Sir, the Resolution at which the House arrived on the 28th of March deprecates, as the hon. Member truly says, the postponement of further measures for the relief acknowledged to be due to the ratepayers. Sir, I have had to read that Resolution in conjunction with a former Resolution of the House of Commons, which that Resolution did not question or rescind. The former Resolution, which was carried by a small majority—but still by a majority a trifle larger than that which voted for the Resolution of the hon. Member—in the Session of 1883, likewise indicated a great desire that relief to local ratepayers should not be postponed. But it did two things. It coupled the question of relief to ratepayers with legislation on local government, and, which is the point I have now especially in view, it pointed out the mode and form in which that relief to the ratepayers was to be given. The House resolved last year that the relief granted to the ratepayers in counties and boroughs should be by the transfer to local authorities of the revenue proceeding from particular taxes or portions of taxes. That declaration of the House of Commons, I presume, had the approval of the hon. Member; at any rate, it remains entirely untouched by the Resolution of the other evening, and, therefore, that declaration is in force and is binding on us. The effect of that will be that the settlement of the financial part of the local government ques- 1283 tion, which is a very large subject indeed, involves the question of the removal of a great number of items from the immediate jurisdiction of this House. It involves the allocation of various taxes or parts of taxes; and it might involve the finding of substitutes for those taxes. Consequently, the hon. Member will see that the meaning of the second Resolution, as the hon. Gentleman appears to view it—if it is to be considered without qualification—is that the Business we are engaged upon with respect to the Franchise Bill is to be postponed until we have dealt with the financial part of the local goverment question. I do not believe that to have been the intention of the House when they passed the Resolution of last week. If the hon. Gentleman, thinks that it was the intention of the House, it is for him to suggest the expression of that intention in an intelligible manner. The Government do not think that was the intention of the House, and, therefore, they are not prepared to postpone the Business now before the House with respect to the Franchise Bill. In our opinion it is much too late to deal piecemeal in the unsatisfactory manner Governments have been compelled to adopt hitherto upon this question. We ought, for the benefit of all parties, to make the relief effectual and complete by passing a large and important measure. We are most anxious and desirous to find ourselves in a position to approach that measure; but we are not prepared to put such a construction as the hon. Member appears to do upon his Resolution of Friday last—namely, that the proceedings of the Franchise Bill shall be suspended for the purpose of dealing with the financial part of the local government question.
§ MR. PELL
I throw myself on the consideration of the House; but I hardly think the right hon. Gentleman has answered my Question. We have had a very long exposition of the views of the Government. I ask again for a simple answer to a plain Question. It is a Question of a financial nature, in which I cannot move—namely, What action the House may expect the Government to adopt in conformity with the distinct expression of the view of the House last week?
The only action we can take is to press forward to the 1284 best of our power the Business of the House. We have it in contemplation to deal fully with the subject of which, a few days ago, the hon. Gentleman presented a particular aspect to the House. The meaning of his Motion, if it has a practical meaning, is the displacement of the other Business of the House; it means the displacement of the Business with respect to the Franchise Bill, and that displacement we are not willing to accede to.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
After the three statements of the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps he will be kind enough to answer one more Question. It is this. Are we to understand that the ratepayers of the United Kingdom are not to expect any financial relief until the Franchise Bill, the London Municipal Reform Bill, and the Local Government Bill have been decided upon and passed?
That is a wider statement than I have made. It is for the House to consider at what time the financial part of the question with regard to the ratepayers can be considered. All I have said is this. We are not prepared to intercept the action of Parliament with respect to the Franchise Bill for the sake of taking up the financial part of the question of the relief of ratepayers; nor, I am bound to say, if I am asked with respect to the Local Government Bill, do I believe we can effectually approach the question of the relief of ratepayers until we have dealt with the subject of adequate and competent local authorities.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to state that the London Bill would take precedence of the Local Government Bill, and that the Franchise Bill, the London Bill, and the Local Government Bill were all three to be decided before the question of financial relief was taken up; were they to understand that he did not put the London Bill before the Local Government Bill?
I beg pardon, Sir, I thought I had distinctly stated the position of the London Bill. I consider the Question of the noble Lord to be comprised within that of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire. Our views are perfectly well known, and they were supported by the Resolution of the House last year. The House has now 1285 passed a Resolution of a vague and indefinite character—["Oh!"] In my humble opinion, if I may have one in the face of those great authorities who interrupt me, it is of a vague and indefinite character. Like the hon. Gentleman, I deprecate all this postponement; I deprecate all the delays in the transaction of Public Business, which are alone responsible for this postponement. If the old methods had prevailed we should have reached this subject long ago. It is for the House to determine, but our opinion is that the local authorities ought to be established before the full and final measure of relief of local ratepayers can be given. That was voted by the House last year, and our opinion is that that vote was a sound and right one.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
But does the right hon. Gentleman think that the vote of Friday last made no difference in the situation?
I have stated my view of the effect of the vote of Friday last; it is for those who think it had some other effect to state their view.
§ SIR BALDWYN LEIGHTON
Are we to understand there will be no proposal made in the Financial Statement in consequence of the Resolution of my hon. Friend?
Sir, in no circumstances will it be possible to include in the Financial Statement so vast a subject as that which is involved in the relief of ratepayers as defined by the Resolution of last week. The time has come now for the Financial Statement to be made; it would be made on Monday next if it were possible that the debate on the Franchise Bill could be completed, and undoubtedly no statement could be included in it with reference to this question.