HC Deb 05 April 1878 vol 239 cc672-733

I rise, Sir, to call the attention of the House to the state of Local Government and Taxation in London, and to the need of a measure extending to the Metropolis the benefits conferred on other cities and towns by "the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835," and to move the first of the Resolutions of which I have given Notice— (1.) That, in the opinion of this House, the present state of Local Government in London is unsatisfactory, and calls for reform. (2.) That the whole Metropolis should be united under one administrative authority, directly representing the ratepayers, and so constituted as to command general confidence. (3.) That these conditions are not fulfilled under the present system of administration, partly by Vestries and District Boards, partly by the Metropolitan Board of Works, partly by Companies trading in Water and Gas, while the functions of the Corporation are confined within the narrow limits of the City. (4.) That the ancient Corporation of the City, if extended over the Metropolis, and remodeled in accordance with present wants, would best achieve the purposes of a Municipality for London. (5.) That this reform shall be undertaken by Her Majesty's Government without delay. Sir, the first words which I desire to utter, in calling the attention of this House to so large a question, are to the effect that I am not so sanguine as to suppose that this is a subject which can be dealt with, or legislated upon, by any private Member. The object which I have set to myself, in inviting the attention of the House to this question, is rather to pave the way, as a pioneer, for the Government, at the earliest possible moment, to deal with it themselves. And I would remark, that I regard this as not a mere local question to be taken up by the Metropolitan Members, but as a great national question. Moreover, the Metropolitan Members labour under a peculiar disadvantage, which renders it difficult for them to bring this subject before the House. When the late Mr. J. Stuart Mill, in successive years, very ably called attention to this question, he had experience of this disadvantage. I, therefore, think it is desirable that some Member, who is unconnected with the Metropolis, should attempt the task. But, in asking the House to give me its attention, while I endeavour to justify this Motion, I am conscious of the impossibility of adequately presenting to the House a question of such magnitude and such complexity. Before I enter into details, let me say, in a few words, why I think that this subject is ripe for treatment, and why I think there is no real obstacle to its being taken up by the Government without further delay. The late Government were pledged to deal with it. Upon different occasions, different Members of that Government, and especially their Home Secretary, Lord Aberdare (then Mr. Bruce), pledged themselves to deal with it. This House also committed itself to the principle that legislation was necessary, by giving a second reading to the late Mr. Charles Buxton's Bill, in 1870, by a majority of 64. On the same occasion, also, two Members of the present Government—namely, the noble Lord the Postmaster General (Lord John Manners), and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith), appealed to the then Government to legislate on the subject. And further, in the Election Address of the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), which was the manifesto of the Liberal Party at the last Dissolution of Parliament, the question of municipal reform for London occupied a very prominent position. Another strong argument in support of this view, may be derived from the action of the present Ministry in relation to the Metropolitan Board of Works, one of the most important bodies at present charged with the administration of municipal affairs in London. On several occasions Her Majesty's Government have declined to impose additional duties, in respect of changes essential to the interests of the people of London, on the Metropolitan Board of Works. That body now has Bills before this House for taking into its own hands the water supply of London; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has intimated that the Government cannot support the proposal—a further proof that we ought no longer to delay municipal reform. I would ask whether the House is aware how very inconvenient the present territorial divisions of the Metropolis are? I may illustrate the case in this way. Let me suppose that an hon. Member wished to go in a straight line from Hammersmith Bridge to a point a little beyond Covent Garden. He would first pass through the vestry districts of Hammersmith, Fulham, and Kensington; then through that of St. Margaret's, Westminster; he would touch Kensington again, and Chelsea at Knightsbridge; from those vestry districts he would pass into that of St. George's, Hanover Square; he would skirt St. Martin's-in-the-Fields at the Green Park, then enter St. James's Vestry district; he would get back to St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, at Coventry Street; next, he would pass into St. Ann's, Soho; he would enter St. Martin's-in-the-Fields for the third time at St. Martin's Lane; he would reach at Covent Garden the Strand district; and would find himself back again in the district of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields at Drury Lane. I will take another illustration. I will suppose that an hon. Member wished to go from Old Palace Yard, first to the Horticultural Gardens, and then, say, to Kensal Green Cemetery. He would pass first through the districts of St. John's, Westminster, St. Margaret's, Westminster, St. George's, Hanover Square, Chelsea, and Kensington, when he would come back to St. Margaret's, Westminster. In his walk from the Horticultural Gardens to Kensal Green Cemetery, he would pass through the vestry districts of St. Margaret's, Westminster, and Paddington, enter Chelsea again near Kilburn; and, on finally reaching Kensal Green, find himself in Kensington again. I think I need scarcely illustrate further the absurdity and intricacy of the present system of vestry districts; but there are not only these vestry districts in London, there are a vast number of other territorial divisions crossing and differing from each other. There are, for instance, the water districts, the gas districts, the police districts, the county court districts, besides many others. Mr. Charles Buxton, in describing this tangled web of Metropolitan areas and jurisdictions, remarked that it reminded him of Dr. Johnson's famous definition of the meaning of the word "network''—namely, ''a decussated reticulation, with interstices between the intersections." Parodying Milton, I may thus describe the present state of London— With district upon district, board on board, Confusion worse confounded. Then, as to the mode of electing vestrymen, I believe few persons know how the members of the vestries are elected. Two or three years ago, an Edinburgh reviewer described how the elections were often held in the public-houses. Now they are more frequently held in vestry halls. No notice, however, is given of the elections, except on the church doors, and very few people attend; there are seldom 50 present, out of several thousands of ratepayers. Once, a populous vestry issued 3,000 notices to the ratepayers; but there attended at the election only the vestry clerk, one church- warden, one rate collector, and three vestrymen—and those persons elected the vestry. If a poll is demanded, it is taken on the next day; the inhabitants know nothing about it, and a very small number vote. The greatest indifference is shown by the public as to the vestry elections, that indifference being no doubt due, in some measure, to the smallness of the functions of a vestry as compared with a town council. Dr Rendle stated, in his evidence before Mr. Ayrton's Committee, that he was elected a vestryman by 10 or 12 persons; but, that for the same district, he was elected a member of the board of guardians by over 1,200 votes. The work of the vestries, in regard to drainage and street control, is done almost entirely by surveyors, although it is engineers' work. Instead of uniting together for this purpose, and employing a competent engineer, each vestry has its own surveyor, at salaries varying from £27 10s., as in the case of St. George's in the East, to £400 in the case of Kensington. Their work is done upon various systems and at various prices; the sewers are made of various diameters, a large sewer sometimes running into a small one; there are no sub-ways in which the gas and water pipes, and the communications with the sewers, can be collected together. I find that, in the 10 years betwen 1861 and 1871, no less than 635 miles of streets were added to London by the building of nearly 150,000 new dwelling-houses; and it was left to the vestries, with their surveyors at low salaries of £27 10s., and the like amounts, to settle how the arrangements of those new streets should be made. Of course, if these bodies could combine together, and adopt a good system, they might buy granite cubes, gravel, York stone, and other materials in large quantities, whereby great economy would be effected. They might also employ gangs of men who would do the work in one-sixth of the time now occupied in operations which at present block the road and impede the traffic for long periods. Then, as regards the watering of streets, I find by an examination of the reports of all the vestries in London, that this process is conducted on the most various systems, and at a cost per mile for water, varying from £11 at Whitechapel, to £55 at Lewisham, and at a cost per mile for carting, varying from £19 at Mile End to £70 at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields. I hope we shall some day see a system of watering the streets of London adopted, by which the water carts, or "hydrostatic vans," as they are absurdly called, will be superseded, and hydrants used, as in Paris, in their stead. There is also a great difference in the cost of the street-lighting in different districts. For example, in Marylebone, it amounts to £228 per mile, and to £94 in Bethnal Green. This means, that badly as the streets of London, as a whole, are lighted, the poorer districts are especially neglected as regards light. I may mention here a fact, told me by Miss Octavia Hill—namely, how a wonderful improvement was produced in a low court in London, merely by the introduction of a gas lamp; and if the lighting of Bethnal Green were improved, no doubt, great benefits both moral and material would be conferred on the inhabitants. Again, the removal of dust is very badly managed, and conducted on different systems in different parts of London. Some of the vestries have begun to do it for themselves, whilst most do it by contract; and there is a very great contrast both as to cost and as to the manner in which it is done, between the case of Islington, which does the work for itself, and that of the vestries who contract. The probable cost of the removal of dust in London is about £130,000 a-year, of which at least £40,000 might be saved by better arrangements. There exists no system either as to dust-bins or as to the hours of clearing them; one may hope that the time will come, when, instead of the dust carts coming round in the middle of the day, when people's windows are open, and valuable furniture is exposed to the dust, and carriages are driving past, and the dust is flying in people's eyes, we may have tubs of dust carried away at night, so as to cause the least inconvenience to the public; I also trust that we may have this operation done at regular and more frequent intervals. It is difficult to ascertain what are the establishment expenses; but, from the reports of various vestries, I find that the salaries and collectors' poundage might be largely reduced by the adoption of a combined system for the whole of London. The Local Taxation Returns give the salaries and the collectors' poundage as amounting to a total of £107,750, or a sum for the London vestries alone equal to one-fourth of the whole amount of the same charge for all the rest of England and Wales. In order to show how many functions are cast upon these vestries, and how great is the work entrusted to them, let me state to the House, as far as I am able to ascertain it, what is their total expenditure. Exclusive of the poor rates, and exclusive, also, of the precepts of the Metropolitan Board of Works and of the School Board, I make the total expenditure of the London vestries to be about £1,610,000. For the year 1875–6, according to the Local Taxation Returns, they were £1,851,116. But I will leave the vestries for the present, in order to speak of the Metropolitan Board of Works. This Board, as the House may probably be aware, dates from the passing of the Metropolis Local Management Act of 1855, when that body was appointed, principally to conduct the main drainage of the Metropolis. Before I make some of the remarks which I shall have to offer about the Metropolitan Board of Works, let me say that I am bound to admit that a more industrious body of men was never constituted by Parliament. They are only 46 in number, and they have cast upon them many additional duties beyond those for which they were originally appointed. These duties they have performed, in many respects, very well, and there is no doubt that London is in a far better condition now, especially with regard to its drainage and its Thames Embankment, than it was at the passing of the Act of 1855. But, let us consider how this Board is composed. It consists, as I have said, of only 46 members; three of them are taken from the common council, 12 from the six larger vestries, 17 from 17 smaller vestries, 13 from 15 different district boards; and the Chairman, who may be chosen from outside their own body, is elected by the Board. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir James M 'Garel-Hogg), the present Chairman, was for some time a member of the Board before he became Chairman. He now sits, however, not by virtue of having been returned by his vestry, but as an additional member of the Board. Now, the members of the Metropolitan Board of Works, who, as I have said, are a most industrious body of men, constantly seek re-election, although they must attend committee meetings three times a-week, and sometimes more often. The vestries seem never to change their representatives at the Metropolitan Board of Works; the electors of that Board are vestrymen; and vestrymen, as I have already explained, are elected at hole-and-corner meetings, and cannot be regarded, on that ground, as representing the ratepayers. Therefore, the Metropolitan Board, being indirectly formed, through the vestries, can still less be said to represent the ratepayers. Indeed, it has been said by some mathematician that the Metropolitan Board of Works is merely "a vestry vestrified to the nth power." Let the House consider what the effect of this system of indirect election is. It might be that a body was elected for the express purpose of electing another body. That has been sometimes done. There has been a very large constituency, and a small board has had to be chosen. The large number have elected a lesser number to act as electors. And this body, appointed ad hoc, has elected the board. That is a form of indirect election that I can understand. But that is not the mode of electing the Metropolitan Board. The electors of that Board are the vestries, who are appointed, not ad hoc, but for the various minute functions that I have mentioned; which make the office very attractive to small tradesmen, and especially to builders and surveyors. The vestries and boards have, consequently, a large infusion of those elements. It is these persons, elected for these small, local purposes, who are entrusted with the election of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Let us see, practically, by how many ratepayers individual members of the Board are elected? The member for St. Pancras, in which parish there are 22,000 ratepayers, was returned to the vestry by the votes of 74 ratepayers qualified as vestrymen to be electors; the member for Chelsea was elected by 15 votes, there being 5,288 ratepayers in the parish; and the member for the Westminster district was elected by 29. I submit that, since the passing of the Education Act, we have had a very good opportunity of comparing the results of direct and indirect election in the Metropolis. The members you get by indirect election are not nearly of so high a quality as you get on ordinary town councils, and they are not nearly of so high a quality as you get by direct election upon the London School Board. I have in my hand a comparison between the members of the Metropolitan Board, and the members of the School Board which proves what I have said. This Board of Works, so constituted, exercises limited municipal functions over a larger district than any other municipal body in the world; and yet I doubt whether nine out of 10 members of this House—or, I might say, 99 out of 100 householders in London—could, at a day's notice, and without inquiry, name their representatives on the Metropolitan Board. Hon. Members are completely ignorant as to those who so represent them. What is the reason of that? They know perfectly well who represent them on the School Board. Their ignorance of the members of the Metropolitan Board is the consequence of this vicious system of indirect election, which the hon. and gallant Chairman of the Board was so bold as to defend in the debate on the County Government Bill. What are the functions and powers of this Board of 46 of the members of which the householders know nothing? They spend £2,250,000 a-year. Each individual member represents on the average a rateable value of £500,000, and a population of 80,000. There is, however, the greatest inequality in the sizes and the rateable values of the districts so represented. For instance, the rateable value of the Kensington district is £1,287,000, and that of Woolwich £110,362. The disparity is more striking, when six large districts are compared with six small districts—there are six members, each representing a valuation close upon £1,000,000, and six who represent a valuation amounting to less than £200,000 a-piece. I must mention the large sums which the Metropolitan Board has spent under the authority of various Acts of Parliament. The Board began on a small scale, being practically formed to carry out the scheme of main drainage. On this £4,600,000 has been expended. Then came the Thames Embankment, on which about £2,500,000 has been expended. The Charing Cross and Victoria Embankment Approach cost at least £637,000. Street improvements, under special Acts, have cost £2,890,000, which may, perhaps, be reduced by re-sales of land, to about £2,000,000. These large figures will show the House that it really is an important matter to consider whether we shall go on heaping functions on this Board as at present constituted, whether we are to be content with a body indirectly elected in the way I have described, or whether we ought not to have a real municipal government for the Metropolis. Let me refer to the way in which the Board has treated Parliament on some important public questions—and not only Parliament, but the ratepayers, whom the members of the Board are supposed to represent. Take a case which occurred last year. The President of the Local Government Board desired to consolidate a dozen Statutes relating to public health in the Metropolis. There was nothing new in the Consolidation Bill, but what was thoroughly approved by the Board and other local authorities. But it appeared that there were some things in the existing Statutes, of which the Metropolitan Board and the vestries did not approve; but, on that account, although the Bill was only a Consolidation Bill, designed to substitute one Statute for 12, they opposed the progress of the Bill and prevented it being passed. For that reason, these 12 Statutes still contain the law which, but for this opposition, might have been embodied in one. Under the Acts relating to water supply, the Metropolitan Board has power to call upon a company to give a constant supply and to put hydrants in the streets for the better protection of life and property against fire. Having carefully examined the evidence taken by the Fire Brigade Committee, which sat during two Sessions, I am bound to say I think the water companies have shown more public spirit about a constant supply and about hydrants than has the Metropolitan Board. It has not exercised its power of calling upon them for a constant supply; but, when application was made to the Metropolitan Board on behalf of companies for information as to what hydrants the Board wished to place on the mains, the Board put every obstacle in the way of the companies, and asked them to withdraw the notice they had given. Eventually, one company put down hydrants in the streets, at the same time charging the mains with a constant supply of water. It had previously informed the Board that it would do this and would send the bill for the hydrants to the Board, to which the Board replied that if the bill were sent in, it would not be paid; but the company did its duty, fixed the hydrants, and sent in the bill, and the Board had to pay. A very long story might be told in reference to gas supply. Under seven Acts of Parliament the Board is invested with powers relating to gas, and is thus recognized as the representative of the ratepayers and the protector of the public interests. How has the Board acted with regard to Bills before Parliament? There was an Act of 1860, for which the Metropolitan Board had to pay, which resulted in great profits to the companies, so much so that, in 1866, the companies had declared dividends of about 10 per cent. One company, the Imperial, charged respectively 4s. to private consumers and 3s. 7d. and 2s. 11¼d. to different parishes per 1,000 cubic feet, for precisely the same gas. In 1866, the Corporation of London, with much public spirit, introduced a Bill to enable them to manufacture gas and to supply it to the City at a maximum charge of 3s. per 1,000. This Bill, which was read a second time by 219 against 193, and also one which was introduced to enable the Metropolitan Board to purchase the companies' works and plant, were opposed by the Board. The companies, in 1867, opposed a Board of Trade Bill to limit the price of gas to 3s. 6d. The Committee, over which Mr. Cardwell presided, reported that the legitimate weapon to resort to in order to reduce the price, was the enactment of an independent supply; and, unless the companies should come to reason, the Committee recommended that every facility should be afforded to the local authorities to undertake an independent supply; and the Committee invited the Corporation and the Metropolitan Board to bring in Gas Bills, to invest them with power to compete with the companies. The Corporation followed this advice, but the Metropolitan Board rejected it. It was left to a private individual whom everyone must mention with respect when advocating Metropolitan reform, Mr. James Beal, to prepare a Bill, which was offered to the Metropolitan Board, who declined to take it up. That Bill, however, jointly with the Corporation Bill, came before a Committee, and legislation ensued by which the district of the company supplying the City alone benefited; and the Metropolitan Board, having opposed the Bill in Committee, had the audacity, in their annual report, to refer to the measure which was passed as one which had conferred important advantages upon the consumers of gas in the City. The result was a saving to the City of £82,500, a benefit which, by public-spirited action on the part of the Board, might have been extended to the rest of the Metropolis. I now come to another point, which is well worth the attention of the House, as an argument in favour of an alteration in the government of the Metropolis and in favour of unity of management. The Metropolitan Board, the City Corporation, the Thames Conservancy, and the Lea Conservancy, all spend the ratepayers' money in fighting before Parliamentary Committees—that is, they spend rates against rates in Parliamentary contests which have cost London untold sums. It is perfectly impossible to ascertain all that has been so expended, although I have searched through many accounts. It cannot be the interest of the ratepayers, that rates should be spent against rates; this money is expended in consequence of rivalries and jealousies, and different views of what is necessary for the good government of London. I have been able to arrive at some partial results as to the amount that has been spent in this way within the last few years, and I think the figures will be interesting to the House. The expenditure in gas fights before Parliament during the 10 years from 1857 to 1867 was no less than £104,870; and of that sum about one-half was spent in two years. These figures I obtain from a Return moved for by the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Andrew Lusk) and Mr. Wilde in 1867; and it is incomplete, because all the accounts were not really furnished. From the Local Taxation Returns, I find that the gas supply has been placed in the hands of a majority of the urban sanitary authorities, and with very great advantage to the ratepayers. In Manchester they make a great profit out of gas. In the five years ending 1876 there were expended by the Metropolitan Board of Works alone in Parliamentary contests relating to Metropolitan Bills, the following sums:—Gas, Water, Railway, and Tram- way Bills, £14,290; Miscellaneous, £26,480; making a total of £40,770. To summarize what I have already said, I may say that London is governed by the vestries and a vestrified vestry. These spend about £4,000,000 of the ratepayers' money between them, and this exclusive of the poor rates. They are elected in a corner, and their proceedings are modestly hidden under a bushel. They fight with the ratepayers' money against the Gas and Water Companies, whose weapon is the consumers' money. The Metropolitan Board of Works and the Corporation of the City of London fight against each other, and this friction and collision costs the ratepayers many thousands of pounds a-year. The Metropolitan Board of Works, in carrying out their various functions, have shown a want of public spirit, a disregard of Acts of Parliament, and a carelessness of the interests of the ratepayers, especially in the matters of gas, water, and street improvements. They have also shown a great disregard of the recommendations contained in the Reports of Select Committees. It had been well said by someone engaged in administration in London—"Fearfully and wonderfully are we made, and still more wonderfully are we governed." A Member of the present Government once said—although not very recently—that London was the best governed city in the world. In reply to that, I would ask whether anyone would seriously propose to inflict such a chaos of parochial and vestry government as we have in the Metropolis upon any other city or town in England, or on the Continent? And why should we make the municipal government of London an exceptional one? We have heard a good deal during the last few months about automony for the Provinces of Eastern Europe; I should like to see autonomy given to London. It has also been said that London is a very healthy city, and that its death-rate is low. That may be true to some extent—partly, doubtless, owing to its position—but might it not be made lower still? The death-rate has remained unaltered for the last 20 years; it has not been reduced by the action of the vestries, or of the Metropolitan Board of Works. If any hon. Member doubts whether the health of the Metropolis can be further improved, let him consider a few points. First, as to our water supply. I would refer to Dr. Frankland's last annual report, for which I moved the other day, and which is in the hands of hon. Members. Then as to gas. Let us compare the pure cannel gas supplied to this House, or the gas supplied to Paris and many cities, with that which we see in our streets, and we shall see at once how much our interests are neglected in this respect. Many hon. Members may not have visited the courts in the lowest parts of London. There are miserable courts in which there is but one standpipe for water, and one gas lamp, and one privy. In such a state of things how can anyone boast that London is the most healthy city in the world? Many of the worst of these places have been pointed out to me as the property of vestrymen. In such cases, the medical officer of health has often been restrained by fear of those who are his employers from ordering the houses to be either shut up or pulled down. Then we all know of the unfortunate condition, in time of floods, of that part of the population who live in the low districts on the South side close to the river. After great delay, the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite has to-day given Notice of his intention to bring in a Bill for the prevention of Thames floods, and I am glad to hear that his Board has at length taken this first step. I have said enough to dispose of the allegations that London is, after all, a healthy city, and that it is the best governed city in the world. Mr. Stubbs, in his Constitutional History, describes the ancient state of London, which seems in its childhood to have been a chaos. Mr. Stubbs says— At the time of the Conquest, London, with its port-reeve and bishop, the two officers who seem to give it a unity and an identity of its own, is only a bundle of communities, townships, parishes, and lordships, of which each has its own constitution. London has seen better days since then, but I am afraid that it has returned to that state of childhood—a bundle of communities—at the present time. Having explained the present state of London outside the City, I must now briefly glance at a few of the proposals which have been made at various times for the reform of the London government. One of these proposals was that the Metropolitan Board of Works should retain the functions it now exercises, but that its members should be directly, and not indirectly, elected. That proposal was put forward by the Select Committee over which Mr. Ayrton so ably presided in 1861, which sat to consider the subject of Local Taxation. That Committee reported that— Greater authority would attach to its deliberations were its members elected directly by the ratepayers of the Metropolis. That was but a timid and an inadequate proposal, which I venture to say would, therefore, not be popular, and which would excite the opposition of the City, on the ground that it would be raising up a strong body, compared with the present Metropolitan Board of Works, outside of the City boundaries. May I be permitted to quote from an article on this subject, which appeared in the leading journal a short time ago? It said— We are profoundly sensible that the whole system is a makeshift, and becomes more unsatisfactory every year.….No scheme for altering the mode of electing the Metropolitan Board will command attention unless it also includes a scheme for the general reform of the local government of the Metropolis. A Bill introduced by Lord Camperdown this year in "another place" to alter the mode of election of the Board of Works was defeated by a majority of 18. There seemed to be a growing conviction that nothing short of real municipal government for London would answer. Mr. Mill, speaking in this House in support of his Bill, on the 5th of May, 1868, laid down the principle on which any change in the existing system must be founded— It was a national principle that a great part of our administration should be local, and the constitutional mode of giving local government to different parts of the country, especially to towns, was by means of municipalities. Now, London had the benefit of a municipality in that which was originally the whole of its extent—the City proper. With that exception, the local government of the Metropolis was a parish government."—[3 Hansard, cxci. I860.] Now, Sir, I do not think that anyone will deny that Londoners are as worthy of municipal government as any other part of the community. The advantages of municipal government are now admitted upon all hands. Perhaps, in the year 1835, there may have been some contention on the subject; but there is no longer any room for it. It is an ancient saying of the people of London, as I find from the history I quoted just now, that, ''come what may, the Londoners should have no King but their Mayor;" and, if the hon. and gallant Member opposite wishes to be the supreme ruler of London, there is no course open to him but to become its Lord Mayor. I have no doubt that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will dissent from this sentiment; but I should like him to give me his attention, whilst I read to him what was the opinion on this question of his predecessor and of some of his present colleagues. I was fortunate enough, only yesterday, to drop upon the Report of the Special Committee of the Metropolitan Board of Works, dated the 3lst of March, 1870. I am afraid that he will not concur in this Report, but it reads thus— Your Committee have to report that they have proceeded on the resolution of the Board, referring to them for consideration the Municipal Boroughs (Metropolis) Bill, the Corporation of London Bill, and the County of London Bill. Your Committee have, in the first instance, considered the question of the future government of the Metropolis in its general aspects and, as the result of their deliberations, they have to report their opinion, that it is desirable that there should be one central municipal government, with jurisdiction over the whole Metropolis; and that there should be a re-adjustment of the districts into which the Metropolis is at present divided for the purposes of local government. That Report, I may inform the hon. and gallant Gentleman, is signed by the Chairman of the Board, Sir John Thwaites, Mr. William Newton, Mr. Francis H. Fowler, and Mr. Charles Roche. Thus, we have it admitted by the Committee of the Board in 1870, that we must have a real municipal government for London. And here I must mention what were the proposals of the Commission of 1853–4. People are under the idea that the Metropolitan Board of Works fulfils what was recommended by the Commission of Mr. Labouchere, Sir James Patteson, and Sir George Cornewall Lewis in 1854. It is nothing of the kind. Their proposals were—first, the reform of the Corporation; secondly, the division of the Metropolis into municipal districts, each possessing a municipal government of its own; and, thirdly, the creation of a Metropolitan Board of Works, to be composed of a limited number of members, deputed to it from the council of each Metropolitan municipal body, including the Corporation. The first and second of these proposals were not carried out, and the Metropolitan Board of Works, instead of representing these municipal bodies, represents the old vestries. I see that the hon. and learned Member for Salford (Mr. Charley) has given Notice of an Amendment, by which it appears that he would have a number of municipal districts, and would leave the City of London alone. I doubt, however, whether that scheme would be better than the present chaos; and the principle of such proposals has been condemned beforehand by the late Sir Robert Peel, who, in the debate on the Corporation Bill in 1835, said that he thought it much better to place towns under the exclusive control of a corporate authority, invigorated and adapted to their present state of society, than to leave the ancient Corporation precisely where we find it, devolving at the same time all real power and almost all the functions of administrative authority upon some new body consolidated on a different and more popular principle. This would be a virtual supersession of the ancient Corporation—a virtual extinction of the power for the exercise of which it was originally intended. Though, no doubt, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has an Amendment on the Paper would make his proposals—if the Forms of the House permitted him to do so—in the interests of the Corporation of London, he would, if his plan were adopted, be taking a course which would raise up bodies that would be in constant antagonism to the City, and perhaps to each other, and there would be no peace for London and its inhabitants. Some may think that even that would be better than the existing state of things, and I, for one, have no wish to speak harshly of any scheme of municipal reform; but let me ask the House to bear in mind the recommendations of the Municipal Corporations Commissioners in 1837. I may say, that before referring to those recommendations, that London would have been dealt with in 1835, if the Commissioners had reported on London before that time; but their Report was not issued until 1837, after Parliament had passed the Bill referring to municipal corporations in other parts of the country. When issued, the Report recommended that London should be dealt with in precisely the same way in which the Act of 1835 had previously dealt with the rest of England. The Commissioners criticized beforehand the proposal which is about to be made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Salford. They said — We hardly anticipate that it will be suggested for the purpose of removing the appearance of singularity, that the other parts of the town should be formed into independent and isolated communities; if, indeed, the multifarious relations to which their proximity compels them would permit them to be isolated and independent. This plan would, as it seems to us, in getting rid of an anomaly, tend to multiply and perpetuate an evil. One argument, which is used against a proposal of the kind I am now asking the House to approve is, that it would introduce politics and Party feeling into municipal government. My own opinion is, that there would be much more danger of political and Party feeling in municipalities identified with the areas of Parliamentary boroughs—where the elements of Party contention already exist—than in a municipality for a much larger area. I may, also, quote the authority of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), who once reminded the House that "the principle underlying municipal government is consolidation. You have," he said, "to get rid of an infinity of small Boards, consisting of an inferior class of persons, and concentrate attention on the election of one large and better constituted Council." The Times, writing on the 17th of October, 1874, put the case thus— Whatever may be the plan adopted, it is certain that by some means or other the whole of London must be brought under the same government. We have already too long suffered from the necessary want of unity and co-operation between the two bodies which administer our affairs. It is time, now, that this was at an end; and it can be ended only by the creation of one municipal government for all London, under which London may take worthily the rank to which she is entitled. What I should like to see would be a system under which we could get the best men to conduct a municipal government of great dignity and authority and ancient standing. Now, Sir, I come to a more courageous and workable proposal, which I think was first placed before this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke). He made more than one speech in this House on the subject; and I would venture to quote a passage from what he said on the 21st of May, 1867— He (Mr. Locke) had a plan to suggest. It was that the Lord Mayor should remain the head of the City as now; that the Metropolis should be divided into wards, each having art Alderman and each sending members to the Common Council; and that the Corporation of the City of London should thus administer the municipal affairs for the whole Metropolis. This was no novelty, for in olden times the Corporation was in the habit of adding to itself by taking in surrounding districts, which then became component parts of the City of London. …. His views were coincided in by the City Chamberlain, who had given evidence to that effect before the Committee."—[3 Hansard, clxxxvii. 888–9.] I may also remind Her Majesty's Government that the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. W. H. Smith) followed in the same debate, and said that he took a view similar to that which had been expressed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark; so that I shall claim the vote of the First Lord of the Admiralty, if the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite compels us to go to a division. The House may ask what was the nature of the evidence given by the Chamberlain of the City of London, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark alluded in his speech in 1867? The evidence will, I think, be found both interesting and important. He described how the ancient City was about one-third of the magnitude of the extended City; how the out-wards were added by Charter; how, in the time of Edward VI., Southwark was formed into the out-ward of Bridge Street; how it was, owing to the jealousy of the Tudor and Stuart Kings of the growing favour of the City, that the growth of the City and the erection of new buildings was checked; how it was, that in later times, the City had followed the short-sighted policy of not taking in surrounding districts; and how there had grown up that confusion, that conflicting jurisdiction, and that diversity of administration which existed now in the Metropolis, and which it was very desirable should be remedied. The Chamberlain then proceeded to state his view as to what ought to be done. He said— I am of opinion, having looked at the subject very carefully and particularly for the last few years, that the only remedy for that con- fusion is to apply to London the principles which Parliament has applied to the provinces in England and Wales—that is to say, that where there is a large aggregation of persons forming an urban population, municipal institutions should be extended to them. I believe it is the opinion of Parliament that those institutions have worked satisfactorily in provincial towns, and I can conceive no reason why London should not enjoy the same advantages which are accorded to Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and all the other large towns of the Kingdom. If there is any difference in principle between the towns, it is in favour of London and not in favour of the provinces. These are the views of one of the most experienced and trusted officers of the Corporation of the City of London. I do not know how far I can go in referring to the present views of the Corporation; but I believe they are now much more nearly coincident with those of the Chamberlain than they were some little time ago; and that there has grown up within the Corporation of the City a conviction that the time is coming when it must put itself at the head of the movement, and confer the benefits of good municipal administration upon the whole of the Metropolis—and fulfil, in fact, the destinies for which it was originally designed by the Charter of William the Conquerer. The Municipal Commissioners, in 1837, recommended this development of the Corporation in the following emphatic terms:— We do not find any arguments on which the course pursued with regard to other towns could be justified which would not apply with equal force to London, unless the magnitude of the change, in this case, should be considered as converting that which would otherwise be only a practical difficulty into an objection of principle. We have pointed out how small a proportion of the Metropolis is comprehended within the municipal boundary. We are unable to discover any circumstance justifying the present distinction of this particular district from the rest, except that, in fact, it is, and has long been, so distinguished. Well, now, Sir, how would such a great municipality work? Instead of the same functions being performed by different bodies in various parts of the town, one committee of the Corporation would undertake the management of the streets; another would undertake the drainage; another would see to the watering of the streets; there would be one committee for gas and another for water; you would have a large body of from 200 to 300 persons, instead of a Metropolitan Board of Works, numbering only 46, and the vestries performing municipal functions, each in its own district. The Corporation would, in short, do for London all that provincial corporations do for their own municipalities. They would employ first-rate officers instead of the mere surveyors now employed; they would do everything on an uniform, and that the best system; and not the least of the advantages that would arise from a great municipal government for London, with the Lord Mayor at its head, would be that, instead of having the markets confined within the narrow limits of the City, markets might be established in different localities in the Metropolis—a reform which, in itself, would be an inestimable boon to the poorer classes. As far as I have been able to ascertain, there is but one formidable objection which has been made to this proposal. There is a dim shadowy dread as to the size of this Municipal Corporation, and a fear that it would meddle with politics. ["Hear, hear!"] That is evidently the opinion of some hon. Members of this House, and I would ask permission for a moment or two to attempt to deal with the objection. I admit that a great municipality would be much more powerful, and much more independent, than a smaller one; but, surely, that fact would be a great advantage to London. In other places, we find that the bigger municipalities are, the better they are; and that the only municipal bodies which do not work well, or against which something might be said, are the very smallest of them. Other municipal corporations are elected on Party lines; and I, for one, very much deplore the fact, that politics should be so very much mixed up with municipal elections; but when the Corporation comes to do the work for which it was elected, and to form committees for practical business, Party distinctions are forgotten, and it does its work exceedingly well. I might refer to the case of the London School Board, a body which is elected to perform most important functions, and elected, too, unfortunately, as I think, on Party lines; but no one will say that the members of that Board do not work harmoniously and efficiently together, both as a whole body and in the committees where most important business is transacted. Another form, of the same objection to the scheme is, that the Corporation would have to deal with too large a district. In answer to that, take the case of the Metropolitan Board of Works. It has not failed, because of the size of the district which it has to cover. It has been able to construct the main drainage works, to make the Thames Embankment, and to perform all the other functions entrusted to its care. If it has failed at all—and I think it must be admitted that it has—it has failed because of its want of position, its want of representative authority, and its smallness of size in a numerical point of view. In fact, too many duties are thrown upon a small and feeble body; and 46 men are expected to do the work of 200. I might, in answer to the bugbear, which the hon. and learned Gentleman, who is about to speak in reply to my proposal, is evidently going to set up about the danger of a great Corporation, a sort of imperium in imperio, and so forth, quote Earl Fortescue, who, as Viscount Ebrington, spoke in this House, in 1855, against the establishment of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The noble Lord said— There was a danger that the proposed local Parliament of 42 Members would discuss politics instead of sewerage questions, and threaten to overshadow the authority of the Speaker and that of the Imperial Parliament."—[3 Hansard, cxxxvii. 726.] The unfounded alarm of Lord Ebrington about the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that of the hon. and learned Member for Salford, and those who think with him as to my proposal, may be of about equal value. But I am unwilling to treat this great bugbear very hardly. I would rather say of it, like Marcellus in the play of Hamlet—speaking of the ghost— We do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence; For it is, as the air, invulnerable, And our vain blows malicious mockery. Now, Sir, I have very nearly done; but, before I leave this subject, I would remind the House of the great relief which would result to Government Departments and to Parliament if my proposal were adopted. Those Departments are now doing work that ought to be done by a municipal government; and, if such a government were established, the inhabitants of the Metropolis would not be annoyed nearly as much as they now are by the interference of the Executive through the agency of the Home Office and the Local Government Board. There would also be a great amount of relief afforded to Parliament and to our Committees. We should not have fights from time to time over Bills introduced by my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works) for the transaction of what are purely vestry matters. Nor might it be necessary, if such a municipal government had existed, that it should ask for an Act of Parliament authorizing it to erect Cleopatra's Needle on the Thames Embankment. There are only two other questions on which it is necessary for me to touch—one is the question of the police. For myself, I see no pressing necessity for interfering with the existing arrangements, and I have not introduced into my plan any proposal which would have such an effect. One word, also, on the reform of the City Corporation. The hon. and learned Member for Salford seems to imagine that it would be possible to reform the government of London without touching the City. I can hardly suppose that many persons seriously share that view; and I distinctly put forward, as part of my proposal, the municipal reform of the Corporation of London. The Commission, to which I have already referred, reported in 1854, that— Various changes have been made since 1837 by Acts of the Common Council; but no substantial or systematic reform of the Corporation of London has been accomplished, either by the Legislation of Parliament or by measures of the Common Council, since the presentation of the Report of the Municipal Corporation's Commissioners in the year 1837. I will not now attempt to describe to the House how necessary it is that such reforms should be effected; but the House has heard that such reforms have been recommended by successive Commissions and Committees, and, indeed, by every man who has given any real study to the question. And now, Sir, I will conclude with two appeals. In the first place, I would appeal to the Corporation of the City of London to remember their ancient traditions and the part which they have taken throughout their history in various struggles for civil and religious liberty and popular freedom; and, remembering these things, now to take a course worthy of their ancient fame by putting themselves at the head of a movement which cannot but result in the greatest benefit to the population around them. And I would secondly appeal to Her Majesty's Government to seize the opportunity which the present temper of the City and the Corporation, together with the ripeness of the question for settlement and their own strength afford, and to deal with this great subject in a manner worthy of its importance and without delay. I beg, Sir, to move my first Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the present state of Local Government in London is unsatisfactory, and calls for reform,"—(Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth,) —instead thereof.

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


who had given Notice of a series of Amendments to the Resolutions, which he was prevented by the Forms of the House from moving, explained that the object he had in view was to show that there was more than one way of dealing with the matter, and that the direction that any reform of the local government of the Metropolis should take was by the creation of new municipal bodies outside the City, and not by the extension of the Corporation of the City to the rest of the Metropolis, which would entail its destruction, and also the destruction of many valuable institutions which had been for so many centuries associated with it. For, example, there was the Lord Mayor's Court. Did the hon. Baronet propose that the jurisdiction of that Court should be extended over the whole of the Metropolis? Again, there were the City Companies. Did the hon. Baronet propose to extend them over the whole Metropolis? The hon. Baronet had carefully avoided saying how he would deal with the property of the Corporation—whether he would spend it for the benefit of the whole of the Metropolis or not. That property was amply sufficient for the purposes of the City, but it would be wholly insufficient for the purposes of the Metropolis, and that splendid hospitality of the City which had earned us so much credit in the eyes of Europe would disappear. The Resolutions which the hon. Baronet had placed upon the Paper showed how easy it was for dilettante reformers to bring forward Resolutions of a destructive tendency, and how difficult for them to initiate constructive legislation. The result of the hon. Baronet's proposal, if carried into effect, would be, not to reform, but to deform the local government of London. It had been suggested that the Metropolitan boroughs should be grouped together and so formed into municipalities. It might be asked, what method of grouping did they propose? He was not in favour of grouping. A charter of incorporation should be conferred upon each Parliamentary borough in the Metropolis separately; and the effect of the reform which he advocated would be to infuse into the Metropolitan boroughs that public spirit which marked provincial municipalities, and was to a great extent absent from Metropolitan boroughs. While they would preserve the ancient Corporation of the City, they would create new municipalities which might rival it in the good services they might render to the cause of local self-government and of civil freedom.


said, he should not follow the hon. Baronet (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) into his wide field of antiquarian research, but would simply deal with the question as it affected the Metropolitan Board of Works. That Board was established in 1855, and he could not see in what respect the circumstances differed from those which obtained at the time of its establishment. The Board was formed, after very careful consideration, and in consequence of the sitting of a Royal Commission, whose Report was contained in the following passage:— ''That portion of the Municipal Corporations Act which consists of an extension of the boundaries of the borough, so as to comprehend all portions of the town and its suburbs lying beyond the old limit, seems to us inapplicable to the case of the Metropolis. The Commissioners concluded their Report by stating that, while they had abstained from recommending an extension of the boundaries of the City, by which it would include the entire Metropolis, they had proposed such an arrangement as would enable the Corporation to form a part of a general Metropolitan system. The Commission stated, in their Report, that the area of the City was about 723 acres, and of the rest of the Metropolis 78,029 acres. The population of the City in 1853 was 129,128, and in 1878 about 75,000, showing a decrease of about 55,000; while the population of the Metropolis was in 1853, 2,362,236, and in 1878 about 3,500,000, showing an increase of about 1,150,000. These figures showed that a much greater discrepancy existed between the City and the rest of the Metropolis now than when the Commission sat. He contended that during the period of 20 years or so—since which the Board had been entrusted by the Legislature with the municipal government of the Metropolis—it had always efficiently performed all the municipal work outside of the City of London, acting with the Corporation in the most kind and friendly spirit—the only rivalry between them being which should do the best for the interests committed to them. The hon. Member was quite right in saying that the Metropolitan Board of Works was a very industrious body. Last year the number of meetings of committees was 307, and the average attendance of the Board, out of a total of 46 members, was 38. That showed that they must have attended pretty closely to their work. The hon. Member had found fault with the mode in which the members of the Board were elected; but he (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) was prepared, as he had done the other night, to defend the system of indirect election; and the very fact that the vestries elected the same men every year was a proof that they were satisfied with the manner in which the members of the Board discharged their duties. The hon. Member stated that the ratepayers did not attend to the election of the vestries; but if that were so, the ratepayers had only themselves to blame should incompetent or improper persons get upon those bodies. Speaking of the Board, over which he had the honour to preside, he considered it a great advantage to be surrounded by well-trained colleagues, who knew their work thoroughly, than by such untrained men as were likely to get upon the Board by direct election. He could not congratulate the hon. Member upon the comments he had thought fit to make upon the occupations of his colleagues on the Board. If they were butchers and bakers, the more credit was due to them for having raised themselves to a position of eminence. If men of high position and rank and wealth did not choose to direct their leisure and their talents to the public service, the discredit attached to those who did not do the work, and the credit was due to those who did it. The hon. Member had, however, forgotten to name, as members of the Board, the distinguished General who had commanded the English Forces in the Crimea, and the many eminent lawyers who had been or who were his colleagues. If the public did not choose to take the trouble of electing their vestrymen, the responsibility rested with them and not with the members of the Board. As regarded drainage, the hon. Member was utterly wrong in supposing that the Board had made large sewers to fall into small ones—the whole system being carried out upon scientific principles, under the supervision of the most eminent engineers. All he could say was, that when the Government of the day failed to carry out a sewage scheme, the Metropolitan Board of Works got theirs in hand within six months after they came into existence. With reference to the old dust system, for his part, he preferred the comparatively slight inconvenience of its collection in the day-time to being knocked up in the middle of the night, especially during the Session, when the House did not adjourn at particularly early hours. Respecting the water and gas, he was astonished that the hon. Member should get up in the House and prefer the indictment he had made. The Board had already one Bill before the House to enable them to have the control of the water supply; for they believed that what was good for Manchester, Birmingham, and Glasgow, could not be bad for the great Metropolis of London; and because they proposed to take that entire control, they did not think it right to give notice of a constant supply. As to the hydrants, if they had altered the present system they would put the Metropolis to a cost of nearly £1,000,000, and their engineers had informed the Board that even if the change were made the result would not enable the water to be thrown higher over the houses than could be done at present by means of the engines. As to Gas Bills, he had been constantly bring- ing them in ever since he had occupied a seat in that House. There had been an amalgamation of the various companies, the price of gas had been lowered, and he thought the action of the Metropolitan Board, together with that of the City of London, had greatly benefited the consumers. The inspectors regularly tested the quality of the gas, and any company which violated the provisions of the Act of Parliament was promptly called to account. He might mention, for instance, that the penalty of £50 was inflicted on one company because its gas was below the recognized standard of purity. If the quality of the gas were complained of, the Legislature rather than the companies was to blame; because it was the Legislature that fixed the lighting power and directed how the standard of purity was to be regulated, and it therefore was responsible in the matter. The hon. Member complained that the Metropolitan Board spent a great deal of money in looking after various Bills that were introduced into Parliament. The Board was empowered to attend before Select Committees in order to protect the interests of the public. For example, if a railway company brought in a Bill, the Board insisted on their widening their bridges and constructing all their works in a way that was conducive to the public advantage. He thought the House would agree with him that it was the bounden duty of the Metropolitan Board to attend to such matters. The total debt of the Board was £11,000,000, instead of £15,000,000, as stated; but some of that was actually the debt of other bodies, and if they would refer to the statistics supplied by the President of the Local Government Board in his speech of the previous evening, they would find that their debt was much less than that of several of the large Corporations. With regard to the Thames Floods Bill, of which he had given Notice to-night, he might remark that he introduced a measure on the subject last year, but it did not, he regretted to say, find favour with the House. The object of that Bill was to strengthen what was considered to be the existing law, and to compel the riparian owners to perform those duties which, in the opinion of the Board, were imposed upon them by Act of Parliament. The Board had previously asked the riparian owners to raise their river walls, had shown them how this could be done, and had specified, in some way, the expense of so doing. Since then a considerable number of the riparian owners had raised their river walls and banks, and done a great deal to prevent floods. His hon. Friend having made some remarks about the officers of the Board, he might take this occasion to say that they were of the highest standing, and that their advice was sought on every side in regard to engineering and architectural works. He had endeavoured to answer the objections raised by the hon. Member opposite, and, in conclusion, thanked the House for allowing him to defend the body over which he had the honour to preside.


objected to the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Salford (Mr. Charley), that in any reforms in the Metropolis the Corporation of London should be excluded. The Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) referred to a subject so vast that success was not to be expected unless the Government took the question up. If it were so taken up, he (Mr. James) asked whether the Government would be prepared to legislate upon it on the principle laid down by Sir Robert Peel in 1835, the principle of the extension of the Corporation to the rest of London, rather than of the establishment of a municipality which should exclude the ancient Corporation? He had referred to the subject when he brought forward the question of the City Companies last Session; and, in passing, he might add that he did not think it advisable to occupy the time of the House again this Session, considering that a division had been taken upon the question last year. In his judgment, hardly anything could be worse than the existing state of things. Even in the matter of the nomenclature of the streets there was dreadful confusion. In the Metropolis there were 95 streets named King, 99 Queen, 78 Princes, 109 George, 119 John, 91 Charles, 87 James, 58 Thomas, 47 Henry, 54 Albert, 88 William, 57 Elizabeth, 151 Church, 69 Chapel, 129 Union, 90 North and South, 50 East and West, 157 York, 87 Gloucester, 56 Cambridge, 76 Brunswick, 70 Devonshire, and 50 Richmond. Some years ago, Lord Brougham spoke of the City as "The Giant Abuse," and it seemed to him (Mr. James) that the circumstances had become worse rather than better since then. The whole state of things was one of great confusion. There was a singular absence of sound public opinion in the Metropolis, and the miserable fashion in which the poor of the Metropolis were housed could be traced to this cause. Under a broader system of administration, of course, this evil might be expected to disappear. The fundamental principle of such a reform appeared to him to be that the outlying portions of the Metropolis should enjoy the same privileges as the City. The great point in favour of the privileges of the Corporation rested on their charters; but it was difficult to ascertain which of them were in force, and how far they interfered with former charters. He did not contend that all the rights and privileges of the Corporation should at once be swept aside by an arbitrary Act; but he suggested, as a step towards that uniformity which he desired to see, that the rights of the Corporation existing from immemorial usage should be distinguished from those conferred by charter, and that the various charters in force should be repealed and contained in one enabling Act of Parliament. The Common Hall ought certainly to be abolished; the whole manner of electing the Lord Mayor, the Sheriffs, the Recorder, &c., was a relic of a bygone age. Into the details of this question he would not enter; but he might observe, in passing, that if the Guilds were allowed to remain on anything like their present footing, it would be absolutely necessary to have some investigation into their guardianship of the public purse. The office of Lord Mayor, of course, was one which ought to be kept up with proper dignity and prestige. Now, with respect to the funds of the Corporation and the mode in which they were applied, some of the charges incurred by the Corporation were perfectly monstrous and intolerable. The income of the Corporation in 1875 was £750,000, out of which £170,000 was spent in salaries and establishment charges, although in that very year the Corporation was in debt to the extent of upwards of £5,000,000. This extravagance was infinitely worse than that of the small local bodies, of which complaints were so often made. Of that large amount much was spent in a way which could hardly be deemed creditable. He held in his hand a list of many of the expenses connected with an entertainment which had been given by the Corporation to the Prince of Wales; but he was really ashamed to mention them, because they seemed to him to be so trivial and absurd. But if the Corporation estates were extended to the Metropolis itself, the administration of the property would, he felt assured, be more proper and more just. There was another point connected with the present state of London to which he wished to refer, and that was the want of open spaces. If the Corporation had been a vigilant body, more open spaces would have been secured to the public; but, of late years, with the exception of their commendable efforts in the case of Epping Forest, they had absolutely done little or nothing. There was one thing against which he must strongly protest, and that was that when the Sheriffs of London presented a Petition to that House, they should give a dinner within the walls of the building itself. That he regarded as a very gross abuse. It was generally known that the Lord Mayor had made many efforts with respect to the reduction of local taxation; but there was something about the opinions of the citizens of London which was rather remarkable, and that was, whether the Lord Mayor was a Whig or a Tory, he always resisted every attempt to effect a reform of the Corporation. He believed that nothing effectual would be done until the matter was taken up by the Government, and he hoped they would soon undertake to do something in that direction. In any attempt of that kind they would be assisted by many of the members of the Corporation, who were desirous of handing down to their successors that inheritance of freedom which their ancestors had always been so zealous in upholding.


said, he concurred in the 1st and 5th Resolutions of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth). Any reform of the Corporation of London should be undertaken by Her Majesty's Government. A satisfactory reform could only be carried as a Cabinet measure, and he hoped that the Government would, as soon as possible, take up the subject and introduce a good Bill. They looked to a Conservative Government for practical reform, and he hoped that before the Home Secretary left Office he would introduce a good and efficient measure, and carry out those improvements which were so much required. A more coercive power, as regarded the vestries, was wanted. The Metropolitan Board could not put pressure on the vestries, because the way in which the Board was elected made it impossible for it to coerce the parishes into efficiency. To achieve that result, very considerable changes would be necessary. It might very well be asked why better men did not come forward to serve on vestries?—the real fault lay in the system, which would have to be altered. At first, he had been in favour of the plan of direct election; but, judging from the results of the School Board Election, he had since had reason to change his opinion, as the eminence of the persons elected had deteriorated. He would suggest to the Home Secretary that the first thing necessary was good ability in the men elected, and there was no impossibility in obtaining able men, though the government of even a great city was a less ambitious task than that of a country. If the House would pardon the alliteration, he would mention five things which were indispensably necessary to tempt good men into a municipal corporation—either pomp, or pay, or publicity, or patronage, or power; and if none of these advantages could be offered, it might, perhaps, be desirable to create a separate Office or Ministry for the regulation of the Metropolis, as had recently been done for Scotland.


said, that the proposal of the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay Shuttleworth) was a proposal to return to a state of things which existed 500 years ago. Those who then framed the regulations of the City would be much astonished if they could come back and see the authority of the municipality restricted to 700 acres out of the total area of 70,000 included in the Metropolis. The municipality had resigned a good many of its powers and functions; among them it had given up the conservancy of the Thames, but still preserved the monopoly of markets. The facts, he thought, supported the idea that in earlier times the City of London was supposed or designed to include the whole Metropolis, and it was mainly the jealousy of the Kings which arrested the growth of the City. The reason which, he thought, explained the patience of the people with the limitation of the City boundaries, was the fact that the Metropolis did not, like so many other places, grow up from one centre, but that it started from several centres, besides London proper, such as Westminster and Chelsea—places between which and London there was not much communication until comparatively recent times. When they had extended towards each other so as to become one town, in the earlier part of the last century, the excitement engendered by the complicated state of our foreign relations, and the changes that we were going through, diverted the attention of the people both from the constitution of that House and that of the local governing bodies. It was only in 1832, when, after a settlement of the affairs of Europe had been arrived at, and peace had been restored, that the great question of the reform of that House was taken up, and, when it had been carried, it was immediately followed by the reform of the municipal corporations, which, however, stopped short of the Corporation of the City of London. The Commissioners of 1835 approached the subject in a more unprejudiced state of mind than others had done since that time. In those days, although it was supposed the City of London would oppose reform, it was thought probable that its opposition would not be stronger or more successful than the opposition of the proprietors of boroughs to the Reform Bill, or that of other Corporations to the Municipal Reform Act. Therefore, the Commissioners took it for granted that reform of some kind would be carried out in London. In their Report they said there was no reason why London should be treated differently from other places; and Lord John Russell, who was then the Leader of the House, stated that the Government would bring in a Bill for the reform of London, and it was only the magnitude of the task, and the difficulty of dealing with the subject, that was the cause of delay. The idea that had grown up since, that the reform would involve any political danger, seemed not to have existed then; the difficulty seemed to have arisen solely from the magnitude of the task, and not in the least from any fear of danger. After 1837 the question seemed to have gone to sleep; the House and the country were fully occupied with the great changes in their fiscal system following the abolition of the Corn Laws, and the matter was allowed to rest until 1855, when things had come to such a pass, and the government of London was in such a state of chaos, that, although they were engaged in the great war with Russia, and political Parties were in a state of anarchy from the collapse of the Coalition Ministry and the assumption of power by Lord Palmerston, even the Government of that day thought it absolutely necessary to propose some legislation for the government of London outside the City; and on that occasion were formed the present vestries and districts boards, and the Metropolitan Board of Works. The hon. and gallant Chairman of the latter (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) thought that the speech of the hon. Member for Hastings was an attack on the Metropolitan Board; but he (Mr. Ralli) did not take it to be so. The hon. Member for Hastings did not complain of the way the Board had carried out the functions for which it was originally appointed; but what he contended was, that at the beginning it was not intended to be a municipality for London, but was formed to carry out certain special purposes. What had happened since? That House had found it necessary to assign certain duties to some local authority in the Metropolis, and, there being no other—that was for the whole area, or any considerable part of it, except the area administered by the vestries and district boards—Parliament had gradually piled upon the Metropolitan Board of Works duties of a most incongruous character, from supervising baby farming to the demolition of unwholesome dwellings, and from main drainage—its original function—to the storage of petroleum and care of bridges. He was not going to attack either the Board or the vestries. There were many duties which they had discharged with fair efficiency, although there were some which they had fulfilled in an extraordinary manner, as they knew to their inconvenience every day, especially as regarded the cleansing of the streets. Anybody knew what would happen after a fall of snow in London. Three or four years ago, having occasion to call upon his right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich, then Premier, at his then residence in Carlton House Terrace, he found between his (Mr. Gladstone's) house and the Athenæum Club a barricade of snow, which had been piled up by the vestry during the winter, and which was allowed to remain until February or March, a black and dirty heap, which was a disgrace to a civilized town, and would not have been seen in any capital but that. The vestries certainly discharged many functions well, and neglected others, and there was no authority to compel them to attend to what they neglected. The Metropolitan Board had no authority over them; its members were elected by them, owed office to them, and could not be supposed to control them. However willing the Board might be to do the work, it had absolutely no authority to control the vestries. The Metropolitan Board had relations with the gas and water companies, and the hon. and gallant Chairman said it was continually introducing Bills to regulate them, which Bills, he said, met with little support and failed; but the Metropolitan Board was not considered by the public to be a municipal authority, and, therefore, it did not receive that support which it would receive if its members were elected directly by the ratepayers, and regarded by them as a municipality in which all could take an interest in it as citizens. The Metropolitan Board had relations with the City Corporation, and they had been told that evening that they were amicable, and which was a very good thing for the Metropolitan ratepayers, for in times past there had been a good many fights between them, in which much money had been wasted. He remembered shortly after he had the honour of a seat in that House there was an agitation for freeing the Metropolitan bridges, which resulted in a Bill, promoted by the Metropolitan Board, being carried through a Select Committee, but when it re-appeared in that House, Notice of opposition was put on the Paper, and they all knew how effective such a Notice was in June, to obstruct a private Member's Bill, such as that technically was. The Notice was given by an hon. Member for the City of London, who was then Lord Mayor, and the result was, the Bill was defeated for the Session, and had to be re-introduced the following year at an enormous additional cost to the ratepayers. Under such circumstances, the only conclusion that could be come to was, that there was required an authority to control the vestries, to deal with gas and water companies, and to obviate such conflicts between bodies representing different parts of the Metropolis. There were two plans for effecting the necessary change. One—that of the hon. Member for Hastings, was to extend the authority of the City Corporation over the whole Metropolis. The other, which had found favour in times past, and was supported by Mr. Stuart Mill, Mr. Buxton, and others, was to divide the Metropolis into several municipalities. At first sight, it might seem as if the latter plan offered great advantages, and that it would avert opposition, and be much easier to carry than the other; but he ventured to think the example they had of a community divided into several municipalities was an example to be avoided. Three years ago, he was a Member of a Committee which had to consider a Bill promoted by the Corporation of Glasgow, to extend its municipal limits; it appeared that under a Police Act, which was passed for Scotland in 1862, some of the suburbs of Glasgow had contrived to be made separate boroughs, so that there resulted, on a small scale, the state of things London would present if Westminster, Marylebone, and Chelsea were separate municipalities. The consequence to Glasgow was continual disagreements, involving costly Parliamentary contests—that which was tried by the Committee of which he was a Member, costing £11,000 to Glasgow, independently of what the opponents spent. That was what the ratepayers had had to pay for the privilege of having these separate corporations to fight each other. If that was the case with these small corporations, what it might be with the Metropolitan corporations surpassed all conjecture. He could not conceive what was the great peril or danger with which they would be confronted if they extended to the whole Metropolis the authority of the City Corporation. The new municipality would not have the great power which the present City of London possessed, owing to the revenue it derived from estates apart from taxation; the new municipality would derive its income from rates, which it would have to account for to the ratepayers; its influence could not, therefore, be backed up, as that of the existing Corporation was, by the lavish and magnificent expenditure which its own property enabled it to indulge in; and therefore he thought the power of the new municipality would be of an entirely different character from that of the present Corporation, which so many were afraid of increasing. If there was political danger, which he did not believe, they were bound to take their chance of such a danger. That House, 40 years ago, allowed all great towns and cities to have municipal corporations; last year and this it had gone further, and had resolved that not only towns and urban districts should have elected municipal authorities, but that, even in the counties, there should be similar authorities; and, although the Bill of the Government did not propose direct election, there was no doubt it was the beginning of a great innovation in the government of the counties, and that in future years the counties would have kindred institutions to those of the towns. Therefore, if the House rejected the Motion, they would arrive at the conclusion that the Metropolis did not merit privileges they considered all the towns of England to be worthy of 40 years ago, and which they were now conferring even upon the counties, they would decide that the only people who were too stupid or too dangerous to have them were the people of London outside the City boundaries. He thought that that was too unreasonable a conclusion for the House to arrive at. He could not but think the House would give the hon. Member for Hastings sufficient encouragement to justify him in pressing his Motion to a division, and whatever might happen now, the debate would not have prejudiced the discussion of the question afterwards, but would have promoted its ultimate settlement. He could not imagine that political fears were the excuse for not doing something now; the fear really was the opposition that would be engendered in certain quarters of the Metropolis. Seeing what measures the House had carried since 1837, when the first Report on this subject was made, he could not imagine it would be deterred by imaginary fears from carrying out this reform, to effect which would earn for the Home Secretary the gratitude of the inhabitants of London, with an increase of the popularity which he possessed, and which they were all agreed he so highly deserved.


said, whatever might be the result of the Motion, they must all feel indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttle worth) for having brought forward the subject for discussion. He (Sir Sydney Waterlow) congratulated the hon. Baronet on the very clear and temperate manner in which he had dealt with the subject, and hoped that its discussion would awaken the attention of the public, and stimulate the Government to take the matter in hand. He could not concur in the criticisms which had been passed on the Metropolitan Board of Works. When originally constituted, that body was never intended to perform the duties which year after year had been thrown upon it; and yet, while the work was increased, no addition was made to the number of persons who had to perform those important functions. In fact, there were not a sufficient number of persons on the Board to give the necessary time and attention to the details of the work. He wished it to be distinctly understood that he had no authority to speak for the Corporation of London; but, from long experience of that body, having filled almost all its offices, he thought he might say that if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would take in hand the great question of providing one large municipal body for the government of the Metropolis, he would not find the Corporation hostile or throwing impediments in his way. He said that on the assumption that if the right hon. Gentleman took up the question, he would deal leniently with the privileges of the Corporation. Some hon. Members might think that the work of the Corporation was local, but it was not at all local. The Coal, Corn, and Finance Committee, for instance, handed over a considerable portion of the money it collected to the Metropolitan Board to be spent over the whole Metropolis. Then the work with regard to the Metropolitan markets was spread among four committees. No one could say that that work—the dispensing of the food for the entire community, as he might call it, a very small portion only being consumed in the City proper—was a work which concerned only the City of London. It concerned the millions who inhabited the Metropolis. There was also the Library Committee. The library was open not merely to citizens of London, but to all in the Metropolis who chose to visit it. Then there was the City of London School. Five-sixths at least of the scholars did not belong to the City of London; they came from the outskirts of London. Then the whole of the work of the Port of London Sanitary Committee concerned those who lived outside the City boundaries. It was clear, therefore, that the Corporation of London performed important duties affecting generally the welfare of the Metropolis; and, after the expression of opinion in that House on the occasion of the debate raised by the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James), he could hardly suppose that the Government would think of interfering with the property of the City Companies. He should rejoice to see the Corporation and the Metropolitan Board amalgamated with one central authority, to secure for this Metropolis the advantages of municipal government; and he could not think that the inhabitants of the large parishes—such as Lambeth, Chelsea, and Marylebone—would long continue without the advantages which local municipal government would confer upon them. While he reserved to himself the liberty of expressing an opinion on other points raised, he accepted the broad principle that it was desirable there should be one municipality for the control and management of this great Metropolis.


said, he was glad to learn from the last speaker (Sir Sydney Waterlow), that whoever might undertake to deal with that question was not likely to have to encounter the hostility of the City of London. There could not, he thought, be a better time than the present for dealing with the matter, and the declaration of the hon. Baronet would certainly give comfort to all who were working in the direction of reform. A great gain had been secured when it was practically admitted that the question would not meet with hostility from the Corporation of London. The hon. Baronet the Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) had shown, in a very clear and complete speech, the unsatisfac- tory state of things which now existed, and had urged the necessity of something being done to remedy it. The question had now become ripe for solution. All that remained was, what should that something be, and who was to do it? Two views as to what should be done had been put before the House. The one was that they should follow the lines of the old City Constitution and extend the jurisdiction of the City over the whole of the Metropolis now beyond its boundaries. On the other hand, the hon. and learned Gentleman behind him (Mr. Charley) thought that would be a source of political danger; and that, instead of having one great municipality for all London, they should have a congeries of smaller municipalities under the wing, as it were, of the City—a sort of hen-and-chickens, in fact. For himself, he was inclined to think it would be better in that matter to proceed on the old lines, and he could not foresee any political danger in a single great municipality such as had been pointed out. The 1st Resolution of the hon. Member for Hastings merely affirmed a fact which nobody who walked about London using his eyes and his nose could gainsay—namely, that its local management required reform. He (Lord Elcho) had asked his hon. and gallant Friend the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works last year, whether he had any power to force the vestries to water the streets? and he found that he had not. Things could not be allowed to remain as they were. It would be better that the work should be done under the Corporation than that they should have the double system of the Metropolitan Board of Works and the City. Even if they retained the latter body, they would have to give it increased power. The 5th Resolution of the hon. Member for Hastings said that the necessary reform should be undertaken by the Government. If dealt with at all, the question must be dealt with by the Government, and by a strong Government. He would suggest that the hon. Member (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) should sink his intermediate Resolutions, and submit to the House only the 1st and the 5th of them. That would leave open the question of whether they should have one municipality under the City, or several municipalities, which would have to end, more or less, in a federation under one head. They would not gain anything by a division, because the odds were that the Government would decline to abide by the decision of the House, and would wish to remain free to judge whether or not it should take up such a question. He hoped, however, to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary say, that he saw the policy and necessity of taking it up in the state in which it now stood, there now appearing every prospect that in dealing with it he would have the help of the City. He trusted that much good might come from that discussion, and that something would now proceed from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cross) which would encourage those who had been working for many years in favour of the municipal reform of that Metropolis.


said, he could not help thinking this had been entirely a one-sided debate, and he had waited some time to see whether anyone would rise to argue against the Resolutions of his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth). He thought the House would concur with him at least in this—that they were indebted to his hon. Friend for the admirable manner in which he had expounded the subject. His hon. Friend, in an exhaustive, careful, descriptive analysis of the constitution of the Metropolitan authorities, had shown that the present state of local government in London was indefensible, and there was no possible argument which could be addressed to the House which would defend the denial to the Metropolis, except that portion of it which was within the City, of the municipal advantages which were extended to every borough in the Kingdom. His hon. Friend had also shown that not only was there a state of chaos with regard to existing institutions, whether municipal or otherwise, in the City of London and in the Metropolis around it; but that with the exception of the City, there was an absence of some of the most ordinary and necessary powers of local government. He did not know that the House generally recognized the fact that there was not a single urban sanitary authority throughout England and Wales, however small, which had not more complete powers of local self-government than was possessed by that portion of the Metropolis which was under the Board of Works. In 1835, Parliament gave the advantages of municipal institutions to all the large, and some of the smaller towns in the country, excluding only the Metropolis. In 1872–3 Parliament extended somewhat similar powers under a succession of Acts to urban populations. But during the whole period of 40 years, although it had never been argued that the Metropolis was not fit for municipal duties, no serious attempt had been made to confer those advantages on it itself. What did the Government intend to do? His hon. Friend had referred to the fact that the Metropolitan Board of Works had this year come to Parliament to ask for additional powers to buy up the works of the water companies. The Question he wished to ask the Home Secretary and the House was this—What answer was to be given to that appeal? He could not think that Parliament was going to grant those powers—powers such as were already possessed by every petty urban authority throughout the country. But if the Government did not think it wise to confer on the Metropolitan Board of Works the power to supply the Metropolis with water, then upon the Government must be thrown the responsibility of providing the Metropolis with a Governing Body upon which they would advise Parliament to confer these powers. His hon. Friend proposed that the whole Metropolis should be united under one administrative authority; others would like to have several municipalities federated with the City. All these were questions of the highest importance; but they were secondary in point of time. In the front rank he placed the responsibility of the Government, and he rested that responsibility not only on the urgency of the question, but also on the fact that this Session the Metropolitan Board of Works had applied for powers to supply the Metropolis with water. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary would acknowledge the urgency of the occasion, and that Her Majesty's Government would take upon themselves the responsibility of dealing with the question at the earliest possible period.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Stansfeld) had referred to the responsibility of the Government. As to that, he need only point out that the Party to which the right hon. Member for Halifax belonged had held the reins of Office for a considerable number of years, and had had ample opportunities of dealing with this subject. He presumed, therefore, that they had not felt that their responsibility called upon them to deal with it. For his own part, he was not aware that any urgency had arisen since then, or that any urgency existed now that did not exist four years ago. He was very much obliged to the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) for the very able and temperate speech he had delivered in bringing the subject forward. Still, he regretted that the matter had not been brought forward as an independent Motion earlier in the week, instead of being in the form of a Motion on going into Committee of Supply; because, in the former case, some hon. Members might have set up some other plan, opposed to his own plan of a central government, which the House might have discussed, whereas, at the present moment, there existed no means by which the efficacy of one plan as compared with another could be tested. Moreover, he was rather sorry that the Motion had taken the form of a Resolution at all, for that seemed to be rather a retrograde step in this matter. Several Bills had been introduced on this question before now, and when the question had once assumed that shape, it was rather a retrograde step to go back to the form of a Resolution. At all events, the hon. Member who introduced the Motion had not availed himself of the opportunity he would have had, if his views had been embodied in a Bill, of explaining to the House how he would have carried his proposal into effect. But that was the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken.


reminded the right hon. Gentleman that he had helped to bring in a Bill on the subject.


said, that only strengthened his argument that it was a retrograde step to go back to the form of a Resolution. Passing on to a consideration of the Resolutions themselves, he remarked that the 5th was rather an awkward one. It was— That this reform should be undertaken by Her Majesty's Government without delay. The 1st Resolution was merely destructive. It ran in these terms— That in the opinion of this House, the present state of Local Government in London is unsatisfactory, and calls for reform. Thus, it merely said that that which existed was wrong. This, generally speaking, was very easy to prove with regard not only to the municipality of London, but a great many things. The 2nd and 4th Resolutions were really constructive Resolutions. They affirmed— That the whole Metropolis should be united under one administrative authority, directly representing the ratepayers, and so constituted as to command general confidence;" and, "That the ancient Corporation of the City, if extended over the Metropolis and remodelled in accordance with present wants, would best achieve the purposes of a Municipality for London. He presumed that meant that they ought to take the prestige and the property and everything else belonging to the ancient Corporation of the City of London, to alter them entirely so as to meet modern requirements, and then extend them to the whole Metropolis. Well, there would not be much of the ancient Corporation left. Unless the proposal were worked out much more in detail, it would be better to pass over the 2nd and 4th Resolutions. The question was how the House should best deal with the matter to-night. He was bound to say that anyone who walked through London on a very wet or snowy day must wish to see the Metropolis reformed. But that was a truism to say not merely of London, but also of the reformed Corporations of Manchester, Liverpool, and other great towns, that no one could pass through any of those places without wishing them reformed. He did not think there was much force in the statement of how many jurisdictions a person would pass through in walking from Hammersmith to Charing Cross. It did not matter how many jurisdictions there were if they were all properly attended to, and did not levy customs. Some hon. Members talked of having one body to administer everything within a given area; but he would observe that that was a thing not to be found in any municipality in the world. In Liverpool, for example, he thought there were 30 or 40 different bodies touching at different parts within the limits of that Corporation. This question was not a now one, as it had been brought before the House over and over again. Several different proposals had been made, two of which ought to be named before they came to the conclusion that this was a proposal which they were all bound to adopt. The hon. Alderman on the other side of the House (Sir Sydney Waterlow) made a remark which might lead hon. Members to believe that the City of London was really anxious that the present proposal should be accepted. He (Mr. Cross) had, however, himself seen that very day one of the chief officers of the City, and he was told that a Resolution had been passed by the Committee on Local Government to the effect— That this Committee is of opinion that one municipality would not be able to administer the local affairs of the entire Metropolis. Then, they went on to say that the report agreed to by the Court of Common Council in May, 1870, should be the basis of any alteration in the local government of the Metropolis. This was the conclusion of the only City Committee that had discussed the question, and it was distinctly opposite to the principle of these Resolutions. It was true that the City of London, according to that Resolution, were to mix themselves up with other municipalities; but that was not the proposal contained in these Resolutions. It had been agreed on all hands, and by both sides of the House, that if this matter were to be undertaken by any Government, the first thing to do was to get the City of London on their side; but at the present moment the Government had not got the City on their side. All he could say was, that in a matter of this kind, where such institutions were concerned, it was quite right to get the City on their side. The hon. Alderman who had spoken on behalf of the City said that the City were considering this question, and, in a matter of such gravity and importance, it was but reasonable that time should be allowed for their consideration. Therefore, if the question had been brought forward as a distinct Resolution, he would have been disposed to suggest that it should have been met by the Previous Question; but, in its present form, he thought the best way of meeting it was to affirm the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair—a Motion which would have the same effect as that of the Previous Question. Dealing with the different ways which had been suggested for meeting the difficulty of Metropolitan management, there had been more than one proposal. Much had been said, and a great many suggestions had been made, as to the manner in which the Metropolis should be governed; but all of them were open to objections of some kind or another. It had been said that the Metropolitan Board of Works should be extended. It had also been suggested, he believed by Earl Fortescue, that there should be all sorts of bodies, and that each should be devoted to a particular work—one to water, one to gas, one to improvements, and so on. But there was one difficulty which those who spoke a good deal with respect to the latter suggestion did not appear to have taken sufficiently into consideration, and that was the difference of area which was touched by such a proposition—so far, at least, as gas and water were concerned. It had been said, again, that the City should be the nucleus of the whole story, and that it should be extended; and reference had been made about the habit of taking in wards, one after another; but much more had been made of that point than he thought history would warrant. When it came to the absorption of the city of Westminster as a suburb of the City of London, a stop would certainly be made. In his opinion, many of the suggestions from time to time made upon the matter deserved more consideration than they could possibly receive in that House that night. It would, therefore, be unwise to come to a decision at once upon a point like that—that London, if it was to be reformed at all, must be reformed by extending the City over the whole area of the Metropolis. The action of Sir Robert Peel in 1835 and 1837 had been referred to; but upon that point something had been omitted which ought to have been stated. The matter was inquired into by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Mr. Labouchere, and Sir John Coleridge. They were proposing to extend the City of London to 120 times its present size. That was a bold thing. They must consider what was the object of municipal government. One of its conditions was that there should be an esprit de corps in the community to whom it was applied, that it should have a common interest. But what said the Committee?— A change of this magnitude would not only alter the whole character of the City Corporation, but it would, as it seems to us, defeat the main purpose of municipal institutions. London, taken in its full extent, has, in literal truth, been called a Province covered with houses. Its diameter from North to South and from East to West is so great that persons living at the farthest extremities have but very few interests in common. Its area is so large that each inhabitant is in general acquainted only with his own quarter, and has no minute knowledge of the other parts of the town. Hence the two first conditions of municipal government, minute local knowledge and community of interest, would be wanting if the whole of London were placed under a single municipal corporation. He was not saying the difficulty was insuperable; but he did say that in a debate of the kind they could not affirm such a sweeping proposition, and he thought the House ought to weigh very carefully indeed any Resolution it might come to. It was a very significant fact that gentlemen of great experience had carefully investigated this subject from time to time; and since the period when the great municipal changes were made all over the country, the proposal to have one municipal institution for the whole of London was the one thing which had never been recommended by any Committee or Commission. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) seemed not unwilling to see such a scheme carried out; but he (Mr. Cross) would remind him that if the City of London had added to it the 75,000 acres over which the rest of the Metropolis extended, the Corporation would retain little or nothing of its present character, for the privileges which the City at present possessed would be sure to be extended to the new one, and Aldermen would be sure to disappear. It seemed to him that he would be an extremely rash man who would seriously suggest that the whole of the charters which the City of London now possessed should be granted to a great municipal institution having the whole of the Metropolis under its control. Few people knew exactly what those charters really were, or how far their powers might be pressed. Yet, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. James) proposed nothing less than an extension of the rights and privileges of the City to the whole Metropolitan area. Well, independently of the fact that no one could tell exactly what the rights and privileges of the City were, was it to be supposed for a moment that the Metropolis at large should have power to elect its own Judges? It would be absolutely impossible that such a thing could be allowed for a moment. It would be creating a state of matters which did not exist in any other country. The House would therefore, he hoped, at all events, stay its hand before it committed itself to any rash conclusions as to extending the City over the whole Metropolis, and making it the Governing Body for London. When it was said that the government of the Metropolis was not all that it should be, that was to give expression to a simple truism. But it was a totally different thing from declaring by a formal Resolution that the government of London ought to be altered, and that the Government of the day should take the subject up and deal with it at once, and act as some hon. Gentlemen, seemed to desire. That was a sort of Resolution by which he declined to be bound. No one could hold the Office which he had the honour to fill and refuse to admit that there were great faults in the government of London. He would go further, and say that there were questions connected with it which must undoubtedly be settled, seeing that the Bill had been introduced by the Metropolitan Board of Works for taking upon itself the whole of the water and gas supply of London, and taking into account the Report of the Fire Brigade Committee which sat one or two Sessions ago. Quite sufficient pressure was thus put on the Government if they thought fit to lay before the House measures dealing with those questions before long. Having said that, he had, he thought, said as much as he would be justified in doing. The matters to which he had just referred were such as the Government were bound to take into consideration; and, when they did so, other matters would, of necessity, occupy their attention. Without, therefore, giving any pledge on the part of the Government which would bind them at once to bring in a Bill to carry out the object which the hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) had in view, he begged to return him his sincere thanks for the manner in which he had brought an important subject under the notice of the House.


said, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman towards the latter part of his speech began to think what he (Mr. Lowe) himself had certainly thought all through, that he had not dealt very worthily with a great question. The House had that evening witnessed a most singular spectacle. A very bold and sweeping proposition had been submitted to its consideration, with great ability for effecting changes in a most ancient and respectable institution. Speech after speech had been made in support of that proposition. Arguments of great ingenuity had been advanced, and great knowledge of the subject had been displayed, but not one hon. Member rose to say a word in favour of the state of things which had been attacked. The City of London, as the House was aware, was a very powerful institution. It was represented by four hon. and right hon. Members, and could influence the votes and opinions of a very large number besides. Yet, it had not deemed it necessary, when sweeping changes affecting it were proposed, to put forward its strength or to say anything in its own defence. He could not suppose, especially after what had fallen from the hon. Alderman behind him (Sir Sydney Waterlow), that that mode of meeting the question before the House had its origin in any feeling of contempt for what had been stated. He attributed it to a much more honourable reason, and that was that the City of London was persuaded that the time had come when it could no longer remain in a state of isolation apart from the great communities which dwelt in its immediate vicinity. It must be prepared to take the lead in making itself the head, not of a small portion, but of the whole of London. That being the state of the case, and also bearing in mind that for several years the question had been pressed upon the Government, he thought—seeing that nothing whatever had been done, though what amount of consideration had taken place he knew not—they had some right to complain of the manner in which they had been met on the present occasion. The objection which had been made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the course pursued by his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) was, he could not help thinking, hardly fair; in- deed, he (Mr. Lowe) thought he must have put it as a joke. The right hon. Gentleman asked why his hon. Friend had not brought in a Bill?—as if it was likely that any private Member could succeed in passing a Bill providing that municipal institutions should be extended over the whole of London. It would be all very well to ask such a question if it were meant as a joke; but the right hon. Gentleman was speaking seriously, and he, with the whole power of the Government at his disposal, condescended to carp and sneer at his hon. Friend because he had not brought in a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman might have recollected that hon. Gentlemen might bring in a Bill on that or any other subject, and have their names put in the papers; but there was no chance of doing anything with a Bill, unless they were very fortunate on a Tuesday; and the Government had got into the agreeable habit of confiscating the Tuesdays for their own benefit without Notice to the House. And then they said—"Why don't you bring in a Bill?" The right hon. Gentleman had given them to understand that he had given no consideration to the subject.




said, that was what he understood. The right hon. Gentleman treated the subject with contempt.


I did no such thing. I said serious questions had arisen that would receive our attention.


Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to say that they should continue to go on as they were going on then? Was he prepared to say that he would not stir in the direction of giving any kind of self-government, except within a single mile, to a population larger than that of many a State? The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about five Resolutions having been brought forward; but he was master of the situation, and he could very well take care that neither five Resolutions nor one on the present subject was passed. The matter then stood in this position—that, while everybody felt that new wants were everyday springing up, they were left to be dealt with by a body of the most anomalous character, quite different from anything which existed in any other part of the country. They had got an ingenious contrivance by which a number of persons elected for small, obscure, and insignificant offices, whose names were not known to the persons over whom they exercised a certain power, and who were utterly unknown and unregarded, elected other persons who were entrusted with the expenditure of millions and millions of money, and in whom was reposed the highest trust. Was it to be tolerated that when the citizens of the Metropolis wanted anything done, they should be compelled to apply to such a body? Was such a state of things to be perpetuated because the Government refused to stir in the matter? Was it a state of things so consonant with the habits of the people of this country that it required no argument to be urged in its defence? He had hoped that his hon. Friend would have been enabled to withdraw his Resolutions, because of some satisfactory assurance which would be given him by the Government. He now hoped, however, that he would go to a division. They would have the satisfaction of knowing that, although they might be overwhelmed with numbers, nothing had been done to convince them by argument.


said, he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, who had himself been Home Secretary, should wonder at the tone of his right hon. Friend's speech. For himself, he must confess that he had listened with some surprise to the tone and manner of the speech which had just been delivered. They had heard the right hon. Gentleman belabouring the Home Secretary for not having introduced a measure—which his right hon. Friend had never promised to introduce—which during the whole five years the Member for the University of London was in Office, the Government to which he belonged had never introduced. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to some observations which had been made in that House, and had, apparently, misunderstood them. What happened was this—when, at an early period of the late Administration, Lord Aberdare talked of legislating on the subject, he (Lord John Manners), in venturing to give him a piece of advice, said he was quite right to move in the matter, if he found himself supported by both the City of London, and the Metropolitan Board of Works, but not otherwise. That advice had been taken in very good part; but it so happened that from that day to this no measure on the subject had ever been introduced, much less had passed into law. And yet the right hon. Gentleman rose in great dudgeon and wrath to complain that no Bill had been brought in to reform those very bodies which he had himself and the Government to which he belonged let alone. The right hon. Gentleman had very hastily assumed that because no Member for the City of London had risen to denounce the proposal before the House, therefore the Members for the City were in favour of it. The Government happened to know that the feeling of the City was not in favour of such a proposal, and it was vain for the right hon. Gentleman to spin a cobweb argument from a supposed assent inferred from the silence of the hon. Members for the City. For the matter of that, no hon. Member had risen to maintain the existence of the Metropolitan Board, except its Chairman, who had made so good and effective a reply to the charges brought against his Board that no other Members had found it necessary to speak on that part of the question. He was bound to say that, considering the tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he had been surprised to see how little argument there was in it. How much light, for instance, did it throw upon the grave reforms which the right hon. Gentleman intended to introduce for the benefit of the Metropolis? But the right hon. Gentleman had said nothing whatever on that point, though the subject was very grave and considerable, one of the greatest difficulty, and no Government could pretend to deal with it, unless it made up its mind as to what was practicable. His own opinion was, that the House should make up its mind before dealing with so grave a question; and it was better that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary should hold his hand, and not speak in a vague, declamatory way, about the blessings of extending the government of the City of London over the whole Metropolis, until he was satisfied what could be done, and that he could carry the City and Metropolitan authorities along with him in doing it. He knew very well that much of the work that had to be done could be performed better than by the existing fragmentary machinery by which it was at present accomplished; but he would not sit down without saying that the work, so far as it had been done, had been done well, and to the satisfaction of the Metropolis.


I am in the unfortunate position of not being able to agree with either side. On the one hand, I think that a case for reform has been made out by my hon. Friend (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth); while, on the other, I disagree with much of what the hon. Baronet has said. As for the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), he and I are ratepayers in the same ward, in the same parish; and the best way in which I can pay him off for the observations on the subject of London government which he has made, is by moving at the meeting of the ratepayers, which will be held on Tuesday the 28th of May, that he be elected to the vestry for our ward. I am sure that the great name and eminent public services of the right hon. Gentleman will make his election by the ratepayers a certainty; and I feel that he will be excellently punished for his past, by having to sit and witness, week after week, the excellent government of his parish by those he has condemned. It is singular that the right hon. Gentleman, who is famed for his fear of democracy, sees only one hope for our government in London—namely, that our rulers should be directly elected by household suffrage without any restriction of residence. He is hardly consistent when he takes that view. I, who am open to no such charge of inconsistency, can take it, and do take it, for reasons which I will give. A great portion of the attacks upon the present form of London government are the result of an unfair and misleading comparison with the government of Paris. It is true, that while no work has been carried out in Paris as great and as enduring as the Thames Embankment, nevertheless, a greater mass of new works have been successfully executed in Paris in our time, than in London; and that, in certain points, the government of Paris is superior to our own. But, in municipal government, I fear that it is the case that good government means dear government; and it must be remembered that in Paris, street watering, street sweeping, removal of dust, lighting, paving, and many other services, can be carried out at a vastly cheaper rate than is the case in London, and for this reason—that the concentration of population in Paris is such, that the area of the whole of the 12 central arrondissements is less than that of the single Metropolitan borough which I represent; and the whole of Paris up to the fortifications, occupies an area only equal to that of two of our Metropolitan boroughs. This concentration of population is caused by the Parisian practice of letting in flats, instead of separate houses; and that practice not only cheapens the cost of the services which I have named, but also enormously increases the effectiveness combined with cheapness of other services, such as inspection of nuisances, provisions against over-crowding and sanitary provisions generally, and many others, by making the porter of each great house a semi-official personage. On the other hand, while I think that the statements of the right hon. Gentleman are exaggerated, I am decidedly of opinion that the present system of local government in London does call for reform, and I am able to support the 1st Resolution of my hon. Friend. Had I no other reason for so doing, this reason would be a sufficient one with me—that the people of London desire greater unity of administration in certain large matters which at present are, and which must continue to be, beyond the control of the parochial vestries. Now, the Metropolitan Board know that this is so, and by their Gas Bills of last year, and their Water Bills of this year, they have shown they know it. On the other hand, their constitution is such, that they must be perfectly aware—and if they are not, the House is well aware—that they will not be permitted by the House to carry any of those large Bills. That the Government of London stands in need of reform, for the purpose of securing unity of administration in the larger matters, seems then to me beyond dispute; and the open question is, what particular reform shall be carried out? which question would come on for our discussion upon the 2nd and 3rd of my hon. Friend's Resolutions, after the 1st should have been carried. I am disposed to agree with what I believe is the opinion of my hon. Friend, rather than with that which, to judge by his former Bill, used to be his opinion some years ago. I think, for those purposes for which we need a strong administration, we should try to make all London one; and for those purposes for which we need close personal supervision, the existing parochial areas are amply large enough. In other words, I am most strongly opposed to the scheme for creating municipalities in each of the Metropolitan boroughs. It would be a great political convenience to the Metropolitan Members; but I am convinced that it would be attended with the greatest drawbacks to the good government of the Metropolis—that it would introduce fresh elements of cost and confusion; and so strongly do I hold this opinion, that if the choice were between the scheme of the late Mr. Mill and the present state of things, I would far sooner wish that we should remain as we are. But it is not. Whether the reform come this year, or whether it come in a few years' time, it is certain that we shall soon progress, in the direction of increased unity of administration. For the smaller purposes, I would sooner, if there is to be a change, further divide than further amalgamate. One of the parishes, for instance, which I represent, is too large an area for the smaller purposes—I mean the parish of Kensington, which has 160,000 population, and an area as great as that of most of our largest provincial towns. But no one can deny that the Metropolis should be freed from all the remaining vestiges of Middlesex and Surrey county administration, and that for the larger purposes, it would be well—if the jealousies which prevent it could be removed—that the City and the Metropolis should be sufficiently amalgamated to give us a body which might be entrusted with the control of the main thoroughfares for traffic, of the bridges, embankments, public parks, and gardens and commons, with the prevention of fire, with the representation of London for ceremonial purposes, the reception of great personages and foreigners of distinction, the celebration of public holidays—and, if the ratepayers wished it, the control of the supply of water and of gas. The Metropolitan Board cannot carry its Bills; not, as is alleged by the hon. Baronet, from any fault of its own. This charge is one which is most unjustly brought against the Metropolitan Board. It is entirely the fault of this House for treating Metropolitan Bills as Public Bills, which brings them under the operation of the half-past 12 rule, so that it becomes in the power of any one Member to stop their progress. Every other town is allowed to carry its Bills as Private Bills; and, if we were allowed to treat ours in this way, they, too, would become law. The case in which the Metropolitan Board are open to a charge of gross neglect of duty is that of the prevention of Thames floods within the Metropolitan district. Their conduct upon this subject last year certainly showed an utter want of all true understanding of the importance of the functions with which they are charged; and I fear that they are about to repeat their error in the present Session; but those of us who have occasion to attack them warmly for the matters in which they have gone wrong, ought to be very careful not to blame them in the cases in which they have been right. In conclusion, let me once more repeat that, while I cannot agree with all that has fallen from my hon. Friend, I think that he has made out a clear case for reform; and I shall cordially support him if he goes to a division, which I think, after the speech of the Home Secretary, he cannot choose but do.


said, that the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), the author of The Greater Britain, had treated the subject in a more worthy and practical manner than the author of the abstract Resolutions which were before the House. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Chairman of the Board of Works (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) had ably defended the body of which he was the Representative, and since then he (Mr. Newdegate) had not heard any reason adduced against the action of the Board, except that which had been alleged by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, who blamed the Metropolitan Board of Works for not having assumed the responsibility of guarding against the repeated flooding of the populous district on the south side of the Thames. The hon. Member had, however, totally omitted to notice the fact that the Board of Works had called upon the proprietors of that district to do the work of embankment, which it was their duty to carry out, and that they were doing it, and that the result must be a great saving of public money—that was the only accusation which had been brought against the Board of Works, except the accusation that their Chairman had not been able to pass through that House Bills for concentrating in the hands of the Board the supply of gas and the supply of water for the whole Metropolis. Judging by the enormous expenditure which had already accrued, and was still accruing, in the larger towns of this country for those purposes—and he might mention Birmingham among them—he considered that if there was to be any economy hereafter in the supply of these necessaries—and the supply of these was at present sufficient in the Metropolis—it was essential that some control should be exercised over the expenditure; for the vice of the system adopted in Birmingham, whereby the Corporation became contractors for both water and gas, and there remained no disinterested superintending authority, for the Corporation had superintended the gas and water companies it had superseded, but could not superintend itself. If that was an evil, which he knew was felt among his constituents in Birmingham, what would be the magnitude of the evil, if that same defect were imported into the local administration of the Metropolis?—the enormous increase of local and corporate indebtedness. The serious effect of this absence of control had already been noticed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the President of the Local Government Board, and he trusted that this House, in arranging municipalities for the future, would guard itself against constituting the Board of Works, or any other corporation traders in public money, without supervision. He (Mr. Newdegate), like the hon. Member for Chelsea, with whom he had the privilege of serving on the Select Committee on Public Business, was, moreover, aware that it was not the fault of the Chairman of the Board of Works that he was not able to pass the Bills he had introduced. The one simple reason for that was, as they all knew, the absolute impediment experienced by unofficial Members who attempted to pass opposed Bills through the House, owing to the lamentable accumulation of Orders—that was, of Bills in the Order Book. The hon. Member for Chelsea had acquitted the Chairman of the Board of Works on that score; but what he (Mr. Newdegate) lamented was, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), to whose speeches on the subject of Electoral Reform he had always listened with admiration—speeches which had made him (Mr. Newdegate) congratulate himself upon the fact that there was yet one Member of the House who could take a wide, profound, statesmanlike, and Constitutional view of that great and other cognate questions—should suddenly, upon so important a question as the one before the House—the great question of Corporate Reform—forget all his own reasoning against massing constituencies for direct representation. Who could have believed that the author and utterer of those admirable sentiments was now prepared to vote for lumping humanity, and then cutting it into slices like cheese, with a view to providing for the administration of the affairs of this Metropolis? Upon looking at the Resolutions before the House, he (Mr. Newdegate) observed that the first only affirmed that there was need for reform. Well, he knew of no human institution that would not be better for reform. He did not believe in the perfectibility of human nature. He did not believe in the infallibility even of the Pope. He did not believe that that House itself was perfect. He did not believe that they would be able to constitute any perfect machinery for the government of mankind, unless they imported from another sphere some perfect agency such as did not exist in this world. But what was the next Resolution? He owned he felt surprised when he heard the hon. Member for Chelsea say that he might be induced to vote for uniting the whole Metropolis under one administrative authority directly representing the ratepayers, and so constituted—and here was the difficulty—as to command general confidence. Now, there was the difficulty. Any man who had had to extemporize an organization—and he, for one, had had to do so—must know that the first element of organization was sub-division; and he would like to know what better system of sub-division they could have than that of the parochial system? When he acted as Chairman of the Distress Committees in his own county, after the passing of the French Treaty in 1861, it was his function to frame a system and rules for organizing relief, which afterwards became the basis on which the Relief Committees throughout Lancashire and Yorkshire, during the Cotton Famine, were organized. That became a municipal organization. What was the fundamental and primary basis of that organization? The breaking up the administration of relief into such fractional sections that those who undertook to administer relief should have a perfect knowledge of those to whom they administered it, and have a sense of their own direct personal responsibility from neighbourly contact in that administration. If conforming to the system which had grown up of late, of lumping humanity into great masses, and carving it like a cheese for the purposes of administration—if that was to prevail, they would certainly not improve, though they might alter; and, in the case of the Metropolitan Board of Works, they would destroy its really popular character. Could anything show more plainly that the hon. Mover of the Resolutions was a pupil of the modern political philosophy—if philosophy it could be called—which treated human nature as if it were mere material, and proposed to divide it as they would cut a plum pudding, without reference to the natural and social relations of those who were to be governed, and to govern; thus abandoning all hope of support from social influences. Surely it was a proposal utterly unworthy of one who presumed to call himself a political philosopher! He (Mr. Newdegate) distrusted the system, because it would concentrate all authority in a manner that would deprive authority at once of local knowledge, of a just sense of responsibility, of the prime elements of trustworthiness, and thus of the respect of the humble, while it would fail to command the confidence of property. It would thus lack every element which had hitherto constituted the strength of the municipal system of this country.


said, the speech to which they had just listened with so much interest and pleasure did not remove the impression from his mind that hon. Gentlemen opposite were agreed to treat the question in a jocular spirit. ["No, no!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary gave them an example of the fun with which the question was to be dealt with; and if the noble Lord the Postmaster General had heard the first part of the speech of his right hon. Colleague, he would not have rebuked his (Mr. Goschen's) right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London for the comments he had made. The noble Lord asked the right hon. Gentleman why he had not dealt with the question when in Office? Well, it was infinitely easier for the present Government to deal with the subject than it would have been for the late Administration, who would, if they had ventured on doing what was necessary, have encountered the strenuous opposition of the Conservative Party; this, however, he would offer, that if the present Administration undertook the task, they would meet with support and sympathy from that side of the House. Could the noble Lord opposite say that, in such a case, the Liberal Party would have received his support and that of his Friends?


said, the support of the Conservative Party to be given to any such reform would have depended on the excellence of the proposed measure.


said, that, at any rate, was not their experience. His right hon. Friend had spoken of the fact that the three Conservative Members for the City had taken no part in the debate; and, for his part, he (Mr. Goschen) drew from it the inference that the City authorities had changed their attitude, and that, while they would keep a watchful eye on their own interests, they were ready to look with favour on a well-considered scheme of reform in a totally different spirit from that of a few years back. Considerable disappointment had been created that evening by the tone of the Government in reference to this question. If the Government had been inclined to treat the matter seriously, there would have been a disposition to withdraw the Resolutions; but, in the circumstances, he thought it would be necessary to take a division. The speech of the Home Secretary was ingenious, but it was not encouraging; and he (Mr. Goschen) would, therefore, give his support to them.


said, the difficulty surrounding the question was neither legislative nor administra- tive, but historical. There was no anomaly in the City of London, taken by itself, and it did not require reform. There would have been no anomaly at all if the City of London was what it once was, and was not surrounded by an enormous extent of suburbs, making, with the City proper, an aggregate population of over 4,000,000 souls; but now there had sprung up around London a great city, and it was proposed to place it under a municipal body, which should be elected by the ratepayers. A body so elected would be unlike any corporation in the Kingdom. He asked the House to consider what a power they would be creating. Within the area of its government would be the residence of the Sovereign, the Houses of Parliament, and the Law Courts. He would not take the unpopular course of speaking of the wisdom of our ancestors. But history must not be neglected, and it was remarkable that the Crown had abstained from constituting a corporation in the city of Westminster, where the seat of Government was. It would be a serious experiment to create such a great municipality, the population of which was greater than Scotland, and equal to Ireland. The view at which he had arrived, after much thought, was, that it would be best to grant charters of incorporation to each of the Parliamentary boroughs situated within the Metropolitan area, and to leave in their hands the management of their own municipal affairs. He could not help thinking that it might be dangerous to the Throne and Parliament, and, therefore, to the Constitution, to create one vast and powerful municipality—more vast and powerful than any other known in history—in the immediate neighbourhood of the residence of the Sovereign and the seat of Parliament, and comprising all the Offices and Departments of the Government. The experiment which the hon. Baronet the Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) asked Parliament to make was without precedent; it was a vast experiment and a leap in the dark, and he asked the House to consider most carefully before acting on the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman.


observed, that the effect of the Resolutions, if agreed to, would be to create a universal municipality, which was practically to be that of the present City of London. The result of the proposal would be to erect an acting Board on such a scale that it would be impossible for it to work. If it were desired to meet local requirements, the best plan was to leave the management of affairs in the hands of persons acquainted with those requirements; and, instead of concentrating the whole of the Metropolitan authorities into one Board, they ought to be divided and left separate and distinct, each having a municipality of its own. There would be no objection to bringing about a fusion between the Corporation of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works, provided the difficulties that must necessarily arise in making such an attempt could be got over, and they could be got to work harmoniously together. He did not wish to throw the whole management of such great matters as the gas and water supply of the Metropolis into the hands of a Board, but should prefer to see them managed by men who had devoted their whole lives to carrying them on. He thought it a great mistake to vote in favour of an abstract Resolution, and that the proposition would not in any way improve, or tend to improve, the state of things which at present existed. The only proper way of dealing with a measure of this sort was to deal with it as a whole, by bringing in a well-considered measure on the subject.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 116; Noes 73: Majority 43.—(Div. List, No. 99.)

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."