite account of the policy he meant to pursue. He trusted, however, that before the debate closed a definite statement would be made by some other Member of the Government. If, after all that had been said, the House should separate that Session without hon. Members being enabled by the Government to make those agricultural orations which would be expected from them by their constituents, he should stand up and say that he was compelled to separate himself from the Government on this question. He was in hopes that another Session would not have been allowed to pass by without something material being done, and he considered that the statement made on the part of the Government that evening was not a satisfactory one.


said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had remarked that we ought to settle our policy first and our machinery afterwards, but that was precisely what neither the late nor the present Government had done. It was not necessary that the whole of the reform of local taxation and local administration should be done at once; but it was necessary that the Government should form some consistent and intelligible plan; and that they should so far take the House into their confidence as to the general outline of that plan as to enable them to judge whether the measures brought before them to carry it out would really do so effectually; and the Conservative Government ought to undertake this at once, because it had been so much discussed at the last Election, and so many pledges had been given upon the subject, that the country expected it; and they would have the support of public opinion in carrying it out. Then they possessed great advantages in having so many men in their Party, who, as Chairmen of Quarter Sessions and Chairmen of Boards of Guardians, had taken an active part in local administration, and had become thoroughly convinced of the necessity of reform; and they possessed an unusual number of men, disciplined by recent adversity into obedience, who had paid great attention to the question, and the Government would be acting in a spirit of treason to their supporters if, while yet in their youth and vigour, they did not introduce some measure for carrying out such a plan of legislation as was now demanded. The late Government, no doubt, had been accused of "humbugging" the House by leading them to believe that they had a plan in hand, which they did not produce. The consequence was that they only awoke to the importance of the subject when they found themselves not strong enough to carry any measure of local taxation worth acceptance by the Legislature. Would the great Country Party allow the Government to carry on the same game as the late Government did, and in the end permit them to be turned out of office before this important question was settled? Perhaps, from the necessities of the case, Prime Ministers knew very little of the subject, and the right hon. Gentleman now at the head of the Government so underestimated its importance that he had not given the President of the Local Government Board a seat in the Cabinet, notwithstanding the fact that the well-being of the country depended upon the action and good government of that Board. The present machinery for the carrying on of local government was cumbrous, confusing, and unsatisfactory; for local authorities in the country were, in the first instance, obliged to communicate with the Local Government Board in the metropolis, and after, perhaps, a long correspondence had taken place everything was thrown into confusion, and in the end nothing was done. The statement of a matter might be sent up to the Board, and then an Inspector might be sent down who, if his offices had been made available in the first instance, might have settled the question in 10 minutes. Therefore, while he admitted that there was a fair claim for further concessions in aid of local burdens, he trusted that the Government would give away no more money in that direction until they had promoted, or were prepared to submit, some scheme of reform in reference to the relations which existed between the local bodies and the central authority. In a pamphlet which he (Mr. Rathbone) had ventured to send to Members of the House, he had strongly urged that all capitalists, both the payers of income tax and the owners of real property, should be led, by feeling the direct burthen of local expenditure, to take a more active interest in the expenditure of local funds. He should deeply regret if the Conservative Government were to omit the present opportunity of enlisting their interest in the subject by dividing the rates between owners and occupiers, and giving the former direct representation on the county boards, to which they would in this case be entitled. If this was done, as was the case in Ireland and Scotland, the owners of property in England would, like the owners of property there, take a more active interest in local affairs. They had better do this at once, for sooner or later they would have to pay the taxes, which, indeed, ultimately fell upon them; and it was far better that they should take that interest before the burden was tied permanently around their necks. Later on they might find they would have fresh taxation put upon them, but without that power which they might now have of controlling that taxation by preventing waste. The Secretary for War (Mr. Hardy) had introduced a plan for the extension of the area of rating. No man understood the subject better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if he and other Members of the Government, some of whom were not in the Cabinet, could only carry out their own views, he believed it would soon be seen that the subjects of local taxation and local government were, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Advisers, worthy of Imperial consideration. Many hon. Members opposite who addressed the House made excellent speeches in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney; but he was sorry to say they did not appear to him to be as independent as hon. Members on his side of the House. The speeches made were in favour of the Motion; but the hon. Gentlemen who made them declared their determination to support the Government. For his own part, he did not look upon the question in a Party light at all, and should certainly support the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney.


believed that hon. Members on his—the Conservative—side of the House were very well able to take care of themselves, but for himself, in dealing with the question before the House, he should do so on its merits, and not as a Party question. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had quoted the speech of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), to the effect that this was not a Party question, and the hon. Member for Hackney supported that view. But then what was the purport of the Amendment he had submitted to the House? There was no affinity whatever between the arguments of the hon. Member and the object of his Resolution. His language was a succession of able arguments in favour of dealing with the question of local taxation; but the obvious meaning of the Motion was, that the present Government should be turned out, and the hon. Gentlemen on the other side let in. The Motion was simply a Vote of Want of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government. They should deal, therefore, with the hon. Gentleman's Motion and with its obvious meaning and object. For his part, he was no believer in the infallibility of the Government, and he regretted many things they had done; but that was not the question he had to consider. What he had to consider was a choice of evils, and in making that choice, he regarded them as preferable to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Although he did not approve all the acts of the present Government, or endorse what they had done on all occasions—and on many occasions he thought their proceedings deplorable—yet he had to compare what they had done with the proceedings of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Even upon the question of local taxation he regretted the course taken, or, rather, that had not been taken, by the present Government. They had shown a want of energy in dealing with the most important question of the day. But the only way of judging a Motion of this kind was by its results, and let him suppose that the hon. Member for Hackney succeeded in carrying his Motion. The result would be to upset the present Government, and where was the new Government to come from? He hardly thought that the hon. Member for Hackney would be able, if called upon, to form a strong Liberal Government. He must then suppose that it would be necessary to fall back upon the noble Lord the Leader of the Liberal Party, and, without imputing any blame to him, the noble Lord would find himself in a difficult, if not a hopeless position, if he were called upon by Her Majesty to form a Government. There were certain historical facts that could not be lost sight of, and, repudiating Party views, he would, nevertheless, ask what was the present position of the Liberal Party? The present condition of the great Liberal Party was this—that by great energy, talent, ability, eloquence, and administrative power they had succeeded in the course of five years in turning a majority of 120 into a minority of 60 or 70. What, then, was the object of the hon. Member in bringing forward a Motion, the result of which would be to turn out the Government in order to leave the country in a position of utter chaos, and to bring in a party who could not form a Government, and who, if the attempt were made, would bring all government to an end? The experience of the last 25 years had shown the House that it must not hope much from any Government, but the country must have a Government of some kind, and the House was bound to make the best of the Government it had got. He, therefore, wished the hon. Member for Hackney had on the present occasion turned his attention to some subject more worthy of his undoubted powers and ability.


said, that as a speech delivered by him outside the walls of Parliament had been referred to by the hon. Member for Hackney, he would only say that he did not wish to take exception to the accuracy of the quotation, neither did he wish to disown any of the remarks contained in it. On the contrary, he wished to reiterate his opinion that this was not a Party question, and he could only regret that it had been brought under the notice of the House in this indirect manner. Last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer put this question first, because he said it seemed to the Government that it was an object of the highest national interest at that time. This being the opinion of the Government, it was singular that such a question should be brought before the House in this indirect manner. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had in his Financial Statement exhibited some of the most brilliant qualities that the House expected to find in a statesman, when his right hon. Friend was called upon to reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. His right hon. Friend had pointed out that although there had been great remissions of Imperial taxation, there was another side of finance that required attention, and that was the great question of direct local taxation. Regretting, as he did, that the Government last year were led to give up the only means of making any sensible contribution towards local taxation, he must remind hon. Members opposite that when the late Premier went out of office he stated it to be his intention, if the next Parliament gave him a majority, to abandon the whole of the income tax. If the whole income tax had been abandoned, he did not know to what source we should have looked for subventions in aid of local taxation. Of course, the Opposition could not be looked to for help in the form of money contribution. Administrative reform was to some extent independent of larger considerations, and it was fair to ask whether any change was to be made in administration, or whether matters were to go on as at present. Of course, he was not so visionary as to expect that anything could be done this Session. One reason for urging reform in administration was that at present there was enormous waste—waste of power, ability, and money, and much of it was due to centralization. Was there a single fund raised by local authorities of which it might not be truly said that the control and disposal of it was not in the main vested in the hands of the Treasury? There was just enough of local control to leave room for a vast amount of misgovernment. The House contained many county and borough magistrates, and he would ask them what they thought of our prison management. What influence did they exercise upon it? A prison had to be built upon a certain plan, the cells had to be of a certain size, and the diet had to be of a certain amount and quality. Having determined all these things, it was the duty of the Government to see that there were not too many prisons in the country. Yet no Government had ever given any attention to this part of the question. There were 116 local gaols, costing £585,000 a-year, and the average cost of the prisoners was £33 per head; but of the 81 county prisons, 12 contained more than half the total number of prisoners, and maintained them at an average cost of £25, while the remaining 69 maintained their quota at a cost of £34 a-head, or £9 more than the cost of the larger gaols, showing that large numbers of prisoners could be kept at a cheaper rate than smaller ones. Similar contrasts were presented by the borough prisons; for there were six borough gaols containing 3,000 prisoners, and 29 with only 1,370 inmates. The cost of the first was £76,000 annually, and that of the latter £54,000. These were matters of as great, if not greater, importance than the Regimental Exchanges Bill, about which there had been so much squabbling in that House, and the reason why it was not admitted was that no one touched upon them out-of-doors. He, however, suggested that the necessity of reform in these matters should be pressed upon the Government. In Lincolnshire there were five gaols for the accommodation of 200 prisoners, and he appealed to the House if anything could be more monstrous. Then there was corresponding waste in the organization of the police. In England there were 225 separate Forces, in Ireland but one—happy Ireland. There were 10,000 police in the metropolis; nearly 10,000 in the 57 counties; in the 166 boroughs there were 8,000 police; in 62 of them there were less than 10 policemen; 22 where there were less than three; and there were several boroughs with a mayor, common council, beadle, and gaoler, with one, and a few with two policemen each. The waste of money in that respect must be obvious, while the many independent jurisdictions afforded the well-informed criminal great facilities of escape, and gave discharged police officers the means of passing from one Force to another without detection. There was also great waste in sanitary administration. There were 6,529 parishes, and 454 were under turnpike trusts. He had seen one authority constructing a drain on sound principles on one side of the road, and another authority constructing a deficient drain on the other side of the road. He should have been pleased if the Public Health Bill had put a stop to waste of this kind. Then, again, the waste with reference to the poor was also very great; but he had no wish to see the pinch of the poor rates relieved by Imperial subventions. In 1854, the cost of an individual pauper was £6 2s. It was now £8 15s., which was owing not to the local, but to the central administration of the Poor Law. The central government had required the local governments to furnish paupers with better doctors. The other day the central government required a local authority to expend £4,000 for baths for paupers. In 20 years the cost of maintaining paupers had increased 42 per cent. A great deal of the increase of local taxation was owing to successive Governments having permitted the local authorities to be increased in number. For instance, in Sunderland there were the River Wear Commissioners, having 51 members; the River Wear Watch Committee, 21 members; the town council, 64 members; elected guardians, 12; and ex officio guardians, 3. There was a school board which occupied the attention of 34 gentlemen; a local government board of 13 members; church- wardens, overseers, and 24 ancient vestrymen. There were in this union altogether 13 boards, with 311 members, and there were many other districts in England where they had a similar state of things. With regard to the rating of incomes, the question was not so much the amount of the income as the source from which a man derived it. If he derived it from land, then he paid more than he ought to pay. The hon. Member for Hackney spoke of a clergyman with an income of £200 a-year paying £8 in rates. He (Mr. Pell) did not know any part of England where a clergyman with that income would not have to pay £20 in rates. In his (Mr. Pell's) parish he would have to pay from £25 to £30. The system under which rates were levied in Scotland and Ireland was totally different from that under which rates were levied in England. If the principle adopted in Ireland and the analogous one in Scotland were right, then our principle must be wrong. In his opinion, another Session should not be allowed to go by without the Government of the day dealing with this question. Supposing him to have at present what he had not often, a thousand pounds to spare. He should not be afraid to invest it in French Rentes, where he would get 5 per cent for it, without any local taxation; but if he put it into draining, into buildings, or improvements on English land, he would be watched from the hills of the adjacent lands, and he would be locally taxed in a most unjust manner. Suppose, again, he put his thousand pounds into a spinning speculation, and built a small pantile factory, he would only be locally taxed a small amount. He submitted that the present system of rating operated as a great discouragement to improvements, and made men afraid to build cottages on their land. Much as he should like to support any Motion which might stimulate the Government to deal with all these questions, yet, considering the quarter from which this Amendment came, he felt he had no choice but to vote against it. There were hon. Members sitting on the opposite side of the House who, if they had put a Motion of this sort on the Paper, there was no doubt he would have had his support; but he could not forget the antecedents of the hon. Member for Hackney. That hon. Gentleman on every opportunity which presented itself—and he (Mr. Pell) had taken some trouble not to miss them—had recorded his vote against the views of the Local Taxation Committee. He had voted against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Devon for the relief of local taxation, and he also voted against the relief of the counties from the cost of Militia stores; while in his own Motion for the payment of election expenses out of the rates, he would have saddled the ratepayers with an immense cost—not in the matter of hustings and booths, but in the host of candidates which such legislation as that would have brought into the field, nor had they had the weight of his vote upon the question of the Education rate. He thought he had said enough to show that to support the Motion would be an act of ingratitude to the Government, and would not be acting wisely to give his vote for this Amendment.


said, he was of opinion that the antecedents of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) were not to be considered an argument against the present Motion. He did not care from what quarter it came, but would speak of it as it regarded the Irish farmer, for as he understood it, the hon. Gentleman's Amendment was intended to cover the Three Kingdoms. He only wished the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) would invest that £1,000 of which he had spoken in the acquisition of an Irish farm, for then, unless he had the disposition of a Mark Tapley, he would feel that his position was not by any means a comfortable one. The Irish farmers were in this position—that they were considered very proper persons to pay the rates, but not at all proper persons to elect those who should say how they were to be expended. In one respect they were better off than the English farmers, inasmuch as there was not in Ireland the same complexity and confusion of administration which existed in this country; but what they had to complain of was the extreme simplicity of the injustice to which they were subjected. The course in Ireland was this—The sheriff of the county selected a body of 23 gentlemen—the Grand Jury—to administer the whole of the county cess. In his county the selection generally fell upon the 23 gentlemen having the highest rental within the county; but in other counties that was not the case, for it frequently happened that a large portion of the Grand. Jury was made up of the personal friends of the high sheriff, and that was the body which had the administration of the taxation in question. He did not ask now that half the county rates should be taken off the occupier, and put on the landlord, but only that the burden of them should not be increased; and he therefore hoped that the question of local administration in Ireland would be taken up by the Government. If not so, he trusted that when the measures which had been introduced by Irish Members relating to the subject came on for discussion, no objection would be made to the providing of elective boards chosen by the ratepayers and farmers. That was what they wanted in Ireland as well as in England.


rose merely to state the reason why he did not wish to give a silent vote on the present occasion. He did not wish to go into the general question, because the arguments, which were all on one side, had been threshed out. But he hoped that the Government would read aright the lesson taught by that debate. Every speaker, no matter on what side he sat, had testified to the grievance in respect of local taxation. The Prime Minister had already admitted the injustice of the present state of things, and so had the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Those arguments had been urged and repeated over and over again, and he trusted the Government would take courage and remember that so long as they left the question unsettled, the stronger would the feeling of dissatisfaction throughout the country become, and the result would be that they would lose caste. Last year the Chancellor of the Exchequer had £6,000,000 surplus to deal with, which had been found for him by the extra taxation of his Predecessors, and that large sum he gave away in remitting the sugar duties, the horse duty, which nobody asked to have abolished, and in taking off a penny from the income tax. He (Sir George Jenkinson) thought the right hon. Gentleman made a great mistake in doing as he had on that occcasion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich would have abolished the income tax altogether, but that was a thing to which he had always objected. He had always felt that if the income tax were abolished the Government would be deprived of the power of doing anything for the effective relief of local taxpayers by depriving themselves of the only possible mode of getting at the income of personal wealth to contribute. They should not be left to such spasmodic relief as could be afforded by chance surpluses from year to year. If their grievance was real, as the Government admitted it to be, they were entitled to some systematic measures of relief by effective legislation. It would not do to say with one breath that the grievance complained of was real, and then with another to say that no relief should be given unless there was a surplus from the Budget. He hoped now that the Budget was passed, and that no relief from it could be given to the reduction of local taxation, that the Government would take the matter into their serious consideration, and devise some effectual means for reducing the unjust incidence of that taxation in a bonâ fide manner next Session, otherwise he believed they would estrange earnest supporters who had placed them where they now were.


said, the proverb ran that "any stick would do to beat a dog with," and perhaps it was thought that any measure would do to hang a Vote of Censure upon. He thought, however, that the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had been unfortunate in selecting the topic which he had introduced for the purpose of attacking the measure now under discussion, which had little or nothing to do with the question of local taxation. The object of the two Bills which had been introduced by the Government was to take away from the Treasury the control in respect of reducing the interest on loans, and of extending the time of repayment. The subject was not one on which the policy of the Government could be fairly challenged with regard to local finance or local administration, and his right hon. Friend, in introducing those measures, never regarded them in that light. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney, he would venture to say that he himself had always been mindful of economy of the public expenditure, and had endeavoured to shield the Exchequer from unwarrantable attacks; and perhaps, therefore, his opinion was en- titled to some little indulgence when he said that the subventions in aid of local rates made by the Government last year were defensible in principle, and, as far as they went, ought to be satisfactory to the country. So long ago as 1868, being then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in reply to the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), he pointed to the cost of lunatics and police as being an item of expenditure to which the hon. Member might with advantage address himself in future, and the subventions in aid of these local services now made were not, in his opinion, open to objection. The expenditure upon the police was one which might properly be assisted by the Treasuiy, not only because the police service was of an Imperial character, but because the tendency of the localities was to administer it economically; the fact being, he believed, that the Government Inspectors, as a rule, stimulated the cost of the police. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) had dwelt on the wasteful character of various small police jurisdictions, and complained that the Government did not put an end to some of them. But the hon. Gentleman underrated the influence of the Members for the small boroughs, by whom these police forces were cherished, and whose opposition would make it very difficult to abolish these jurisdictions. Nobody, however, could dispute the propriety of the advice given by the hon. Member as to the unnecessary expense entailed by all these separate jurisdictions, and he hoped the country would take this advice to heart. The subvention for lunatics had been of important advantage to the payers of poor rates throughout the country, and it was an advantage which they enjoyed without the slightest risk of being tempted to extravagant outlay. On the contrary, the lunatics were removed from the power of the guardians as soon as they were transferred; the guardians no longer had the control of their expenditure; and the subvention was not only an advantage to the ratepayer, but was in itself a safe and wise measure. Besides, the Government had secured an audit of the expenditure upon lunatics—an important safeguard—the whole of the money expended for their maintenance having been checked and audited by the Government auditors. Then, last year, it must be remembered, in return for the gift of these subventions, the Government had induced their supporters to make some sacrifices by assenting to the Eating Act. He had never denied that the greater part of this measure had been introduced in the previous year by the late Government, but they were unable to carry it. The Bill contained much that was distasteful to supporters of the present Ministry; but they felt the necessity of inducing the House to assent to the abolition of certain exemptions, which accordingly ceased to exist. Now, the rating of game was not likely to be very productive. Not so, however, the rating of mines, which, in some counties, were of great importance. In one union, he was told that more than £100,000 a-year had been already added to the rateable value of the property within it, and in another case, within three months £30,000 a-year had been added in the same way. In adopting the system of subventions, he contended that the Government were not initiating a new policy, inasmuch as that system was first established by Sir Robert Peel in 1846, and had been followed by the late Government in their Public Health Bill, in which they proposed that the State should pay one half of the salaries of the medical officers and of the Inspectors of nuisances. As a proof that the adoption of a system of subventions did not necessarily lead to extravagance on the part of the local authorities, he might refer to the fact that although the original estimate for the salaries of those officers under that Bill had been £100,000 a-year, yet there had been a reduction in that estimate, year by year, until the estimate for the present year only amounted to £65,000. He freely admitted that the measure dealt with only a part of a great subject; but hon. Members must remember that when the right hon. Gentleman opposite brought forward his Rating Act and other measures as part of a great subject, he had frightened the House by laying upon the Table legislative proposals that would have fully occupied its attention for three Sessions, and by intimating that he had further work for it in the same direction in reserve. Taking into account the spirit of resistance that was certain to be developed in that House by any measure for constituting a county authority, he thought that he might fairly ask that ample time for the preparation of such a measure should be conceded to him. Within the last few weeks he had stated that a Valuation Bill might have been introduced, and would have been introduced, but for the impossibility of carrying it this Session. He would also have been glad to have introduced a Highways Bill, had it not been for the same cause. He, however, had at the present time a small measure prepared, which he hoped to be able to introduce and to pass this Session, which would facilitate the introduction of further measures of local administrative reform, and under which power would be given to the Local Government Board to carry into effect the recommendations of the Select Committee upon Boundaries which sat two years ago. That measure would be ready for introduction in a very few days, and he trusted that if passed it would get rid of some of the anomalies which at present defaced the union map of England. He agreed with the hon. Member for Hackney that the metropolis had in some respects gone far beyond the country in matters of local administration; and if the example it had set, for instance, in the matter of out-door relief, were followed by the country at large, much benefit would result from the change. One would really suppose, from the course taken by some hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House, that there was nothing the county Members had so much at heart as the establishment of county financial boards; but he believed that a great deal of the anxiety now felt on that subject, and on what was called administrative reform, arose from the irritation prevailing in consequence of the abolition of turnpike tolls, and the unsatisfactory mode in which the highway rates were administered. When, however, he suggested any practical solution of the question he always found that the widest differences of opinion on the subject prevailed. It was, therefore, difficult to imagine what section of the Members of the House was likely to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney. Certainly the Scotch Members would not do it, for none had been more pleased than they with the Government subventions of last year. The right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) would surely not do it, for when the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Sir George Jenkinson) brought forward a Motion on the subject of highways, he admitted the force of the plea that there were subjects which had a prior claim on the attention of the Government, and that time ought to be allowed. No one would be happier than himself if they could make quicker advances in administrative reform. But any comprehensive measure dealing with the whole of the questions raised in the discussion was out of the question. No Government would propose such a scheme, and no Government could certainly carry it. There were, however, a number of proposals in contemplation, which collectively would amount to a great deal, while singly they were such as it was practicable to carry, and he hoped that some of them would be dealt with before much time had elapsed. Indeed, they were dealing with them already. He believed that the facilities which would hereafter be afforded to local authorities in regard to the borrowing of money would be of great advantage to the ratepayers, and that much light would be thrown by this means on the financial aspects of the question. At the same time, he hoped the House would not run away with the idea that the local authorities of the Kingdom, taken as a whole, were so heavily burdened as many hon. Gentlemen seemed to suppose. So far as he was able to form an opinion, he believed they might be indebted at that moment to the extent of three years' income. But the country at large was indebted to the extent of 10 years' income at least. He did not dispute that many local authorities were overburdened, and that some of them were badly administered. But, taken as a whole, he thought their financial condition afforded no reason for alarm. He did not expect that the Irish Members would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney, nor did he think that the right hon. Gentleman on the front Opposition bench could consistently vote for it. No Administration would venture to lay a tax upon the people with a view of relieving local rates; and therefore it was incumbent upon the Government to make the proposal they did last year, and then was the time to object to the course which was pursued. But, while saying that, it must not be supposed for a moment that he or, so far as he knew, any hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench was indifferent to the necessity of regulating local finance and diminishing local burdens—of spreading these burdens wherever they could be spread, of providing a greater unity of administration, and of concentrating the local authorities under a higher and better authority which would stand between them and the Government. There was too much disposition at present to rely upon the Government and the Government Inspectors; and he had heard during the debate the most contradictory opinions upon this subject. At one moment he had heard the opinion that the central authority did too much, and at the next moment that it had no power at all. In that free country, accustomed to self-government, it was a most difficult problem to reconcile a reasonable, satisfactory, and sufficient interference on the part of the central authority with that local independence to which Englishmen were accustomed, and which they all desired to maintain. Moreover, it must be borne in mind, as he had already pointed out, that even if the mind of the Government were clear as to what measures were necessary and justifiable, they had still to consider what they could propose with a fair chance of success, or how far they should go. Moreover, the power of resistance in that House to measures of detail was enormous, and the means of causing delay in the progress of measures seemed to be every year increasing, and he was sure that would be an element of consideration in the matter which would not be overlooked by his right hon. Friend opposite. In conclusion, he thanked his hon. Friends on the same side of the House as himself for the great readiness with which they had entered upon these questions, notwithstanding their delicate and difficult character; and he expressed a hope that when other measures of gradual reform were introduced they would manfully support the Government in their endeavours to carry them to a successful issue.


said, that most of the speeches in that debate, although they had come from the other side of the House, had been really in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett). He did not, however, refer to those speeches as indications of the votes that would be recorded, because, for instance, the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), who had spoken entirely in favour of the Amendment, and whose object was to give a few words of caution to the Government, intimated that he could not vote with the hon. Member for Hackney because of his antecedents; while the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), having nothing to say against the Amendment, could only justify himself for not following the hon. Member for Hackney into the Lobby, on the ground that it was a Vote of Confidence or No Confidence, and in a choice of evils he would choose the least. The course of the debate was due in a great degree to the astute policy and tactics of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who originated the debate in a way which caused some surprise. It was not very easy to ascertain from the conversational remarks with which he had done so what was the right hon. Gentleman's object. As far as he (Mr. Stansfeld) could guess his object, it was this—first of all the right hon. Gentleman, addressing himself almost exclusively to his own side of the House, gave promises of more Imperial subventions yet to come; he told his supporters that the question of the cost of the administration of justice had not yet been considered; that it was a complex question, but the Government were determined at the earliest possible date to consider it; and doubtless the conclusion to which they came would have effect given to it on the next occasion when they had a favourable Budget. Another object of the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be by anticipation to take away the character of that debate on a very serious subject, on which the country and his own Party were very seriously interested and not entirely satisfied, by calling it a Social Science discussion. Now, the right hon. Gentleman had not that evening appeared so conscious, as he had been on former occasions, either of the importance of the question, or of the magnitude and definitiveness of the promises the Government had made, and the expectations they had raised. The hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had referred to the debate on the Address, and also to the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing in the Bill on which the present Amendment was moved; but they were not merely discussing whether they had a right to expect that more would have been done by the Government that Session, but whether the Government had not held out definite expectations to its own Party and to the country which it had now put it out of its own power to fulfil. A deputation from the Local Taxation Committee of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture about a year ago waited on the Prime Minister and urged him to undertake the whole question of local taxation reform. And what was the Prime Minister's reply? First of all, he took exclusive possession for himself and his Party of the question of local taxation reform, because he had had it in hand for more than 25 years; and he reminded the deputation that when he first took the lead of the Conservative Party he brought that question before the House, adding that almost every Member of the present Government had advocated the same views during a long period of years, and it was not at all probable that, being now in power by no ambiguous or equivocal expression of the public will, the Government would take the earliest opportunity of being false to the cause they had so long upheld. After that assertion, he (Mr. Stansfeld) had the curiosity to consult Hansard, to ascertain what were the views expressed a quarter of a century ago by the right hon. Gentleman, and he found that his Resolution was to this effect— That the whole of the local taxation of the country for national purposes, falls mainly, if not exclusively, on real property, and hears with undue severity on the occupiers of land, in a manner injurious to the agricultural interests of the country, and otherwise highly impolitic and unjust."—[3 Hansard, ciii. 453.] In his speech when moving that Resolution, the right hon. Gentleman referred to certain local taxes and local burdens, and spoke of an amount of £10,000,000 per annum as being the sum in 1848, made up by the poor rate with its collateral minor rates, the county rate, the highway rate, and church rate; and he added to those rates £2,000,000 more in respect to land tax and some other charges, and the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman at that time were that one-half of such amount should be borne by rates, but that the other half should be borne by the general taxation of the country. Whether the expectations and proposals which were so indulged in were reasonable or not, at any rate they were definite, and one could not marvel that when such promises had been held out there was some disappointment at the course pursued by the Government in the present Session. In his Budget speech of last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the Government put the question of local taxation first because it was the highest object of national interest at that time, and he said Parliament ought to consider the position it really occupied, not only in our financial, but also in our social and political system. Therefore, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman this was the most important question of the day. The right hon. Gentleman made his views still more clear by going into details and dividing the question into three—namely, Imperial services charged exclusively or in undue proportion on local resources, areas of rating and exemptions of certain classes of property unfair, and extravagance resulting from an improper division of the country into local districts. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said the matter would continue to engage the attention of the Government, not only with reference to the question of burdens, but also with reference to the improvement of administration, the possible necessity of altering the present system, and the devotion of some branch of the general revenue to local purposes. But the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this year exhibited a falling-off in his estimate of the magnitude of the question, of its urgency, and of the obligation of the Government to deal with it. That falling-off was the cause of the doubt and anxiety which many of them felt. In bringing in the Public Works Loans Bill the right hon. Gentleman said the Government were taunted in some quarters with not bringing in a large measure of re-construction, and added— I would say that I am not aware that any Member of Her Majesty's Government has at any time ever expressed any intention of proposing any such measure, or has expressed himself in favour of dealing with the question upon these principles,' ' and concluding with the remark— We are as conscious as anybody can be conscious of the need of reforms.…. and we do not abandon the hope that we may be able to introduce such reforms."—[3 Hansard, ccxxii. 218–19.] When a strong Government which came into office upon its views of this subject as being the most important subject of the day began to talk of not abandoning the hope of doing something, surely others were justified in expressing some apprehension and alarm. Even to-night the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken for the Ministry gave them cause for fear rather than hope. He divided the sub- ject into two branches, and wished to reverse the order of procedure of the late Government. What was complained of now was, not the order of procedure, but the pace, which was not fast enough for the exigencies of the time. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the necessity of proceeding step by step; but in the Committee, presided over by the right hon. Member for the City of London, the hon. Baronet, now Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Massey Lopes), proposed a Resolution against proceeding step by step, and declaring that the Government of the day ought to bring in a comprehensive measure. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the improvement of administration; but all he had to say was, that the Government would be ready to consider the question at the proper time. Had he not shown that the Government had shrunk step by step from the promises they had made and the expectations they had held out, and was it not reasonable, under the circumstances, to urge them to display a little more courage and energy? Scarcely enough had been said about the measure to which the hon. Member for Hackney referred. He (Mr. Stansfeld) understood from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the object was to bring the matter forward, so as to induce Parliament to take effective steps, and he concluded from what had been said that it was designed to place some check on the growth of local indebtedness, and to make it less easy for the Government to compound or to remit these debts. But this purpose was no realization of what they had been led to expect from the language used by the Prime Minister. Assuming even that that policy could be effectively carried out, he put it to the House whether the Bill could be reasonably regarded as "laying the foundation of measures for dealing effectively with the whole question of local government and local taxation." Every year an estimate was to be made and presented to Parliament of the probable amount of money which would be advanced to local bodies. To allow of that being done, every local body, previous to the 31st of December, was to send in an estimate of the amount of money it would require in the course of the ensuing financial year. How was that estimate to be framed? He confessed that his anticipations were of an unfavourable character, and he held that these estimates would be entirely unreliable on account of the manner in which they were to be made. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in proposing his estimate, would not have such particulars as would enable him to be accurate; and he would necessarily be led to ask for an outside and unnecessary amount. There was a still more serious aspect of the case, and that was that the responsibility of the Treasury in reference to these money matters would be diminished, whilst extra responsibility would be thrown upon the House. The consequence of this, he ventured to predict, would be that whereas at present applications for loans of public money were discussed and considered by a Department specially qualified for the duty, those questions in future would tend to be governed by political considerations, and to be decided on the floor of the House or negotiated in the Lobbies. A time might even come when, at some critical moment in the fortunes of a Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would make a concession to the Representatives of particular localities either by way of advancing a loan or by foregoing interest, or, it might be, by remitting the loan altogether. But there were several supplementary measures which might be supposed to fulfil the hopes held out by the Government. Those measures were the Artizans Dwellings Bill, the Public Health Bill, and the Pollution of Rivers Bill. The first of these measures was one to which he willingly assented; but after all, instead of affecting local government, it simply provided a mode of procedure to be followed in certain cases and was in its principle permissive; the second was a creditable proposal, but was merely a measure of consolidation, and the third was a Bill the impracticability of the proposals of which simply proved the necessity of at once taking a complete and comprehensive view of the whole question, instead of attempting piecemeal to deal with a question of the first importance. He believed that upon this question excessive expectations which could not be fulfilled had been held out, but still something could be done. He believed that they were all agreed that there should be some contribution from Imperial sources to local rates, because much of local contributions were expended for national purposes. The other branch of the subject was much more complicated and of greater importance, and that was the reforming and completing the system of local administration. As illustrating his view of the importance and emergency of this question, he might mention the highways and the pollution of rivers as matters calling for immediate attention. With regard to the first, his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board early in the Session stated, in reply to the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wilts (Sir George Jenkinson), that the matter could not he dealt with at present because the question of local government stood in the way. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Local Government Board used these words— The question of local government was inextricably mixed up with highway management, especially within the last three or four years, and they could not deal with one without considering, to a great extent, what should be the future arrangements as to the other."—[3 Hansard, ccxxii. 957.] Therefore they had from the most responsible Member of Her Majesty's Government with respect to this subject the declaration that the important and urgent question of highways could not be dealt with till they were ready to take up on a large scale the consideration of the question of local government. The case of rivers was even stronger than that of highways. They traversed many of the local sanitary districts into which the country was divided, and they required large areas for their management; but, in the absence of the large areas, to what conclusion had the Government been driven? The nature of their proposal was this—There were 1,400 urban and rural sanitary authorities in the country, and Government proposed to confer on them the right, and impose on them the obligation, of preventing the pollution of streams that flowed through their areas—preventing the pollution of streams not only within those areas, but anywhere above those areas. Her Majesty's Government were driven to the conclusion to impose this obligation on every sanitary authority throughout the country, and call on each of them to watch and, if need be, to go to law with towns and manufacturers polluting the streams above their areas—["Order, order!"]


I rise, Sir, to Order. The right hon. Gentleman is discussing a Bill that is before the other House of Parliament


said, he had not the slightest wish to pursue any course that was out of Order, but he was under the impression that he was entitled to assume, from the sources of information open to all, that Her Majesty's Government intended to bring into that House a measure of that kind. But he wished to be entirely within the Rules of the House. The Government, however, had no alternative. They would be under the urgent necessity of dealing with the question of local government promptly and on a large scale. Manufacturers would consent to a stringent law on one condition only—namely, that it should be administered with something like uniformity, as between competitors in the same trade residing in different parts of the country; and this could only be effected by extending the administration over large local areas. Together with a growing spirit of centralization, which could not be directly opposed, inasmuch as it existed in the nature of things, there was a falling off of the spirit of vitality of local government in this country. The only way to revivify that spirit of local government was to enlarge its area and to elevate its functions by creating bodies which the Imperial Government would feel bound to respect. The establishment of municipalities in counties, the creation of county, financial, and administrative boards, constituted in his mind the key of the position; and he entreated Her Majesty's Government to address itself to that question at the earliest possible period.


said, if it was true, as he assumed it to be, that the condition of local government in this country might be properly described by the word "chaotic," he might remark that this evening's discussion had been a very fair reflex of its subject-matter. They had had hon. Gentlemen reminding them of pledges of which they neither told them where they were made, nor by whom they were made, nor the terms in which they were made, and they had had hon. Gentlemen ignoring what they had done, and misrepresenting what they were doing and what they were going to do. They had sometimes found themselves discussing a new kind of local government of a most highly centralized description, something like the French system of departments, communes, and cantons; and sometimes they had listened to excellent speeches in favour of local self-government, and against centralization. But anything more difficult than to place form or method on the greater part of that discussion he could not conceive. The most contradictory recommendations had been made; and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, finding them in a somewhat crowded position, urged them to mend their pace, and said that if they only mended their pace it did not matter very much in what way they went. He had heard a good deal that had surprised him, both with regard to what they had promised to do, and what they had done. There were two branches of the subject—the question of local taxation, and the question of local government. With regard to the former, there could be no doubt whatever that hon. Gentlemen who sat on that side of the House and the Members of the present Government had given pledges that they would deal with the question. He said that Her Majesty's Government had redeemed the pledges they had given. He did not say that they had completely or adequately redeemed them [Laughter]; but this he did say—that they had redeemed them as far as it was in their power to do, and that they were in the course of more fully redeeming them. With regard to the question of local government, what were the pledges they were supposed to have given? That pledges were given by right hon. Gentlemen opposite was true, and that the subject was one which Her Majesty's Government were desirous of entertaining was also true; but when pledges were spoken of as being given by them, he wanted to know what they were, and when they were made. A laugh was raised when he said that they had not adequately or completely redeemed the pledges they had made when that question was brought forward by his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes). The Resolution of the hon. Member for South Devon consisted of three branches. With two of these—the police and the lunatics—they had already dealt, and with regard to the third—which referred to the administration of justice—they were, as he had already stated, prepared to redeem it. They had done a great deal in respect of subventions, which a great many hon. Members seemed to have forgotten—they had advised the giving of a sum of £1,250,000 sterling. But they had done more. They had brought to hon. Gentlemen opposite the conviction that, as the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had stated, the question of subventions was one as to which they were all agreed. ["No, no!"] Why, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax told them in so many words that they were all agreed about subventions, and that they need not trouble themselves more about that. How long had they been all agreed? When those hon. Gentlemen sat upon these benches, and when the matter was first brought forward, it was treated with the greatest contempt by Her Majesty's Ministers, who said that all subventions must be preceded by a reform of local government. The then Government did, indeed, make an offer with respect to the house tax, but it never came to anything; and when his hon. Friend the Member for South Devon made definite proposals in the way of subventions, did the then Government accept them? No; they opposed them, and unfortunately they were beaten. In the first Budget, however, which the present Government brought forward the first remission of taxation which they proposed—for such it was in effect—took the shape of a subvention—a grant from Imperial funds in aid of local taxation. How then, when they had done all that, could they be accused of shuffling out of their obligations? They might not be going at the quickest pace; but, at least, they were going much faster than their predecessors had gone. This he ventured to say—that although he was not disposed to admit the giving of the pledges they were sometimes said to have made, he claimed the right to say that they had always taken a genuine and sincere interest in the question, and that because they had taken a genuine and sincere interest in it, they were determined it should be carried through in a manner which they deemed would be satisfactory; and that they were not disposed to allow it to be spoiled by being taunted into taking a false and dangerous step because, as he had said, they were resolved to carry the question through to a successful issue. The Government had taken up that part of the question which they thought most pressing and necessary, and the measure before the House was intended to be a supplemental measure to effect the raising of money, which must be accompanied by proper safeguards to prevent abuse. The right hon. Gentleman had criticized some of the details of the Bill. He did not wish to go into a discussion on that matter at the present stage; but with regard to the form of the Estimates, he did not think there would be any practical difficulty. Notices would be sent to the Departments, and when they had satisfied the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would form such Estimates, taking a lump sum, as he would think necessary for the year for education purposes, sanitary matters, &c. He would take good care to be within the mark, because all the money asked for would not be likely to be wanted. The right hon. Gentleman opposite aid that under the Bill the responsibility of the Treasury would be diminished. Now, precisely the opposite would be the effect of the Bill, for it was drawn so as to diminish the power which the Treasury now had of reducing the rate of interest and forgiving debts which had been incurred without coming before Parliament at all. If there was a disposition to job, it could be done at present; but that power would be taken away under this Bill. He could only repeat what he had often said, that the subject was one that the Government had at heart—one in which they were determined to proceed, not according to the judgment of others, but their own. They believed they saw their way to a satisfactory settlement of the question. They could not undertake to satisfy everybody. They knew they could not go at a pace that would satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite; but at their own pace, with a determination not to let the question slip or give it the go-by, the Government were determined to proceed with such measures as they believed to be most conducive to the end they had in view. And if the House would give them its support and assistance, they would do their best to bring the question of local taxation and local government to a satisfactory conclusion.


said, that at so late an hour of the night, he did not intend to make anything that could be called a speech; but he thought that one or two of the remarks just made by the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be passed over altogether in silence. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the debate resembled the state in which our local taxation was alleged to be, in its chaotic character. He must have intended to use the word "discursive," and he (the Marquess of Hartington) could not deny that it had ranged over a variety of subjects. That, however, was not the fault of his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, and he had no doubt that his hon. Friend would have preferred to raise the question on some other occasion, rather than upon the second reading of a Bill so limited in its scope; but it must be recollected it was not easy to obtain a night for the discussion of such a Motion as this. The hon. Member for Hackney has taken that opportunity of raising a discussion upon the local taxation and local management proposals of the Government; and he (the Marquess of Hartington) held that if the Opposition had failed to take advantage of the opportunity thus afforded of raising a discussion upon that question, they would have done wrong, because the House had been led to look upon the Bill in question as standing in the first rank of the proposals the Government had to make. The First Lord of the Treasury on the first night of the Session referred to this Bill as one which would bear materially upon the subject. One or two evenings afterwards the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Bill, took the opportunity of entering at considerable length into the general views of the Government on the subject of local taxation and local management. The right hon. Gentleman now asked to what pledges and promises he could be referred. He (the Marquess of Hartington) would not quote Hansard now, but he thought it would furnish a small collection of promises and pledges. It was enough to refer to the vote which the Members of the Government had given on the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon. According to the statement of the right hon. Baronet, which had not been denied or disputed, that Motion involved an expenditure from the Imperial Revenue of more than £2,000,000, and all that the Government had given or promised fell short of £1,000,000, or one-half of the promised subvention. He had said he did not intend to make a speech; but he could not sit down without expressing his sense of the obligation they were under to the hon. Member for Hackney for the speech he had made and the discussion he had raised. That speech would he no insignificant contribution to the future elucidation of the subject, which was one of the most difficult and complicated the House could be called upon to consider, and which was not thoroughly understood either in the House or in the country. Not only had the hon. Member for Hackney added to the comprehension of the subject, but whatever might be the result of the division, he had also obtained no small share of support from both sides of the House. Hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House had plainly said that they agreed with the Motion of the hon. Member and with his speech, but they would not be able to support him in the Lobby—one because he regarded the Motion as a Motion of Want of Confidence in the Government, and another because of the views he held as to the quarter from which the Motion proceeded. At present the Liberal Party was young in Opposition and the arts of Opposition; but the support they had received on this question was hopeful. He would venture to express a hope that, warned by those utterances, in another Session a Resolution would be prepared which would not be an expression of Want of Confidence in the present Government, but would be such as would enable the hon. Members for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) and West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) to vote as they desired for the Resolution without disturbing the present Government. His hon. Friend the Member for Hackney had obtained more than approval from the other side of the House—he had drawn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the Representative of the Government, a declaration of their policy on this subject. The House had been told to-night what they were not told either on the Budget or on Friday last. When the subject of the administration of justice was before the House, they were told that it was the intention of the Government, as soon as they found themselves in possession of funds, to make a further subvention in aid of the administration of justice, and practically they had to-night been told by the Government that their policy in respect to this question was nothing more than a continuation of the policy of subventions. Did the House suppose it was likely that when the discontent of rate- payers had been somewhat appeased for a time by subventions granted from the public Exchequer, and the Government were pressed by business on all sides, they would think the time had come to deal with that most difficult of questions the reform of our local administrations? It would be difficult to find a House of Commons, representing to a very large extent constituencies of ratepayers, who would turn a deaf ear when the Government of the day proposed increased subventions in aid of rates; but he thought it was right that it should be known so long beforehand that the policy of the Government was a policy of subventions, and nothing else, in order that the country might fully consider and weigh well what the meaning of such a policy was. He should like to ask what ultimate benefit the ratepayers themselves would obtain from such a policy? The right hon. Gentleman, in his Statement on the Budget, gave the House some figures as to the progress of local taxation during the last three years. He (the Marquess of Hartington) would not weary the House by going over those figures, but he believed he was stating accurately the figures which were given by the right hon. Gentleman when he said that in the last three years the increase of rates had been over £1,100,000, which was somewhat in excess of the amount of the subvention which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman. Then what he wished to point out was, that if at the time when the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon was carried, the ratepayers were groaning under an intolerable load of taxation, in spite of the subvention of the right hon. Gentleman, they had much better reason to groan now. He did not mean to say that the burden would not be greater if these subventions had not been given; but the progress of local taxation was such, that we could not cope with it by means of subventions, unless new objects were continually to be found to which subventions would be given. He believed that relief to the ratepayer was not to be found in this policy of subventions, but in the reform of local institutions, and that the ratepayers of the country had more to expect from efficient and economical administration than from Government grants. They had been told by the right hon. Gentleman that one of the objects to follow from the passing of this Bill was, that it would enable the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the President of the Local Government Board annually to lay before this House a statement in the nature of a Budget of local expenditure. That was a thing which was greatly desired by some hon. Members, and among them by his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rathbone.) It might have its advantages, but he failed to see that in such a statement the local ratepayers would find any great consolation. What was the use of Parliament listening to a Local Taxation Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if it was to do nothing but look on at a continually increasing expenditure and indebtedness! What was required was not a Local Taxation Budget presented to that House, but one presented to the ratepayers of every locality. What we wanted was a Local Taxation Budget presented to every county, to every municipal borough, to every town, and to every area of local taxation and government, so that every ratepayer might know, what not one in every thousand knew at present, what he was to be called upon to pay, by whom it was to be levied, and to what objects it was to be applied. Such a reform as that they would not be able to accomplish until they had obtained a simplification of the areas of local government, something in the nature of a consolidated rate, identity of valuation, and strengthened and remodelled local government bodies. Until they had effected some such reforms, they might increase the subsidies, they might year by year make it as easy as they liked for local bodies to borrow at low rates of interest; but their subsidies would be all swallowed up in the bottomless pit of weak and inefficient administration, and, whilst they imagined they were relieving the local ratepayers, they would only succeed in being false to their trust as guardians of the public purse, by adding to the burdens of the people. Believing that the proposals of the Government had fallen short of the pledges which they themselves had given in former Sessions, he could not if his hon. Friend were to go to a division do otherwise than give him his cordial support.

Question put. The House divided:—Ayes 249; Noes 175: Majority 74.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

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

And, on June 9, Committee nominated as follows:—Mr. WILLIAM HENRY SMITH, Mr. HANKEY, Viscount CRICHTON, Mr. PELL, Mr. BAXTER, Mr. ONSLOW, Lord FREDERICK CAVENDISH, Mr. HERMON, Sir GEORGE CAMPBELL, Mr. WHITELAW, Mr. STEVENSON, Mr. CUBITT, Major O'REILLY, Mr. GRANTHAM, and Mr. RATHBONE:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.

PUBLIC WORKS LOAN ACTS CONSOLIDATION BILL.—Bill read a second time, and committed to the Select Committee on the Public Works Loan Acts Amendment Bill.

Instruction to the Committee on the Bills, That they have power to consolidate the said Bills into one Bill.

Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Cobbold, J. P.
Allen, Major Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Allsopp, H. Coope, O. E.
Allsopp, C. Corbett, Colonel
Anstruther, Sir W. Corry, hon. H. W. L.
Archdale, W. H. Corry, J. P.
Arkwright, A. P. Cotton, Alderman
Arkwright, F. Criehton, Viscount
Ashbury, J. L. Cross, rt. hon. R. A.
Assheton, R. Cubitt, G.
Astley, SirJ. D. Cuninghame, Sir W.
Baggallay, Sir R. Dalkeith, Earl of
Bagge, Sir W. Dalrymple, C.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Denison, C. B.
Balfour, A. J. Dick, F.
Barrington, Viscount Dickson, Major A. G.
Barttelot, Colonel Disraeli, rt. hon. B.
Bates, E. Douglas, Sir G.
Bathurst, A. A. Dyott, Colonel R.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H. Eaton, H. W.
Beach, W. W. B. Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.
Benett-Stanford, V. F.
Bentinck, G. C. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Beresford, Colonel M. Egerton, Sir P. G.
Birley, H. Egerton, hon. W.
Boord, T. W. Elliot, Sir G.
Booth, Sir R. G. Eslington, Lord
Bourke, hon. R. Estcourt, G. B.
Bourne, Colonel Fellowes, E.
Bousfield, Major Fielden, J.
Bowyer, Sir G. Finch, G. H.
Bright, R. Floyer, J.
Brise, Colonel R. Folkestone, Viscount
Broadley, W. H. H. Forester, C. T. W.
Brymer, W. E. Forsyth, W.
Bulwer, J. R. Gardner, J. T. Agg-
Buxton, Sir R. J. Gardner, R. Richardson-
Callender, W. R.
Cameron, D. Garnier, J. C.
Campbell, C. Gibson, E.
Cartwright, F. Gilpin, Colonel
Cawley, C. E. Goddard, A. L.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Goldney, G.
Chaine, J. Gordon, rt. hon E. S.
Chaplin, Colonel E. Gordon, W.
Chaplin, H. Gore, J. R. O.
Chapman, J. Gore, W. R. O.
Charley, W. T. Gorst, J. E.
Churchill, Lord R. Grantham, W.
Clifton, T. H. Greenall, G.
Close, M. C Greene, E.
Gregory, G. B. Neville-Grenville, R.
Gurney, rt. hon. R. Newport, Viscount
Hall, A. W. Noel, rt, hon. G. J.
Halsey, T. F. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Hamilton, I. T. O'Neill, hon. E.
Hamilton, Lord G. Onslow, D.
Hamilton, Marquess of Paget, R. H.
Hamilton, hon. R. B. Palk, Sir L.
Hamond, C. F. Parker, Lt-Col. W.
Hardcastle, E. Peek, Sir H. W.
Hardy, rt. hon. G. Pell, A.
Hardy, J. S. Pelly, Sir H. C.
Harvey, Sir R. B. Pemberton, E. L.
Hay, rt. hon. Sir J. C. D. Peploe, Major
Heath, R. Phipps, P.
Helmaley, Viscount Plunket, hon. D. R.
Hermon, E. Polhill-Turner, Capt.
Hervey, Lord F. Powell, W.
Heygate, W. U. Praed, C. T.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Praed, H. B.
Hill, A. S. Price, Captain
Hogg, Sir J. M. Puleston, J. H.
Holford, J. P. G. Raikes, H. C.
Holker, Sir J. Read, C. S.
Holland, Sir H. T. Ridley, M. W.
Holmesdale, Viscount Ripley, H. W.
Home, Captain Ritchie, C. T.
Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N. Rodwell, B. B. H.
Round, J.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Ryder, G. R.
Hunt, rt. hon. G. W. Sackville, S. G. S.
Isaac, S. Salt, T.
Jenkinson, Sir G. S. Sanderson, T. K.
Johnson, J. G. Sandon, Viscount
Johnstone, H. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Johnstone, Sir F. Scott, M. D.
Jolliffe, hon. S. Scourfield, J. H.
Jones, J. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Kavanagh, A. MacM.
Kennard, Colonel Shirley, S. E.
Knight, F. W. Smith, A.
Knightley, Sir R. Smith, F. C.
Knowles, T. Smith, S. G.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Smith, W. H.
Learmonth, A. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Lee, Major V. Spiuks, Mr. Serjeant
Legard, Sir C. Stanhope, hon. E.
Legh, W. J. Stanley, hon. F.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Starkey, L. R.
Leslie, J. Steere, L.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Stewart, M. J.
Lindsay, Lord Storer, G.
Lloyd, T. E. Sturt, H. G.
Lopes, H. C. Sykes, C.
Lopes, Sir M. Talbot, J. G.
Lowther, hon. W. Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Lowther, J. Tennant, R.
Macartney, J. W. E. Thynne, Lord H. F.
MacIver, D. Tollemache, W. F.
Mahon, Viscount Torr, J.
Majendie, L. A. Tremayne, J.
Makins, Colonel Trevor, LordA. E. Hill-
March, Earl of Turnor, E.
Marten, A. G. Vance, J.
Maxwell, Sir W. S. Wait, W. K.
Mellor, T. W. Walker, T. E.
Merewether, C. G. Walpole, hon. F.
Mills, A. Walpole, t. hon. S.
Mills, Sir C. H. Walsh, on. A.
Monckton, hon. G. Welby, W. E.
Montgomerie, R. Wellesley, Captain
Mulholland, J. Wethered, T. O.
Naghten, Lt-Col. Wheelhouse, W. S. J.
Wilmot, Sir H. Yorke, hon. E.
Wolff, Sir H. D. TELLERS.
Woodd, B. T. Dyke, W. H.
Winn, R.
Adam, rt. hon. W. P. Foster, W. H.
Amory, Sir J. H. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Anderson, G. Gladstone, W. H.
Antrobus, Sir E. Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Gourley, E. T.
Backhouse, E. Grey, Earl de
Balfour, Sir G. Grieve, J. J.
Barclay, A. C. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Hankey, T.
Beaumont, Major F. Harcourt, Sir W. V.
Biddulph, M. Harrison, C.
Biggar, J. G. Harrison, J. F.
Brassey, H. A. Hartington, Marq. of
Brassey, T. Havelock, Sir H.
Briggs, W. E. Hayter, A. D.
Bristowe, S. B. Herbert, H. A.
Brocklehurst, W. C. Herschell, F.
Brogden, A. Hill, T. R.
Brown, A. H. Hodgson, K. D.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E. Holland, S.
Bryan, G. L. Holms, J.
Burt, T. Hopwood, C. H.
Cameron, C. Howard, hon. C. W. G.
Campbell -Bannerman, H. Ingram, W. J.
Jackson, H. M.
Carter, R. M. James, Sir H.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. James, W. H.
Cavendish, Lord G. Jenkins, D. J.
Chadwick, D. Jenkins, E.
Childers, rt. hon. H. Johnstone, Sir H.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Kensington, Lord
Clarke, J. C. Kingscote, Colonel
Clifford, C. C. Kinnaird, hon. A. F.
Cole, H. T. Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. E.
Conyngham, Lord F.
Corbett, J. Laing, S.
Cotes, C. C. Lawson, Sir W.
Cowan, J. Leatham, E. A.
Cowen, J. Leeman, G.
Cowper, hon. H. F. Lefevre, G. J. S.
Cross, J. K. Leith, J. F.
Crossley, J. Lloyd, M.
Dalway, M. R. Locke, J.
Davies, D. Lowe, rt. hon. R.
Davies, R. Lush, Dr.
Dilke, Sir C. W. Macdonald, A.
Dillwyn, L. L. Macduff, Viscount
Dixon, G. Macgregor, D.
Dodds, J. Mackintosh, C. F.
Dodson, rt. hon. J. G. M'Arthur, A.
Downing, M'C. M'Arthur, W.
Duff, R. W. M'Laren, D.
Dunbar, J. Maitland, J.
Dundas, J. C. Marling, S. S.
Earp, T. Monck, Sir A. E.
Edwards, H. Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.
Egerton, Adm. hon. F. Moore, A.
Evans, T. W. Morgan, G. O.
Fawcett, H. Morley, S.
Ferguson, R. Mure, Colonel
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Noel, E.
Fitzwilliam, hon. C. W. W. Nolan, Captain
O'Brien, Sir P.
Foljambe, F. J. S. O'Conor, D. M.
Fordyce, W. D. O'Conor Don, The
Forster, Sir C. Palmer, C. M.
Forster, rt. hon. W. E. Peel, A. W.
Pender, J. Swanston, A.
Pennington, F. Tavistock, Marquess of
Perkins, Sir F. Taylor, P. A.
Philips, R. N. Temple, rt. hon. W. Cowper-
Playfair, rt. hon. L.
Potter, T. B. Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-
Price, W. E.
Ralli, P. Trevelyan, G. O.
Ramsay, J. Vivian, A. P.
Rashleigh, Sir C. Vivian, H. H.
Rathbone, W. Waddy, S. D.
Redmond, W. A. Waterlow, Sir S. H.
Reed, E. J. Watkin, Sir E. W.
Russell, Lord A. Weguelin, T. M.
Samuda, J. D'A. Whalley, G. H.
Seely, C. Whitbroad, S.
Shaw, R. Whitwell, J.
Sherriff, A. C. Williams, W.
Simon, Mr. Serjeant Wilson, C.
Sinclair, Sir J. G. T. Yeaman, J.
Smith, E. Young, A. W.
Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Stanton, A. J. TELLERS.
Stuart, Colonel Acland, Sir T. D.
Sullivan, A. M. Mundella, A. J.

House adjourned at Two o'clock.