HC Deb 18 March 1881 vol 259 cc1474-6

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [14th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, he quite approved of the object of the Bill; but he was not quite clear that the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate was going the right way to work to get the information he wanted. Some years ago he succeeded in getting Returns of local taxation in Scotland, in reply to a private circular to the county officials, asking them to send the Returns to the Crown Office at Edinburgh. He would suggest that the Bill should be so altered as to require the Returns to be sent through that Department. When the Returns were first moved for the difficulty was to get the Clerks to the Commissioners of Supply to give the Returns, because they said they were paid by the county, and not by the Government. They said the Government had no authority and no jurisdiction over them; and this Bill would enforce that authority.


remarked, that when the debate was adjourned he had no opportunity of explaining the provisions of the Bill. In answer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Banffshire (Mr. R. W. Duff), he might say that the practice in regard to Returns had been that the information was forwarded through the Crown Agent in Scotland, and was officially laid before the House by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. Therefore, the Bill, in requiring that the Returns should be laid before the House by the Home Department, was quite in accordance with the practice in such matters. It was necessary to ask for Parliamentary powers to enable them to produce these Returns. Various Members during the past six months had asked for Scotch local Returns of the same character as were laid before Parliament annually for England and Ireland; but on inquiry it was found impossible, without Parliamentary authority, to compel the clerks or officers of the local bodies to give the information that was required. The Returns for England and Ireland were obtained in pursuance of an Act of Parliament requiring the local officials to give the information, and therefore it was necessary to have such an Act for Scotland. It was particularly desirable at the present time that the information called for by the Bill should be obtained. The House was aware that the subject of local government had been repeatedly referred to as a matter that might be expected to be brought before Parliament on an early occasion. One important element in the consideration of any reforms in the local government of the country would be the amount of taxation and expenditure under the control of local bodies; and it was quite evident, in the absence of any Return of revenue and expenditure from the local authorities, that Parliament would be without one of the most material elements to guide them in any future legislation. He therefore hoped that the House would consent to give the requisite authority for obtaining this information, the information itself being precisely of the same character as that which, for the last 10 or 12 years, had been laid before the House from other parts of the United Kingdom. As he had already stated, it was absolutely necessary that this should be done, in order that there might be materials to enable Parliament to judge of the requirements connected with other reforms which were in contemplation in regard to county expenditure.


said, that the object of this Bill was to enable the Government to collect information in order to enable them to legislate on questions connected with local governments and taxation. He trusted that when the Return was laid before Parliament it would be in such a form that hon. Members would be able to compare it with the items of expenditure for similar purposes in England and Ireland. He was sorry to say that hitherto Returns of this nature were not easily comparable with each other.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.