§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(The Lord Advocate.)
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he had placed upon the Paper a Motion that the House should resolve itself into a Committee 505 on the Bill on this day three months. He had done so for two reasons—first, he disapproved the second reading of a Bill of this magnitude and importance, in which the people of Scotland felt so deep an interest, being taken at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, contrary, he begged to state, to all the usages and practices of the House of Commons; secondly, he had from the first thought that this was a bad Bill, and one which it would be extremely difficult properly to amend in Committee; therefore he had, immediately after the Whitsuntide holidays, placed his Motion upon the Paper. He found that many hon. Gentlemen who objected to this Bill still rather thought that some amendment of the Poor Law in Scotland was necessary, and that this Bill could after all be rendered a good Bill by alterations in Committee. He wished to say, however, that this was not his opinion. His Parliamentary experience led him to suppose that if the House once went into Committee on the Bill, the Lord Advocate, backed by a powerful Party, and acting on the principle of dividing and conquering, would be able to pass the measure much in its present form. Therefore, he wished to give the House an opportunity of expressing an opinion on the principle of the Bill, by moving that the House should resolve itself into Committee on this day three months. What, he would ask, was the principle of this Bill? Whenever he found in a Bill a clause printed in italics, and proposing that money should be given out of Her Majesty's Treasury, his suspicions were aroused, and he began to think that something was about to be done which could not be done except with a bribe. This was a Bill to confer upon the Board of Supervision powers so arbitrary, so extravagant, and he might almost say so paramount as had never been conferred by the House of Commons on any such body before, the local authorities being called upon to part with nearly all their powers for a miserable mess of pottage in the shape of a paltry grant to medical officers and some payment for medicines for the poor. The House ought to pause before it gave such wonderful powers to a Board which was neither representative nor responsible, whose proceedings were conducted in private, and against whose decisions there was no appeal. He believed that 506 practically this Bill would relieve the landowners of Scotland at the expense of the other members of the community. It was well known that the Board of Supervision was in favour of systems of classification which other classes of taxpayers, not interested in land, believed to be unjust to them. He sincerely trusted that Parliament would not delegate powers to an irresponsible Board against whose decisions there was no appeal. This was his main objection to the Bill, and on this ground he should vote against it, even if he entertained no other objections to it. He did not mean to go in detail into the various clauses of the Bill, but he had placed his Motion on the Paper in order to show his own opinion, and with the view of enabling Scotch Members who were interested in the subject to let the House have the benefit of their opinions; and no doubt they would refer to many points which he would not now dwell upon. He felt very strongly that if the House passed this Bill, which would deprive the local authorities in Scotland of nearly all their power, it would be found difficult to get men of position to act on the Parochial Boards; and this in itself would be a great public loss. Moreover, the Bill proposed virtually to disfranchise the owners of property below £20. Again, auditors were to be appointed by the Board of Supervision, and they were to be paid out of monies to be voted by Parliament. A gentleman who had been for more than 50 years acquainted with the working of the Scotch Poor Law, and who knew more about its working than any Member of that House, stated that applications had been pouring in from medical officers, accountants, and others asking for appointments under the Bill. The regulations under Section 38 would in most parishes in Scotland be wholly unworkable, and the expense of the auditing and book-keeping would be greater than the cost of the maintenance of the paupers. Such was the opinion of the gentleman to whose letter he had been referring. He should very much like to know what was the origin of this Bill. Was it a fact that it had been lying pigeon-holed at the Board of Supervision for a good many years? In his opinion, it was wholly uncalled for. A meeting of the representatives of Scotch parishes had been held in 507 Edinburgh, and without a dissentient voice they had asked the Government to withdraw this Bill. There were no fewer than 13 pages of Amendments to it, and this was a thing almost unprecedented in the history of Scotch legislation. He was by no means saying that the Scotch Poor Law was perfect. In many respects, he admitted, it might be improved—as, for instance, in the direction indicated by the Amendment of which his hon. Friend the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. Barclay) had given Notice—namely, by making the Board of Supervision more representative in its character. Something also might be done to diminish the great expense of the management in Scotland. The Bill of the Government did not, however, propose to make the Board of Supervision more representative, nor did it contain provisions which would diminish the cost of maintenance. He was not aware that any body of persons throughout Scotland had asked for the changes which this Bill would effect. On the contrary, it appeared to him that it was strongly opposed in all parts of the country, and by all classes of the community, and he did feel greatly disappointed that Her Majesty's Government, so far from having dropped it, had given it precedence over other Bills which had been received with favour in Scotland. He wished to take the opinions of Scotch Members on the present Bill, and with this view he begged to move that the House should resolve itself into Committee on that day three months.
§ MR. W. HOLMS,
in seconding the Motion, said, that throughout Scotland a general interest was felt with regard to this Bill, and he had no hesitation in affirming that if it became law it would cause a great amount of dissatisfaction. It was looked upon not as a Bill to improve the administration of the Poor Law of Scotland, but as a Bill to confer greatly extended powers on the Board of Supervision. He would ask hon. Members to consider what this Board of Supervision was. It consisted of nine members, six being ex-officio, of whom two, the Lords Provost of Edinburgh and Glasgow, were gentlemen engaged in business, while at the same time they had to attend to the affairs of the great communities over which they presided, and, therefore, had little or no time to devote to the business of the Board. 508 The same remark applied, perhaps in a higher degree, to the Solicitor General of Scotland, and to the Sheriffs of the three great counties of Ross, Perth, and Ayr. The remaining three members were nominated by the Government. One was the paid chairman, and another, Sir William Gibson-Craig, held the position of Lord Clerk Register, the onerous duties of which office no doubt occupied much of his time. The consequence of the constitution of the Board was—as might be expected—that the attendance of the members was extremely irregular. From a Report which he held in his hand, he found that last year 23 committee meetings were held, and that at none of them more than two members were present. There had been 27 general meetings, and, except on three occasions,—however important the business—there was not more than a quorum. A Member of the House of Commons, who had had a seat at the Board of Supervision for three years, had publicly stated that the whole business of the Board was practically done by the Chairman and the paid secretary. Of the nine members forming the Board seven were lawyers. Their business was conducted with closed doors, and no publicity was given to their proceedings except through the annual Report sent to the Home Secretary. So far as the administration of the Poor Law in England was concerned, a Gentleman directly responsible for it had a seat in the House, but there was no such representative with regard to Scotland. Hitherto, the functions of the Board of Supervision had been to supervise the local boards throughout the country, and to protect the interests of the poor. For this purpose the Board had been armed with most ample powers. It had been empowered to examine, by its members or by deputy, into the management of every parish in Scotland. No additional buildings for the accommodation of the poor could be erected without its approval, and rules and regulations drawn up by a Parochial Board could not be enforced until they had been sanctioned by the Board of Supervision. From the year 1845 till now, the operations of the Board had been watched with very great jealousy. Notwithstanding the amount of work it had to perform, an enormous amount of additional work was thrown upon it by the 509 Public Health Act of 1867, which placed under it the practical supervision of the carrying out of that Act throughout Scotland. The consequence was that in 1874 the Board declared that its secretary was so overworked that he could no longer give his time to the performance of a very important duty—namely, that of acting as arbiter in cases of disputed settlements. It was now proposed to transfer to this small, irresponsible, and over-worked Board, a large amount of executive work which had hitherto been performed by the Parochial Boards. Under the Bill it would rest with the Board of Supervision to judge of the circumstances of a parish, and to decide as to whether additional poorhouse accommodation should be built or not. The Board of Supervision would alone have power to remove inspectors, governors of poorhouses, medical officers, and even matrons. Now, he asked hon. Members, would it not paralyse the efforts of local managers if they were not able to deal with those whom he might term under-servants, in the event of their disobeying orders? Again, it was proposed by this Bill to give the Board of Supervision alone, power to grant to any pauper out-door relief for a longer period than one month. The Bill also enacted that the Board should make rules and regulations for boarding out children. And descending to the minutest details, it further enacted that the Board alone should decide when a pauper might be allowed to go from or return to a poorhouse. He believed that those provisions would prevent any independent man from taking a seat at a Parochial Board. But the Bill went further, for it provided that the Board of Supervision should send auditors to audit the accounts of the Parochial Boards, which, he might observe, were composed of gentlemen who were themselves ratepayers, or the representatives of ratepayers, and who consequently were deeply interested in the economical administration of the affairs of the parish. Moreover, the business of the Parochial Boards was carried on in the most open and public manner. But this was not all. There was a clause in the Bill of a most dangerous character. At present the Board of Supervision had power to make rules and regulations, which were of no avail until they had received the sanction of 510 the Home Secretary; but the 43rd clause of the present Bill gave the Board power to vary or cancel any rules and regulations which had been made, and there was not a word about obtaining the sanction of the Home Secretary to such variations or cancellations. The result would be that the Board might pass rules which would receive the sanction of the Secretary of State, but as soon as they were so sanctioned they might proceed to alter or cancel them as they chose. He did not believe that such powers had ever been given to any Board, and he wished to know why they were to be given to the Board of Supervision? He thought the Government ought to have made some statement about the Bill; but up to the present moment no information had been given. He therefore had looked over the last five annual Reports of the Board of Supervision, in order to find, if possible, what were the reasons which had induced the Government to bring forward this measure, and from those Reports he had come to the conclusion that it could not be alleged that the Bill was rendered necessary on account of the want of sufficient accommodation for the poor, for it appeared from the Reports of the Board of Supervision that the accommodation throughout Scotland was at present available for a population of 2,970,000, leaving only 390,000 unprovided for. In other words, accommodation was already provided for nine-tenths of the population. Again, it could not be said that pauperism was increasing in Scotland, for 10 years ago there were 128,000 paupers, whereas last year the number had been reduced to 105,000. Moreover, he found that while in Scotland, during the last 10 years, the amount of pauperism had been diminished by 18 per cent, it had been reduced during the same period in England by only 9 per cent. It could not be said that the burden of taxation had increased, for in 1865it was 11¼d. per pound of the valution, whereas in 1875 it was only 9½d. It could not be alleged that officials had been injudiciously appointed, for last year, in 886 parishes, the total number of complaints against inspectors, governors of poor-houses, and medical officers, had only been 28. He ventured to think that in no other public department—probably, indeed, in scarcely any private business—had there been so few com- 511 plaints in proportion to the number of employés.It could not be said that Parochial Boards had not done their duty to the poor, for during last year from 105,000 paupers there had only been 244 complaints of inadequate relief, and of these only 28 had been sustained. As to the question of boarding out children, regarding which it was proposed to give the central board full power, the Board of Supervision had themselves stated that not to them, but to the Parochial Boards was the merit due of having thought of the system of boarding out 25 years ago, which they had carried out with "kindness, judgment, and success." Why, then, make a change when the present system had worked so well? In very few instances, indeed, had the Board of Supervision complained of the management of the poor by Parochial Boards, and he could not find any complaint that in even a single instance suggestions made by the Board of Supervision had not been acted upon. It was, however, a remarkable fact that while last year the expenditure on the relief of the poor had been £25,000 less than it was seven years ago, the cost of management—over which the Board of Supervision had considerable control—had been increased £22,000, and it was worthy of remark that 14 per cent of the whole expenditure in Scotland was absorbed for mere management, while in England the proportion was only 12 per cent. He had examined the Report of the Select Committee of 1871, and while he was bound to admit that it contained many recommendations which had been adopted in this Bill, and some of which gave additional powers to the Board of Supervision, he thought that the general conclusion at which they arrived was contained in the following extract from the Report:—Suggestions have been made for giving larger powers to the Board of Supervision, and more especially for making it the final arbiter in all cases of settlement, with the view of saving expenses. Your Committee do not think any advantage is likely to arise from the adoption of such a proposal.The Select Committee were therefore of opinion that no advantage would result from conferring additional powers upon the Board. ["No, no!"] The Parochial Boards did not wish for any change, nor was he aware that it was desired by 512 the people of Scotland. A few weeks ago he had occasion to visit Scotland, and came in contact with men of different political views. He found that there was an indignant feeling at the proposed interference of the Board of Supervision in parochial matters, and a general opinion that men of position and ability would no longer accept seats at Parochial Boards, the duty of which would be simply to obey the Board of Supervision. The result would be that an inferior class of men would manage parochial affairs, and that ultimately even the details of management would devolve on the Board of Supervision, which would be obliged to frame hard-and-fast rules and regulations which might be quite unsuitable for certain localities, or they would have to cover the country with swarms of inspectors to give them information. He admitted that the experience of 30 years showed the necessity for some legislation on such questions as the constitution of Parochial Boards, combination of parishes, and area of chargeability, medical relief, and with regard to the constitution of the Board of Supervision itself; but why should they not have a Bill dealing with such questions introduced on the basis of the legislation of 1845, leaving the local boards to be the initiative and executive body, and the Board of Supervision, as the name implied, to supervise the operations of the local boards? It was for the Government to show, he contended, that in order to amend the Poor Law of Scotland it was necessary to make such a sweeping transfer of power as was now proposed, and also that they were not paying too much for such amendment by a system of centralization, which happily was better known to Continental than to British statesmen. He should be wanting in political courage, if he did not protest against what appeared to him to be a determination on the part of Her Majesty's Government to undermine our local institutions, which had done so much to make the people of this country a self-reliant and law-abiding people. Two years ago, hon. Gentlemen were invited to relieve the local taxpayers as regarded lunatics and police, by a subsidy of £1,250,000 per annum from the Treasury, but the price to be paid was centralization. Again, the other night they were invited by the Home Secretary to accept 513 £390,000 per annum in relief of prison rates, but in this case also the price to be paid was centralization. And now they were asked to submit to a transference of the management of the poor from local boards to a central board sitting in Edinburgh. He would remind hon. Members that one of the greatest difficulties and dangers with which France had to contend in her struggle with Germany, was that during the siege of Paris every city and commune was paralyzed, because they had been accustomed under the French system of centralization to look to the Imperial Government for guidance and direction in the management of their local affairs. For the reasons which he had given, he felt it to be his duty to offer all the opposition in his power to a Bill which, if carried, he was sure would prove detrimental to the interests of Scotland, and would be a distinct advance towards bureaucratic as opposed to local administration.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Baxter,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, that notwithstanding the speeches of the two hon. Gentlemen who had preceded him, he maintained that if some pains were taken to amend this Bill in particular directions in Committee, it would be acceptable to those Gentlemen themselves and to the people of Scotland. There was nothing easier in that House than to find fault with a Government measure, especially a measure dealing with a subject with which so many in that House were conversant. He considered that a strong case was made out for considerable change in the Poor Law system of Scotland. He did not think the Board of Supervision was by any means so bad as it was said to be by the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms). True, in the Return that the hon. Gentleman moved for he found it consisted of nine persons, and, humanly speaking, it was impossible that all these nine 514 persons could attend, seeing that they lived in different parts of the country. In fact, from 1866 to 1876 these members only once attended altogether, and he found that in some years only four were present at several meetings. It was thus impossible for the members of the Board to be all intimately acquainted with what was going on in the deliberations of that body. But he could see no reason why the Board of Supervision could not be made more constitutional and more fairly represented in Parliament than it was. In England they had a representative of a Local Government Board in the House of Commons, and they knew perfectly well in Scotland that it was almost impossible that a Lord Advocate, especially a Lord Advocate with a large practice, could give his whole attention to those more minute matters of administration. It was therefore the more important to Scotland to be represented in that House by some Minister giving his special attention to this and kindred questions. He hoped by any remarks he was making he was not throwing any slight upon the Scotch Representative of the Home Department, for all knew how anxious he was to push on business, and how ably he did so. But it was impossible the Home Secretary could cope with all the details of Scotch as well as English business at one and the same time. It was very easy to find fault with this Bill; but on consideration it would be seen it contained important principles which could not be thrown aside. There were clauses in which there was much that was good, and much that would be found practicable and useful in carrying out the Scotch Poor Law. The great principle of this Bill was its adoption of a more general system of uniformity. Supposing the Board of Supervision to be constituted in a somewhat different manner, and to exercise the supervising influence which it was originally intended that it should exercise, they would have a good system already at work under which the local boards would carry on the same system that had been carried on since 1845, but considerably strengthened by increased powers given to the Board of Supervision. There were other points in the Bill which would meet approbation. One of them had been the subject of agitation by Scotch deputations and 515 Scotch Representatives since this Parliament met. It was a great matter to find that Government had so thoroughly given in to the views of Scotch Members on the question of medical relief, and that they were willing to establish equality in this matter. Another question had been agitated by different deputations coming from Scotland—namely, the superannuation of Poor Law Officers. It always appeared to him a great hardship that under the present Poor Law Act no Parochial Board could make provision for those often most deserving men who had given up the best part of their life's services in the administration in which they were placed. Then, again, there was a valuable provision in this Bill compelling the mother of an illegitimate child to go to the workhouse instead of receiving alimentary aid from the parish. There was a most important clause with respect to boarding out; and another that children should support their parents. There were other clauses stating that no out-door relief should be given in certain circumstances, and that the paupers, and especially the Irish paupers, might appeal against removal. It must not be forgotten that the Government had based this Bill, perhaps too much, on the Reports of that Committee which, he was informed, took two years to its deliberations on this Poor Law question. Almost every proposal in the Bill was founded on that Report. He would only ask hon. Gentlemen to look to the names in that Report. No doubt the House would hear that many hon. Members who served on that Committee had seen after experience that it was wrong in its conclusions. It was strange that these views which they entertained in 1871, were now, when they were on the other side of the House, disapproved of by the same Members. He should be as willing as any Member to assist in Committee in making this Bill a thoroughly satisfactory Bill, not only acceptable to the House but to the people of Scotland, because he was perfectly aware of the utter futility of passing measures through the House which had not the general sanction and approval of those outside the House. It was possible for his side of the House, being the stronger Party, to carry forward this measure; but unless it was amended—and he had Amend- 516 ments to more than one clause himself—he would not pledge himself to vote for the third reading, and he should be quite prepared to vote against the measure unless he considered it generally acceptable to the country.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) began his speech by saying it was very seldom that a Bill as important in principle did not receive full discussion on the second reading; and he would go further, and say that he had never known a Bill which proposed to make such sweeping advances in such a novel and questionable direction, which had been laid before the House, and kept before it till it reached this stage, with such a scanty and miserly exposition of the principles on which it was based. The truth was, the Bill had been introduced to the House as lightly as if it were a Highway Bill concerning a single county, with the consent of all parties concerned, and not a measure for abolishing self-government in one of its most important departments, and that not in a single county or isolated town not fit to conduct its own affairs, but in the most self-governing portion of the European nation. Very different reasons must be given before they could consent, on behalf of those who sent them there to represent them, to make such a sweeping and radical change in the nature of the local bodies of Scotland, and in taking from those local bodies, when they had been so manipulated, all that was essential, all that was weighty, all that was dignified in their functions, in order to entrust those functions to a Board whose proceedings were secret, whose authority was autocratic, and whose constitution, as his hon. Friend next him (Mr. Holms) had shown, was anomalous to the very verge of absurdity. When this Bill was first brought forward there was a universal feeling of uneasiness in Scotland. That feeling showed itself in Petitions, circulars, and memorials, and culminated in a grand deputation to the Lord Advocate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman received that deputation with that courtesy which he always extended to every one who approached him from any public or private motive; but he (Mr. Trevelyan) must allow in this case the courtesy was rather an injury than a benefit to those to 517 whom it was extended, for the result was that it sent them back to their northern homes with the opinion that the right hon. Gentleman who was so kind in his manner could not be so cruel in fact, and with the idea that all the objectionable features of the Bill would be expunged in the second edition. But when the second edition appeared it was evident that the Bill, to all intents and purposes, was precisely the same, and it was astonishing to him that any one who knew the Scotch people—that remarkable people who read Parliamentary Bills with the same eagerness as people of other countries read sensational novels—could have imagined for a moment that changes so slight and so insignificant would have satisfied so general a demand for the withdrawal of the Bill. He would not refer to the conference in Edinburgh except to say that that conference, which was held after this amended Bill was presented to the House, showed the disappointment of the country at the second edition of the Bill to be at least as great as its disapprobation of the first. Of the Parochial Boards which attended that conference or sent down opinions to it, 10 would not offer a distinct opinion; one was in favour of the Bill as a whole, and three were in favour of it in part; while 52 were opposed to it root and branch. He believed he could put new facts before the House which would leave it under the same impression as regarded this Bill as that of the Parochial Boards of Scotland. In the first place, the Bill contained provisions for re-distributing local burdens in property—provisions which would be an immense boon to one class and an immense infliction on another. The President of the English Poor Law Board had introduced a Valuation Bill into the House, and in the third schedule of that Bill he had laid down the very important principle that deductions should be made from the gross rental of certain classes of property. Now, broadly stated, this principle went to assert that there were certain classes of property which were so expensive to keep up that it was only just, in rating that property, to make an abatement. In this schedule to the Valuation Bill, which was actually a Government measure now before the House, 25 per cent was to be deducted from the value of houses, and more than 518 33 per cent from the value of manufactories. This principle was contained in the Poor Law Act of 1845. The 37th section distinctly sanctioned such a deduction, and in consequence of that 37th clause, a large number of towns in Scotland had carried out that principle, and had made large deductions from the valuation of mills, factories, and houses. And then there came the Lord Advocate with a Bill of 19 clauses, by which the 37th section of the Act of 1845 was abolished, and by which all rental was henceforward to be the gross rental—that was to say, the responsible Minister for the Poor Law Department came down to the House, with the concurrence of the Cabinet, and proposed to give the Government sanction to a principle which had had the sanction of the practice of the country for a great many years; and in the same Session and in the same month a Member of the same Government, with an inconsistency such as he had never seen in that House before, called upon Members to declare against the principle in favour of which his Colleague had emphatically pronounced. He was glad to see a Cabinet Minister present (Mr. Cross). He hoped the Government would turn their attention to this Bill, and would not allow a Bill to be introduced which forbade the voluntary adoption of a principle North of the Tweed which they were themselves making universal and compulsory South of it. The suffering which was going to be inflicted on owners of house property was not confined to these cases. There was a more serious matter behind. By Clauses 17 and 18 the Board of Supervision might not only recommend, but might actually impose upon parishes its own notion of the classification of tenants for which rates ought to be levied. Now, what the notion of the Board of Supervision with regard to the classification of tenants was, Scotch people knew only too well. They issued a circular in 1868, the principles enunciated in which had been carried out in a large number of parishes. According to this, the tenant of land was to pay only a fourth or a fifth of what the owner had to pay; and henceforward, if this Bill was passed, no doubt that would be the classification which would be adopted all over Scotland. The result would be that house property, after this Bill had become law, would in some 519 places be charged 56 per cent more than it was charged now, while land would be relieved to the extent of nearly 70 per cent. This was an enormous change. It meant in the case of houses almost confiscation, and in the case of land it went a long way towards exemption; and he thought that hon. Gentlemen who had been accustomed to know how matters were carried on in this country would agree that a change of this gravity should only be carried through by two methods. One was that it should be imposed by the Imperial Parliament, in which every ratepayer in the towns, at any rate, had a voice through his Representative; the other, that it should be imposed by local boards, in which every ratepayer sat in person or by proxy. There was one course remaining by which they might males this great fiscal change, and that was one to which this country was not very partial. It might be imposed by the bureaucratic will of a central board. This was the course which the right hon. Gentleman had chosen to adopt. But the interference of the Government was carried on in much more serious matters than local taxation. The Board of Supervision was, according to this Bill, to have a paramount influence in arranging the election of these Parochial Boards, which were the head and front of our local government. The great body of the owners, the people who at present were the rank and file and the strength of the Parochial Boards, were no longer to sit on the boards, but were to elect so many of their number as from time to time might be fixed by the Board of Supervision. This was disfranchisement of the most wholesale description, and disfranchisement, let him say, of an exceedingly humiliating and invidious description. To be deprived of one's franchise by the will of Parliament or by the election of a Judge was a very serious matter; but it was a very much more serious matter to have one's privilege and franchise dependent upon the will of an invisible salaried official—an official who was appointed, not by the voice of the people, but by the Central Government, and it was a still more serious thing that such an extraordinary invasion of the rights of Britons should be introduced by a right hon. Gentleman who was a Member of the Government which extended household suffrage to the 520 dwellers in towns. It was a matter of very great regret that the influence of the householders and the owners of house property should be diminished on these boards at a time when they were going to pay such a very much larger share of the local rates, and the holders of land should have so much greater influence when they were going to pay so much less to the parish. We had here a Bill which would add to the value of land 5 or 10 percent in certain parishes. The same Bill which gave this great addition to the value of land gave a seat to every landowner of any importance, and immensely diminished the influence on those boards of those people who were to pay a so much larger part of the local burdens. He believed that this Bill had been truthfully described as a piece of unmitigated class legislation. It would be rejected by all burgh Members, whose constituents it injured, and he firmly believed it would be repudiated by a good many county Members, whose interests it so unduly and inequitably favoured. Clause 40 took out of the hands of the Parochial Boards the power of appointing certain officials. These were henceforward not to be trusted servants of their true masters, the people who paid them their salaries; they were to be instruments of a central board, which would be able to exercise its influence throughout the length and breadth of Scotland by means of officials who were dependent on it for their bread. By this clause would be destroyed that confidence which ought to exist between employer and employed, and the officials of the Poor Law would be more and more placed under the most grievous temptation to thwart their employers of the Parochial Board at every turn, because some one who lived in Edinburgh had theories upon Poor Law questions which he had determined to force down the throats of the local bodies. Then came another set of clauses—36 to 38—which gave the appointment of auditors to the Board of Supervision, and the Bill allowed the Board to lay down the rules under which the audit was to be conducted. By means of those auditors the Board of Supervision would acquire over the local boards themselves very much the same sort of hold as that which another clause gave them over the officers of the local boards. They had heard a great deal 521 about the members of local boards being obliged from time to time to have interviews with Ministers and Members of Parliament. That was a grievance which he allowed the Bill would at once remove. He should like to see the face of a Government auditor called upon to audit the expenses of a deputation sent to London to protest against the policy of the board upon which he was dependent for his official existence. By Clause 25 the Parochial Board could not even make a request for a pauper without the risk of its being disallowed. By Clause 26, a Parochial Board really lost the power of transferring the paupers from parish to parish on its judgment. The utmost it was allowed to do was that while awaiting the fiat of the Board of Supervision, it could allow "such person such interim allowance as might be required." Then came the great question of out-door and in-door relief, and connected with that subject was the other great question of boarding out pauper children. That was a question too high for the limited intellect of Scotland, and it must be left to the Board of Supervision to discuss. A few collectors to get in the rates, and a few clerks to arrange the accounts, would be far better instruments for the Board of Supervision than those parochial bodies which were to be so elaborately elected. He would venture to say that no man with self-respect, no man who thoroughly understood the interests of his locality, and keenly sympathized with its feelings, would consent to sit on a board at which his opinions on any local matter, however important, would simply go for nothing, unless those opinions happened to coincide with the stereotyped notions of a board sitting 150 miles off. How was the Board of Supervision constituted? It was constituted by a paid chairman and a paid secretary, the Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Solicitor General of the Government for the time being, three Sheriffs of counties, who got £100 a-year, and one or two gentlemen who had obtained such very great celebrity in other departments of life that he thought he might fairly describe them as ornamental members. That was the Board of Supervision. It was a Board which was to eat up all the local boards as Pharaoh's rod ate up all the other rods—a board which had no merit of constitution except its omnivorous powers 522 of digestion. He would just ask English Members what they would think if the President of the Local Government Board was to come down to the House and propose to give over the assessment, the levying, the disbursement, the auditing of all local rates, and the entire management of the Poor Law System to a board composed of one of the Law Officers of the Government, the Lord Mayors of London and York, Sir Henry Maine, Mr. Milner Gibson, and the County Court Judges of Kent, Cheshire, and Cambridgeshire? He might fairly ask the English hon. Members to put themselves in the place of the Scotch Members, and to remember that all that was done in order to increase the power of a body for whose farcical constitution they were called upon to immolate the self-government of Scotland, and to sacrifice much that was best in the spirit of the Scotch institutions and the character of the Scotch people.
§ SIR GRAHAM MONTGOMERY
could answer the question that had been put as to the origin of the Bill. Who was it that first proposed a Committee of Investigation into the management of Poor Law in Scotland? Why, an hon. Member who sat opposite—the then Member for the Ayr Burghs (Mr. E. Craufurd). He took great interest in the matter, and he was very much dissatisfied with the Scotch Law. The consequence was that he persuaded the House to grant him a Committee of Inquiry into the whole management of the Scotch Poor Law, and the hon. Member obtained the Committee. Before it was collected an immense amount of valuable evidence in reference to the management of the Scotch Poor Law. He supposed some Members had never read the evidence of that Committee; but if they would only do so, they would find that there was not a single clause in the Bill which had not the recommendation of that Select Committee to support it. In fact, he was satisfied that there was hardly a single thing in the Bill which had not been recommended by the Select Committee of 1871. He said that after having examined the recommendations of the Committee, and after having gone over the clauses seriatim. Had not the people of Scotland long been clamouring for a fair share of grant for medical relief? Did not the Bill propose to give what they had been asking for, and was 523 not that one point to recommend the Bill to the favourable consideration of the House? Every Parochial Board in Scotland for the future would have the means of using a test. A good deal had been said about the constitution of the Board of Supervision. He did not pretend to say that the constitution of the Board was as perfect as it might be; but it was not the first time that the constitution of the Board had been found fault with in the House. It was a common custom, particularly on the opposite side of the House, to find fault not only with the Board of Supervision, but with, all the Boards in Scotland. So much at one time was said on the subject that at last the Treasury resolved to get at the bottom of the dislike to them, and they appointed the Commission which was so ably presided over by the Earl of Camperdown. That Commission went to Scotland and made inquiries. They investigated, for instance, the conduct of the Board of Supervision, and if any hon. Member would read the Report of the Commission on the point of the management of the Board of Supervision, he would find that their management was highly commended. It was said the Bill was going to give powers to the Board which they ought not to have. He was not aware exactly what the powers of the Local Government Board in England were; but he had been told that there was no power given to the Board in Scotland which the Local Government Board did not possess at that moment. If that were so, he could not see why hon. Members should declaim so much against the powers proposed to be given. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) took exception to the 32nd and 45th clauses, and he blamed the Government for allowing the system of valuation to be altered. The question of a difference in the systems of England and Scotland was nothing new. Why, he had heard of it in the House for the last 15 years. They knew that in England the valuation was not a gross valuation; there were reductions made. But the system in Scotland was different for every rate except the poor rate, which was assessed on the gross. His hon. Friend had found fault with classification; but if they were to have a gross valuation it was quite fair there should be a classification. The Board of Supervision had hitherto regu- 524 lated the classification of parishes in Scotland, and he had never heard anyone complain of their proceedings in that matter. As to himself, he was not afraid to entrust them with that important power, and he felt quite sure that they would so arrange the different classes of property as to make the rate much fairer than it was at that moment. The Bill, in his opinion, would improve the Poor Law administration in Scotland to a great degree. He, for one, had no jealousy of the Board of Supervision. He believed no Board was better managed, and it would be safe for the House to entrust it with the powers contained in the Bill.
MR. GRANT DUFF
said, he did not wish to re-traverse the ground that had been traversed by his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Baxter), and others who had ably supported him on that side of the House. At the same time he did not wish to give a quite silent vote, for he really did not remember any Bill for a long time past that had called for such strong disapprobation in the district of burghs which he had the honour to represent. When he first looked at it he hoped that it might go through the usual routine of Scotch Bills—that was, that they should correspond with their constituents, discuss it in the Lobby, communicate privately with the Lord Advocate, possibly have a meeting of Scotch Members, and so gradually arrive at some sort of modus vivendi, so to speak, with those who introduced it. When, however, he had corresponded with his constituents, and had looked further into the Bill, he saw all hope of an agreement vanish away. Unless the right hon. Gentleman opposite would consent to strike out those clauses which gave so great an increase of power to the Board of Supervision at the expense of the Parochial Boards, and unless he would consent to strike out the provisions which conferred advantages on land at the expense of house property, it was idle to imagine that they could come to any understanding with him. He (Mr. Grant Duff) was sure that was the general feeling of the Members for Scotland who sat on that side. Well, if that was so, what was the position? They were not in Committee, yet this was the 27th of June. There were 19 pages of the Bill, and 13 pages of Amendments. What chance was there of the Bill becoming 525 law that Session? Would not the right hon. Gentleman consult his own interest and the interest of the Government if he withdrew the Bill, with the intention of bringing in another, next Session, embodying what good clauses there were in this, and adding others to carry into effect necessary reforms? Would he not thereby give some Scotch Bills, about which they might agree, a better chance of being pushed forward? He made that suggestion in the interest of Public Business generally, though of Scotch Business in particular, and he trusted it might meet with some favour at the hands of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. ORR EWING
said, that until he saw the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill on the Paper, he was not aware that there existed in any part of Scotland any objection to the principle of the Bill. There had not been any Petition from any part of Scotland against it, and he understood that a feeling the reverse of that existed. There was no talent so commanding as that which could make the worse appear the better cause; but he hoped the eloquence of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) would not have such influence in the House as to lead it to the conclusion which he desired hon. Members should arrive at. A greater misrepresentation of the objects of the Bill than that contained in the hon. Member's speech was never laid before the attention of the House. Had he been a Member of the Committee which had sat for three years on the Bill, or had he been a Scotchman conversant with the management of parochial matters, he never would have made such statements as those which he had indulged in. He (Mr. Orr Ewing) could hardly believe his understanding while he listened to him. The hon. Member had spoken of class legislation, and of the doing away with the liberties of self-government. Where was the class legislation? He said taxation on land would be reduced 70 per cent, and the taxation of houses raised 60 per cent. He (Mr. Orr Ewing) was interested both in land and houses; but he was far more interested in houses than in land, and if there was one atom of truth in the statement he would be an opponent of the Bill not only on his own account, but on behalf of others. The statement had been repeated by another hon. Member opposite who had not the 526 same apology as the hon. Member for the Border Burghs, for he was familiar with Scotch business. He only hoped when they got into Committee on the Bill that both hon. Members would be able to substantiate their statements, and if they did so, he, for one, would give them his support. The only reason brought forward by the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) against the Bill was that there was no chance of taxation being lessened by it. He had also said that the Bill ought to be laid aside, and that the Roads Bill should be passed in its place. That reminded him of their Irish Friends, who the other night would not allow the Judicature Bill to pass, because they wished for some promise in regard to another Bill. But Scotchmen had so far received credit for the way in which they had conducted their business in the House, and he hoped they would continue to deserve that credit. Was the right hon. Member for Montrose familiar with the Report of the Committee? Why, every clause in this Bill for the alteration of the present Poor Law had been recommended by the Committee. He objected to the 37th clause—that had been recommended, and he hoped it would be carried. Nothing was more difficult to make than the reductions from the gross valuation; but it could be thoroughly insured by the classification which was embraced in the Bill. He hoped both Englishmen and Irishmen would see the advantage of the system, and that they would rather imitate Scotland in that respect than that she should follow them. A great deal had been said about the Board of Supervision, and the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms) had declared that it was composed of a body of men who had no time to attend to the duties of the Board, and that the members who met were very small in numbers. But in reply to that, he would say that he was not aware that a small committee was a bad way of getting through business. Although the legal gentlemen might not always attend the committee meetings, all the papers, whenever a legal point was raised, were sent to their houses, and there was the advantage of their opinion being given on every legal case. The Select Committee appointed to investigate the affairs of the Boards in Scotland was proposed by the then hon. Member for the Ayr 527 Burghs (Mr. E. Craufurd), because he believed that the Board of Supervision was essentially bad. That Committee was appointed to curse the Board, and it ended by blessing it, and recommending those alterations in the law which were now carried out by the present Bill. He did not object to the Parochial Boards naming the auditors, and for the Board of Supervision to approve of them. While they were getting money from Government, it was necessary that the Government should see that the money was properly expended. That could not be done without a proper audit. He hoped, in conclusion, that the discussion would not be prolonged, and he mentioned that he was prepared to support some Amendments in Committee.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that having been a Member of the Committee which had been so often alluded to, he was not only quite willing to acknowledge the necessity for some Bill being introduced, but had even intimated to his own constituents his intention of making some attempt to complete the work of that Committee which Mr. Craufurd had so zealously attempted, and he was therefore much pleased when he found that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had brought in a measure which, to a certain extent, followed the lines of the Report of that Committee. There were many reasons why such a Bill was necessary; but he did not think that they need discuss them now. They did not need to go back to show the necessity for this Bill further than the present Session, in which they had been discussing a Bill for the amendment of the Poor Law in England, especially in regard to the disputed point of settlement. But for that alone a Bill would be necessary. When, however, he came to the question of the qualities of the particular Bill which the Lord Advocate had brought in, he confessed that he was obliged to condemn it. It appeared to him that while the right hon. and learned Gentleman had followed the lines of the Report of the Committee, he had done so in all the bad and illiberal points, and had failed to follow them in a great many of their best suggestions. For instance, the abolition of all exemptions from the payment of poor rates, except for inability to pay, was a most valuable recommendation, 528 but the Lord Advocate had not adopted it. Another recommendation was the abolition of all mandates for Parochial Boards. At present every landlord being a member of a Parochial Board, if he was not able to be present and attend to the duties and deliberations of that body, was allowed to write out a mandate by which somebody else could vote for him. That was a great abuse in the constitution of Parochial Boards which was strongly pointed out by the Committee; but the Lord Advocate had entirely failed to deal with that matter. Another abuse was the existence of ex-officio members of Parochial Boards, such as kirk-sessions, clergymen, and town councillors, who perhaps were not even themselves payers of poor rates, and who were present as ex-officio members of those Boards. The abolition of these had been recommended. He need not now enter into a discussion of the details of the Bill. There were many points in which, of course, it might be improved when they got into Committee; but there were some others in which he was afraid they could hardly hope it could be improved. The constitution of the Boards in rural parishes was certainly very bad and very illiberal, and he feared that it would be impossible to introduce any great change for the better in this Bill. Then the Parochial Boards would be robbed of very much of their power by this Bill, while the Board of Supervision would undoubtedly have too much authority. The Government were actually giving the Board of Supervision the power to make such rules for the management of poor-houses as would practically convert them into prisons, and make the paupers into criminals. He thought that provision could not be too strongly condemned. He had entertained hopes, when the Lord Advocate moved for the re-committal of this Bill pro formâ in order to its being re-printed with Amendments, that there might have been some improvements introduced. A large number of Amendments had been placed on the Paper by hon. Members, and he had hoped some of them would have been accepted; but when the Bill had been reprinted it was found that scarcely one had been introduced, and that all that were introduced were those of the Lord Advocate himself. Certainly that mode of dealing with the Amend- 529 ments on the Bill had taken from him all confidence and hope that they would be able to make a good measure of it. Previous to that, he did think that something might be done to improve it. Much had been said about the Board of Supervision. He had not himself proposed any change in the Board of Supervision, and he was bound to admit that what the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr Ewing) had said in defence of that Board was certainly borne out by the evidence before the Committee. There was, however, great difference of opinion on the subject. The hon. Member for the Wigton Burghs (Mr. Mark Stewart) had condemned the Board of Supervision, and had said that it might be amended in Committee; but he did not see that the hon. Member had put down any Amendments for the purpose of amending the constitution of that Board. He (Mr. Anderson) would only say further at present, that unless the Lord Advocate held out very considerable expectations that improvements would be made in the Bill in Committee, he should feel obliged to vote with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter).
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that he had been asked by the right hon. Gentleman who had moved that this Bill should not be committed, what was the necessity for its being introduced at all. Now, the necessity arose out of a Report made by a Committee of the House of Commons, who sat for three years, and went at very considerable length into all the questions connected with the administration of the Poor Law in Scotland. He regretted much that the House had not had the benefit of hearing some observations from Gentlemen who were still Members of the House, and who reported in favour of the Committee's Resolutions; but he hoped that they should still have the opportunity of hearing the evidence of those hon. Members with regard to the recommendations of this Committee. But he might say with regard to what had been represented as one of the leading questions connected with this Bill—namely, the enlargement of the powers of the Board of Supervision—that the Committee went into the examination of the subject with probably a feeling rather opposed to the mode of administration by the Board of Supervision; 530 but the result was that they reported strongly in favour of the Board of Supervision having properly administered the powers intrusted to them by the Act of 1845. He would ask the House to bear in mind that this Board of Supervision had been in existence from 1845 down to the present time, and he was not aware of any case in which there had been any charge of abuse made against them with reference to the manner in which they had administered their power since 1845. As the Committee expressed their opinion, Scotland was very fortunate in having first at the head of the Board Sir John M'Neill, who ably administered affairs; and since then they had had a gentleman who was secretary of the Board during the greater part of Sir John's tenure of office, and who, he ventured to say, had in like manner administered the affairs of the Board in such a way that he was not aware of a single case of any charge having been made of abuse or misuse of power on his part. The Committee reported that—The general evidence with, regard to the Board of Supervision was favourable to its constitution and to the influence which it had in the management of the Poor Law.It was important to notice that even those who found most fault with the action of the Board of Supervision admitted the necessity of some central authority to secure uniformity in the administration of the law. As at present constituted, the Board of Supervision had no power of initiation. It acted only upon the motion of the Parochial Board or complaint of a pauper. Its powers were of a negative and not of an active character. The Committee went on to say that—Suggestions have been made for giving larger powers to the Board, and more especially for making it a final arbiter in all cases of settlement with a view of saving law expenses. Your Committee do not think that any advantage is likely to accrue from adopting such a proposal, and they entertain serious doubts whether it would really have the effect of diminishing the legal expenses. The Secretary of the Board does now act as arbiter by consent in cases of settlement, where the parties can agree as to the facts. This practice your Committee think might be advantageously made part of the statutory duty of the Board.That was the passage to which the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. W. Holms) referred when he said that the Committee 531 were unfavourable to an enlargement of the power of the Board of Supervision of acting judicially in cases of disputed settlement. The Committee went on to say that—On the whole, the action of the Board of Supervision appears to have secured a considerable amount of uniformity in the administration of the law, but it has no power to vary or recall any minutes either under the 60th or 74th section of the Act, and your Committee think that in this respect the power of the Board should be increased, and that still greater uniformity and an additional check on expenditure might be obtained by means of more frequent inspection by the superintendents, coupled with an efficient system of audit.It was in accordance with that recommendation of the Committee that the power was given to the Board of Supervision to cancel or vary any minute, and the hon. Member for Paisley could not but remember that he himself put down an Amendment to the clause in the Bill requiring the consent of the Secretary of State before any minute was cancelled. He (the Lord Advocate) had no hesitation in saying that such an Amendment as that would not be regarded as hostile to the Bill. The Committee reported in favour of certain matters, and one matter upon which they reported was that there were not sufficient powers given for medical relief in Scotland. Cases of hardship were brought before the Committee showing that really the administration of medical relief was in a very unhappy state in Scotland. For instance, a miserable dole was given to a medical man who was employed in looking after the paupers of the parish. There was no proper provision made for medical relief, and in some cases it turned out that medical men upon whom the burden of attending parties had been imposed had eased the burdens affecting parties who were not properly objects of parochial relief. It therefore became necessary that there should be an increased amount of medical relief, and so essential was this considered by the Poor Law authorities in Scotland, that in the beginning of this year they were inundated by deputations and Petitions, all asking for an increased amount of medical relief, and that they should be placed upon the same footing as England with reference to that matter. Well, when the Government came to consider the matter, they felt that there was a claim for increased relief as regarded 532 medical appliances, and that not merely in justice to the ratepayers, but in the interest of the poor themselves, because it had been found in England, and more particularly in Ireland, that where there were proper provisions made for medical relief, there the parties who were paupers not only had their condition very much alleviated but the result was that the burdens of the ratepayers became less by reason of the utter prostration which would result from their being neglected having been prevented. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, having applied his mind to the matter, said—Here is a Report by the Poor Law Committee appointed to consider this very matter. They make certain recommendations, and we think they should be carried out.Accordingly the Government did adopt the recommendations of the Committee; and if hon. Members would take the trouble to read their Report, they would find that almost all the provisions in this Bill were founded upon the recommendations contained in the Report of the Committee. In fact, there was little or no discretion left to the Government. What he wished the House to bear in mind was that it was a very strong Committee, consisting of about 21 Members, and the result was an almost unanimous approval on their part of the Report that was drawn up. Under these circumstances, what were those entrusted with the preparation of a Bill relating to the administration of the Poor Laws in Scotland to do? Were they not to be guided by the recommendations of such a Committee, and to draw up a Bill upon the lines of its Report? And this was what they had done. He did not hear anything said with reference to the provisions of the Bill, except in so far as it was said to increase the powers of the Board of Supervision. Now, a certain amount of jealousy would always exist in regard to a body which had certain controlling powers over smaller bodies; but there had not been a single suggestion made of an abuse of these powers having taken place at any time. It was necessary that there should be some central body in whom should be vested the administration of the Poor Laws. Such a body existed both in England and Ireland. It was quite true that the President of the Local Government Board had sat in that House; but the 533 Home Secretary was the person to whom the Board of Supervision reported their proceedings, and the Home Secretary had power to control the Board of Supervision. He ventured to think that there was no difficulty whatever in getting information as to the proceedings of that Board. Since he had held his present office, although not truly a member of the Board of Supervision, he had questions frequently put to him with reference to the proceedings of the Board of Supervision, and he was not aware that there had been any difficulty in obtaining an answer to these questions. He thought that the Bill was framed in the right direction, and it embodied the most important recommendations of the Committee. With regard to mandates, one of the provisions of the Bill of which complaint had been made had been introduced with a view to put an end to the system of mandates. As to the Amendments which had been put upon the Paper, he certainly should not offer any obstruction to many of them, and especially to one which had reference to the power of the Board of Supervision to dismiss the matron or master of the workhouse. That was a matter capable of adjustment. The same power existed in Ireland, and he did not think that it should be taken as one of the principles of the Bill. It was very desirable that they should go into Committee on the Bill, and the sooner that they did so now the better.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that he was going to respond to the appeal which had been made to him as one of the Members of the late Committee by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate to say a word on behalf of the Bill; but, at the same time, he must demur to the statement with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman commenced his speech, and the commentary by which he followed it up, that the necessity for this Bill arose out of the recommendations of the Committee. It was true that the Committee made certain recommendations; but he had yet to learn that it was a matter of necessity for the House of Commons or for any Government to take up the recommendations made in the Report laid upon the Table of the House. If there was any necessity for this Bill, it must be rested upon 534 the soundness of those recommendations, the accuracy of the facts upon which they were based; and the judgment and the responsibility with regard to that must rest with Her Majesty's Government and with the House. He said this particularly, because he declined to get up and defend every clause of this Bill upon its merits, because in reality the Report of the Committee arose very much out of a compromise. He thought that it would be unjust to the Committee, under such circumstances, to expect them to be answerable for every word and line of their Report with regard to the main provisions. However, he was quite prepared to take as much of the responsibility as his right hon. and learned Friend chose to take upon himself. He thought that if there was any necessity for this Bill it arose out of the state of things at present existing in Scotland. The Poor Law was administered in such a narrow manner that the country was scandalized with it; but the question now was whether in this Bill they had not run a little too much into the other direction. He rather thought they had. With regard to the system of mandates he should be glad to see it abolished. With respect to management he did not think it desirable to divorce from it entirely the occupant of the soil, for he regarded that as one of the most important elements of the system. With reference to rating, there could be no doubt that the proposal of the Government to pursue the system of deduction was inconsistent with the English law upon the subject, as indeed it was inconsistent with the general principles of the Scotch law also. These, however, were all matters which might very properly be reserved for discussion and arrangement in Committee. An attempt had been made to throw odium on the Board of Supervision in reference to its composition, and no doubt there were grounds for some of the objections which had been urged in that respect, but he could not agree with all of those objections. Something had been said about the Sheriffs; but it was impossible to say that these gentlemen, paid officers of the State, did not do their duty, and were not to be depended upon in any matter of public importance with which they might be intrusted. As to the odium which had been excited in regard to the in- 535 creased powers of the Board of Supervision, the fact was that the Select Committee made no recommendation on the subject. The truth was that the whole question turned on this—whether the House was prepared or not to adopt any additional regulations with regard to out-door relief, and to introduce any changes to remedy the admitted defects of the system as it now existed. For his own part, he believed that the result of the proposals of the Government would be to secure more, instead of to bring about less, independence than there was under the present system. Everything depended on the extent to which the powers of supervision established by the Bill were under regulation; and whatever decision the House might arrive at, he trusted that neither the House nor the Government would err on the other side, and give too much power to the local bodies, for he held it to be a sound principle of local parochial management that these should be under a certain amount of control at all events. There must be some regulations as to administration, and he did not know any other or better way of securing the object in view than by an efficient system of inspection and audit. Holding these opinions, he thought that the Bill was well worth the consideration of the House, and trusted that the House would allow the measure to go into Committee.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.