§ LORD ELCHO,
in rising to move the following Resolutions:—(1.) That the reform of the government of the Metropolis, with a view to its more efficient, uniform, and economical administration, is a question of primary importance, and deserves the early attention of Her Majesty's Government. (2.) That such reform should be based on the establishment of one municipal administration for the whole Metropolis,1785 said, that a few years ago the right hon. Gentleman now President of the Local Government Board said that "London was the best governed city in the world." That declaration, which was made in an after-dinner speech at Willis's Rooms, must, it need hardly be said, be taken cum grano salis. Indeed, it was only necessary to apply certain gauges to it to show that the statement was not correct. He would join issue with the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, and apply to his assertion the test of pure air, the gas and water supply, and the arrangements for extinguishing fires. The tests of good municipal administration were that the air should be made as pure as possible by good sewage and the removal of effluvia and impurities; that the water should be pure and the supply constant, and not intermittent, and sufficient for keeping the streets cleansed. There should also be the ready means of speedily extinguishing fires. There ought, moreover, to be an abundant supply of gas, pure, and at a reasonable price. The streets should be well lighted; the markets should be readily accessible and in convenient localities; the police should be efficient; the poor should be properly taken care of, while vagrancy and mendicity were suppressed; and the houses should be well constructed. Finally, there should be unity of administration and direct representation—that was to say, those who spent the money should be directly responsible to those whose money they spent. Well, it would be well for them to consider how far these great and important objects were carried out under the present system. No doubt, if they compared the present state of the metropolis with what it was in 1855, when the Metropolitan Board of Works was established, a great improvement had been effected. There were at that time no less than 150 local corporations levying rates and tolls. The Metropolitan Board had carried out a great scheme of main drainage, but the Vestries were still responsible for the minor sewers, and there was not sufficient controlling power on the part of the Metropolitan Board to insist on the minor drainage being carried out. There were now 6,000 miles of sewers constructed, but there was still a divided authority. The Thames Conservancy, which made the regulations relating to the river, were a different body from the 1786 Metropolitan Board, and they complained that the outfall of the main drainage had not been placed lower down the river, and that it interfered with the navigation. Last year he put a Question to the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which showed the want of control on the part of that body. In hot and dry weather all macadamized streets had an intolerable smell; and he asked his hon. and gallant Friend whether he would take care that the streets should be properly watered and uniformly cleansed. The hon. and gallant Member replied that the Board had no power to compel the Vestries to wash and cleanse the streets. Take, again, the supply of water. Various Commissions had reported that it was essential that water for drinking purposes should be taken from springs, and not from rivers. They declared that there was no river in England of sufficient length to free the water from the impurities of any sewage that might be poured into it, yet the sewage of 1,000,000 persons entered the Thames above the point from which the water for the supply of the metropolis was taken. Notwithstanding the Report of the Rivers Pollution Commission, the metropolitan water supply was taken from the river, and the system of supply was intermittent instead of being constant. Whenever the supply was intermittent the water must be stored, and the London water waskept for the greater part in open butts, where it contracted impurities very hurtful to health. The poor suffered more than the rich from this system; but, although Manchester and other towns had adopted the system of constant supply, the Metropolitan Board had done nothing to secure it for London. It appeared from the Report of the Metropolitan Board for 1872 that it had abstained from calling upon the water companies to give a constant supply. The question had come before the Committee now sitting on the means provided for the extinction of fire in London, and it appeared that the non-existence of constant supply and of hydrants in London involved three deaths, three cases of personal injury, and three bad fires, to one of each in Manchester, which was provided with hydrants and had a constant supply. It was essential that water should be made immediately accessible for the extinction of fires, 1787 because the difference between obtaining it in five minutes and waiting 15 minutes made all the difference between extinguishing a fire in the building in which it originated, and simply preventing its extension to surrounding structures. Of course hydrants would be of no use without constant supply. If the Metropolitan Board had power to compel the provision of both, why did it not exercise it? and if it had not power, why did it not seek to obtain it? We ought to have in London, in respect both of water for drinking and water for extinguishing fires, advantages equal to those enjoyed by Manchester and other towns. It had been represented that the introduction of constant supply into the whole Metropolis would involve a total cost of £4,000,000; but the experience of Manchester and other towns, as collated by the Committee of the Society of Arts, showed that the cost of the necessary changes need not exceed 10s. a house. He trusted the House would consider that expense ought not to stand in the way of a prime necessity for the health of individuals and the safety of life and property. He trusted the Committee that was considering the question of the extinction of fires would pay some attention to the cognate question of the construction of houses in reference to which the Metropolitan Board was the local authority. In reference to the supply of gas there was no local authority, and it was the opinion of Mr. Fitzjames Stephen and others that in what the Metropolitan Board had done for the benefit of the public it had allowed its zeal to outrun its powers. In winter many streets were ill-lighted when the shops were closed, and recently the pressure was so weak that the lights went out in his own house—an occurrence involving the risk of danger everywhere, through the escape of gas where it was not relighted when the pressure was renewed. The practical action that was first taken, and that resulted in the legislation of 1860 and 1868, was taken at the instance of individual ratepayers; and there was reason to hope that now the amalgamation of gas companies would facilitate the purchase of their works by alocal authority. The Corporation of Manchester made a profit of about £50,000 a-year out of the supply of gas, and had altogether made 1788 a profit of £1,000,000, and this was devoted to the reduction of the rates and the making of local improvements—a fact which should suggest to the ratepayers of the Metropolis not only what they might gain in efficiency of lighting, but what they were losing by the continuance of the companies. As regarded streets, the Metropolitan Board could not make new ones without special Parliamentary authority, which had been obtained for the Northumberland Avenue, the Embankment, and Queen Victoria Street; and the only control the Board had over the Vestries was to prevent them taking up both sides of the streets at once. Subject to this slight control the Vestries could pave them or not, or tear them up as they pleased; and the time usually chosen for covering the macadam streets with metal some inches deep was when Parliament met, and there were more carriage wheels and horses' feet to reduce it to a proper state than there would have been when town was empty. He wondered that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals did not interfere. The greasy condition of the streets, besides being unhealthy, involved a destruction of life greater than that attributed to the car of Juggernaut, for Returns showed that 200 people were killed, and 2,885 persons were maimed in the Metropolis in the course of a year. Statisticians calculated that so long as the streets remained in the same slippery state the destruction of life would be undiminished. But there could be no hope of improvement while there was divided jurisdiction, and they had the Vestries overlapping, interlacing, or antagonistic. Here he had a map of London, showing the different divisions for parochial purposes of the Metropolis. It presented the appearance of a kaleidoscope; Joseph's coat of many colours could not have had more than there were in that map. Perhaps the most objectionable of the City privileges was that relating to the markets. Many years ago medical reform was recommended to the House by the consideration that eminent medical men coming from Edinburgh or Dublin, such as Sir James Simpson or Mr. Corrigan, who practised within seven miles of Charing Cross, would be subject to prosecution. Well, at the present moment, without the sanction of the City, no market could be established 1789 within seven miles of Guildhall, and the effect was to raise the price of provisions and diminish the supply. It was on that account that in walking along the best streets of the West End they were liable to brush against carcasses hanging up at the butchers' shops. Such a sight could not be seen in any other European city, and it was a disgrace to our civilization. The state of our markets was another reason why it was desirable that there should be an improvement in our municipal administration. As regarded the Police, he was far from complaining, but the police were a divided authority. If they were united they would be more efficient, and thieves would be less so. There was no municipal local authority for dealing with the poor. The sturdy beggars and vagrants were turned off the streets, not by the action of any municipal authority but by private societies—the Charity Organization and Mendicity Societies, which were doing a great deal of good in the Metropolis. For building purposes, the Metropolitan Board was the local authority, and their power extended over the City. No doubt there had been a great improvement in the Metropolis in respect of buildings; but there still were what his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) called the "rookeries" in which the poor were left to rot in many parts of London. Their existence supplied a forcible argument in favour of having one municipality. The Act which did so much credit to the Conservative Government, and especially to his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, did not entrust its powers to the local divisions he had shown on the map, the parish vestries, but to a much wider body, the Metropolitan Board of Works; so that the House of Commons was in this matter aiding in getting, so far as it could, unity of administration. He now came to what lay at the foundation of all satisfactory municipal administration. Without unity there must be inefficiency and waste; with unity and control came efficiency and economy. He found from an excellent work by Mr. Firth on Municipal London, that the Metropolis was divided for various purposes in the following manner:—There were 56 separate divisions for the purposes of the Building Act; 39 for local government; 37 for the Metropolitan Board and presentations; 39 for the 1790 Poor Law; 28 for districts of superintendent registrars; 29 for burial boards; 20 for the police force; 16 for district schools; 15 for Militia purposes; 15 for police courts; 10 for school boards; 10 for the boroughs; 10 for the gas companies; 10 postal divisions; 8 for water companies; and 3 separate County Court jurisdictions. As an instance of costliness of administration under the present system, he would compare Marylebone and Westminster. These two districts were about equal in size, and each raised £200,000 a-year from the rates. In Marylebone the borough and the Vestry districts were conterminous; but in Westminster there were five Vestries, five Vestry clerks, and separate sets of officials, as compared with one set of officials and one clerk in Marylebone. The result was that the money was raised in Marylebone at one-third of the cost at which it was raised in the rest of Metropolis. This led to the question of direct representation. There was direct representation in the case of school boards, but not in the case of the Metropolitan Board or local administration generally. That was essential, especially when they considered the enormous sums these local boards had to deal with. For example, the total income of the Metropolis was £15,806,668, and the expenditure £15,117,749. He had seen it stated that the annual loss to the Metropolis for want of better administration was something like £250,000, and if the same management as to gas and water were exercised in London as in Manchester, the saving might be £500,000 per annum. It could not be said that the financial affairs of London were economically administered. In Leeds, Manchester, and Bradford they saw a very high development of municipal government. Liverpool profited by its docks in a way which London did not. Manchester managed gas and water with good results. Leeds and Bradford had, or was about to have, their gas and water in their own hands. They all had direct representation, which showed the wisdom of the Act of 1835, so far as Provincial municipal government was concerned; but from that Act London was excluded. The contrast was not less striking in the case of foreign cities and towns. Every one who had been in Paris must have observed that their system of lighting, paving, and cleansing the streets was 1791 greatly in advance of that which obtained in London. What a contrast did these capitals present in a snowstorm. They all knew how the streets of London might be blocked up for weeks. Paris had hydrants in all directions, an abundant supply of water, and large openings corresponding with good subways, so that as soon as snow fell jets of water were brought to bear, and the result was that the streets were kept clear both of snow and slush. He would next turn to the opinions of public men and the action of Parliament in this matter, and also to the expression of the Press and of public opinion, and it would not be drawn from them that London was the best governed City in the world. He would enunciate, as shortly as possible, what view Parliament and public men had taken of this question. In 1837 the Royal Commissioners of 1835 made a special Report on the Corporation of London, and recommended that there should be one municipal authority for all London. The Corporation undertook then to bring in a Bill to expand its jurisdiction over the whole Metropolis, but never did anything. The Commissioners of 1854 left the City undisturbed, but recommended the division of London into municipal boroughs, each with a local council and, over all the Board of Works. In 1855 they had Sir Benjamin Hall's Bill, which established the Board, but did not adopt the borough municipal boundaries. Next they had Mr. Ayrton's Committees, which proposed a centralization system, ignoring the City Corporation and appointing a Board of Works (the Government having a voice), with control of gas, water, poor law, police, &c. In 1837 Lord John Russell had promised a Bill on this subject, but parties were nearly balanced, and the City threatened opposition. Some years afterwards the City elected Lord John Russell as one of its Members, and the Bill was dropped. In 1856 there was a Police Bill introduced, but Sir George Grey yielded to pressure. In 1858 there was another Government Bill, which was ultimately withdrawn. In 1859, again, a Government Bill was introduced and withdrawn. In 1860 one more Bill was introduced and withdrawn. In 1863 another Police Bill was introduced, but without practical effect. In 1867 and again in 1868 there were the Bills of Mr. Mill, which were withdrawn. There was also the 1792 Bill of Mr. Buxton, which was introduced and read a second time. This brought the question down to the time when he had endeavoured to deal with it. Such were the attempts at legislation on this subject. Then, with reference to the views of public men, they had the strongly-expressed opinions of Lord Russell, Lord Brougham, Sir George Grey, the present Home Secretary, and of Lord Chelmsford, a Conservative Lord Chancellor, who, when he received the Lord Mayor, in 1867, impressed upon him the necessity of moving with the times and the importance of improving municipal government in the Metropolis. He might also refer to the opinions expressed by Lord Chief Baron Kelly, Lord Aberdare, the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole), the present Secretary for War, and the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who gave the reform of the government of London a prominent place in his famous Greenwich address. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), also, at a public dinner of one of the Guilds, lamented the hardness of the fate which condemned him to vestry government on one side of Temple Bar, when on the other side there was a comparatively small population in the enjoyment of excellent municipal government. On that occasion the present Lord Mayor, replying to the toast of his health, said he was no friend of vestries, and he did not believe in the Metropolitan Board of Works, regarding it simply as a vestry in itself; whereas the Corporation of London, he added, had never lagged in the pursuit of social progress, and in that respect it had always been upheld by its ancient Guilds. If the right hon. Gentleman were present he should have claimed his vote in favour of this Motion. On no public question that he knew had there been such an universal consensus of opinion with a view to obtain an improved system of government for the Metropolis. He, therefore, in full confidence, would invite the House to assent to his first Resolution; that this was a question of primary importance and deserved the early attention of Her Majesty's Government. He came now to the second Resolution—that "reform should be based on the establishment of one municipal administration for the 1793 whole Metropolis." It was upon that basis, and on that alone, that we could safely and effectually build; and we must do so now, if it should be necessary to build, like Nehemiah and his followers when restoring Jerusalem, with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other to slay the lions and the giants in the shape of self-interests and abuses which stood in our path. It was a Bill on that basis which he introduced last year. An outcry had been raised against the Bill. It was said that its promoters were making an attack upon the vestries, the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the City Corporation, whose funds they intended to appropriate. Never were charges more unfounded. He did not stand there to say that the vestries had not individually done good work. He did not find fault with the Metropolitan Board of Works, but gave them all honour for the new streets and the noble Embankments which they had created, for the Parks which they had made, and for the open spaces which they had saved for the people of the Metropolis; neither did he stand there to decry in any way the City Corporation in its administration. Far from it. No one more readily than he and those with whom he was acting respected and admired that ancient historic corporation of which we had all, as Londoners and Englishmen, so much reason to be proud. We knew that in early days the office of Lord Mayor was one of almost sovereign authority; but even now, though shorn of much of its ancient dignity and authority, yet Sultans and Suzerains, Princes, Peers, and commoners alike gladly partook of his splendid hospitality; and in such estimation was the office of Lord Mayor of London held abroad that on the occasion of the visit of the last Lord Mayor to Paris he and the Lady Mayoress had an escort of 100 dragoons. Further, we knew how readily the City took the lead in all national subscriptions for the relief of suffering humanity, whether at home or abroad. But whatever might be the estimation in which the City of London was held, whatever might be its merits and defects, as well as those of the Metropolitan Board of Works, of vestries, and other public bodies charged with the administration of the affairs of this vast Metropolis, they were all, as at present constituted, 1794 and with divided authority, incapable of rightly, efficiently, and economically administering the concerns of what would soon be 4,000,000 of men. It was only in unity of authority that efficient local government could be found, and that he sought to obtain by extending the jurisdiction of the City, which now extended over 700 acres only, over the "greater London without," which covered over 78,000 acres. How that should be done, what the exact form of the constitution of such an extended municipality should be, what position in it the Metropolitan Board of Works and other existing administrative bodies should occupy, that was not the time or place to consider, as those were matters of detail which could only be satisfactorily worked out by responsible Ministers in communication with the City and local authority. All he asked the House to do was to affirm the principle of unity of administration in any scheme that might be adopted for the improved local government of the Metropolis. In doing so he was supported by the Report of the Municipal Corporation Commissioners of 1835, by the Registrar General, and by the Metropolitan Board of Works, who in their Report upon Mr. Buxton's Bill in 1869–70 said that they had come to the conclusion that there should be one central municipal government with jurisdiction over the whole of the Metropolis. The Press also had been throughout unanimous that something should be done, and that that something should take the form of unity. The leading journal, when last year's Bill for establishing one municipal government for the whole Metropolis was before the country, said—The first condition of a complete remedy is the creation of a municipality for the whole town. The provisions of Lord Elcho's Bill seem to meet the case very completely, and at the same time to pay all due regard to the very stubborn claims of the vested interests of the old City Corporation. We hope only that the main principle it embodies will be accepted by the great interests which it will affect; that all Londoners will agree heartily in putting an end to the anomaly and inconvenience of the present artificial divisions of power within the single area of the Metropolis; and that the whole of London may thus be at length united into one great municipality—the richest, the most intelligent, and the most powerful in the world—and fitted, therefore, to be, as we may confidently trust it will be, a model to all others.He knew that he should be met by the 1795 argument that by establishing a colossal London they would have an Imperium in Imperio; but this was no new fear. In 1602 Queen Elizabeth issued an edict, when London contained 145,000 inhabitants, that not more than one family should live in a house, and that no more houses should be built in London, because such a great aggregation of human beings could not be constrained to "fear God and honour the Queen." In the time of James a similar edict was issued, and that Monarch added a scientific reason in reference to the maintenance of health; and even at the time of the constitution of the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1855 some people were afraid of the establishment of so great a power in the State. He (Lord Elcho) had no fear of a corporation for London being dangerous to the State. The Paris Commune might be referred to; but his answer was that London was not Paris. No doubt Paris had governed France, but London had not yet governed England, and he did not think that it was likely it would do so. In this country, Birmingham and Manchester, instead of taking their cue from the metropolitan city, flattered themselves that they shaped the policy of the Empire. Further, they had confidence in the good sense and love of order possessed by the people of this country, who had been trained in an atmosphere of municipal and local government, the conduct of which would afford full employment for the energies of the most active and ambitious of its citizens. If the worst came, it must not be forgotten that the police would be under the supreme control of the Government. He thought, therefore, it would be safe gently to re-organize their local administration in the form that appeared best and most effective without fear of the Lord Mayor of the period, however extended his jurisdiction, coming to the House of Commons and substituting his mace for the Royal "bauble" which lay on the Table. He had no means of knowing the course which Her Majesty's Government would take in reference to this question; but as they could not deny the truth of his first, he hoped they would not look with disfavour on his second Resolution. The good and economical local government of the Metropolis and the health of its inhabitants, which might be so cared for as to reduce in a model city the death-rate to eight or 1796 even five per 1,000, were social benefits that should commend themselves to a Conservative Government that had adopted sanitas sanitatum as the key-note of its domestic policy. As far as the present death-rate was concerned he was not quite certain; but, whatever it might be, his general argument that it could be considerably reduced was not affected by the fact. The question was one not merely affecting the health and wellbeing of the millions who resided permanently in London, but of the Sovereign, who possibly might some day again reside in London; of the Peers and Members of the House of Commons who annually assembled in London for the performance of Parliamentary duties; of the many suitors and witnesses who thronged the Law Courts and Parliamentary Committees, and of the thousands of persons whom business or pleasure anually brought to the capital of the British Empire. In the name of all these, and for the credit of Anglo-Saxon municipal administration, he called upon the Prime Minister boldly to grapple with the urgent question of London Local Government. As far as his personal connection with the question was concerned, he could not hope at once to prove successful; but, treading upon ground already broken by Mill and Buxton, he should at any rate possess the satisfaction of having contributed to the ultimate success of the great necessary work in the accomplishment of which they were able pioneers.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the reform of the government of the Metropolis, with a view to its more efficient, uniform, and economical administration, is a question of primary importance, and deserves the early attention of Her Majesty's Government."—(Lord Elcho.)
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Sir, no one can fail to admire the perseverance of the noble Lord, or to appreciate the force of the general principle which he has laid down, but it does not follow that everyone must admire that principle. It might have been hoped that the noble Lord would have shown more sympathy with the spirit which has made the great improvements of London in late years. While one listened to the noble Lord, it seemed more than doubtful whether the Thames had been embanked, and how the other improvements around this 1797 House and other parts of the Metropolis could have been effected. Who could believe that this is the London which the noble Lord describes as the worst governed municipality of anything like the size in the world; could this assertion be consistent with the fact that this great Metropolis is the most peaceful community of the kind in the world? The noble Lord appears to be possessed by the one dominant idea, that there can be no good Government unless the governing body be elected on the principle of direct representation, and be combined on a uniform system. I have had some experience in reference to this matter, for I am the survivor of the Members of this House who took an active part in the passing of the measure for the incorporation of Birmingham. While that Bill was passing through Parliament I became uneasy as to its probable effect, because it was founded upon the system of uniformity of franchise, and upon the principle of direct representation. I have lived to see that measure result in the domination of a single faction. Any one who is acquainted with the Corporation of the City of London and its history must know that it deserves to be considered one of the perennial sources of the spirit of free self-government. The immense variety, nay, the apparent incongruity of the representative system of the London municipalities, secure that all sections of the people shall be represented. I defy the noble Lord to apply the principle of direct representation and of uniformity of election to any large municipality, and to save the Corporation, which he would thus create, from the domination of a single faction, the greatest imperfection that can attach to the organization of any Corporation. I speak with regard to this matter after anxious thought upon this subject, long since brought home to me, and after an experience of some years. That which I admire most in the form of government that has grown up in London—for it is a growth, the produce of the popular intelligence and of the popular will—is the variety of representation it exhibits; the variety of social position and interests which it represents; and again I defy the noble Lord to produce that combination of interests, which is the essence of true representation, by any system of direct representation and uniformity. 1798 In the course of his speech the noble Lord adverted several times to his Bill of last year. I have here an extract from his speech, when introducing it, and, with the permission of the House, I will produce it in justification of the observations I have made. A Bill, not the Bill of the noble Lord, had been circulated. The noble Lord, and I suppose the Asssociation with which he is connected, determined to alter, and, as they thought, improve upon it; and the noble Lord said—What he held himself to be individually responsible for was the Bill as it had since been altered. The changes introduced must render it more acceptable to the Government, to the House, to the Corporation of London, and to the Metropolis in general. They might be stated in a very few words. In the first place, the changes would secure Imperial authority if they created a great united municipal government over 5,000,000 of people. This would be done by giving a veto to the Secretary of State, or to some authority on the part of the Crown, whose approval would be necessary for the appointment of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the Recorder, and the Common Serjeant."—[3 Hansard, ccxxii. 237.]Thus the appointment to all these important offices would have been virtually in the hands of the Secretary of State. This showed little confidence on the part of the noble Lord in the electoral and municipal system he advocated. The noble Lord said—Then, as regards the police, in the Bill as originally drawn they were placed wholly under the control of the Corporation; but it was manifest that the objections urged against this proposal rested on sound grounds, and it was now proposed to do nothing at all in reference to the police, but to leave it to the Secretary of State."—[Ibid.]Here, again, the whole control of the police in the Metropolis was to have been taken from the Corporation under the noble Lord's Bill, notwithstanding their present efficiency, and handed over to the Secretary of State for the Home Department.But (continued the noble Lord) to leave it to the Secretary of State and the House of Commons in Committee to decide how they would deal with the Imperial question of the police of this vast Metropolis."—[Ibid.]Therefore, all that the noble Lord ensured by his Bill was the taking away the control of the police from the Corporation of the City of London, though it is well known and admitted on all hands to be well managed, in order that he 1799 might place it in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Home Department; but so little conscious was he of what regulations might be needed under the altered circumstances, that he left the whole of these undescribed, to be fashioned according to what might be called the chance decisions of this House. I trust, Sir, that the House will decline to enter upon the vast scheme of the noble Lord, and will remain satisfied with the progress London is making in the way of improvement. Every foreigner who has visited London in former years and has returned hither of late admires the extensive changes which have been made and are now making. Some foreigners may, indeed, prefer the municipal constitution of Paris, or of some other Continental city; but the foreigners I have met with express their great satisfaction at the steady progress which has been made in the improvement and adornment of the English capital. Deprive the Corporation of London of its ancient authority and dignity, and, I put this to the House, would the Corporation then occupy a position that would enable it to relieve the Sovereign of the burden of receiving and entertaining the distinguished guests, who visit this country from time to time, in the becoming manner it now does? Moreover, I would ask the House, whether any of us really desire to increase the patronage already possessed by the Ministers of the Crown? Has not the patronage of the Ministers of the Crown already increased to such an extent as to threaten the independence of this House? Is not that patronage still increasing to such a degree that it has become a subject of jealousy to every man who values the Constitution of this country? ["No, no!"] Hon. Members may object; but I venture to say that there is great impatience growing up in the country at this vast increase of patronage; and that, if anything could increase that impatience, it would be the robbing of its patronage, its responsibility, and its independence, such a Corporation as that of London, which has for centuries enjoyed the confidence of the country to such an extent that it is not only the model for, but is becoming the centre of, municipal action throughout the Kingdom. The noble Lord made an attempt to prove that the death-rate of London is high; he blun- 1800 dered in doing so, and when he was told that instead of 30 per 1,000 the death-rate was 10 less, he replied that really it did not matter, as so trivial a difference could not lessen the force of his argument. Why, Sir, the whole ground for legislation, if there be any ground whatever, is based upon sanitary considerations; and I ask the noble Lord whether sanitary measures are not in progress in London? Further, are they not in progress without any violation of those great principles of self-government which constitute so chief an element of the strength of this country? Why do I say that they constitute the strength of this country and of the Empire? Because it is through them that the thought, the intelligence, the will of the nation, throughout all the variety of its social phases, is brought into harmonious action with the Government of the Queen and finds expression in this House. In respect to this question, the noble Lord certainly appears not to be a Conservative. His speech was that of a Radical, and a Radical not of very high type. And when I look at the mechanical character of the means upon which the noble Lord relies for producing an improvement in the municipal government of London, and I remember the great social and political results to which the Corporation of London and its surrounding municipalities have contributed, I cannot help thinking of what was once said by a rival artist of a great portrait painter, but who was deficient in historical power; his rival described him as "a mechanic who was called an artist." In my humble opinion, it is not the function of a Conservative or a Conservative Government rudely to tamper with institutions through which the education, the intellect, and the wealth of the country find expression. But at the present moment we have several Bills before the House too much of that character; two Bills which deal in a somewhat arbitrary spirit with our two great national Universities. We have also a Bill before us to deprive the Justices of the Peace of the care of the prisons both in countries and boroughs. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will think it consistent with their Conservatism, which, if it is worth anything, should preserve the elements which constitute the strength of our Constitution, not to sanction an interruption of the whole- 1801 some improvement, the steady progress of which we witness in London, for the sake of depriving the chief municipality of England of a charge it has so well fulfilled for centuries. Would it, I ask, please the noble Lord the Member for Haddington, in his Imperialistic temper, to deprive the visits of those foreign Potentates who are now from time to time received at the Mansion House of the splendour which accompanies those receptions? Or does the noble Lord wish to add to the burden of the Sovereign by depriving her of the assistance she derives from the Corporation of the City of London in their magnificent hospitality? Would the noble Lord deem it appropriate that some high official should be fitted out to undertake this task, or would he commit it to some nobleman? There are obvious objections to either idea. Let the House remember that mere wealth, without responsibility and authority, could not fit any man or set of men to discharge the functions of such a Corporation as that of the City of London. If mere wealth undertook to offer hospitality to such personages as the City of London receives, its doing so would at once be stamped as inappropriate and impudent. It is the usage of centuries which sanctions the hospitality which the City Corporation tenders through the Lord Mayor to the Sovereigns of Foreign States when they visit this country. I believe that the municipality over which the Lord Mayor presides ought not to be unduly extended beyond its present limits, because, among other reasons, the Lord Mayor might thus become too great a man for England.
SIR JAMES HOGG
said, he rose with a deep sense of responsibility to discuss this subject, when he remembered that the health and happiness of nearly 4,000,000 people depended upon the good government of the Metropolis. He was rather surprised at the prominence given by the noble Lord to a dinner given by him as Chairman of the Board of Works, but he cordially endorsed the assertion made on that occasion by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Sclater-Booth) that London was the best governed city in the world. He asserted, without fear of contradiction, that the works carried out within the last 20 years by the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works would vie with any works of an- 1802 cient or modern time. The noble Lord himself had expressed his approval of some of their efforts—such as the drainage works, the Thames Embankments, the widening of various streets, and the making of new thoroughfares where they were needed. Many hon. Members must recollect the state of the Thames one summer before the Metropolitan Board of Works was constituted, when cartloads of chloride of lime and other disinfectants were thrown into the Thames. Now the sewage of London was carried so far away that it was impossible it could become offensive to the people of London. The noble Lord had referred to the death-rate, which had been reduced to 21 in the 1,000. There might be local considerations which made the mortality of other towns greater; but he belived that the death-rate in Manchester was 30 and in Liverpool 35. The noble Lord had also referred to the system of representation in the Metropolitan Board of Works, and said it ought to be direct. He had been a member of the Board of Works for 10 years, during six of which he had been Chairman, and he would assert that the system of indirect representation to the Metropolitan Board worked remarkably well. The members elected were the ablest and most prominent men in the different Vestries and District Boards, and they came to the Metropolitan Board of Works well acquainted with their work and with the wants of their localities. His noble Friend had referred to the hydrant question, which was now before the Committee upstairs on the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. The reason why the Metropolitan Board had not adopted these hydrants was that they were not prepared to spend £1,000,000 in this way without satisfying themselves that the pipes were of sufficient magnitude and the pressure of water sufficiently great and constant to extinguish fires. These hydrants had, however, been placed in Northumberland Avenue and other new streets, and he trusted that in time they would be introduced into every suitable place. By the Building Act the construction of houses was placed under the regulations of the Metropolitan Board. After some experience of the working of this Act it was found that it contained many defects which it was desirable to amend. He had accordingly brought in a Bill to consolidate and amend the law, 1803 and although he failed to pass it, he trusted that he should before long be able to carry a measure which would improve the law on this subject. His noble Friend had talked of the zeal of the Metropolitan Board having outrun their discretion in the matter of the Gas Companies. The Bill brought in and read a second time had, however, already borne fruit. All the Gas Companies, with few exceptions, on the north side of the Thames had become amalgamated, and negotiations were going on for the amalgamation of the companies on the south side, who had accepted the conditions imposed by the Bill. He did not see how unity of administration or the amalgamation of the Vestries would prevent people being run over in the streets; and as his noble Friend had not given any figures to show how unity would be attended with economy it was impossible to attempt any reply to that part of his speech. He had seen the streets of Paris in a worse condition than those of London, and as to the sewers of Paris they were constructed upon different principles from those of London. Ours were designed to carry off only a limited quantity of effluent water, and the refuse of the streets was not permitted to be swept into them, but it was swept into those of Paris, and the solid matter was carried away in barges and deposited on the banks of the Seine to diminish the risk of inundation. He could not imagine it would be at all agreeable that the contents of the sewers of London should be used to embank the Thames above London. Late at night in the streets of Paris there was often a procession of carts of a most offensive character. If an agitation for the reform of the local government of London had been going on since 1837, if it had enlisted the sympathies of Mr. Mill and Mr. Buxton, and if, after several Bills had been unsuccessfully introduced, the matter could be carried no further than it was by the proposed Resolution, the result would appear to be that the inhabitants of London did not want a change, and in those circumstances it would seem to be better to leave things pretty much as they were, because they satisfied those who lived under the existing conditions. He did not deny the possibility of reforms of a moderate character; but he could not admit the necessity for the sweeping 1804 changes suggested. He must defend those who as vestrymen devoted their time to the public service; and, if in some instances the higher classes did not participate in the work of local management it was entirely their own fault. Any differences in the supply of gas or water depended upon the districts being supplied by one company or another, and not upon the districts being within or beyond municipal jurisdiction, and as to the relation of the Metropolitan Board to the Corporation, he might refer to their harmonious co-operation, on the gas question to show that the jealousies which once existed between them had entirely disappeared, and that they acted together for the public good. His noble Friend had alluded to the Press, and he quoted the observations of the leading journal with reference to his own Bill of last Session. He might also have quoted another celebrated newspaper—he meant The Saturday Review—only a fortnight ago, which was not quite so favourable in its comments. He, on the other hand, might quote the testimony of a leading journal comparing the state of London now with what it was 20 years ago, and showing the obligations under which it lay to the Metropolitan Board. But he did not think it necessary to do so. It was enough to show his noble Friend that the Press was not all on one side upon this question. His noble Friend said the Metropolitan Board were not equal to their work. He maintained that they had proved themselves to be so. It was not correct to say that the Metropolitan Board had not powers over the Vestries as regarded the making of sewers. They had powers over the Vestries in that matter. In case they wanted to make new sewers they must come to the Metropolitan Board for their sanction; and those sewers were always made in connection with the main drainage, which had been entirely confided to the care of the Metropolitan Board. He did not know that there were any other points in his noble Friend's speech which required an answer, and he had only now to thank the House for the kind hearing they had given him.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he could not agree with his noble Friend when he said that the municipality he described would have quite enough to do to prevent them engaging in any- 1805 thing political. Everyone who knew history knew that the City of London had exercised great political influence. That influence had always been exercised on the side of freedom and good government. It was a model for municipal freedom and good government; but when his noble Friend proposed that the police of the whole Metropolis should be under the Secretary of State, that the Chief of the municipality, the Lord Mayor, or other chief officer, should be appointed by the Crown, or with a veto in the Crown—the Recorder and the Common Serjeant being also appointed by the Crown—the municipality would be no municipality at all; it would have no municipal liberties; it would be merely a body subordinate to the Government of the day. It would be very much like the body which governed Paris. The Prefect of the Seine, when he visited London, was complimented as the head of a great and, perhaps, model municipality. But he was not the head of a municipality at all. He was appointed by the Crown. The Lord Mayor under the scheme of his noble Friend would be a Government officer, and instead of a great Corporation intimately connected with the history and liberties of England, a model of self-government, they would have a body under the Minister of the day. His noble Friend did not seem to have realized the immensity of his conception, a municipal body comprising a population of 4,000,000. With a population greater than that of Scotland, equal to that of Belgium, this Municipal Council would be a Parliament in itself; it would have a Minister, a Budget, and the organization which belonged to a kingdom. Such a thing was unexampled in history, and would be so unwieldy it would be impossible to manage it. Without the City of London, there was no doubt that the splendour of this country would be much diminished; because there was no other body which could properly entertain any Potentate whom it was desirable to conciliate, or adequately express the hospitable feelings of the country on important occasions. If those who wished to suppress the City of London would but look at the matter in that light they would see the absurdity of their attempt. His noble Friend seemed to forget that if he succeeded in carrying out his object he would destroy the historic 1806 identity of the Corporation and put in its place a body whose line of action no one could foresee. The new Corporation would probably be very different from the old; he was sure it would not fulfil so well its duties of hospitality and good government. No doubt it would fall under the influence of some democratic faction and become the arena of political contention. Involved in Party strife, it would be drawn away from its proper duties, and in all likelihood become an example to avoid instead of being a model of good government and municipal liberty.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he was anxious before any Member of the Government spoke on the Question to recall the House to what was really the question before it. Hon. Gentlemen naturally considered this matter to be simply a question as to the dignity of the Lord Mayor of London, but they should really remember the statistics of this subject. The inhabitants of municipal London, allowing for the increase that had taken place since the last Census, might possibly amount to some 80,000 persons, and its area one square mile and ten acres. The size of non-municipal London might pretty fairly be reckoned at 3,600,000, and its area at 75,000 acres; and the question was what was the right and proper thing to be done with those 3,600,000 who had no share in the government of London. The question was whether they were now governed in a manner satisfactory to themselves and in accordance with the lights we now possessed on this subject, or whether it was possible to devise something better for them. Putting aside the Corporation of the City of London, to which he wished no harm, let them look at this question as it would confront them and demand consideration if there were no such Corporations in existence. Hon. Members argued as if there was nothing in this country excepting the Corporation of the City of London, the Metropolitan Board of Works, and Vestries, and to forget that this larger portion of London was an exception to the rule which provides for every large town, and even for some very small ones, a particular kind of municipal government established after great deliberation in 1835. The establishment of this system of municipal government he regarded as a larger and more important step than the Reform Bill itself, 1807 and it had worked on the whole with great satisfaction, and great benefit to the people of this country. On what ground of reason or good sense should these 3,600,000 people inhabiting the principal city of the country be excepted from this otherwise general rule of municipal government, and left, so to speak, almost without any municipal government at all? That was the question to which he hoped any Member of the Government who replied would direct his attention, without being led aside from it by a fear of hurting the feelings of the Lord Mayor on the one side, or of the hon. and gallant Gentleman on the other who came forward and represented himself as something like a sovereign over those 3,600,000 who had no other shepherd than himself. The experience of such places as Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and innumerable other places, had established certain rules and principles with regard to municipal government, which rules might be summed up in a single word—"consolidation." The great advantage of municipal government was that it enabled us to get rid of an infinity of small departments, which, being apportioned to look after some particularly small matters, were elected with little care and consideration, and consisted of inferior persons; and that there was established instead one large Board in the form of a municipal council, which undertook the charge of all these small matters, and being elected once for all, every year attracted attention, and was held as important enough to make persons take pains to get the best persons to sit upon it that could be found. No one could doubt that if the duties discharged by the different committees of a Corporation like that of Manchester, for instance, were divided between Boards, for each of which there was a separate election, they would have an inferior set of men to administer affairs than those who were annually elected to such a Corporation, and who, having those duties divided between them, were subject to be over-ruled by the general body if they did anything wrong. Applying the tests he had mentioned to the 3,600,000 persons who lived under the jurisdiction of Vestries, they would find that Vestries had comparatively small powers over small areas, that their election did not attract any consideration, 1808 and that it was not difficult for any fussy and incompetent person, who chose to take the trouble, to place himself in one of these bodies. From the very nature of the case, and the small extent of the area, they were precluded from taking a large and comprehensive view of anything which came before them. There was a constant system of doing and undoing. A road was laid down to be afterwards picked up. Each of these bodies must have a Staff of Assistants to do its work for it. Imagine the waste that went on in having 20 or 30 sets of persons to do the work, where, by having one body, the work would be devised at the fountain-head after the best consideration that could be given. He did not wish to speak disrespectfully of the vestrymen, but the Vestries were generally composed of small tradesmen, to whom money and time were of great importance, who had a narrow education, and who were not fitted to discharge duties of this kind. The affairs of the Metropolis had quite outgrown the system which, prevailed. It was absurd to call the Vestries municipal government; but he thought it was greatly to be wondered at that the system was not worse than it was. They were continually told of the direct election of the Vestries: but the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Sir James Hogg) and his colleagues were elected by Vestries who were appointed nobody knew how or when. To the Vestries elected as he had described were entrusted the municipal functions of the Metropolis. Now, if this was the right principle, why not apply it all over the United Kingdom? Why were not Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Liverpool governed in this manner? Why did little Vestries swarm in the Metropolis? In what respect were the people of the Metropolis inferior to the cities he had named that they should submit to this system of government, which was contrary to English notions and feelings? Why, were 3,600,000 people here to be made an exception to the whole kingdom? That was really the question, and it was a question of the utmost importance, demanding an answer different from any that had been given to it. London had a Thames Conservancy discharging a duty which would belong to the municipality, and a School Board, whose 1809 duties would fall on the municipality, and so on with the Boards for different purposes throughout London, all of which might be concentrated in one municipality with good effect. He had fairly described, he believed, the condition of the outside district of the Metropolis, and if the statement was anything like fair, they could not be surprised that the fruit was very much like the tree. The Board of Works had borrowed £15,000,000 and raised £5,000,000 by taxes, and it would be strange if, having £20,000,000, they did nothing with it; but they illustrated one thing clearly—and that was the source, the system, in which they had their being. He thought that the system under which they were elected was about as bad a form as could be devised by human ingenuity. Yet, in spite of these disadvantages, the Board was able to perform considerable public work and service. Nothing was more remarkable than the want of public spirit and of the power of defending themselves possessed by the 3,600,000 inhabitants of London. If there was any Bill affecting the Metropolis before a Committee of that House, and the City did not oppose, the rest of the Metropolis was absolutely helpless. They could not send Vestries; they could not send the Metropolitan Board; they were continually trampled on in the most ignominious manner because they had no organization by which to assert their rights. There was plenty of political life among them, but the absence of a municipality had produced its natural effect, just as the loss of an organ in the human body led to a corresponding want of energy and sensation; and now there was no body so small or petty which could not trample upon those 3,600,000 people—Point but a rush against Othello's breastAnd he retires.Take the case of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who was the present monarch of this part of Her Majesty's dominions, who told them he had settled the gas question. Well, there was not a town in England that would have submitted to be treated as London submitted to be treated on this gas question. Ever since he had been a householder in the Metropolis—now 25 years—he had found the quality of the gas year by year getting worse. That did not 1810 arise from anything in the nature or production of gas; but because the gas companies had more power in the House of Commons to carry their Bills than all the 3,600,000 inhabitants had, and that because they had no municipal organization to bring against any power. Nothing had struck him more when he had been in the country—at Glasgow and Sheffield, for instance—than the extraordinary beauty and brightness of the gas as compared with the darkness visible of the London gas. He contended that no people who had proper means of representation would have submitted so long to have been trampled upon by a gross monopoly as London had done in connection with her gas supply. Then take the case of water. What was the greatest insult which one human being could offer another? If one man compelled his neighbour to drink his sewage, the latter was put about as low as he could be put. Yet this was precisely the position of most of the inhabitants of London. He enjoyed the blessings of a water supply from the Chelsea Water Company, and could hardly take up a newspaper without reading about the large proportion of animal organisms in the water so supplied to him. This meant that all the towns on the banks of the Thames above the Metropolis were discharging their sewage into the river, and that the people in London were forced to drink the water so defiled. Did anybody believe that if the Metropolis had a proper municipal organization it would be subjected, he would not say to such an insult, but to such a danger and such a disgrace? Yet the people of the first city in the world were subjected to an insult which no decent master would offer to his slave. These were two instances of the want in London of that which all the rest of the large towns enjoyed—representation by a municipal council. The question was what remedy should be applied? It was clear that no case was made out for leaving these 3,600,000 people any longer to the tender mercies of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, or of those of the Vestries. London was not less unanimous, not less wealthy than other cities. It was the fountain head of information, and when it asked to be placed on a level with other cities, it made at least a modest request. But then it was said—"Oh, 1811 London is too large for one municipality. We must split it up." Such a process would be a mere mockery, because the interest throughout the whole town was really one and indivisible. The experiment of allowing such a population to exist without a municipal centre was a most dangerous one. In quiet times, when the people were satisfied, it might do well enough; but if a time of popular tumult and of riots came, wasit not a fearful thing to reflect that here was a population equal to that of a moderate sized Kingdom, with no one to look to for direction and guidance in case of danger? He always felt the greatest apprehension whenever he heard of any great celebration which called the people of London into the streets; for the least accident, or panic, or difficulty, might cause the most dreadful evils, on a scale which could not be contemplated without alarm. The fact that people were at present quiet and well-behaved, was just the reason why precautions should be taken, and why London should now have what all other towns in the Kingdom enjoyed—some municipal form of government, and somebody to be their adviser in case of trouble and danger. This advantage would be entirely lost if the municipality were frittered away into a number of different districts. The interests of all being the same, this would be division merely for the sake of division. Nothing would result from that but jealousies and squabbles between these different municipalities, which would consequently be prevented, from adopting measures that would really tend to benefit the Metropolis. We ought to get the best class of men, who would devote their attention to the noble task of securing and regulating the daily life of so large a portion as 3,600,000 of the human race. Unless we were to confess that everything all over the country in the way of municipal organization was entirely wrong, such an organization as existed in Liverpool, Manchester, andother great towns, ought to be granted to the Metropolis. The case he had made out would not be consistent with the maintenance of the dynasty of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works. It was not necessarily fatal to the continuance of the Corporation of the City of London. It would be for the Corporation to consider whether they would not act wisely 1812 in placing themselves at the head of this great movement, and in occupying the position which they ought to have occupied long ago, instead of confining their attention to a single square mile of ground. It was for the Corporation to consider whether it would not be most wise and dignified to assume this position which would be most worthy of their antecedents. They had done good service to the people in their struggles with the Crown, and they might now inaugurate the cause of the municipal government of the Metropolis. They might consider whether it was right that the large funds, public buildings and property which had been given them by different Sovereigns, partly under the idea that they were giving to the whole Metropolis, and partly because of the foolish dread they had of the increase of the Metropolis, that those large funds should be limited to one single square mile of land. That was for their consideration. He did not speak in antagonism to them; but if they chose to stand apart, it would be for Parliament to consider whether that circumstance should be allowed to stand in the way of granting what was right and just to the rest of the Metropolis. All he urged was that the adoption of this Motion did not pledge the House to any course which was hostile to the Corporation of the City of London; but the inhabitants of the rest of the Metropolis had a right to be placed in the same position with their fellow-subjects in all the other parts of the Kingdom, and to be enabled to manage their own affairs in the same way as they did.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
The noble Lord has taken great interest in this subject, having studied it for some years, and has introduced to me the first Lord Mayor of the new Metropolis in the person of the Duke of Westminster. The first of the noble Lord's Resolutions may be taken in two senses. It may be taken in the sense in which ordinary Parliamentary Resolutions are taken—namely, that the matter is of such importance that the Government should at once take it up. In that sense I do not propose to deal with the first Resolution. But there is another sense in which it may be taken—namely, that Englishmen have a right to grumble over the inconveniences to which they are subjected, and in that sense I agree with the noble Lord. With 1813 respect to the second Resolution, that is a question which cannot be so easily disposed of as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down imagines. The question is not whether things are as perfect as we should like them to be. I grant they are not. None of the arrangements with regard to gas, water, or sewage are perfect. But I think I have heard a great many grumble in the municipalities which have been so much praised. I have heard just the same grumbles about gas, and precisely the same about water, great grumbles about sewage, and still more about a matter which I am surprised has not been raised here—namely, about the rates. And when you talk of taking the water out of the hands of the great companies I must remind the House of two things. In the first place, in almost all the municipalities throughout the length and breadth of the land, the water is in the hands of the companies at the present moment; and in the second, while it is easy to say you will place the management in the hands of a body which will prevent all grumbling, you will have to pay the companies compensation. I will not enter into the question whether it would be wise that one body should have the control of the water supply. It is open to argument. But I say it is not fair to omit the consideration of cost. I would say the same with regard to gas. The gas supply is not, as a general rule, in the hands of corporations. Manchester has made a profit out of it; but in Liverpool and other places the supply is still in the hands of the companies. If at the outset the supply both of water and gas could have been arranged on a regular system, a great amount of money would have been saved and you would have much purer water and gas; and in the same way you would have got a better railway system. But, unfortunately, that is not the way in which we work things in England. We work rather in the dark at first, and then we say it is all wrong and try to put it right. I am far from saying it will not be right to put the water companies or the gas companies under one power; but you must not suppose that you can do this without great expense, which will eventually fall upon the rates; or that you can make such an arrangement at anything like such a cheap rate as if you 1814 had a tabula rasa, and were starting on the most economical principles. I am aware there is a great deal of grumbling about the streets, and I should be glad to see steps taken to put these matters on a more satisfactory footing. But do not suppose it is an easy thing to do; and, although we have heard this great corporation which is proposed praised up to the skies, do not be certain that when you have got it, you will be much nearer perfection than you are at present. The noble Lord quoted from rather a wonderful book which has been published about the administration of London, and amongst the divisions of the Metropolis he mentioned the postal districts. But they have nothing to do with the government of London, and if there is one thing centrally governed it is the Post Office. Therefore, I think it was unwise for the gentleman who wrote the book to mention that as a matter for re-consideration. With regard to the police, that is centrally administered, and I believe the police, as a whole, is satisfactorily managed, and will bear comparison with that of any other municipality in England or Wales. I think I should not be justified at this time of night in going further into details. As to the question of grumbling, I am aware there are reasons for grumbling, and I should be glad to do all in my power to see them removed, but that is another question. In the Motion of the noble Lord you cannot distinguish the grumble from the remedy; and I apprehend that his first Resolution is simply the foreground upon which he wants to take his stand in order to obtain that which he puts in the second place—namely, the formation of one great central authority for the whole of the Metropolis. As the noble Lord brought in a Bill last Session for that purpose, we may take it that it is really the foundation of the whole matter which we have to consider, whether it is wise that there should be one great central authority for the whole of London. Now, upon that there is a great deal more to be said than has been suggested either by the noble Lord or the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The right hon. Gentleman asked what was to become of the 3,600,000 people who could not help themselves, and why were they not put on the same level as the population of our other great towns? 1815 I only want to throw out suggestions; but I would put it to the House that when municipal government is proposed the first question which arises is—Have you a municipality to govern? I do not think we ought rashly to jump to the conclusion that these 3,600,000 people form practically a municipality. London has been well said to be not a town, but a province covered with houses. You cannot compare it with any other city in England or abroad. There is not the same community of interest about it which there is in local municipalities. The people in the East and the people in the West are two different sets, and the people in the North are in like manner different from the people in the South. They have different interests and habits, and do not form one body as in Liverpool or Manchester. In a central authority you must have intimate local knowledge of the interests whom that authority is to represent and govern. If you had one central authority here, and divided London into wards, do you think you would get the same class of people to carry on the municipal government that they have in the other municipal bodies in the kingdom? In such places as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester the aldermen and councilmen are generally men born and bred in the particular locality in which they dwell, and who, though elected for particular wards, know the circumstances of the whole town. Would that be the case in London? It would be extremely difficult to get persons with local knowledge of the whole of the 3,600,000 inhabitants of the Metropolis. This question is not considered now for the first time. We have had a great many schemes brought forward. In the first place, we had the scheme of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Vestries were to be made; there were to be no municipal boroughs, but the Metropolitan Board of Works was to be the supreme authority. That scheme the City naturally would not accept. Then there was what was called Lord Fortescue's scheme, according to which there were to be various bodies which were to undertake different duties—one that of lighting, another the water supply, and so on. There was also the scheme of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), which, at all events, had one 1816 great merit—that of simplicity; but if it had been carried out I do not know what would have become of the City. Then there is the plan of a grand municipal council with subordinate bodies scattered all over London, but to be gathered together now and then. These schemes have been brought forward at various times, and now we have the scheme of the noble Lord. The House should consider practically whether that scheme would work in the case of a population unlike that of other large towns, and without the same knowledge which other populations possess of the municipalities in which they dwell. I would suggest to the House whether in London these two great principles are not wanting—unity of interests and absence of the needful amount of local knowledge. The question is, whether you would not practically destroy the Corporation of the City of London by such a scheme as this. Would the Corporation of the City of London preserve its character if this scheme were carried out? In the local municipalities of England and Wales one thing is observable, that they are becoming more political, and it is unfortunate that municipal elections should be treated politically. That does not exist in the City of London at present. I do not know anything which more detracts from the advantage of municipal government than associating it with politics, and before we make any change in the government of London we must take care that we do not fall into the error of making it political. The City of London possesses some of the most ancient charters and privileges possessed by any body in the kingdom. You cannot suppose that the City of London is going to surrender those charters, and deprive itself of these privileges, but you cannot suppose that you can extend all those rights the City possesses under charters to a larger area. The noble Lord asks what the Government means to do in this matter. I fear the only answer I can give him is, that the Government have not the intention of following the example of a great many of their Predecessors, and of bringing in a Bill and then letting it drop. Certainly they would not follow the example of their Predecessors in that respect. If Her Majesty's Government ever thought this question 1817 ought to be taken up, they would bring in a Bill and endeavour to carry it. The noble Lord referred to the Report of the Commission of 1837. Many other Committees and Commissions have sat since then, and I am surprised that neither the noble Lord nor the right hon. Gentleman have referred more to them. Before the Metropolitan Board was constituted a Commission sat which was composed of men of great eminence—Sir John Patteson, Mr. Labouchere (afterwards Lord Taunton), Mr. Dudley Baxter, and Sir George Cornewall Lewis. They reported that a change of this magnitude would not only alter the whole character of the City Corporation, but defeat the main purpose of municipal institutions. London was, in fact, a province covered with houses, the persons living at its opposite extremities had few interests in common, and minute local knowledge and community of interests would be wanting if the whole of London was placed under a municipal government. This, added the Commissioners, led them to abstain from recommending that the whole of London should be placed under one municipal body without having regard to other considerations, and if any attempts were made to give such an organization at the expense of the City the utility of the present Corporation would be destroyed. This question was considered again in 1861 and 1867, but without practical result. I do not say that the House is to be bound by the Resolutions or Reports of Committees or Commissions; but I do say that it behoves the House earnestly to consider what has been put forward by these bodies, which have carefully and solemnly weighed the matter. Very important evidence was recently given against the plan proposed by the noble Lord. It requires something more than a discussion of three or four hours before we can assent to a measure which would revolutionize the condition of a population approaching 4,000,000—a population larger than that of Scotland and growing near to that of Ireland. The great point to be considered is this—How can you induce the best men in a place to take part in the government of the municipality? I do not think you now get the best men in your Vestries. These are questions well worth discussing. The House ought to consider 1818 what improvements can be made in the existing system, and it should not come hastily to a conclusion on a question like that before us to-night, but pause with grave consideration before assenting to any such changes as are here suggested
§ MR. CHARLEY
said, the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire had very skilfully divided his subject into two parts. That a reform in the government of the Metropolis was needed, few, he thought, would deny. The Metropolis was vestry-ridden. The City, however, was not. It had municipal institutions: he wished to see these municipal institutions extended to the Metropolis, but not in the way which the noble Lord proposed in his second Resolution. He wished to see a distinct municipality established for each of the Parliamentary cities and boroughs of the Metropolis. Hitherto, when Parliamentary and municipal government had existed side by side, they had been as nearly as possible co-extensive, and the boundaries conterminous. But the noble Lord proposed to group, for municipal purposes, towns which were separated for Parliamentary purposes. What constituted the peculiar advantage of preserving our present borough system? Why, that it perpetuated the esprit de corps of the inhabitants of the particular locality. They were united in sympathy, and acted as one individual for their common interests. The vestries of the Metropolis very faintly reflected this esprit de corps in the localities which they represented. But destroy the vestries, and create instead one vast municipality for the Metropolis, and you destroyed this esprit de corps altogether. In his belief, it was their duty, in the best interests of the country, to deepen that feeling—they should try to infuse into each Metropolitan constituency a sense of its individuality, of its interests quâ constituency, municipally as well as Parliamentarily. That could only be done by calling into existence as many municipalities as there were Parliamentary constituencies in the Metropolis. Let them substitute for each vestry a town council. They would thus extend the benefits of municipal self-government throughout the Metropolis, without in the slightest degree interfering with the time-honoured constitution of the Corporation of the City of London.
§ LORD ELCHO
expressed himself satisfied with the admissions made by the Home Secretary and would withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.