§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he would have been glad if this Bill could have been taken at an hour when it could have been properly discussed. Millions upon 914 millions of money was levied on the people of London, and they knew nothing about the matter at all. In fact, there were not 100 people in London who knew anything of the proposal which the House was now asked to pass. He ventured to say that, from the beginning to the end of the year, there was no more monstrous farce—a farce to which the Secretary to the Treasury lent his sanction—than the passing of this Bill. The Bill proposed that the Board of Works, which was a body which did not represent the ratepayers of the Metropolis, and over which Parliament had no sort of control—this Bill proposed that the Board of Works should have authority to borrow £4,000,000, to spend as they themselves thought proper. No explanation was afforded of the Bill; indeed, the only thing that they would be told was that the Bill had been carefully examined by the Treasury. Certainly, he did not consider the inquiry of the Treasury was worthy of the name. The provisions of this Bill ought to have been examined by those who had to find the money. The people of the Metropolis had to find the money, and upon them the duty of investigating ought to be laid.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
said, he did not wish to take up the time of the House at that hour of the night (2.55.) He need only point out that the greater part of the money voted in this Bill had been voted for eight years in succession. The Bill had been before the House from time to time, and the only other matter which this Bill contained related to three artizan schemes, and a scheme for street improvement, which was now before the House of Lords, and which would very soon pass into law. It did seem an anomaly that hon. Gentlemen should get up in their places and question the representative character of the Board of Works. He maintained that the Metropolitan Board of Works did represent the ratepayers of the Metropolis; and he maintained, moreover, that the matters dealt with by that Bill had been gone into most carefully by the Board, and had passed the ordeal of Committees of the House, and had passed the House itself. Surely, when these ordeals had been gone through, the hon. Member for Chelsea had no reason to grumble. Three 915 o'clock in the morning he did not consider a proper time to go into figures, which had been carefully gone into by the Treasury, and received their approval. Every figure contained in the Bill had been laid before the Secretary to the Treasury by the Metropolitan Board of Works; and if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea had himself examined the figures he would not have delivered the speech he had just made.
§ MR. MONK
said, that 3 o'clock in the morning was not a proper time to consider a Bill which imposed taxation on the ratepayers of the Metropolis to the extent of £4,100,000. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) had said that those figures had been considered often enough by the Treasury and by himself——
§ MR. MONK
And, no doubt, by the Board over which he presided. That was not sufficient for the House of Commons. When Estimates were brought before the House it was the intention of Parliament that the House should consider them in detail. It was unreasonable that a lump sum, amounting to £4,000,000, should be passed at that time of the morning. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Truro had also said Committees of this House had sanctioned that expenditure; but he (Mr. Monk) disputed that that was so. It was said, too, that the Metropolitan Board of Works had carefully gone into the sums of money now asked for; but the House had no confidence in the Metropolitan Board of Works. This expenditure was becoming fabulous, and year after year the taxation of the Metropolis was increasing. What on earth was meant by an expenditure of £100,000 upon lamp standards? If the Board thought fit to spend so much money on lamp standards, the House of Commons ought to know something about the matter. He would not move that the debate be adjourned; he would be sorry to do so if they were to have a discussion in Committee.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate (Mr. Firth) would not expect him to enter upon a discussion concerning the constitution of the Metropolitan Board of Works. This was simply a 916 Bill to continue the borrowing powers of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the several claims made and received had been considered and approved by the Treasury. It was not a new Bill at all. The question which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) had raised had not now been raised by him for the first time; and therefore he (Mr. Courtney) did not propose, unless the Committee desired it, to prolong the debate.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.