HC Deb 10 August 1877 vol 236 cc772-7

Order for Committee read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Attorney General.)


expressed a hope that the Government would not proceed with the question further that Session, as the measure was opposed by several corporations.


said, he was not aware that that was so; but if it were, the opposition should have been raised on the second reading. The object of the measure was simply to settle certain doubts as to the power of Her Majesty to construct new corporations under the Municipal Corporation Acts, especially with respect to the control of the police force under them. It was also intended to remove doubts as to charters.


believed that the chief opposition arose from the difficulties which some of the corporations felt they would have in putting the Bill in force. They would prefer a simple and expeditious process.


explained that on the creation of new corporations difficulties had been experienced in regard to the police. It was objectionable that small places should be incorporated, if they must have the control of their own police, which would be too few to constitute an independent force. The Bill would facilitate the granting of charters to such places, which were now refused because they would have separate police.


protested against the whole proceeding, the object of which was to further centralize the police force. There was already universal dissatisfaction at the management of the police force.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clauses 1 to 7, inclusive, agreed to, with verbal Amendments.

Clause 8 (Provision as to police force in new borough).


moved, as an Amendment, that the clause be left out. He did so because it was, in fact, contrary to the express object of the Bill, which was intended to give those small corporations greater power of local self-government. But it did nothing of the Kind. It took away from the corporations the power of regulating and controlling their own affairs so far as the appointment of a police force was concerned, and required that they should obtain the consent of the Secretary of State for the Home Department before such a force could be appointed. Instead of an extension of local self-government, it was a greater step towards centralization than had hitherto been made, and he hoped his hon. and learned Friend would consent to the omission of the clause.


supported the Motion, which he said not only affected the details, but the very principle of the measure. To appoint a municipal body by charter, and then to withhold from it the power of appointing a sufficient police force to keep the peace with the Secretary of State's consent, was such an absurdity that he was astonished to find it seriously proposed. If the municipal body could not be entrusted with that power it ought to be swept away.


said, he could not see his way to eliminating the clause from the Bill. It was not desirable that where a small borough was incorporated it should have the right to appoint its own police force without the consent of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, for the result of such a power would be that the borough would almost always exercise it, and a small, ill-paid, and inefficient force would be established, instead of the existing efficient county force being continued.


also dissented from the Amendment, but thought a limit of population might be fixed below which no borough should be allowed to have a separate police force. With some reluctance, he felt bound to vote against the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Serjeant Simon) if he went to a division. He approved of the object his hon. and and learned Friend had in view—that was, to avoid centralization and preserve local self-government, but thought some provision should be introduced into the Bill to prevent the evil against which the clause was directed. He would, therefore, on Report, move an Amendment which he believed would effect both objects, and which, he trusted, would meet with the approval of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General.


protested against the creation of a great number of small police jurisdictions, on the ground that they would not work satisfactorily. He suggested that the Government should consider whether some limit of population could not be fixed, the larger boroughs being allowed to have their own police force, whilst the boroughs below that limit should not possess that right.


said, he was not prepared to give an unlimited power to the Secretary of State in the matter, being anxious to avoid anything like centralization, and should have been glad if he did not interfere in the matter at all, but if he did, it should be in boroughs with a certain number of inhabitants. The larger boroughs could see to their own interests, but if all these small local authorities were allowed to act solely for themselves, without the supervision of some central authority, he feared that the consequence must inevitably be, to superinduce a state of varied and uncontrolled irresponsibility, very much like what might be termed legal chaos.


said, local municipalities had a perfect right to manage their own affairs. The authority of the police force was not satisfactory to the country, and the further it was removed from the control of the local authorities, the greater was the expense and inefficiency of the force.


deprecated the further step in the direction of centralization involved in the clause.


thought that it was highly necessary that some discretion should be reserved to the Home Secretary.


thanked the ton. and learned Gentleman for that expression of his opinion.


said, he would withdraw the Amendment.


promised to consider the question which had been raised before Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to, with an Amendment.


moved, in page 5, after Clause 13, to insert the following clause:—

(Amendment of Municipal Corporations Acts (1859), &c.)

And whereas it is expedient to amend ' The Municipal Corporations Act, 1859,' and 'The Municipal Corporations Act (1859) Amendment Act': Be it therefore further Enacted, That such petition as, by section one of' The Municipal Corporations Act, 1859,' may be made by the council of any borough by agreement of two-thirds in number of the said council, may be also made by any number (not less than twenty) of the burgesses of any borough; and may pray, not only for the division of such borough into wards, or for the alteration of the number and boundaries of the wards into which such borough is (or from time to time shall be) divided, but also for the re-apportionment of the number of councillors among the existing wards of such borough without altering the number or boundaries of such wards; and it shall be lawful for Her Majesty, from time to time, as she shall think fit, by advice of Her Privy Council, not only to fix the number of wards into which such borough shall be divided, but also to order that the apportionment of the number of councillors of any borough among the existing wards of such borough shall be altered without altering the number or boundaries of the wards into which such borough is divided; and thereupon a barrister may be appointed in manner provided by the said Act for the purpose of re-apportioning the number of councillors of the borough among the existing wards of such borough without alteration of the boundaries of such wards. At present there existed great anomalies and inequalities in the representation of municipal boroughs, and if the present state of affairs was allowed to continue, a sweeping reform would become necessary, and a re-adjustment of representation on a large scale would be inevitable. He was able to cite a great number of instances in which there was no proportion at all between the number of councillors and the rateable value of the property represented. In Liverpool one ward with 19,000 burgesses returned three councillors, while others with 9,000, 8,000, 1,500, and 1,000 respectively returned, each of them the same number of three councillors; and the same state of things prevailed in Oldham, Lancaster, Winchester, and in scores of other places. In the case of Boards of Guardians there was power to re-adjust the representation which did not exist with regard to municipal corporations. It was necessary that remedies should be applied from time to time, and whether rateable value or numbers as in the case of Birmingham were taken as the basis of representation, he should be satisfied provided the present anomalous state of things were corrected. He need not enlarge on the extent and importance of the functions of these corporations; his only object in moving the new clause was to remedy a real defect, and to make the great Act of 1835, not only in theory, but in fact, the charter of municipal liberty.


said, it was necessary for him to state that if the clause were agreed to, it would be necessary to amend the title of the Bill.


said, that he was obliged reluctantly to say that he could not accept the clause, because it was not germane to the subject-matter of the Bill. The object of the Government in introducing the measure was to make provision for the granting of charters to new municipalities. There was no intention that it should have any relation to existing municipalities, and the introduction of this new clause would produce a serious alteration, not only in relation to the new, but also to the old municipalities. In 1872 a Bill to the same effect as the clause had been introduced, and had been objected to, because it would be altering the constitution of the municipalities to suit political purposes. He was, however, sure that his hon. Friend had no political purposes in view. Whether the machinery of the Amendment was good he could not at the moment say; but it certainly seemed to him that it was rather a strong measure to give to 20 burgesses the power of petitioning for an alteration of the wards against the wish and view of the Governing Body of the town. At the same time, he was convinced that, owing to increase of population in many places any other causes, the divisions of the population were not properly represented, and no doubt a measure to render the representation more adequate was desirable. He would be imperilling the Bill if he consented to the Amendment; but in the course of next Session the Government would have to introduce some measure amending in several respects the Acts relating to municipal corporations, and when that was done, the subject which the hon. Gentleman had just brought forward should have his most careful attention, and he would endeavour to promote the objects which the hon. Gentleman had in view.


said, he was glad that the Government would introduce a measure next Session, and thought the announcement would be satisfactory to corporations throughout the country. He hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. A. Peel) would be satisfied with the promise that had been given by the Government. At the same time, no one acquainted with the management of towns could fail to see that this was a most important question. Large towns had a tendency to spread outward, and in Newcastle there were three wards called into existence since the passing of the Reform Act, which had now each a larger population than the whole town previous to the passing of that Act.


said, he was ready to withdraw the clause after the very satisfactory explanation that had been given.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

House resumed.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow.