§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [14th February], "That the Bill be now read a second, time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words with a view to simplify and strengthen local self-government, it is desirable, with as little delay as possible, to bring each sanitary district and poor law union within the area of one county, and to give to the ratepayers in and of such districts the power of directly electing members to the County Board exceeding in number the representatives of justices,"—(Mr. Stamfeld,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
It must, I think, have struck anybody who listened to the debate of Thursday last that the Bill now before the House met with an almost unanimous condemnation from this side of the House; and it must also have struck him as remarkable that while all condemned the Bill, all, with one exception, announced their intention of voting for the second reading. That one exception was my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) who had the courage of his convictions. I intend to follow the example of that hon. Member. This Bill relates to a subject of first-rate importance. I believe it to be a bad Bill, and therefore shall vote against it. I do not think the Government can complain if their measure is submitted to a rigid scrutiny. At the last General Election no subject was more prominently brought forward than that of county government. It was generally supposed that the first thing the Government would do would be to introduce a Bill relating to local government and local taxation. But the first Session of their official career went by and nothing was done, because it was said they had not had time to look into 1854 the pigeon-holes of their Predecessors. A second Session came and a certain amount of public money was shovelled out with reckless profusion in aid of the local rates. A third Session came and a similar course was pursued. In their fourth Session nothing was done, and the Eastern Question was pleaded as an excuse. And now, at length, with the fifth Session of their existence, the long-expected measure has come. I hope I may be excused if I venture to quote, in regard to the result of the long travails of the Government, the old line—Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.What were the evils with which the Government had to cope? They were those arising from the overlapping of areas and the consequent confusion of accounts, from the absence of all connection between representation and taxation in county government, and from the centralization, want of interest, and expense which are themselves the results of the first-named evils. How was it that this system, or rather want of system, had arisen? To the wisdom of our forefathers we owe the division of the country into counties, hundreds, and tithings, which, curiously enough, in olden times fulfilled what the Sanitary Commission which sat only in 1871 declared to be the first condition of all reform of local government—that the unit of area should be the same for all local purposes, and larger areas should be the exact multiples of those units. That early system I have alluded to fulfilled these conditions. A variety of causes, some political, some economic, stretching over a long period of time, gradually sapped the foundations and destroyed that edifice. While the ancient system was falling to the ground, another was growing up in its place, a system we are all familiar with—the magisterial system. This system took its rise in the troublous times which followed the accession of King Edward III., and was built up in the despotic period of the history of England — the reigns of the Tudors. The magistrates in quarter and petty sessions came gradually to fill the place of the old county and hundred courts, while the ancient tithing, chiefly owing to the intermixture of civil and ecclesiastical business, had gradually grown into the modern parish, the overseers of which were appointed by the justices in sessions, The election of the constable 1855 and the care of the roads and bridges were still theoretically in the hands of the parish assembly or court leet; but the court leet become more and more useless as the class of small freeholders diminished, and although there was an old proverb, "Where there is a constable there is a parish," it frequently became difficult to identify the former, owing to the difficulty of finding the latter. Such a system as this could only continue owing to the fact that in the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries, when the population was comparatively small and scattered, and the means of communication slow and few, the duties required of it were small and simple, relating mainly to the preservation of the peace and the maintenance of the roads and bridges. The only other duty which the local bodies had to perform was the care of the poor, which they grossly mismanaged. When accordingly, chiefly in consequence of the great mechanical and engineering discoveries of the last century, the population of England and Wales had risen between 1700 and 1800 from 5,500,000 to nearly 9,000,000, the local institutions of England entirely broke down. It would appear that Parliament was not unaware of the danger that was growing up, as in 1782 Mr. Gilbert, a private Member of Parliament, passed the Act which bears his name, and contains, among several provisions very open to criticism, the foundation of the present parochial Union system of England. But, a very short time after 1782, the attention of Ministers and of Parliament was diverted for a period of 40 years—that is to say, till the Reform Bill—from the study of the social condition of the country by the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War. It was an interesting matter of speculation whether Mr. Pitt, after the great reforms he had carried out in various Departments of Government between 1784 and 1789, might not have turned his attention to a reform of the local government of the country, if he had continued to be a peace instead of becoming a war Minister. That, however, was not to be. After the Reform Bill at the end of 40 years, men of great ability took in hand the question of local self-government, and carried out those numerous Acts for the establishment of local boards, of various kinds with the view to carrying out sanitary works, education, and local government. But the great mistake which was made by 1856 these men of vigour and ability, and which has been continued down to this very hour, was to lose sight of the principle which underlay those ancient territorial divisions of the country into counties, hundreds, and tithings. Instead of taking them as the unit of their reformation, they made special districts for special purposes, and chopped, and cut, and carved up the country until we can scarcely now say who we are, or where we are, or by whom we are governed. From this mass of confusion flowed all those evils so graphically described the other evening by the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), which I shall not weary the House by repeating. These are the evils with which the Government had to deal, but, except in a few trifling details, it has dealt with none of them. Nay, in some respects it increases them. The present court of quarter sessions, which, though theoretically imperfect, works, as is admitted on all hands with efficiency and economy, is for administrative purposes cut in two, and some of its duties are in future to be performed by the old court and others by the new county board. The Guardians within the petty sessional divisions are called into existence as a new electoral body. The petty sessional division is, in fact, throughout the Bill taken as the unit of election instead of the Union, the arguments for which were so clearly stated by the right hon. Member for Halifax. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board declares that the Union has little interests of its own in antagonism with its neighbours. Questions of settlement, questions of the maintenance of roads, and above all, questions of a proportional contribution to the general county fund, are among the obvious instances he might have given of them. The petty sessional area has none of these, and is, therefore, likely to be free from the jealousies that might be expected to arise out of them. This is beyond doubt true; but the reason is to be found in the fact that the petty sessional area has been up to this time of such extremely slight importance. It has no local interests just because it has, so to say, no local life. If the President of the Local Government Board succeeds in quickening it into more active existence, he will scarcely find it as neutral as it has been. Again, the President of the Local Government Board said it was an argument for the petty sessional 1857 areas that the quarter sessions boroughs were not as a rule included in them, whereas they were included in the Unions. This, however, is an argument not for taking the petty sessional areas as the unit of local self-government, but for making the limits of urban Unions conterminous with the areas of quarter sessions boroughs, many of which contribute in one shape or another to the county rate. But there was another argument of the right hon Gentleman which I thought most extraordinary. In defending the electoral portion of his Bill, he urged the expense of elections as an argument for indirect elections. Now nobody will deny that the expense of elections is one of the chief evils of English political life, and any honest attempt to deal with it, by whosoever proposed, ought to meet with support. Day by day it is getting more difficult for a man, even of moderate means, to get into the House of Commons, and it would be a gigantic evil if these same evils were allowed to spring up unrestrained in the affairs of local government. But the best way to deal with the evil is the honest and straightforward way—to pass a measure for restricting the growing expenses of elections; in any case let us not use those evils if we are afraid to grapple with them, as an argument for restricting the franchise of the people. Now, I was told the other evening, by the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), that it was very easy to criticize, and he threw out a sort of challenge to me to state what I would have done. I shall venture to take up that challenge. The principle from which I would have started would have been that of treating the localities with confidence. I believe that most of the difficulties of this complicated question could be solved if you proceeded on that principle. When the Local Government Board, represented by an Inspector, appears in the country districts as a dictator, its action is received with jealousy and suspicion, and, in the long run little is done towards solving any point in dispute; but if you were to say to the local authorities, you shall settle these questions amongst yourselves, and the Local Government Board will confirm the Provisional Orders which you shall make, unless they clearly contain something illegal or unjust, then I believe you will soon arrive at a solution of ex- 1858 isting difficulties. I wish you had given the court of quarter sessions a year or more to map out their counties into divisions, consisting of aggregated parishes, for all the more important purposes of local self-government, taking the boundaries of the Unions as their starting-point. Where the boundaries of Unions overlapped counties, they would have had to divide the Unions in most cases. A great deal has been said about the difficulty of doing this; but, as was stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), a great authority on the subject, the difficulties when each case is examined in detail are not so great as they seem. In some cases—I know they are not many—the county boundary would have to be altered in order to avoid inflicting hardship on the poor. The difficulty about altering the county boundary is a sentimental one, and if a Local Government Board were to try to compel such an alteration, it would be an insuperable difficulty; but, if you give full power to the counties to do it in their own way, they will, I believe, rise to the occasion, and carry out the duty very well. There is no county, in all probability, where the boundaries of Unions overlap so much as the county in which I live; and I know at least one case where the difficulty can only be got over by altering the county boundary—it is a case on the borders of Wiltshire and Hampshire. The right hon. Gentleman is acquainted with it. If you made the boundaries of the Unions conterminous with the present county boundaries, you would inflict a great hardship on the poor; you would compel people to walk to a workhouse double the present distance over some high hills. You could not do that; but I feel perfectly certain that half-a-dozen sensible magistrates from Wiltshire and Hampshire could easily agree upon a new county boundary which would be satisfactory to all parties. In the manner I have proposed you would have brought the boundaries of the Unions within the counties, and the whole county would then have been divided into administrative units for all the important purposes of local self-government. The administrative powers of the court of quarter sessions would then have ceased, and I would have given the ratepayers within the Unions the right of electing three members to a 1859 new county board—the owners one, and the occupiers two. I would have given the Lord Lieutenant of the county, the high sheriff, and the county Members ex officio seats on that board; and I see no reason why each Board of Guardians should not also send one member to the county board. Much has been said in this debate about direct and indirect election. They are not incompatible one with the other. I see no reason why you should not have both. It seems to me, however, that if you have indirect election by the Guardians, the manner in which they are themselves elected will have to be examined. I believe, however, it is the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) to bring that subject shortly before the attention of the House. To the county board thus selected, I would have given all the administrative duties of the present court of quarter sessions, as well as the new duties proposed to be conferred on the county board by the Bill, with some others, such as the appointment of the County Court Judge, with the sanction of the Home Secretary. I believe that a county board, freely elected, and with these duties, would be a source of strength to every county in England, and that. their deliberations, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax said the other evening, would be eminently English and practical—Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull,Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.Such a county board, however, the Government has not given us. They are simply proposing to abolish the court of quarter sessions, which, as I have said, works well, though theoretically imperfect, in order to introduce a new board which is neither popular nor magisterial, but nondescript—neither fish, flesh, nor good red herring—and which in all probability will not work well. I have also shown that the Bill does practically nothing to remedy the existing confusion of local government, and the resulting evils. It does not even consolidate into the hands of one Department in London the powers over various portions of local administration which are now possessed by the Council Office, the Home Office, and the Local Government Board. Some years ago it was laid 1860 down by a great Parliamentary authority that when a hon. Member objected to all the chief clauses of a Bill, to the principles on which it was based, and to its leading details, the course most in keeping with the Rules and practice of the House was not to take shelter behind elaborate Amendments or deceive yourself with the vain hope of altering the Bill in Committee, but to adopt the straightforward course of moving its rejection. That was the course recommended by Mr. Bouverie, who was universally recognized as one of the highest authorities on the law and practice of Parliament. Objecting, then, as I do, both to the principle and the details of this Bill—objecting to it on account of its sins of omission and commission, because it destroys an old system of government which is working well, without substituting a better system; because it will, in the long run, be an obstacle to popular government while professing to extend it, and because it is marked in every line by political perplexity and Ministerial vacillation, I have placed an Amendment on the Paper that this Bill be read a second time this day six months, and I shall divide the House upon it.
said, the BUI had for him a special interest, acting as he did in quarter sessions, and being acquainted with the details of local government. He thought the term new fangled, which the noble Lord who spoke last applied to this Bill, was more applicable to his own vague scheme. He would not follow the noble Lord in his interesting antiquarian researches, but would rather address himself to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Halifax and the details of the Bill. The first proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was put forward in so attractive a manner, and had such an air of sweet sympathy about it that he was almost tempted to fall a victim to its seductive fascination. But a little consideration showed its dangerous character. The proposition of the right hon. Gentleman was this— that they should accept the Union as the unit of local administration, because it would require very little gentle re-adjustment in order to arrive at an assimilation of areas. He held in his hand a map of the county of Somerset, divided into its 22 petty sessional divisions. If he could put his finger on each one and 1861 say it was not only an area for the administration of justice, but for all other purposes, he would admit that the division would have the advantage of being almost perfect; but it was not so. He held in his hand another map, showing the Union divisions of the county, and although it nearly coincided with the other, it did not quite do so. If they put the lines of one map on the other, it must be admitted that it produced some confusion. But those who lived on the spot had the key to the mystery, and they could do their work either in the petty sessional division or in the Union without confusion or inconvenience. If the change which was proposed was one which could be easily made he would raise no objection to it, or if it could be established that any practical advantage would accrue from it he would readily assent to it, even though it occasioned inconvenience; but if, as he believed, there were serious difficulties in the way and no practical advantage to be gained, and if its sole object was to square with the pedantic theories of doctrinaries, then he must offer his decided opposition to any change. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to have realized all the difficulties which his Resolution invited them to encounter. He would like to mention to the House what the opinion of the Poor Law Inspectors was, according to the Returns of 1870. The Poor Law Board at that time thought it desirable that the boundaries question should be settled, and invited information on the subject. The President, it was stated, was anxious to ascertain how far the re-adjustment of boundaries was reasonably feasible, and 11 Poor Law Inspectors, than whom none were better acquainted with the local circumstances, gave evidence. The first on the list stated that there would be an increase of expenditure, and that a grievance would be created; and the others had said of the change that it would excite a very strong and persistent opposition, that it would inflict considerable hardship on the poor, and that it would sometimes amount to an actual denial of relief. For instance, the Poor Law Inspector in Somersetshire mentioned the Gloucestershire parish of Hambrook, which was now three miles from the nearest Somersetshire workhouse, but 10 from that in its own county. In fact, 1862 it could not be contended that the evidence of the best-informed persons was in favour of the Amendment, for they one and all described the change as so considerable as to be almost impossible. Yet the right hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment gave no inkling as to how the change was to be effected, or when, or by whom; he had given no details, but had urged the accomplishment of a scheme which would meet with the most strenuous opposition. He trusted that the Local Government Board would do nothing merely to satisfy theorists who appeared to forget that the institutions of the country were not easily overturned. The most radical changes were possible enough in a despotic country, but in England it was impossible to attain to the monotonous perfection of autonomous atoms. He feared that any legislation would be disastrous of which the effect would be to make a man travel eight or 10 miles, instead of one or two, to state his case before the Guardians. Nor was it a merit that the scheme would tend to the assimilation of areas, if there were no reason why the counties should exactly resemble each other; and he would be glad to hear whether Norfolk would, for example, desire to have highway districts such as existed in Somerset. The Amendment of the. right hon. Gentleman was directed not less against the Government scheme of central areas than against the re-arrangement of the Union boundaries. It was not feasible to alter the areas of Unions, we must take them as they were; and there was so much difficulty in laying down principles that would apply to all the cases of Unions that were in two or three counties, that there would be no way out of it short of a Royal Commission or a Schedule fixing the bounds of each. It would also be necessary to determine what sized Union would be large enough to be considered an electoral unit of its county. It was argued as an objection to petty sessional districts that they would bring together men who wore unknown to each other, but that objection might be applied with equal force against Unions. There was no argument against the petty sessional districts in themselves; they existed and their boundaries were well known; and what harm was there in making them electoral units for county boards? There was 1863 apparently none, unless it was that the circumstances would be more difficult of explanation to the intelligent foreigner. It was another question whether we were to accept the divisions as units of equal value. They varied in size and population, and arrangements would have to be devised to prevent an undue representation of the smaller divisions. The question of direct representation was also raised by the Amendment under discussion; but he could not imagine that the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it had any hope of inducing the House to agree to it. Their desire, above all things, was to secure the best men upon the county boards, and in order to do that it was necessary to keep them clear of politics. Did the House suppose that gentlemen who lived in rural districts, and who at present devoted themselves to the business of their neighbourhood and to rural pursuits, would give their time if they had to undertake a contested election extending over a considerable area? In the interests of economy and of peace and quietness, let them be content with the system of indirect representation which was set up in the Bill, of the working of which they had an example in the Metropolitan board. In regard to the numbers of justices and interference with the present functions of quarter sessions, the Bill went far beyond the Resolution of last Session, and the speech then made by the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read). When a great institution which had been at work for centuries was to be disestablished, one expected to hear something of its faults and misdeeds, of its inefficiency or its inactivity; but it was admitted by all hon. Members that the administration of quarter sessions had been honest, just, economical, intelligent, and efficient. These honeyed words at the last moments of quarter sessions might be compared to the sweetmeats, the dainty sugar plums, that were presented in Spain to the criminal who was about to suffer death by the garotte. Had the House thoroughly considered the magnitude of that change? When the county board was formed nobody but elective members, whether as magistrates or as representatives of the ratepayers, would have a right to enter the old court of quarter sessions to do 1864 business. Those who had not been elected would have to sit as silent spectators in the gallery. ["Hear, hear!"] He wondered how the hon. Gentleman who cried "Hear" would like to be a silent spectator in the gallery. For himself, as a chairman of quarter sessions, he had always endeavoured to interest all the younger magistrates in the business, to aid them in obtaining places on committees, and to give them every opportunity of engaging in the work. Now, he feared that there would be but small inducement to the younger magistrates to learn their work if they were to attend merely as silent spectators. It would, in his opinion, be a serious mistake to do anything which would prevent magistrates from engaging in the affairs of the neighbourhood in which they resided. Therefore, he felt very strongly that the Government ought to stand by the proposition in their Bill which fixed the proportion of magistrates at one-half. The provisions of the Bill were sweeping enough without the power of the justices being wholly swept away. There were various other details in the measure, to some of which he might advert. With regard to the question of main roads, he thought the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board as to the re-establishment of turnpikes was one that would not answer. Although it might do for the few cases of extreme hardship where the roads were much injured by exceptional traffic, yet it would afford no remedy in that area without where there was a grievance serious enough to merit consideration, but not sufficient to justify under that Bill the re-establishment of turnpikes. Moreover, with the conditions laid down in the Bill for their re-establishment, he thought it would be very rarely, if ever, that a turnpike would be re-set up; because when people had once enjoyed the luxury of going along a road without fumbling in their pockets for money with which to pay the turnpikes, it would be difficult to get them re-established. He had hoped that the grievance might have been dealt with in some other way, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have come down and aided them. That was not an unreasonable demand. They might invite the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether the dog tax was not 1865 one which, in these days of hydrophobia might be handed over to the local authorities; whether a wheel tax might not also be given to the local authorities; and whether those authorities might not be invested with special power to impose a wheel tax of their own as a rate in aid of main roads. Again, in respect to the clauses of the Bill dealing with main roads, it was laid down that the county rate was to be divided between the owner and the occupier. Now, he did not say a word about the general principle of a division of rates; but he thought if it were to be introduced at all, it ought to be applied in a far more wholesale way. Its introduction in that minute manner was not sufficient to justify it. The case might have been different if the charge were entirely new; whereas it was an old one. He had also been much in hopes that in that Bill, or, at any rate, in a Highway Bill, they might have found the wholesale repeal of all those old Acts connected with bridges which encumbered the Statute Book and confused local authorities. The local authorities charged with the duty of maintaining main roads should have the same duty in regard to bridges. Then as to the conservancy of rivers in his county—Somerset—they had an area of upwards of 130,000 acres under the rule of a court of sewers, and that Bill, although it did not of necessity override them, yet provided that with their consent the newly-established county board might take over the whole management of the conservancy of rivers. He thought that would be found impossible. At present the owners and occupiers at particular spots were the persons who had the decision of the question whether works were necessary and also the administering of the funds, and he doubted whether the new county board would be a body adapted for such a purpose. There would be no security that the members would possess the special acquaintance with drainage which was necessary to fit them for interfering in such matters. He wished to add a few words on the general policy of legislation. The demand for county financial boards arose when ratepayers were dismayed with the large expenditure on buildings which was going on all around them, and over which they had no control. But things had entirely changed. The works were completed, the debts 1866 were paid off, and the ratepayers knew well that it was not the magistrates, but the Legislature, which had by Statute required the establishment of police, of prisons, of asylums, and various other things entailing a vast outlay upon counties. The Bill would tend more or less towards decentralization. He hoped that those magistrates whom the Bill left out in the cold would accept their situation in a spirit of resignation, and that those who were more fortunate would continue to devote themselves with the same assiduity and intelligence as they had hitherto done, and that the newly-elected members of the board would carefully devote themselves to the performance of the work placed before them, and that hon. Members would do their best to assist the Government in their attempt to solve one of the most difficult questions relating to local self-government.
§ LORD GEORGE CAVENDISH
said, that, as a Member of the Select Committee on Turnpikes, he must express his gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for having introduced this Bill, which was calculated to meet the necessities of the case. The majority of parishes had contributed to the building of workhouses and other institutions, and they would grumble very much if they were suddenly shifted from one Union to another. He was aware that some people thought that the procedure proposed by the Bill was very imperfect; but he agreed very much with what was said by one of the Members for Yorkshire to-night—that the main thing was to get a board which would work. Rome was not built in a day, nor was the procedure of that House arranged in one Session. As to what had been said about the elected members being chosen directly or through a Board of Guardians, he observed that in the metropolis we had one board—namely, the Metropolitan Board of Works—which was elected through the Vestries, and we had another—namely, the School Board—which was chosen directly. He was sure that there was one thing on which all on both sides of the House were agreed—namely, that a board could not be better represented than the Metropolitan Board of Works was represented in that House by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Truro 1867 (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg). Both, of those boards had very grand ideas and both spent a deal of money. With regard to the relative numbers of the magistrates and the elected members, he had for 40 years been a member of a Board of Guardians, and he did not know that he had ever worked more pleasantly or more satisfactorily than he had worked in that capacity. He, therefore, did not see that there was any reason for anticipating such antagonism as some had supposed would be exhibited at the meetings of these boards. Of course, there were differences of opinion among magistrates as among other people. There would be antagonism in respect of the expenditure of money on main roads in different districts; because some districts were jealous of the number of miles of a road in one direction being greater than those in another direction. With regard to the relative number of magistrates and guardians, the House should recollect that landlords were virtually the ratepayers. He should like to see the provisions which were contained in the Scotch County Roads Act with reference to the making of new roads and building new bridges adopted in this Bill. There should be a fair representation of the magistracy upon these county boards. Magistrates were not of that exclusive character they were 50 years ago, and it was now difficult to secure their attendance at petty sessions; because, instead of living always in the country, they frequently went to London or abroad. It would be unfair if all the turnpike roads which had been well managed and the debt of which had been extinguished should be thrown upon the parishes, while those which had been badly managed and were still in debt should be thrown upon the county. It should be left to the county boards to determine whether roads should be regarded as county roads or should be held to be common highways. The boards should also have power to make turnpikes in places where there was unusually heavy traffic. No doubt there would be every disposition on the part of county boards to meet the wishes of boroughs, that they might be allowed to pay a composition in respect of their roads, the amount to be paid to be fixed by either consent or arbitration. In conclusion, he begged to offer his humble tribute of gratitude to the right hon. 1868 Gentleman for introducing this measure, the second reading of which he should gladly vote for.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, he should give his cordial and hearty vote for the second reading of the Bill. He entirely approved its main principles, although he should feel it his duty to try to improve and amend certain of its details in Committee. He was not sure that he understood the full scope and meaning of the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld). If the right hon. Gentleman meant by that Amendment that all urban sanitary authorities should be represented on the county boards, he could not agree with him; but if he intended by it that the Union was a better electoral area than the petty sessional division, then he entirely concurred in his view. That point, however, was a mere detail which, although very important, could be better considered in Committee than in the present stage of the measure. He was quite sure, however, that the indirect mode of election was far preferable to that which the right hon. Gentleman advocated in his Amendment. This was a point upon which he should like to say a few words to the House. The point was made by several hon. Members that, as we were going to have municipal institutions for the counties, we should borrow our machinery from the boroughs also. For his own part, he should prefer to obtain the advantages of both systems without their corresponding disadvantages. There would be a vast difference between town councils in boroughs and these county boards. There were certain matters which would come before the county boards which affected a man as a ratepayer rather than as a citizen. And, above all, he deprecated any system which would import politics into the elections for these boards. He did not wish to see the election of an individual to these boards hailed as a great Conservative triumph or as a tremendous Radical victory. He believed that in the case of appointments made by town councils the question of politics entered largely, so much so that the election of a bellman depended not so much upon the strength of his lungs as the direction of his politics, and the selection of a charwoman to sweep out the mayor's parlour, sometimes depended upon whether the applicant went to church or to chapel. The 1869 strife that prevailed in boroughs during the election of the town council was felt in the country, perhaps, every four or five years when a Parliamentary Election was held; but, although they became somewhat hot and peppery, and called each other naughty names during the contest, they soon forgot their differences and shook hands. Party feeling in the boroughs was, however, a source of continuous strife. Then again, the expenses of elections would necessarily be very large. Agents and lawyers would be employed, and the bills of costs sent in by gentlemen of that kind were not, as a rule, small in amount. The elections, again, would have to be conducted in the chief towns of the chosen areas, and everyone who had experience of county contests must know that such an arrangement would give the ratepayers in the towns a very great advantage over the ratepayers in the distant villages, who would be put to considerable difficulty, coupled with probable loss, in getting to the places at which alone they could record their votes. His chief objection, however, to the proposed mode of constituting the county boards was that it would not secure the services of the best men. A member would be chosen because he made an eloquent speech, preached a good sermon, or, possibly, because he sang the best song, or told the best story at the market ordinary. The steady, quiet men of business would not go to the trouble or expense of contested elections, and so the boards and the county business would suffer—vain, showy men would be elected instead of men who could and would do good work. With regard to the mode of election, he was strongly in favour of the indirect method, notwithstanding the fact that it was denounced as anomalous. Mr. Gurdon, Chairman of the Norfolk Chamber of Agriculture, who was a strong Liberal, and had shown his devotion to his Party by contesting the county thrice, and whose opinions, therefore, might be supposed to be received with some respect by hon. Gentlemen opposite, in a speech last Saturday, said—There is a good deal to be said prima facie in favour of indirect election—in theory, indeed, everything; but he had looked carefully into the matter, and the balance was very much in favour of indirect election as the easiest means of getting the best men of business.1870 There were many cases—as, for instance, the election of aldermen, of members of the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and members of other administrative bodies— which showed that the public service did not suffer by reason of the fact that their members were selected by and from elected bodies instead of being directly chosen and appointed by the ratepayers as a body. During the last few years almost all the new work that had been added to the duties of Boards of Guardians had been put upon Committees simply elected by the Boards themselves, and no one could say that the work had been done otherwise than fairly well. Another objection he held to the direct election to membership of county boards was that it would discourage competent men from seeking or accepting the office of Guardians of the poor, an office the duties of which, if properly discharged, involved laborious and constant toil. Wanting, as he did, to elevate the class of men who would become Poor Law Guardians, he should like to see it necessary that candidates for the county boards should as a preparation have been compelled to serve a kind of apprenticeship in the capacity of Poor Law Guardians. This would act as an inducement for a better stamp of men to seek election as Guardians with a view to their being selected for the higher office. One provision of the Bill to which he objected was that the magistrates in quarter sessions should select one half of the members of county boards. He thought it would be ample if the magistrates selected a third of the members, and if the election of such members was not confined in strict proportions to the petty sessional divisions, in many of which, although they might adjoin, the scope for selection was widely different. Magistrates were not a caste by themselves, and did not cease to be ratepayers after they became magistrates; but they were generally men of education, leisure, and of substantial means, and they were the men best able, in most instances, to represent the ratepayers on the county boards, and he could, therefore, see no reason why Boards of Guardians should not elect magistrates, even though they were ex-officio Guardians. With regard to the question of area, he thought the petty sessional divisions possessed advantages 1871 which could not be gainsaid. He did not wish to quarrel with the figures brought forward by the hon. Member for Mid Somersetshire (Mr. Paget), who seemed to revel in the inequality of areas. He would give the case of his own county—Norfolk; 19 Unions were entirely within the county. Two were divided almost equally, and each Union would have a population varying from 20,000 to 10,000, and an area of about 80,000 acres. Each, therefore, might have a member. There was also a large district of the county—in a Cambridgeshire Union, which was also entitled to a member. There were also three fractions or little parishes with few inhabitants, and these surely might vote in the neighbouring Unions. He was quite aware that the rectification of the boundaries would be a most serious and difficult task to accomplish; but he also regarded it as one which it was necessary to undertake and complete. Some area there must be, and what area was so good as the Union? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) spoke of it as being a comparatively easy task if it were once set about in the right way; but he feared that in any case it would take a long time to carry out, and that even if his right hon. Friend had. the aid of quarter sessions, which was advocated by the hon. Member for Mid Somerset, he would not live long enough to accomplish it. There would be complications of all sorts to meet, and difficulties of all kinds to face; but with the aid of a permanent authority, he believed they would be successfully encountered. As an instance, he might say he remembered that it was recently proposed to abolish one of the prisons in the county of Norfolk; but the magistrates of West Norfolk spoke on the subject of the proposal as if they were about to be deprived of their birthright. Their arguments, however, did not prevail, and the prison was now shut up. Well, then, as to the machinery of the elections which his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board had devised, he looked upon the plan as being as complicated, as gloomy, and as unpleasant as if it referred to a Sacred Conclave going to elect a Pope. The Guardians of the different Unions were to be asked to come to the places where the petty sessional work was done, as if they had. assembled to nominate 1872 Members for the county. Well, in some counties, no doubt, they had splendid court-houses; but in others the work would have to be done in public-houses, where the Guardians would be shut up for two mortal hours. He thought that in some instances it would be very difficult to bring them together, and the only way to keep them in good humour under the circumstances would be to order in pipes and glasses all round. Seriously he asked whether Guardians coming together in that way were likely to make the best selections? And when it was said—"Oh, they are all friends and neighbours; they well know the fittest man to elect," he answered that they could not know the value of a man as a Guardian until they came to work with him. They might find a man to be shrewd and sharp at market, but such a man would know full well the value of his time. Another man they might find to speak as if he were an authority on sanitary matters, and as to the true principles on which the Poor Laws were to be administered; but the same man might prove to be cantankerous and disagreeable as a member of a Board of Guardians, and one who changed his opinion every week. Another might be a quiet, shy, unpopular man, unknown beyond the precincts of his parish, and yet, from constant attendance and devotion to the work, turn out to be an excellent Guardian, one who ought to go to the county board rather than some of the gentlemen who were more likely to be elected. For his part, he would prefer a more matter-of-fact mode of election than that proposed. Why should the election not be held at the first meeting of the Guardians in November? If it were objected that there might be undue influence, then let there be vote by ballot. In his Union they had had vote by ballot for the last 100 years. With respect to the appointment of coroners, he was glad his right hon. Friend proposed to get rid of that odious mode of election—namely, the direct vote of the freeholders throughout the county. No man holding a judicial office ought to be appointed by popular election. It almost always ended in a party fight, and saddled the unfortunate man who lost, and the perhaps still more unfortunate man who won, with expenses for life. It was now proposed to return to the old system of election by county 1873 boards, and he hoped that the Government, having made the proposal, would go further, and provide that the country should pay the coroners' salaries. He trusted, too, that the county boards would rectify coroners' areas, as at present a coroner's map of Norfolk was like a Chinese puzzle. His hon. Friend the Member for Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) was represented to have said that he did not approve the powers which the Bill conferred upon the county board with respect to highways. He thought his hon. Friend was misrepresented, as he understood him to say he thought it would be better to have the clauses in question transferred to the Highway Bill. He quite agreed with the suggestion thrown out by his hon. Friend, because discussion of them, especially of those which related to tolls, would occupy a very long time; and they might, by delay, endanger the success of the principal measure. He approved of the principle of the clauses; but he should be glad if there was one clause in the Bill to the effect that for future highway legislation the county authority should be the county board. With regard to valuation, he was sorry to have heard his right hon. Friend say he could not adopt the plan sketched forth by the hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell) last year. No man in the House was a higher authority on the subject than was his hon. and learned Friend, and he agreed with him that the best court of appeal in reference to value would be a committee of the valuation board, and that on all questions of law they required a higher court of final appeal than the court of quarter sessions. With regard to the officials, he was glad to find that they would be appointed by the board; but he saw nothing in the Bill about clerks of the peace, who were now appointed by the Lords Lieutenant. The magistrates would have to give up a great deal of their patronage. That Bill took from them the power of appointing asylum officials and the county analyst; previous legislation took from them the officials of the gaols, and he saw no reason why the chief magistrate of the county should not be called upon to give up this patronage, because the ratepayers had to pay the clerks of the peace as well as other officials. If the Lord Lieutenant gave up this, he would be happy to offer him, as 1874 a reward, a seat at the board. The proposed number of the boards, he thought, was too numerous. He found that in Norfolk they would have to elect 104 members to the board every year. They had now in that county 300 magistrates; but the whole of the business was transacted by about 30, unless there was business of great importance, and then, perhaps, some 60 or 70 came together. It might be well to show that members were not to be appointed on these boards simply as a distinction, or in order that they might attach certain initials to their names; but that they might do the work of the county. He thought the election of members for one year only was too short a period; but they could not well make it longer till the Guardians were elected for longer time than one year. He was not jealous of quarter sessions. He knew they had done their work remarkably well. But he was jealous of the great powers of the central government. He was jealous of the powers of the President of the Local Government Board, even under the benign reign of the present holder of the Office. The powers of the Board were so great that it could throw refractory Guardians into gaol; and so small, that it could give instructions how to improve the formula of a currant pudding. He hoped the effect of the Bill would be to harmonize and consolidate all the numerous local and conflicting authorities; and he also hoped that the Boards would form a new and powerful bulwark against the centralizing tendencies of modern civilization.
§ MR. ARTHUR PEEL
said, he had listened to many of the remarks of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Head) with satisfaction. He agreed with him that the Union was a better electoral area than the petty sessions district. He hoped the analogy of municipal representation would not be pushed too far, for if there was anything scandalous and anomalous in the whole range of representation, nothing more scandalous or anomalous could be found than the way in which different wards were represented in both large towns and small on the municipal council. He did not agree with some of the unfavourable epithets which had in the course of the evening been applied to the Bill. He looked upon the measure as one upon which a 1875 great deal might be built hereafter. Objections had been taken to the Bill as being too quarter-sessional and too magisterial; but it must not be forgotten that it was a serious thing to deprive the magistrates of the many things which they had now to dispose of in the various committees of quarter sessions. But they must, on the other hand, consider what was the cry which brought this Bill forward. On what was it founded? It was founded on the demand which was widely expressed throughout the country that the principle of representation should be adopted on our county boards; and, while they gave representation, he thought it ought to be given in no grudging spirit. Ever since the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Norfolk had brought forward his Resolution, and before that, the cry had been for representation; and he was unwilling that they should have a county board on which they would have a too sharp and striking contrast between non-elected and elected members on a board professedly representative. The hon. Gentleman advocated one-third instead of one-half as the proportion which county magistrates were to bear to the elected members; but whatever proportion the House might fix now, when they had the representative board established, as he hoped they would have under the Bill, it would not long be a question of one-third or one-half of ex-officio members side by side with representative members. He believed that the time would inevitably come, sooner or later, when the whole of the members of the board would be elected by some system of representation by the whole body of the ratepayers at large. He quite admitted that at present it would be, he would not say dangerous, but it would be inexpedient to adopt direct representation at once. He was aware of the difficulties they would have to contend with, and the uncertainty which would exist as to getting the best men on the board; but, looking to the not distant future, they must make up their minds to have these boards elected by the whole body of ratepayers, and he was confident that due weight would be given under any system to men of the social position and tried ability of present members of quarter sessions. As to the electoral area, the arguments against the Unions had been repeatedly 1876 stated. It was true that the Unions overlapped counties — some extending into two, some into three, or even four, counties—but he thought there was a tendency to overrate the extent of that difficulty. That question could be dealt with in one of three ways — by a Royal Commission, by the quarter sessions, or by the county boards; and he was of opinion that a county board, as elected under the Bill, would be more competent than any other body, by an arrangement with neighbouring county boards, so to adjust matters that the Unions might be made conterminous with county limits. There might be some little inconvenience felt at first, yet all the difficulties could be dealt with, and the intermediate state of representation and adjustment of contribution could be made tolerable. The Union was the natural area; and, considering the number of duties which were already thrown upon it in the way of valuation, registration, education, and the great question of pauperism, he could see nothing more fit for the nucleus of a county board than the Guardians. Yet when Parliament was about to saddle them with new duties, it was too ostentatiously provided that they were to be associated with a number of persons who were, not like themselves, elected, but who were to be nominees and ex-officio members of the board. He, for one, strongly objected to fixing the hard-and-fast rule that a certain number should be ex-officio, or what was to be ostensibly a representative board. He had, however, risen to address the House principally with reference to one of the functions of the new boards, which was of great importance—he alluded to the question of river conservancy. It was, he thought, a weak point in the Bill that the powers to be given to these boards were only permissive, and he should like to make that permissive power in many cases compulsory, for otherwise many grave duties would, he was afraid, be relegated to the distant future. By the 23rd clause, the board might undertake, if it pleased, the conservancy of any river; but the word "may" pervaded too much the whole section, and he would venture to suggest that, instead of the present proposal, every county board should be ipso facto constituted the conservancy board of the county. What was wanted, 1877 he contended, was some general supervision over the waters in a county, and some one authority to which any person or body of persons might refer who had a grievance to complain of. He would have, too, as members of the conservancy committees, not those elected from the county at large; but those, be they petty sessional members or otherwise, who actually resided in the neighbourhood, and themselves felt the evil which they sought to have removed. The power to rate towns was essential; so was unity of management and power of combination of several counties, for the purpose of effective control of the rivers. He was aware how difficult the whole question of rating was, but a fair system might nevertheless be adopted, based on the old principle of due proportion to benefit received. Believing that the Bill might be improved, he would vote for the second reading, and try to make it, independent of all Party and political feeling, a good measure, so that it might be a benefit to the great interests of county government.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, the country was indebted for this Bill to the action of the Chambers of Agriculture throughout the country, and he congratulated the Government on its having been received favourably by the House. No doubt the chief controversy would take place upon the question of area; but he was of opinion that the area proposed by the Government—namely, the petty sessional divisions, was the best that had yet been suggested. It was already marked out, it was one well-known to the public, and it was familiar to the officials who would have to deal with the elections, and it was an area well defined for all purposes of jurisdiction; while it must be recollected that the adoption of an area like the Union with uncertain limits and boundaries— and running in parts of different counties —would probably necessitate a Boundary Commission, and thus entail a delay of perhaps two or three years, and thus lose the passing of a useful and much-wanted measure. The chief points of detail could be better discussed in Committee. On the whole, he was happy to say that he cordially supported the principle of the Bill.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND
thanked the Government for having at length brought the question before the House in a 1878 tangible form, and said, he approached the consideration of the question with a sincere desire to achieve something in the shape of practical legislation. It was a subject on which the earnest endeavours of many hon. Members had been directed, and to which previous Governments had been studiously working. The general scope and purpose of the Bill were very great indeed, and he was not sure that the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues fully appreciated their magnitude. Instead of "county financial boards," they were asked to deal with the wider question of "county government;" and he gathered that the real object of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was to lay the foundation of a municipal system for the country districts of England which did not at present enjoy that privilege. Much had been said against centralization, but he thought in these days of the penny post and the telegraph and railways they must have centralization, and so bring their quiet country homes and rural parishes into greater and closer communication with the thought and feeling of statesmen and Parliamentary officials in London. They did not require a set of fences and bulwarks against centralization, but a powerful system of local administration, through which and by which the central government might attain the desirable object of teaching people how most wisely to govern themselves. The Bill was intended to create a powerful body intermediate between central administration and those who had to work out local government on the spot; but it was open to question whether the effect of these "buffer boards," as they were colloquially called, would not be more to obstruct the central government than to do any real positive good. It might, however, on the whole, be fairly expected that they would act wisely as between the central government and the units. He was, however, satisfied that if there had been good county government in this country during the past four years education would not have been so much a matter of religious controversy and acrimonious party feeling as it had been. When county boards were duly established, he hoped that one of their duties would be to assist the Charity Commissioners in improving the state of the local charities, 1879 for there was at present a very great tendency to administer local charities in the interests, not of the poor, but of the ratepayers. He could support this statement by numbers of cases in which he had been personally concerned. The storage of water was another important subject which might engage the attention of county boards. As, therefore, these boards would have before them an immense amount of administration, they ought to have their roots deep in our national institutions and to be really and truly representative. The Bill practically deprived the quarter sessions of all its functions except those of electing a chairman and a police committee. For his own part, he did not object to this; but he thought the county Members did not fully realize what the Bill would do for their favourite institution. He could not accept the principles of election which were laid down in this measure, for they were not likely to conduce to the permanence of county government. What was wanted was not a board to satisfy the cry raised by tenant-farmers in Chambers of Agriculture, but a board which would fulfil the municipal requirements of England. If it was to be strong it should rest on popular confidence and popular sympathy. The constitution of the proposed boards appeared to be deficient because it would rest on the magisterial office. In his judgment, the boards ought to represent property, occupation or residence, and labour. There were many persons in country districts who held small properties of their own which they occupied and farmed. These were among the most valuable members of society, and he did not want to see them passed over altogether because they were persons not qualified to be magistrates nor yet classed among the tenant-farmers. Although, unfortunately, it was a fact that the large landowners had bought up many of the small properties, he was not at all sure that that process was likely to be continued. In the more populous districts people now acquired small properties for their own occupation and residence, and they were coming into the same position as the old yeomen possessors of small properties. Again, looking forward to the future, we ought to think of the labourers, and there was no provision in the Bill for their being represented. The Agrieultural Labourers' 1880 Unions were endeavouring to agitate the country, and it was bad policy on the part of a Conservative Government to pass over the labourers without making provisions for giving to them a more Constitutional mode of expressing their rights than that of simply voting for Guardians. Again, he did not like the representation of property to be left entirely in the hands of the nominees of the Lord Lieutenant, although he did not mean to say for a moment that the appointment of magistrates was not on the whole exceedingly fair. He pressed upon the Government that they should adopt in a system founded on popular representation the principle of direct election. The principle of allowing towns a share in county government had been recognized by the President of the Local Government Board in this Bill; but the proposal was wholly inadequate to ensure a reasonable urban representation. Out of 60 county districts there were 47 which would have no town represented, and eight would have only one. Now, he did not see why such a principle should not be adopted as would give towns in every county representation on the county board. If these boards were to consist only of the magistrates and tenant-farmers, they would not be equal to the requirements of England. Why not have them so constituted that professional men and other well-qualified persons might become members? For administrative purposes he agreed that the Union area was the proper basis for constructing county government; and he believed that with a little trouble the Unions might be arranged, in conjunction with counties, on a footing which would meet all the difficulties of the case. He regretted that Her Majesty's Government, with the power at their command, should stave off direct representation and leave it to a future Parliament, which might not be able to deal with it so easily; but if the Government were determined to adhere to the principle of indirect election, he would urge upon them the great importance of endeavouring to improve the mode of electing the local boards which were to elect the county boards. He had known many instances where there was a great difficulty in finding persons in any degree competent to act as Guardians in a parish. He was glad to find that in the Highway Bill the right hon. Gentleman 1881 (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had recognized the principle of taking the local circumstances of particular districts into account, and grouping parishes for the purpose of rating in connection with roads. He hoped that they were going into this question not as a mere matter of keeping down the rates, but with the view of establishing a system which would educate the people in public spirit, and provide for their personal well-being as citizens. While agreeing very much with the views of his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), he did not wish to do anything which would prevent this Bill from being considered by the House, which he believed to be a serious attempt on the part of the Government to set up local government, with at least some attempt to encourage popular representation in counties.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he thought that, in discussing the Bill as a whole, the House ought to consider whether the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it had fairly carried into effect the Resolution arrived at by the House last Session; and whether he had, in fact, redeemed the pledge which he gave on that occasion. He had not heard anyone say that the right hon. Gentleman had not done so. Various criticisms, it was true, had been passed on the Bill, but it did not appear to him that any of these had reference to the Resolution of last year. Therefore, as the Bill was framed on the lines of that Resolution, it seemed to him to carry out substantially the intentions of the House. No doubt a measure of a larger scope might have been brought in; but it was doubtful whether it would have escaped the criticism which had been applied to the present Bill, and still more, whether it would have passed through the ordeal of that House. In his judgment, the Bill was a fair one, as it did substantially what was required. What was wanted was to give the ratepayers a representation in the expenditure of the money of the county. This had been done by means of the elective Guardians. It occurred to him, however, that there might be some doubt whether a sufficient attendance of the elective Guardians would be obtained, considering that those gentlemen who really performed their functions under this Bill must be prepared to give a good deal of their time and some 1882 portion of their money in the fulfilment of their duties. But the Bill contained provisions which would, to some extent, meet that difficulty. Something had been said about the want of the representation of towns, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman had fairly met the case. When he came to that portion of the Bill which dealt with the roads, he confessed he had somewhat more difficulty. That was a part of the Bill which proposed a sort of dual jurisdiction over the main roads of the county. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would accede to the suggestion which had been made to ante-date the period within which roads were to be taken over by the county board, and that he would name 1870 instead of 1874. The highway districts would have imposed upon them the repairs and maintenance of turnpike roads, but half the expense of those repairs would be repaid by the county board. He objected to this provision because it involved two spending authorities. The necessary consequence of that would be that both authorities must look after the roads. For his own part, he could not see why all these main roads should not be placed, under the same authority, and why that authority should not be the county board. Let their surveyor look after all the county roads, and let them provide for the maintenance of all the roads out of one fund—namely, the county rate. He did not think there need be any apprehension of the centralization of the administration of these roads in the county boards, and this arrangement would get rid of a certain conflict of authority. It would also meet another difficulty intended to be provided against by the right hon. Gentleman. He referred to those portions of the main roads that lay in the neighbourhood of large towns, and on which a considerable expenditure was involved in consequence of the traffic to and from those towns. This had been the subject of considerable complaint in his own county. A proposal had been made to meet the difficulty by giving the county authorities the power within certain restrictions of putting up turnpike gates in the neighbourhood of the towns. This was objectionable, because it reverted to the old turnpike system, which was now pretty well abolished. Still, considering the benefit which the towns derived from the roads, 1883 it was only just that they should contribute, to some extent, to the maintenance and repairs of those roads. He should be prepared to propose, in Committee, that all the main turnpike roads should be taken upon the county rate, and that the towns should contribute to such rate. In other respects, he thought the Bill fairly carried out the Resolution of last Session, and he trusted the House would pass the second reading.
§ SIR HENRY JACKSON
said, that, in the event of the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Eitz-maurice) dividing the House on his Amendment, he should vote with him. He observed that while every hon. Member who had spoken on the subject was in favour of the establishment of some municipal authority for counties, all were dissatisfied with the details of this measure; and if it were to be altered in Committee in accordance with the views of every Gentleman who had supported the second reading, very little of the original Bill would be left. Those who had spoken most in favour of the Bill had admitted there was no finality in it, and it was also plain that it would not furnish even a step in the process of establishing a permanent basis for county government. It would only add a new area to the existing chaos of areas. He could not see what was the gain in making any change at all unless they were prepared with something better than they already had. He found a perfect unanimity of opinion as to the satisfactory manner in which the present quarter sessions did their work, and that nothing called for a change except the natural demand of the public for a representative in place of an oligarchical system. Certainly there was no pressure, and he therefore thought it would be wiser to reserve the measure for another Session, when opinion would have become more mature with regard to the subject. His principal objection was as to the proposed constitution of the new board, which was to be not altogether a new body, but merely a portion of the old-established quarter sessions. The two distinct elements of which the new board would be composed—the nominated members and the representative members—would not be likely to assist each other, but rather to come into speedy conflict. Disguise it how they would, the existing body would feel dis- 1884 credited; for if not discredited, why were they now to be deprived of their functions? And whenever a conflict arose, those who denied their authority by election would assert, and probably establish, a certain superiority over those who represented that discredited remnant of the old authority. Indeed, a better mode of constructing a machine which would not work could hardly be conceived than that adopted by the Bill as it stood. Desiring, as he did, that there should be constituted some strong and efficient county board, invested with adequate powers, he must confess that he thought the half-assent which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had given to the elective principle—putting his hand, as it were, to the plough and yet looking back—was not calculated to attain the object which both sides of the House had at heart. On the other hand, supposing the new court of quarter sessions, consisting partly of nominated and partly of elected members, should work well for administrative purposes, was there, he asked, no danger that the agitating part of the public might demand that the judicial functions of the court of quarter sessions should also be entrusted to the same hybrid board? If the right hon. Gentleman would have the courage to take from the quarter sessions the whole of their present functions, and leave the magistrates to take their chance of being elected, then assuredly all the best of them would be elected, and would thus go into the board with pride and satisfaction, and carry out the purposes of the Bill. There had been a great deal of discussion on questions of detail, and much had been said about direct, as contrasted with indirect, representation. It might be thought a matter of course that all on that—the Opposition— side of the House would be in favour of direct representation; but he would be inclined to vote with the right hon. Gentleman on that point, if care were taken that those who had the duty of selecting were themselves fairly representative men. In considering this question they must remember that they were not going to deal with an area which had no government at all; but as every yard of a county would be occupied by some local government or other, the county board would really have to supply the function rather of a federal than of a local government. It would 1885 have to deal not so much with the functions of the direct local government, as with the conflict of interests which would arise between a series of neighbouring governments. So regarding it, he did see some advantage to be gained by indirect election rather than election by the popular vote, and several existing examples of the application of that principle had been cited in the course of that discussion. He might mention in connection with this point, that in Canada there prevailed a system of county government which worked admirably—he referred to the case of Ontario. There the primary area was what was called the township. In the township there was a direct representation of the ratepayers by means of wards; they had a municipality there constituted much like our urban municipalities at home, with powers analogous to, but rather wider than, those of the latter; but every function of local self-government was vested in the township council, elected directly by the ratepapers. Every township council elected a reeve, or chairman, and where the town was more than a certain size, a deputy reeve; and the reeves and deputy reeves of all those townships together formed a county council, which met in the county town and discharged that sort of federated duty which the separate townships could not perform, because they would be acting out of their own area. Nothing could work better than that system; which was one, no doubt, of indirect election, but of indirect election based upon the widest possible electoral bases in the choice of the electing body. Experience of that kind was not without its value when they were dealing with a measure like the present. Objecting, as he did, to the mode in which it was now proposed to carry out the principle on which they were all agreed, he would suggest, not with a view to delay the settlement of the question, but in order to promote the passing of a really good and effective measure, that the Government should decide not to legislate on that question at once, but should carefully re-consider this Bill in the light of the discussion it had undergone.
§ MR. ASSHETON
said, the selection of the areas of the Poor Law Unions, which was made above 40 years ago, was a great success. It was imposible to have adopted areas with more regard to the 1886 convenience of the public; the headquarters were chosen with very great skill, but with no consideration of the boundaries of the counties. In the case of the Union in which he lived, the adoption of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) would result in extreme inconvenience, not only to the Lancashire portion, but to the Yorkshire portion, which would have no workhouse, and would have to begin de novo. And the case in his Union would be the case in many of the Unions in the country. He had no objection to a petty sessional instead of a Union area being adopted as that in which the election of elected Guardians should be held. One point which had been raised was as to whether it would be desirable that the chosen members and the elected members should be chosen or elected for one year, or for a longer period. He felt very strongly that there should be a certain degree of continuity in appointments of this kind; but he was also strongly of opinion that if they wished for continuity they should make their election annual. Guardians were elected every year, but they were almost invariably re-elected. He did not like the Bill; but it was said of two evils choose the least—if he did not like the Bill he liked the Amendment less, and therefore he should unhesitatingly vote against it. When, if ever, the time came for him to consider how to vote on the second reading of the Bill, he should make up his mind how to act.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
admitted that his experience of local government had been exclusively confined to boroughs; and, therefore, that it might be fairly argued that while his proposals were suitable for great urban populations, they were unsuitable, and not expressive of, the wish of the agricultural districts. Under these circumstances, he did not propose to offer a persistent opposition to this measure if it should appear that the feeling of the House was generally in its favour. Still, like his noble Friend the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), who had opened the debate that evening, he was glad of an opportunity of entering his protest against it. He was greatly surprised at some of the statements which had been made. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had expressed objections which almost went to the root of the Bill; and yet they generally con- 1887 eluded with the remark that, with all its faults, they liked the Bill. He had always thought that farmers were a shrewd, hard-headed body of men, as capable of managing their own affairs as people in towns; but if they were willing to accept such a sop to Cerberus as was contained in the Bill before the House, he should think they were the most readily contented and least exacting of all Her Majesty's subjects. He thought the Bill originated in a desire to give to the counties local institutions which should vie in their efficiency, simplicity, and importance, with those which existed in towns; but such a desire would hardly appear to exist from the speeches which had been made on the other side of the House. He had always accepted the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) as an authority on local government in counties; but the hon. Member seemed to be up in a balloon in regard to what happened in towns. He seemed to think that contests in towns gave rise to all sorts of acrimony and ill-feeling; but he could tell him that it was nothing of the kind. Though they fought out their battles no acrimony or ill-feeling remained; and the contests did not in the least interfere with their relations with their political opponents. True, the Birmingham Corporation had a debt of £5,000,000; but it held valuable assets, and, if it were sold up, it would probably pay 30s. in the pound. The debts of this and other towns indicated the magnitude and importance of their work; and, where urban government had, failed it was generally because the areas were so small and the work was so subdivided that good men did not care to take part in it. Some of the great Corporations in the Kingdom administered funds which were equal to those of many a small State in providing for the health and comfort of the inhabitants, and in that administration provided a channel for every kind of ability and usefulness. He had hoped that when the House came to deal with county government it would profit by the experience gained in the towns, and that they would have taken care that the work to be performed was of sufficient importance to attract the services of the best and most efficient administrators in the district. The first object of the Bill should have been the simplification of the existing system, and the concentra- 1888 tion of the work of the present minor authorities; to have created a primary area which should have been of sufficient importance and size to lend a dignity and importance to the work which had to be performed. The Bill, instead of simplifying the constitution, had actually complicated it, as it added not only a new authority, but also a new area, and instead of concentrating the work it did just the opposite. In fact, it left undone those things it ought to have done, and dealt with the subject in such a faltering manner that he felt sure it would never prove to be a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. It was simply a Bill to do away with quarter sessions—to destroy the integrity and independence of that historical and time-honoured institution. If efficiency and economy were the only objects sought for it was unnecessary to make a change—certainly not a change in the present direction. The object of our local reformers ought to be to strengthen and invigorate local life in the counties, and secure some sort of civic education. The position of a county magistrate had been one that was somewhat sought after, and which had conferred certain social distinction; but could anyone say that the traditional influence and authority of a county magistrate, or of the quarter sessions, would be transferred to this bran new body? County gentlemen who had not taken great interest in the expenditure of a rate of 3s. or 4s. in the pound would not care much about a rate of 1½d. in the pound, a few permissive powers, and the occasional election of a coroner. The representative elementin the board was concealed within a multitude of checks and restrictions, and reminded him of a nest of Japanese boxes, one within the other, the innermost of which contained nothing, for half the electors were ex-officio members of their boards, and the other half were elected by a limited constituency with plural votes. A board so constituted must necessarily involve the abandonment of the educational idea connected with the conduct of local government work. He feared also that the proposed constitution of the board would interfere with its efficiency. It was intended to have a number of ex-officio members, and he thought experience went to prove that such members did not take the same amount of interest in the work devolving upon them as was 1889 taken by members who owed their position to the result of open elections. He had been told that the ez-offioio Guardians seldom attended the Boards of Guardians except when there was some piece of patronage to be disposed of. He had no doubt the result would be the same with respect to the county boards. He could not see that the class whose interests were to be safeguarded could lose by appealing to the electors in the most open and direct manner. Local ability, influence, and wealth would always have their due effect; and county gentlemen who had shown any desire to serve their neighbours might rely on their suffrages without any of these unnecessary restrictions. With regard to the double elections, he thought further inquiry would show that the persons thus chosen would be less amenable to public criticism and control than those who were elected directly by the ratepayers. It had been said that direct elections would introduce political matters into the board; but the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Selater-Booth) was very sanguine if he thought the present measure would succeed in excluding Party bias. He believed that the majority of the members of these boards, which were nominally to have no political bias, would hold very strong and sound Conservative opinions. What he wanted the House to consider was whether they were right in endeavouring to exclude political considerations from local government. To his mind, the desire to exclude such matters proceeded from taking too low a view of what constituted political considerations. If they were not a question merely of Party interests and personal ambition, but a question of the application of great principles to the government of the nation, there was likely to be as much difference in the point of view of a Liberal and a Conservative in matters of local government as there would be in matters of national finance and the administration of a State Department. He objected to the Bill, because it failed to remove the existing state of anarchy and confusion; because it destroyed a board which had hitherto worked well, and substituted a new authority which was a mere pretence of representation, which kept the word of promise to the ear but broke it to the hope.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
congratulated the President of the Local Government Board that, notwithstanding the various theories in favour of direct representation which had been advanced, he had chosen the indirect mode of representation. He had before him the example of the Metropolitan Board of Works and of the Asylums Board, both of which had worked very well. He had himself been associated with the Metropolitan Board for-nearly 12 years, and for eight years had occupied the position of Chairman, and could therefore speak with confidence of indirect representation. And with regard to the Asylums Board, he knew something of that body, because he was a member of the Board of Guardians who had elected it, and knew that it had worked very satisfactorily. He was sorry that the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) had said that the Metropolitan Board had gained neither in dignity nor authority by the process of indirect election. Now, with regard to dignity, it seemed to him that it attained its dignity by the due discharge of the duties imposed on it, and did not look for it in any other way; and, with regard to its influence and authority, he might say that, having been in existence for 22 years, and having been originally appointed to carry out one Act alone, Parliament had now entrusted it with the power of carrying out many others. With regard to expense, the election of the Metropolitan Board cost nothing, or, at any rate, nothing beyond a merely nominal sum; whilst that of the School Board in 1876 cost nearly £10,000, paid out of the rates, besides the expense incurred by individual candidates. At the last two elections, excluding the City, there were 414,485 persons entitled to vote, and only about 144,599 took the trouble to go to the poll. The hon. Member who had just spoken seemed to think it would be an excellent thing to bring politics into the administration of local affairs. With that view he entirely disagreed. There was no reason whatever that he could see why in the conduct of local government Liberals and Conservatives should not work cordially together, and he believed it would be the destruction of any local system of government to have polities mixed up with it. This he said as the result of what experience had taught him as Chair- 1891 rman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, of which, he believed, the majority of the members did not agree with him as to political matters; but at that Board they did not allow their political views to interfere with the discharge of their duties. Neither did he concur with the hon. Member in the opinion that those who were elected in a direct manner would be more responsible to the electors than if they were chosen by the indirect method. The men elected by the vestries and district boards of the metropolis were ten times more responsible than were, for example, the elected members of school boards. The latter seemed to do as they liked, and spend as much money as they liked; but if the members of the Metropolitan Board were extravagant, they would soon be called to account for their conduct. The Chairman of the Asylums Board entertained a similar opinion in favour of indirect election, believing it to be the best method of obtaining good and efficient men to discharge the various duties confided to their care. He thought that election for one year would be too short a period, as the Guardians would fall under the influence of their own officials, and they ought to be able of themselves and from their own knowledge to carry on the business of the boards. He wished to ask what representation would be given to the Metropolitan Board in regard to the area within their jurisdiction; because, if the metropolis was to be mixed, there ought to be some representation.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, the subject could not be said to have failed in attracting attention, seeing that this was the second night's debate upon it, and considering that men's minds were directed to other very important matters. Now, anyone who had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), would agree that the question could not have been more forcibly or ably discussed; but there was an amount of misconception as to the scope of the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman existing in the minds of hon. Members which he would like to try to remove. There were three points in that Resolution—direct election, the composition of the boards, and the areas. They were all of them important; but their relative importance was very wide 1892 apart. The question of direct election was one that seemed to commend itself to many hon. Members upon his side of the House; but that view was not shared in by hon. Members opposite. If, however, there was to be direct election, it would, in his opinion, be better for three years, and not one year. Hon. Members opposite seemed to think that Party politics would be the result of direct elections. He should be sorry if these elections were made a pretext for Party strife; but he could not see how indirect election would shut out Party politics. But the point was not the most important of the three; because, if they were to have indirect elections for a trial of the system, they could easily fall back upon direct elections, if experience should point to it as being better. Then, as to the members of the Boards being balanced between the elected and the non-elected, was it supposed that there would be some antagonism? Prom his experience he thought that there would be. The area was the most important point, and the selection of the petty sessions was incomprehensible. They had hoped that boards would be established which would give some prospect of working harmoniously with other existing Boards; but the area selected would harmonise with nothing. They did not, when dealing with these questions of county management, consider them as a whole. They considered one subject, and disregarded all the rest. There was the question of in-door relief. If spread over a larger area there would be a great saving. Everybody knew what success had attended the measure in the metropolis, and that if the aged were provided for at one place, the sick at another, and the children at another, the management would be better and more economical. Hon. Members might say that that was not the question before the House. He mentioned it in order to ask whether it was wise to shut their eyes to it, and to place barriers against their actions in the future? He was afraid that if they once established these petty sessional areas, they would become the areas for administration. They might become the highway areas, and if so, let them consider, the conflict that would arise between the highway and the sanitary areas, and how difficult it would be to deal with the sewage question. One 1893 question which must soon come under the notice of the local authorities was that of the water supply. The question of the storage and utilization of water, viewed in all its aspects, was of gigantic dimensions, and it was impossible that it could be withdrawn altogether from the control of the county board. It could, however, only obtain a voice in the matter in connection with the sanitary area. If the Bill had been brought in upon the best lines, he thought it would have been made a Provisional Bill. He thought it would have been well to elect a county board provisionally, giving to it the work of simplification of areas. If they were determined that this board should have only the duty they now proposed for it, there was no difficulty for the mere purpose of elections, in working with the Union area so far as it corresponded with the county. The re-adjustment of the Union area need not follow immediately. If it were taken as far as it coincided with the county, much difficulty would be avoided, and the door would not be shut against the consideration of the question at some future date. The subject of centralization had been mentioned, and he would remark that it came about in two ways—either by the simple subordination of all local authorities to a central one—a system which worked smoothly enough in some countries—or by a different process, as in England, where the local machinery worked with so much friction that there was a constant necessity for an appeal to a central umpire. It was mere waste of breath to declaim against centralization, and then, when opportunity offered itself, to take no step in spite of the manifest confusion in the local government of the country. But, in truth, the Bill was out of date, though it would have been suitable enough at the time when Hume and Mr. Milner Gibson made their proposals. As for the transfer of the work of the magistrates to the county board, it was to be borne in mind that the magistrates had a much smaller share now than formerly of the whole local administration, and that the dominant purpose of local government was poor relief and sanitary measures. Admirably consistent views on the subject had been taken by the Sanitry Commission, over which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Charles Adderley) had presided, and he was sure they would commend themselves 1894 to the House. The title of the Bill was a misnomer. The Bill was called a County Government Bill. It should be a County Board Bill. They could not give it the strength and power of a County Government Bill unless it was the head and centre of all the local administration within the confines of the county. What was wanted was a Bill that would check centralization in London, and that the counties might conduct their own local affairs without reference to a board in London. No doubt that as long as the Imperial Government contributed to local burdens, they must see that they got value for their money; but what was wanted was to get rid of that constant interference which irritated every man who took part in the local government. He was curious to see what would be done in Committee on the Bill. The opinion of the House was distinctly against the petty sessional area. ["No, no!"] At all events, he was not misquoting the debate in stating that the current of opinion ran strongly against it. The change would not be as troublesome as had been imagined, and no excuse on the score of trouble could be accepted. The House was anxious to settle the question, and the one thing wanted was a measure that would take the first step towards its solution.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) has enunciated a principle which I know he entertains strongly, and which prevails among hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. The hon. Member wishes to avoid centralization, and he tells us that the means of avoiding centralization is to concentrate all authority in a limited number of local bodies; it seems that the hon. Member for Bedford totally fails to perceive that this concentration has, in every country where it has been tried, proved to be the first step towards centralization. If you cencentrate all authority in a limited number of districts, or limited number of centres, you take the first step, and render the extension of centralization immensely more easy. I think that that is a simple and clear proposition-that was the process by which the centralization of France was accomplished. And then the hon. Member wishes to persuade us that we are about to adopt a novel principle—to adopt a novel area for county administration; because we 1895 prefer the petty sessional division. Why, these are at present the existing district areas for county administration. They have been so for centuries, and at this moment they are not only the areas for the administration of justice, but they are the areas for the administration of the roads. [Mr. CLARE READ: No.] I say that, where highway districts have not been formed, the petty sessional district is the area for local administration. I have acted as a magistrate for 40 years, and have had some experience of that fact. Then, hon. Members opposite speak as if we were introducing some novel area and some novel sphere of administration. The petty sessional area is a police district, and as to there being any doubt in the minds of the population with respect to the centres of these areas, why, every policeman is bound to inform every inhabitant of the district where these, the centres of county administration, are—but, in fact, these centres are perfectly well known; they are the habitual, time-honoured centres of county administration, as it has existed for generations. It is now desired to increase the sphere of county administration by increasing the number of subjects with which it is to deal; because the sphere of county qua county administration is to be enlarged, hon. Members opposite seem to think it incumbent upon them, while creating a concentration of authority, to erect, also, new centres of administration, and would, therefore, repudiate the system of areas which exists. All that is really needed is an enlargement of the functions of the authorities who at present meet in those petty sessional centres, for the purpose of accomplishing the object which we have in view. But I entertain a distinct objection to the Union area. The Unions were formed for a distinct purpose—the administration of relief to the poor, which is a totally distinct function from county administration. The Unions were never formed for, and have never been adapted to, county administration; and the proof of that is, that they overlap the county. On the other hand, in the petty sessional districts, we have areas which are specially adapted to county administration, and are limited to the counties; and I can see no reason for preferring the Union areas, except that they are areas so inconvenient that their adoption will lead to a large altera- 1896 tion of their limits, and tend towards the formation of electoral districts for municipal purposes. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) has the honesty to say that he wishes to see the distinction between municipal and political functions abolished. Now, any man who has studied the Constitution of this country, knows the evil of local administration becoming tainted by political interference, and that political action gains nothing in purity from the confusion with municipal objects. Nothing is more marked in the Constitution of this country than the distinction it preserves between municipal and political functions and action. If the existence of the Constitution of this country is worth anything, as contra-distinguished from the system which prevails in France, the fact of its maintaining a broad distinction between municipal and political functions is a characteristic which ought to be preserved, for it distinguishes the Constitution of this country from the centralized system of France. If you are not tired of England as she has been, or ashamed of England as she is, you will adhere to the principle which has marked her internal government—that of always maintaining a broad distinction between municipal and political functions. In Birmingham the hon. Member is at the head of a very powerful combination. He has been mayor of the borough, and he represents the borough in this House with an ability we all acknowledge; but what is the source of his strength? The complete fusion and confusion of municipal with political functions, enforced by a single extemporised body of 600 persons, who are guarded chiefly—if not entirely —by political considerations. Surely, Sir, the House cannot desire to see that system extended throughout the country, whether the predominance to be achieved by such a process be in favour of that which is called Conservatism, or of that which is called Liberalism. The hon. Member for Birmingham spoke with the greatest possible honesty and frankness. He says—"I am discontented with this Bill, because it does not fuse municipal with political functions and authority." He says—"I am discontented with this Bill, because I look forward to the equalization of the franchise throughout the whole country"—an object which, I admit, is 1897 perfectly consistent with the somewhat extreme opinions he is known to entertain; and he asks us Conservatives to hesitate before taking the step proposed by this Bill, because it is a Bill which is inconsistent with his political creed— a creed which, to use an old-fashioned phrase, is that of an advanced Radical. Sir, I stand strongly by the petty sessional area, and for this reason—I deprecated the Prisons Act of last Session, because, to my mind, it struck a heavy blow at the Common Law, and ousted the jurisdiction of the magistrates, for no sufficient reason. By this Bill, if you retain the petty sessional area, you are sure to have justices of the peace to act at every centre, because magistrates are provided for that centre, in order that they may administer justice; and, I ask, is there anything in their administration of justice as a body which you have seen, which ought to be held to unfit them for the municipal functions which you now contemplate bestowing? The fact is, as I have shown, in the case of highway administration, and in many other ways, the justices already administer municipal affairs; and my belief is this—that the county board will be far better with a due proportion of magistrates, provided that to them are added a sufficient number of elected Guardians. There is a Guardian for every parish; and, after all, the parish is the unit of the petty sessional district, just as it is the unit of the Union district. The Union has a centre, and so has the petty sessional area. Well, Sir, it appears to me that no valid reason has been shown for breaking up the county system of administration, although I see that it is desirable that the elective principle should be so adapted as to introduce into that system a new element. I am strongly in favour of the system of indirect election. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) has given you good evidence with respect to the advantage of that system of election in the case of the Board over which he so ably presides; and, if you desire a wider example, in what country in Europe has a democratic constituency been brought to work more smoothly, and under greater difficulties, than in Italy? Yet, the political elections in Italy are all indirect —are all conducted on the principle which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government 1898 Board proposes to introduce by this Bill. And I do not think that the House could have failed to feel the force of what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Truro. By the system of direct election, by a democratic constituency, you destroy the sense of responsibility in many important matters of detail; by adopting the system of indirect election, you increase the sense of responsibility in matters of detail, and municipal functions relate to matters of detail. You may be sure that the Guardians will choose the best men whom the ratepayers have returned for county administrations, and will have no feeling of jealousy, because already the Unions in which they act are overpowered by the multiplicity of their functions. I know that, in my own county, the best Guardians will be very glad to have the opportunity of selecting from their own body the men who are best fitted to undertake the functions which are contemplated by this Bill. They tell me that they have already enough to do as Guardians; and my belief is that this Bill, regulated as its action is intended to be, according to the petty sessional districts, and founded upon the principle of indirect election, is a measure which will, in some degree, compensate for the blow which the county system received through that load measure—the Prisons Act—of the last Session.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, the President of the Local Government Board had done him the honour to refer to a Bill which he had introduced some years ago, and in which the petty sessional division figured as the area for the election of representatives of the county board; but the right hon. Gentleman would not fail to remember that in every other respect the Bill then introduced entirely differed from that which the right hon. Gentleman had brought forward. The objection taken on both sides of the House to the petty sessional division was that the electoral area was made different from the administrative area. The administrative area was the Union; but, under this Bill, the Guardians were directed to elect representatives under the petty sessional division area. That was an anomaly which, on the whole, had met with the disapproval of a majority in the House. But under the Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded that did not occur, because the Guardians, 1899 were not made electors in any sense to the new board. There was no confusion between the administrative and the electoral area. The Boards of Guardians were put aside, rightly or wrongly; a new system was built up, a new administrative area established, and the election was made to cover that administrative area. Therefore, there was no analogy between his own proposal with regard to petty sessional divisions and that which the right hon. Gentleman now submitted to the consideration of the House. He took the greatest possible exception to the proposal which this Bill made—that, instead of having ex-officio magistrates only, there was to be added to them a certain number of persons who were to be elected by the Guardians. One of the objects which, on this side of the House, they desired, was to infuse new life into civic rural affairs, and their complaint was that, if this Bill were passed, it was doubtful if a single additional person would take any interest in local rural affairs. This Bill was intended to check overlapping areas; but it had been conclusively shown that overlapping was most timidly and unsatisfactorily dealt with. Another object of the Bill was to improve the administration of county affairs. Possibly that might be done to a certain extent; but hon. Members opposite were endeavouring to persuade them that their administration was perfect at the present moment. Another object of this Bill was to counteract the indifference to local affairs which was felt at the present moment in the rural districts. In regard to that object the Bill appeared to him to be a total failure, and hon. Gentlemen opposite had gloried in this indifference, and had hoped that no new life would be called into existence. They thought that rural life could not exist unless it was tainted by politics. He thought that in this country they were proud of their local self-government; but he never heard a speech more directed against local self-government than the speech of the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Bead). His observations might have been directed against representative institutions altogether, for he spoke of the expense and excitement of elections, and about popular constituencies not choosing the best men, and that he hoped that rural elections would never remind them of 1900 municipal elections. [Mr. CLARE READ: Hear, hear!] And yet Conservative Members had been heard in after-dinner speeches to compliment the country upon the great institution of local self-government in their towns and cities; but in the counties hon. Gentlemen opposite preferred to continue the mild and benignant sway of the magistrates. The hon. Member for Mid Somersetshire (Mr. Paget) regretted that, if this Bill passed, the younger magistrates would cease to take an interest in local affairs. He sympathized with the hon. Member; but he hoped, on the other hand, that large classes might be induced to take an interest in local rural affairs under a large and improved system of local self-government. The hon. Member for South Norfolk was the Representative of the tenant-farmers in this House, and spoke, for the elected Guardians. He assumed that they would elect good men. That was not enough. [An hon. MEMBER: What more do you want?] What they wanted was to create an intelligent interest in public affairs in larger classes of the community. That was the difference between the two sides of the House on this question. Hon. Gentlemen opposite looked mainly to administration. There was a certain amount of work to be done, and if it were well done they thought that that was all that was necessary. On this side they said that something more was necessary. They said, that it was not only necessary that the work should be well done, but that great classes of the community should take an interest in that work—should feel it to be their work, and take their share in it. They felt it was important to harness to the work of the State as great a proportion of the community as they could engage to do the work. It was important to introduce an amount of civic life and vigour among certain classes of the community. Hon. Members opposite seemed to think that, if they introduced a direct system of election, they would be introducing politics into local affairs. Why should that be the case? It had not been so in the case of the school boards, which had shown great vitality, and attracted to them a large number of persons who took an intelligent interest in public affairs. There was another branch of the subject upon which there might possibly be more community of feeling between the two sides of the 1901 House. When it was his duty to deal with this question, why did he wish to place within reach of ratepayers a different set of duties rom that which they now possessed? It was for this reason —he was not satisfied that the great question of the Poor Law should be the one leading idea which in the public mind represented local self-government. While the Poor Law had conferred many benefits, it had a great deal to answer for; and, among other things, it had destroyed their system of local self-government, which was at this moment more difficult to deal with on account of that overshadowing influence. The idea of local self-government in the mind of the rural population was the Union, and the Union meant in-door and out-door relief, so that local self-government had got fatally mixed up with relief to the poor. That was one of the reasons which appeared to him to be a very strong argument for endeavouring to separate the new system of local government from the system of the Poor Law. The Guardians of the poor were to be the chief element of building up the new system. That appeared to him to be a great error. He should have wished that, by a system of direct election, they should cut themselves adrift from the idea that the men who were elected for the purpose of administering in and out-door relief were the men who were to form the basis of an administration for local affairs. The question of areas was a very important question; but it was as nothing compared with the importance of infusing new life into the rural population. If this Bill passed, not a single ratepayer and not a single owner would know that anything had happened. They would simply have added one additional duty to the duties of the Board of Guardians. He did not know how far the right hon. Gentleman might be able to remedy the defects in his Bill, and he trusted that the House might be able to remedy them, at some future time, in a more popular manner. The system proposed by the Bill was not representative in the slightest degree. It might satisfy the grievances of the farmers for a certain time, because the farmers mainly constituted the elective portion of the Board of Guardians; but there were classes below who were entirely ignored under this arrangement, which would fail to secure 1902 those civic municipalities at which the hon. Member for South Norfolk sneered; but which, in the future, might be a great object which reformers would strive to attain.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, whatever the effect of the Bill might be, he could not claim for it an approach to the ideal of the right hon. Gentleman, who had rightly stated that the measure had been constructed with no such ambitious view. It was the first time he had heard that the objects mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman were the objects of the great body of the people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that for many years he and his Friends had desired to stimulate rural life. What evidence there was that they had done so he was at a loss to understand. The right hon. Gentleman complained that the Bill vested the principal part of the construction of the county board in the Guardians of the parish. But what difference was there between the Guardian who was the elected man of the parish and the parish head man set up by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman? The Government might not be very ambitious in their aim, but they desired to meet the exigencies of the situation. For what was the situation? The Government desired to give effect to a long entertained and frequently expressed wish on the part of county ratepayers, that they should have a voice in the administration of the funds to which they contributed. The grievance under which they laboured in that respect was felt 40 or 50 years ago; it faded away by degrees, but there was now a revival of the feeling; and the Government wanted, therefore, to introduce the representative element into county boards. There was great and important county work to be done —work which could no longer be performed by those overworked bodies—the Boards of Guardians—nor by the courts of quarter sessions as now established. He owned he regarded the mode in which the county board was to be filled up as a matter of secondary importance; what was of greater importance was that those great and growing functions should be provided for in a way least disturbing to the rural population, and likely to secure most effectively the great objects of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the Bill on the ground that it 1903 did not comprehend municipal areas; but this, whether rightly or wrongly, was the deliberate intention of the Government in framing the measure. The parish was the unit best understood by the county ratepayers, and therefore it was the one which had been adopted in an important part of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) had stated that he should not press his Amendment in the event of his receiving certain assurances from the Government. He had no hesitation in saying to the right hon. Gentleman and those who thought with him, that the suggestion contained in the Amendment, and the other suggestions conveyed in the speeches which had been delivered in its support, should be seriously considered when the measure reached the Committee stage. There were several minor matters which had been touched upon, but to which it was not necessary to refer at length, inasmuch as the main interest of the debate had turned upon the question of the area to be selected for the purpose of carrying into effect the provisions of the Bill. It would be a very serious change from the proposal of the measure if they were to divide the Poor Law Unions into rural and urban sanitary districts. In most parts of the Kingdom, the urban sanitary districts far outnumbered the rural districts; and in these cases, if the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was carried into effect, the urban districts would outweigh the rural districts in the management of rural affairs. The right hon. Gentleman insisted with much earnestness upon the principle that it was a necessary preliminary to the formation of county boards that the Poor Law Unions should be reduced within the limit of one county. This insistance was an illustration of the dragooning spirit in which some local reformers desired to stimulate local life. It seemed to be forgotten that the county was not an administrative area at all; and it was also lost sight of that the plan of the Bill was to constitute the county boards a municipal representation of the counties for certain important purposes only. We might depend upon it that local communities, as they grew in population and strength, would value nothing more highly than the privilege of managing their own affairs in these respects without interference from the 1904 outside. The county boards, of course, might lay down general lines of guidance in such matters as the storage of water and drainage outlets; but urban communities would not submit to be controlled in detail by county boards. He would go back for a moment to the question of bringing Poor Law Union boundaries within county boundaries. That was an object he had very much at heart; and it was only two years ago that a Bill was passed through Parliament at his instance, which he had hoped would assist in bringing that end about. By the moderate exercise of such powers as were in that Bill, he thought he might pave the way to overcoming many difficulties which existed. In moving the second reading of the Bill, he said that the Government had no special reason for objecting to the Poor Law Union as the area; but it had been found much more convenient to adopt the area in the Bill, on account of the overlapping of boundaries in the Unions. Poor Law Guardians were assigned to parishes in numbers proportioned to the wealth and population of the district they represented; and urban districts, being more populous than the rural, would, by their representatives, exercise a comparatively greater influence in the constitution of the board. The hon. Member for Mid Somersetshire (Mr. Paget) had already quoted from the Reports of Inspectors, prepared some six years ago, showing the difficulties they anticipated in bringing Poor Law Union boundaries within county boundaries; and he would not, therefore, quote further from the Return, though he agreed with the opinions there expressed. He had always been of opinion, though, that some portion of that work might be accomplished, and, by a clause he had inserted in the Bill, he hoped to enlist the county authorities on his side. The Guardians, the ratepayers, and the poor were all concerned, and many conflicting interests interfered when it was proposed to vary Union boundaries. For instance, consideration for the poor had prevented quite recently a change in the case of a parish in Wiltshire belonging to a Hamp-shire Union. Again, the right hon. Gentleman opposite had neglected a few years since a golden opportunity to transfer Aldershot from a Surrey to a Hampshire Union; he would not take his advice at the time, and he was afraid the 1905 interests which had now grown up would render it impossible for that desirable change to be made. No effort, however, should be wanting on his part to give that clause a wide and beneficial operation. If the county boards were to be composed of a combination of Unions represented directly by the Guardians as delegates, they might not be disposed to assent to the rectification of boundaries which might be desirable. But if they placed the Guardians, as was proposed by the Bill, in a position where they would get accustomed to consider questions of county policy, they might become more favourable to the correction of existing anomalies. Nobody who was not in favour of an entire break-up of the whole Poor Law system of this country would think it possible that that system could be maintained unless its administration was subject to some control from the central department. He should deprecate, at all events, in the early inception of these boards, any interference by them with the details of poor relief; but he had gone a long way in the endeavour to initiate county boards into work of this kind by assigning to them power to construct buildings which might relieve the workhouses of some of their poor, and also the counties from the expensive obligation which was at present upon them of having to add to lunatic asylums. He should have been glad to go a step further, and place the charge for the in-door poor upon a wider area; but it would be seen at once that owing to the great difficulties in the way, we were very far from having arrived at the point at which that could be done. Until a rectification of county boundaries had been effected, it would be impossible to place the whole charge of the indoor poor on the county rate. Those who examined the clause to which he had referred would see what might be done by the county authority without trenching on the common fund of the different Unions, and without any approach to a shifting of burdens. He thought the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment made use of a rather hard expression when he said that this board would be a justices' board, and chosen in a justices' area. After the sacrifices which had been made by Gentlemen on that side of the House in surrendering so considerable an amount of power as would be taken from the magistrates by the 1906 operation of the Bill, such an expression was rather a hard one. It was a considerable measure to be proposed from that side of the House, and as it had been received almost without objection from that side, it should not have been imputed to them that they desired to monopolize the county boards for the county justices. The petty sessional area was not a justices' area; but it had been selected because it was found to be convenient for the public at large. He entirely disclaimed the notion of making it an administrative area at all. He had selected it only for the purpose of enabling the representatives of parishes to combine together in convenient groups for an important county object. The Amendment required, also, that the election should be direct. So little had been said in support of the principle of direct election, that he was not going at that late hour of the night to dwell upon it. He would only say that he believed direct election would be unpopular in the districts and expensive to the ratepayers. It had been urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stans-feld), and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), that they ought to have one administrative body within the county for all purposes. The logical inference from that was, either that the Poor Law Guardians must take back the sanitary authority they had parted with to the local boards, for the local boards must take over the poor relief from the president. It was obviously impossible to have two bodies administering the same functions in the same area. It that was not meant, he did not know what was intended by the observation. His hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) had stated that the boards would be too large; but he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had gone much into the question, and he was satisfied that they would not be so in actual operation. With reference to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hutchinson), as to account and audit for these boards, he (Mr. Sclater-Booth) thought he should be able to satisfy him that all he desired would be accomplished by means of the court of quarter sessions' publication of accounts. He did not think that, on the whole, the number of magistrates was excessive; on the contrary, in some districts it was clearly too 1907 small. There were many points raised in the debate which remained to be considered; but he would not detain the House on them at that hour. The Bill was safe and satisfactory, though the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Rath-bone) had complained of its incompleteness. He could not but remark, however, with reference to one point, that if the number of magistrates set out in the Bill were reduced by one-half, the boards would be prevented from obtaining the assistance of many of those gentlemen who had for such a great number of years conducted the county business in so satisfactory a manner. He did not think that the Bill would work satisfactorily with a smaller number of magistrates. With respect to many of the objections which had been raised, they would receive his attention, and would have full consideration when the Bill got into Committee. The Government had taken up the matter in a Conservative spirit, and he trusted that the House would assist them in their endeavours to render the Bill as perfect as possible, and that it would be found to work in a satisfactory manner.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the remarks he has just made. I only wish to state on behalf of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld), who, by the Rules of the House, cannot speak again, that he thinks it would not be desirable for him to press his Amendment to a division. In making this announcement, I must express my own opinion that my right hon. Friend has conferred a service on the House by bringing forward his Motion, and by originating the discussion which has taken place. It may be said that there is no principle in the Bill, except one to erect county boards; but my right hon. Friend has pointed out what, in his opinion, are the main principles of the Bill, and to which we take very great exception. There are points, however, which no doubt can be more thoroughly gone into in Committee than on the second reading; but, at the same time, the discussion of them on this evening will render their consideration in Committee easier and more profitable. Now, the principal question raised by my right hon. Friend is that of the proposed area of election to these county boards. About this there seems to be a great 1908 difference of opinion; and at the same time some hon. Members are in favour of direct whilst others are in favour of indirect representation. In reference to the latter point, it appears to me that changes might be made from time to time in the principle of direct representation in any place where it was not found to work satisfactorily; but if you once start with a wrong area of election, then you will have a difficulty in dealing with the matter hereafter. There will be a great deal of work to be undone— perhaps so much that you will find it impossible to undo it. Therefore, I do not think that any time can be wasted in the discussion of that point. It has been objected that the functions to be given under the Bill to members of county boards are not such as will attract the best men in the counties. To that objection we do not attach much importance; because, if these Boards be founded upon true principles they will, in course of time, attract to themselves other and more important functions; but, in order to do this, they must be based on real administrative organization, and not on the organization of districts which are not really administrative districts. That is the issue which my right hon. Friend has raised, and on which, if necessary, he would have taken the sense of the House; but it is an issue which I think may be more advantageously taken in Committee. It has also been objected that the change required to bring the boundaries of the Unions into the area of election will be very great, and no doubt that is so; but, as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, it is desirable that those changes should be made sooner or later. It is not necessary that the change should be made at once—it is very easy to make some temporary arrangement, which shall be equal for all purposes of election to these county boards. Now, Sir, I believe that after the Amendment has been withdrawn a Vote will be taken on the second reading. I admit the force of a great deal that has been said by my noble Friend the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain); but I would suggest to them that as this Bill does contain an important principle—namely, the introduction of the representative element into county representation—it 1909 would be better to wait and see what progress is made with the Bill in Committee rather than vote against its principle altogether. At all events, considering the concessions which the Government seem disposed to make, I shall myself vote for the second reading of the Bill.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
drew the attention of the House to the absurd position in which Irish Members were placed by the conduct of the Government and the accidents of debate. In the Queen's Speech they were promised a County Boards Bill for Ireland, but they had not yet heard anything of it. They were now asked, in truth, to commit themselves blindfolded to the principles laid down in the English Bill. If they voted for that Bill, the fact would hereafter be used as a precedent against them in connection with the Irish Bill, and thus they would be making a rod for their own backs. Irish Members on his side of the House took a great interest in the present Bill, for there were no less than 46 county Representatives amongst them. But the Government, in crowding the debate on the second reading into two nights, had virtually condemned many of them to absolute silence. Indeed, only one Member on the Conservative side had spoken on the Bill, and he did so not in his capacity of an Irish Member, but as an English proprietor. The Bill was one which he had studied very carefully, and upon which he had taken the opinion of his constituents. Some of them said it was a step in the right direction; but the great majority agreed that it would be well to wait until they could get something better, so far as Ireland was concerned. The magistrates, beside the half share of representation they were to have upon county boards, would have an influence over their own tenants in the election of Guardians; and the effect of this in Ireland would be to strengthen whatever was left of the feudal system in that country.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down that it is a subject of great regret to the Government that the Irish Bill on this subject has not yet been placed on the Table; but I hope he and his Friends will do us the justice to bear in mind the peculiar position in which we stand in consequence of the recent change that 1910 has taken place in the Office of Chief Secretary for Ireland. We hope that to-morrow my right hon. Friend the new Chief Secretary will be in his place, and that then, or the next day, he will give Notice to introduce the Bill without delay. The Bill, I may say, has been very carefully prepared; but it is necessary that the new Chief Secretary should have an opportunity of examining it and of making himself acquainted with its actual nature before submitting it to the House. I am perfectly well aware of the great interest which the hon. and gallant Member takes in the subject of local self-government; but I have no doubt that the question which will be raised in connection with Ireland must vary, in some respects, from the solution that is proposed in this English measure. It is impossible that the conditions in the two countries can be exactly the same in a question so peculiarly local as that of county self-government; and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not think that it has been from any neglect or indifference that the Bill relating to Ireland has not yet been introduced. After all, we are tolerably early in the Session; and I trust there will be ample time for the discussion of the Irish Bill. At any rate, I hope hon. Gentlemen will see that in voting for the second reading of this Bill they do not lose or foreclose their right to take any line they may consider fit hereafter. I think that the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) is one exceedingly well adapted to the convenience of the House. It was very desirable that the Bill, on its second reading, should be discussed in such a way as would bring all its points under criticism; and I have no doubt that when we get into Committee, my right hon. Friend who has conducted this measure with such pains and ability, will give every consideration to the suggestions that have been made, and at the same time be able to defend those principles which have been attacked.
§ MR. PARNELL
was still of opinion that the Irish Members had been very badly treated. Notwithstanding the desire of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give them every opportunity of discussing the Irish Bill, they knew, by the experience of last Session, that it was almost impossible he could do so. It was perfectly clear that unless they 1911 could succeed in making the English Bill a good Bill, they would fail in getting anything like a beneficial Act for Ireland. The circumstances of the present Bill very much resembled those of the Prisons Bill of last Session. That was a Bill with which the Irish Members were obliged to interfere with the view of making a good Bill for Ireland. By some that interference was described as obstruction; but in the end the Irish Members succeeded in amending the Bill, and on getting their Amendments incorporated in the Irish Prisons Bill. The latter did not come on in Committee until nearly the end of the Session, and at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning—and where would they have been but for the opposition to the English Bill? It was for this reason, that they desired an opportunity of discussing the points of analogous interest in the present Bill. The Irish Members were of opinion that the principle of direct representation should be incorporated in the Irish Bill. This point might not be a matter of serious importance to the English Liberal Party, because of the administration of the courts of quarter sessions in this country; but in Ireland, where that administration was represented only by Grand Juries, it was a matter of vital concern. There was no county in Ireland which felt more strongly on the subject of county government than his own—County Meath—and there the popular impression was that this Bill was a sham and a delusion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), in his recent speech at Dublin, said he could not countenance the demand for Home Rule, but he was ready to give the people county government. He (Mr. Parnell) would ask the Members of the front Opposition Bench, was this the kind of county government they proposed to give them? If so, he believed it would not increase the admiration of the people for the part they had taken in Irish legislation. He moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ MR. BIGGAR
observed that the greater part of the debate had been devoted to proving that this measure 1912 was not required at all. He would therefore support the Motion for the adjournment in order that the Bill might be withdrawn, and one of real merit substituted.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, that many Irish Members desired to speak on the Bill, and if the House went into Committee they would be precluded from doing so. An Amendment had been placed on the Paper which the Irish Members would have been very glad to support; but when they came down to the House, they found that the front Opposition Bench had once more beaten a hasty and precipitate retreat in the face of the enemy. If that misleading Amendment had not been put on the Paper, some Irish; Member who was in earnest on the question, would have put down an Amendment, and would have thrashed the matter out. The Speaker, in the exercise of the discretion which was always characterized by the greatest judgment and impartiality, had called upon English Members to speak on the question; but as the Irish Members would be saddled with the consequences of their decision, they asked that further time should be allowed to discuss the many points contained in the Bill. He, therefore, appealed to the right hon. Baronet to consent to the Motion for adjournment.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, he regretted that he could not defer to the appeal which had been made to him by the noble Lord on the front Opposition bench. The reason that he could not do so was, that he read the expressions of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in a very different sense from that attributed to them by the noble Lord. He could not see that there was anything in what the right hon. Gentleman said, to lead him or anyone else to suppose that when they got into Committee, the right hon. Gentleman would do anything beyond treating all Amendments that might come from that side of the House with the fairness with which he always treated proposals from whatever quarter they might come. When Amendments were proposed, carrying out the principles enunciated by the right hon. Member for Halifax, the supporters of the Government would flock down in considerable numbers, and the Amendments would be thrown 1913 out. When the Bill reached a further stage, they would find that they had made no progress in giving effect to their views. Therefore, though with great reluctance, he felt compelled to press the matter to a division. The Irish Members, he might point out, would have an opportunity of speaking on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair.
observed, that if that were the case, there appeared to have been a shocking waste of time on the part of the English Members who had addressed the House during the last two evenings, and he trusted that the noble Lord had reserved his own observations for the same occasion.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
I did not say that the Irish Members ought to have reserved their speeches. All I said was that they still had an opportunity.
said, he had not the slightest idea of charging the noble Lord with intending to shut the Irish Members out of this debate. On many questions, besides this one of local government, the Irish Members had a right to speak. He would tell the English Members that Irish legislation had had to pave the way for any reform they ever got. They had, for instance, bled, so to speak, for the Land Question for many years. It was exactly the same upon this matter of county government. They called upon the English Members to realize the fact that the Irish Members were merely going to fight the battle for the future for the English people upon that question. They intended to fight the battle of the English people upon that Bill, knowing, at the same time, that they had to fight their own battle. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that the Irish Members would have a full opportunity of discussing the Irish Bill. But when the Irish Bill came on—the debate, having all the life and earnestness worn out of it by the debate on the English Bill, would be one of those dreary discussions that no one would care to listen to. Members would, therefore, naturally say—"We have heard all that before on the English Bill; when the division bell rings we will go in and vote." The Irish Members learned a little every year, and, as they were brought to that House, they intended to intervene in these 1914 debates for the purpose of serving every useful interest in England as well as in Ireland. He appealed to the Government to grant this adjournment, because, in doing so, they would, as a matter of fact, save time on the Irish Bill.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
pointed out that there was some difference between the position last year with regard to the Prisons Bills and the position this year with regard to the Local Government Bills. Last year the two Prisons Bills were introduced together, and it was found convenient by the Irish Members to discuss the English Bill, as upon a considerable number of questions it governed the decisions upon the Irish Bill. It was an understanding that these discussions should take place with the view subsequently of making the Irish Prisons Bill as nearly as possible identical with the English Prisons Bill. He thought there would probably be more difference between the County Government Bill for England and the Grand Jury Bill for Ireland than there was between the two Prisons Bills last year; and it would be more convenient that the Irish discussion should take place upon the Irish Bill, because if they wished to discuss the principles of the Irish Bill upon the English Bill, they would find there was some difficulty in making their speeches exactly fit the point to which they wished to direct them. The Government were very desirous there should be a fair opportunity given for the discussion of the Irish Bill by the Irish Members and by the whole House, and they were quite ready to propose some arrangement by which that should be effected. He would undertake to provide that when the Irish Bill was before the House a reasonably early day should be given when the Bill should be taken as a first Order, and not put off till late at night. He was quite sure the House would listen with pleasure to the arguments of Irish Members. They would be losing time if an adjournment took place, and he hoped it would not be pressed, but that the House would be now allowed to go to a division on the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
trusted that the Motion for the adjournment would not be pressed. The principles of the Irish Bill were entirely different from those of the English Bill, In Ireland 1915 taxation was in the hands of the Grand Juries, and in England financial administration belonged to quarter sessions. These two bodies were as distinct as possible, and the two cases must be argued in a perfectly different manner.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, if they had the Irish Bill before them they would not be in their present difficulty. He would suggest that they should have the opportunity of seeing the Irish Bill in print and discussing it before this Bill went into Committee. Last year they had to agree to the Irish Public Health Bill being read a second time without discussion. As a protest against this slovenly way of dealing with Irish legislation, he would support the Motion for the adjournment.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
expressed a hope that hon. Members would adopt the advice of the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), and postpone the further discussion till a later stage. Most of the English Members who desired to speak had already stated their views; and, unless there was so much difference of opinion among the Irish Members that they were capable of keeping up the debate for a whole night, he did not see the advantage of an adjournment. He had no doubt that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) would be able to frame a satisfactory Amendment at a further stage of the Bill.
§ MR. SCLATER - BOOTH
promised that the Government would not proceed with the Committee until the Irish Bill had been read a second time.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman quite altered the situation.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave,withdrawn.
§ Main Question put. The House divided: —Ayes 231; Noes 63: Majority 168.—(Div. List, No. 17.)
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday 7th March.