§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, in view of the fact that this House, in the terms of the Resolution carried on Friday last, pledged itself not only as to the urgency of affording local relief, but also to be ready to entertain any necessary reforms in local administration, lie will undertake to introduce, on an early date after Easter, the Local Government Bill which the Right honourable Gentleman, the President of the Local Government Board, has stated to be already prepared?
§ MR. CHEETHAM
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, having regard to the Resolution of the 28th March, Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to consider the expediency of giving precedence next after the Representation of the People and Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bills to the measure dealing with the whole question of Local Government and Local Taxation, which the President of the Local Government Board has informed the House is now prepared and ready for introduction?
Sir, the subjects of these Questions connect themselves together. The answer cannot be given in a very few words; but I will endeavour to make it as clear as I can. As regards the Question of my noble Friend, I think it is obvious that there will be no practical advantage gained by introducing, at a very early date, the Bill of the Government, which is prepared, unless we were able to form some reasonable and confident expectation as to the time at which we could go forward with it. Therefore, I consider the question rather I as merging in the larger inquiry of my hon. Friend behind me. With regard to that inquiry, the Speech from the 1281 Throne gave the first place in the legislative work of the Session to the Franchise Bill, and the second place to the subject of local government. Then it explained that the subject of local government was not one which could be comprised in a single Bill; that a Bill would at once be presented, subject to what had been said about the Franchise Bill, with reference to the Municipality of London; that further measures had been prepared, and reference was particularly made, as has been explained by my hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, to the Bill for local government in England, to which the Question of my hon. Friend refers. Well, Sir, these two Bills are really parts of the same subject. The important financial operations which belong to the question of local government are equally dependent upon the one and the other. In truth, they are, if possible, more dependent as regards the populous area of the Metropolitan District, because there it is that the want of adequate local authority is most palpable and conspicuous. Therefore, Sir, I think, in the first place, that after what has taken place, the distinct pledges and intimations that have been given, we cannot consistently postpone proceeding with the London Government Bill. But, Sir, my hon. Friend will say, "What of the Local Government Bill?" I will say this—we considered very carefully what it was reasonable to expect from Parliament, judging by the experience of former years, and knowing as we did know that Parliament was very sensible of the arrears of Public Business, and hoping, as we were entitled to hope, that Parliament would have a great desire to get on with Public Business, our opinion was, and is, that it was and is perfectly practicable to deal with the Franchise Bill, which we have made as simple as we possibly could, with the London Government Bill, and with the Local Government Bill in the course of the present Session. That was our distinct and deliberate opinion. We believe it will be greatly to the honour of Parliament to deal with these measures, and that it will not be greatly to the honour of Parliament should it fail to fulfil these expectations. I need not say that, as far as the Government is concerned they certainly will shrink from no effort for the purpose of pulling forward these 1282 questions. I may remind the House of the importance of not extending beyond what has been in other times the customary and established limits of Parliamentary discussion. We shall do all we can to promote the views of my hon. Friend. We are not omnipotent; we feel with him the utmost desire to put forward this measure; and we are convinced also that the credit of Parliament, and not only of particular Members, is involved in it.