§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said: It is owing to circumstances over which I have had no control that I have been unable to keep the pledge I gave earlier in the evening to the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) that I would reply to his Question in two minutes. Instead of two minutes, a couple of hours have elapsed since then; but, Sir, the arrangements of this House for the transaction of Public Business are so admirable, so well contrived, and I think, before long, will be so well understood by the country, that it will appear, at first sight, a perfectly natural thing that the first Order of the Day upon the Order Book of the House of Commons should come on at such a time, say half-past 8 o'clock. That is the convenient manner in which public affairs are transacted, and those are the arrangements which 1925 compel me to make a few observations to the House at an hour when it cannot be expected that the Lord Mayor of London should be present. That, again, is a circumstance, no doubt, that I greatly regret; but Bills are introduced, and, whether passed or not passed, mortals, and above all even Lord Mayors, must dine. Now, Sir, I have had occasion to trespass so much on the indulgence of the House on a former occasion in introducing this Bill, that I shall desire to confine the observations that I have now to make within a very moderate compass; and, for my own part, I always prefer the calm repose of the dinner hour to say what one has to Bay, and one loses nothing by the tranquillity and peace and coolness of this hour. I do not propose to go over the ground I have already endeavoured to cover in describing the general feature and scope of this measure when I introduced it; that would be abusing the indulgence of the House; my remarks will be confined especially to certain circumstances which have occurred since the introduction of the Bill. Now the hon. Member for Hertford asked me, if I considered that the Bill ought to be withdrawn, because it was opposed. I do not hold that view; if I did, and acted upon it, or if anyone else did so, very few Bills would be introduced in this House. There is opposition and opposition; there are opponents and opponents. I have, since the introduction of this Bill, examined, with a good deal of interest, the manner in which this Bill has been received, and the character of the opposition to which it is now exposed. Well, a man who does not expect too much is not often disappointed, never expected the support of the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London to this Bill. I have nothing to complain of, however, as to the manner in which the Lord Mayor and the Corporation have met me on this subject. They have met me with their direct opposition, which I always expected. Their opposition has not been in an uncourteous and unkindly spirit personal to myself; and I hope I Lave endeavoured to avoid anything of the kind towards them. I do not know that anything harsher has been said of me, even in the Court of Common Council, than to compare me with Claude Duval, a gentleman who followed his profession with very good manners and 1926 in a generous and amiable spirit. He generally honoured the subject of his attentions, whoever they might be, with a dance; and I do not feel called upon very much to object to, or to resent that comparison. Of course, the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London have done all they could in the Guildhall, and out of the Guildhall, to carry on the war very much as Mr. Pitt carried on war. Mr. Pitt carried on war, not only with his own forces, but with forces which received such other assistance from the British Treasury as might be necessary to support his warlike efforts. But when I come to another body, represented by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg), I really do not know whether the Metropolitan Board of Works are opponents of this Bill or not. I have watched their action with regard to it with a considerable amount of interest and a good deal of perplexity, and I find that the Metropolitan Board are not averse to a single Government of London, because they have always affirmed the proposition that there ought to be a single Government for London. They are, in a certain sense, themselves a single Government for London; and when I come to refer to the Amendments on the Paper, I shall have something to say on the subject of the Amendment put down with reference to the Metropolitan Board. I cannot help coming to the conclusion that, from what I have heard of the Metropolitan Board, their objection is not so much to a single Government for London, but that it is rather to the body from which that single Government is to be selected. That is a matter of detail, however, which I may yet further discuss with the hon. Baronet. Then I come to the Vestries. Now, it is not to be expected, in human nature, that any body should reform itself, or be very willing to be reformed, simply for the sole reason that it needs reforming; indeed, I know of no body which is disposed to reform itself for such a reason, except it be the House of Commons; and I am not at all surprised that any of those Vestries are not impressed with the modifications of the system which might reform their constitution. No doubt, this scheme is to establish a central control over the Vestries, or the bodies analogous to the Vestries, as to which nobody likes to be controlled—every- 1927 body would rather be entirely independent of control of every description; but whether or not the proposals of this Bill for the central control over the different local bodies are the best that could be conceived is a question which I am not prepared or disposed to argue on the second reading of this Bill. I am perfectly willing to discuss and consider any other method that may be stated to be better than that which is propounded in this Bill. But the real and principal question is—ought there, Drought there not, to be some control of some kind or other? It will surely never be contended that Vestries are to remain as they are. I will not go in any great detail into that matter, for other Gentlemen will speak upon it, and especially the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke). The central principle of the Bill is this—that there should be some common control over the Vestries which shall give them a uniform action for the benefit of the whole community, instead of leaving them, as they are now, independent of any such control. It is quite true that a good many gentlemen on these Vestries are opposed to the Bill, and that resolutions against it have been passed at Vestry meetings, naturally for the reasons I have stated; but I have received a letter from a gentleman which describes the manner in which such meetings have ill some cases been held, and I think the amount of Vestry opposition has been exaggerated, and that a great many of the members of the existing Vestries are not adverse to it. Then I come to another body who have opposed this Bill—I mean the Middlesex magistrates. They have pronounced against the Bill in a series of resolutions so eulogistic of themselves that I am not surprised that even Lord Salisbury has stated that he thought them a little too strong, and that, consequently, some of them were withdrawn. They appear to think it is a fatal objection to the Bill that it interferes with their administrative functions, and that, therefore, it would be hurtful to the interests of the community. But that is an opinion which is confined to the Middlesex magistrates, and I do not think that the circumstance that the Bill does interfere with the Middlesex magistrates is one which will determine its fate. The Surrey magistrates met to consider 1928 the Bill in a somewhat more modest spirit. They merely adopted a resolution in favour of certain modifications which they said were required in the Bill. Passing from the bodies more or less affected by the Bill, and who are, therefore, not likely to regard it with very favourable eyes, I may say that a large number of public meetings have been held in favour of this measure; and, in answer to the hon. Member for Hertford, I can state that during the three months that this Bill has been under consideration out-of-doors it has received more support and far less opposition than I anticipated, for I never could have promised myself that it would have ever obtained, as it has done, the support of one of the Sheriffs of the City of London and one or two Aldermen. I come now to the downright opposition to the measure in this House. Looking at the Notice Paper, I find there is, first of all, the Notice of opposition by the usual "three months' hence" Motion which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor. And I also find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) has a similar Notice. After the Lord Mayor, who is naturally at the head of the opposition to the Bill, I do not know anyone more likely to come forward with such a Notice. He is against all Reform, on all occasions—against Parliamentary Reform and against the Reform of the City Livery Companies. But if this Bill is to be rejected point blank upon its principles by a Member sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, I should have rather expected that the lead in the matter would have been taken by another Member of the Opposition—by one who is also a distinguished Member for a Metropolitan constituency—namely, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith). Probably, however, the memories of days not long gone by prevented him; for he, some years ago, when this question was first debated, at that time came forward, and asserted that there was only one plan of reforming the Municipal Government of London, and that plan happens to be just the plan which is included in this Bill—namely, the plan of a single Government for London, by which the Corporation should be so extended as to take in the whole of the Metropolis. 1929 That, no doubt, is a little obstacle to the right hon. Gentleman moving the rejection of the Bill. There is, on the Paper, a third direct Notice of opposition, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), so that the three heroes defending London are my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire, and the hon. Member for Cavan. I observe with surprise the absence of a blocking Notice in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton). I have lost that advantage, at any rate; but I see that his faithful supporter the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) has, on the Paper, a Motion that is, to me, rather consolatory, because, three months after the introduction of the Bill, the hon. Gentleman wishes for more time to enable the ratepayers and inhabitants of the Metropolis to consider it, and asks that it should not be further proceeded with during the present Session. It cannot, therefore, be such a very bad Bill after all. There is another Notice of Amendment by the hon. and gallant Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon), as to which my difficulty is to understand it. In common parlance, "it seems a little mixed."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
As far as I can understand the first part of it, it asks for what the Bill exactly provides. I next come to a far more important person—the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works. What is his Amendment? It confirms me in the opinion I have formed, that he is not hostile to the Bill; and if I had ever thought of shrinking from going on with the Bill, I could not have done so after this Amendment, which assumes that the Bill will be read a second time. The Amendment is, that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee. Such an Amendment is tantamount to an admission that there is no opposition to the principle of the Bill on the part of the Metropolitan Board. It proves, in my opinion, that the Metropolitan Board of Works is not hostile to a single Government of London; and that if they had desired to resist the principle of the Bill, the hon. Baronet would not have proposed to refer it to a Select Com- 1930 mittee. But there are some Amendments which are as conspicuous by their absence, as those on the Paper are remarkable by their presence. We have heard a good deal of late about separate Municipalities for this Metropolis. That scheme has been propounded in this House; but it perished 10 years ago. It has been dragged as a red herring across the tail of the Bill; it has been spoken of by Lord Salisbury; it has been supported with great ability by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) and others; but what a remarkable thing it is that there is not a single Amendment on the Paper which recommends, as a solution of this question, the constitution of separate Municipalities. There is an Association for promoting this object. I have heard that it is supported by the Licensed Victuallers' Association, and a more influential body, or one more likely to promote a great idea, I cannot conceive; and this thing has been tried on in every possible way, and what has been the result? They got up a meeting at Greenwich, at which my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor was present; and I think the hon. Member for that borough (Mr. Boord) will bear me out when I say that, during the last week, the inhabitants of Greenwich have declared unanimously against that proposal; and the Board of Works for that district unanimously determined to vote against a Petition to the Privy Council in favour of a separate charter for Greenwich.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That may be so; but what the other Boards in Greenwich are I am not able accurately to remember at this moment. I referred to Greenwich itself—to the hon. Member's capital—as he will acknowledge. There has been another attempt made in this direction, and that was in the City of Westminster; and I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Westminster had some part in that; but it signally failed. I wonder who the persons are who desire a separate Municipality for Westminster? Is it a mistake to suppose that Westminster was ever a municipal borough? 1931 It got the name of a city simply because, for a very few years, it had a Bishop; and such institutions as it possesses are the remains of the great ancient Manor of Westminster, of which the records still prevail, although it was greatly broken up in former times. Nobody believes that it would be an advantage to Greenwich, or take Westminster, and cut them out of London, bearing, as they do, an. equal share of all the burdens now borne by other parts of the Metropolis. As regards Greenwich and Deptford, I must confess the great blot on the map of London seems to me to be that Greenwich and Deptford are included in it. It is said they have a desire for a separate Municipality; but I would warn them to take care lest their desire be granted, for it reminds me of the lines of Juvenal as translated by Johnson—When vestries fall by darling schemes oppressed,Then vengeance listens to the fool confessed.At all events, it is quite plain that this shadowy red herring of separate Municipalities will not solve the question; and of the 35 districts now composing the Metropolis, not one has ever showed the slightest desire to have a separate Municipality, and no one has had the courage to place it upon the Notice Paper of this House. If you take from them the main drainage, the main roads, the fire brigade, the supervision of buildings, what have you got but a Vestry with a changed name? If this system were adopted, it would perpetuate the evils of which everybody complains. What is the great evil? It is that the Metropolis is broken up into fragments, each of these fragments acting on a different principle, some doing ill, and those who do well suffering in consequence of the ill-doings of their neighbours. If that be true of Vestries, it would be equally true of the separate Municipalities. Well, then, the opponents of this measure, after having tried the separate Municipality manoeuvre, have adopted an old resource of the Corporation of London, and have gone round, cap in hand, begging all the boroughs in England to petition against this Bill. I read in the papers this morning that the Canterbury Corporation had before them, yesterday, a letter from the Lord Mayor, asking them to present a Petition against 1932 the London Government Bill; but the Council, by a very large majority, refused to take any steps in the matter, which must be very mortifying to my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor; and I am afraid the Corporation of Leeds was so unkind as to present a Petition in favour of the Bill. In former years, no doubt, this old resource answered; but the world is moving; and I am afraid the Corporation of London has met with an almost universal rebuff from their ancient fellow-Corporations in the country. Manchester has not only refused to petition against the Bill, but has even been so kind as to petition in its favour. But there is balm in Gilead, and it is refreshing to hear that a Petition against the Bill has been presented by the solitary Corporation of Bury St. Edmunds. That is the result of this great canvassing operation. But they have got another great resource which they bring forward. It has been agreed that we might adopt a system of breaking up, rather than, that of a central authority. I believe that system has been tried in the Provinces, and they have always reverted to a system of one Government. [Mr. TOMLINSON: Salford.] The Government have considered the question of the separation, of Salford from Manchester, and we do not believe it is satisfactory to all parties. The opponents of the Bill have produced a real live Mayor from the other side of the Atlantic, who says that nothing could be more monstrous than the institution of one Government for all London. This gentleman says further that a single Government for a large city has been tried in America, but that it has been found a great mistake; and that they have had to have recourse to a totally different system, the result being that they had a dozen Municipalities in Boston and several Municipalities in New York, and he advises us to follow the example there set. But I am not inclined to lay any great stress upon this recommendation; because it has turned out that this gentleman's facts are not quite accurate. The information I have received is certainly not in favour of a number of separate Municipalities being established there. There are not a dozen such Municipalities in Boston, nor many Municipalities in New York. Then, again, I do not think that New York is exactly the place that I should 1933 go to for a model and an example of separate Municipalities. When I am told that the Corporation of London have been obliged to get a Mayor from New York to tell us how London ought to be governed, I decline to accept the authority; for I think we are more capable ourselves of judging of the circumstances of our own case. What is the great outcry that has been raised against this Bill? It is said, first of all, that it will destroy the principle of local self-government. [Mr. W. M. TORRENS: That is one of the objections.] Well, I will deal with one at a time. What do you mean by local self-government? Do you mean that every street is to govern itself? [Mr. W. M. TORRENS: Every borough.] I will go step by step. The hon. Member for Fins-bury says, "Every borough." Well, the boroughs in London have not, at present, got local self-government; and, therefore, this Bill cannot destroy it as far as they are concerned. The bodies that have got local self-government are parishes and district boards. Does the hon. Member for Finsbury contend that every parish ought to have local self-government? Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, and Leeds did not possess local self-government of that character, and every one of them is bigger than three or four of the existing parishes or district boards in London. I venture to say there is no parish in London numbering a population of 500,000.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
The parish of Islington contains nearly 300,000 inhabitants, and a rateable property of £1,485,000, while its rates amount to £320,000 a-year. There are only four cities outside London with a greater population than that of Finsbury.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is exactly what I have said, and I cannot understand why I am interrupted. Is local self-government destroyed in the large towns which I have mentioned by their being governed by a Central Body? Manchester has tried the system of breaking up the town into fragments, supposing that the municipal affairs would be managed with greater convenience by being managed in two parts; but the system was soon found faulty, and the one-government scheme was reverted to. Glasgow, too, has something to say about minor Munici- 1934 palities in the neighbourhood of large towns.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
My right hon. Friend must not suppose that the separation there is entirely satisfactory to the inhabitants. Then, again, is not the existence of the Metropolitan Board itself a violation of this principle of local self-government? What is that Board? It is a central Board which, in all the more important matters, exercises authority over the whole of London in every one of its separate parishes. Is not that a violation of local self-government, and do you preserve this sacred principle of local self-government by leaving to these districts the power of separate action only in the minor matters of paving, cleansing the streets, and lighting? For certain purposes, the Metropolitan Board governs all London. Its representation, however, is imperfect. [Sir JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG: No.] Well, the fact is that the Lord Mayor thinks the Corporation of London perfect, the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board thinks his Board perfect, and the Middlesex magistrates think that they are unequalled. Just so, every Vestry thinks itself perfect; and, if that is so, what is to become of municipal reform? There would be none; for if they are right, why should we have reform at all? Then, why refer this Bill, as is proposed, to a Select Committee, after being read a second time, if there is to be no reform? Why have not hon. Gentlemen opposite put forward a Motion for the rejection of the measure? Because they know very well that the views of the Gentlemen to whom I have referred are not the views of the majority in this House, or of the majority outside this House, and that is why they have not met the proposal with a direct negative. The fact is, that, though it is known that there must be reform, nobody wants his own Body to be reformed. It is only in minor matters that the Vestries have any authority. For instance, the Metropolitan Board of Works controls all the house building from Camberwell to Hampstead, and elsewhere in the Metropolis. Is that not a violation of local self-government? Why should Wandsworth not control its own building operations? 1935 It is because there should be uniformity. Only in minor matters, with one exception, do the Vestries have any authority at all. All the larger duties of local self-government are given to a central Body, the representation of which is very imperfect, because that representation is not in proportion to the wealth of the districts, or the population. Wands-worth sends the same representation to the Metropolitan Board of Works that is sent by Holborn or the Strand. That is not what I call a perfect representative system. The Vestries have authority as regards street paving, cleansing, and lighting. I will not say much about those matters; but we all know that everyone is inconvenienced by going into districts where streets are badly lighted or paved. Then there is the question of local sewerage, which is under the control of the Vestries. If that is done badly in one district, the whole of London will suffer; and it is to very little purpose that the Metropolitan Board should construct main sewers, if the local sewerage is imperfectly carried out by the Vestries. Then there is the great question of sanitary inspection, which is of cardinal importance in the government of London. What is the position of London in this respect? for nothing can be more important than that the local sewage should be properly dealt with, and that there should be a proper system of sanitary inspection. I do not wish to be an alarmist; but everybody knows that, at this moment, we are threatened with a very formidable disease, which has already attacked a neighbouring country, and that the safety of the population depends upon preventive measures. Those who understand the matter are aware that this country has entirely rejected the system of quarantine as being a preventive, and everybody agrees that the great danger of cholera arises from the imperfect sanitary condition of the place attacked. Therefore, when a danger of this kind threatens a great Metropolis like London all must desire and want a central authority, which should advise, which should assist, which should compel every part of the community to take those measures of precaution which are necessary for the safety of the whole. That is true at all times; but it is more particularly true now, and I warn this 1936 House and the people of this Metropolis that no such authority exists at this time. How are you going to face this danger? Are you going to face it in the name of self-government, while it rests with each individual district entirely whether such a work shall be well or ill-done; and, in fact, whether it shall be done at all. My right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board can tell us something of his conflict with certain Boards, and of one district, which absolutely refused to do anything at all. If a Vestry refuses to make sanitary bye-laws, or to carry out a proper system of sanitary inspection, you are absolutely powerless to compel them to do so. A single parish may become a plague-spot in London, the focus and source from which disease may be spread all around, and the Metropolitan Board have no authority to make the parish do as it ought to do. If a parish has not a proper sanitary inspector, if it does not choose to have a proper system of sewerage, there is no authority to see that it is done. The Metropolitan Board and the Local Government Board have no power whatever to make a parish do what it ought to do in this respect. That is the condition of things. Is this the system which, in the name of local self-government, you would keep up; and are you going to say that London should not be armed with an authority which I tell you is absolutely necessary for the safety of the whole? That is the cardinal principle of the Bill. I venture to say that you cannot afford, with a population of nearly 4,000,000, to have 38 separate Bodies, any one of which neglecting its duty may imperil the whole of London. To put an end to such a state of things is what I propose. That is the cardinal principle which lies at the bottom of this Bill, and it is against that proposition that the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie) is directed. I say that is the vital principle of the Bill, and it is a question which affects the vital interests of London. There is another question in which great interest is taken, and that is the housing of the poor. That, again, rests with these Bodies under the name of local self-government. And what has happened? A short time ago there came to the Local Government Board a deputation, received by my right hon. Friend (Sir 1937 Charles W. Dilke) and myself, with the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) at its head; and what did he ask? He said—''For Heaven's sake give us some help, some power that will make these local bodies do their duty. Let the Government come in and compel the Vestries and parishes to do their duty, else we shall get nothing done." Well, I declined on the part of the Government, and in the name and on the principle of local self-government, to undertake any such duty. No; it is not the Executive Government which is to aid my hon. Friend to extricate his admirable waggon, which has now got stuck fast in the mud of local self-government. We have offered him a Body to control these subordinate Vestries, which Body is to be elected by the same constituencies from which the Vestries are drawn. That is a control which is consistent with the principle of local self-government, for to call on the Executive to work the principle of local self-government in the Metropolis is one of the most miserable resorts which can, be imagined. What is the plan that we propose in this Bill? We do not propose to take away the work of these local bodies. Under the Bill they will do very much the same work as before; but they will do it subject to a supervision and control which will see that it is done in a manner consistent in itself and necessary for the good of the whole. We leave, it is true, the attribution and distribution of those powers to a Central Body. You say that it is overbearing the local bodies to bring in a Central Body. Nothing of the kind; for what is the Central Body but a collection of members of those local bodies themselves? Every one of the members of the Central Body is a member of a local body, and is elected by the same constituency and at the same time. Further than that, the authority which is to distribute and attribute the powers of the local bodies is derived from, the same source as the local bodies themselves; and it is from it, not from the Executive Government, that the control is to come. A proposal more consonant with the principle of local self-government it is impossible to propound. There can be no tyranny about it; for it is a different thing even to being controlled by Parliament, or the Executive Government. It is also said—"Oh, the Central Body will take 1938 away too much power from the district council." Why should it? It consists of members of the district councils. Whatever the district councils wish, the members of the Central Council are likely to wish, because they are members of the district councils themselves, and elected by the same constituents; and if you wish the district councils to have more power, the Central Body can give it to them. There must be a control over the local councils, and how are you to get it? Suggest to me a better plan, and I will adopt it. The hon. Member for Finsbury, when he came to ask the Government to work his Act, admitted that, in the carrying of it out, it had broken down. Then it is said that this proposal will detract from the dignity of the Vestries. I do not see why. Why should it detract from the dignity of a local body that its duties should be prescribed by a body constituted of its own members? I should have thought that the local body would rather have taken its power from such a source than from the Executive Government; that it would rather have had its duties prescribed to it by its own members than by an external body. How do you detract from that dignity by placing persons on these Vestries who are members of the great Corporation of London? It was said, under the First Napoleon, that every French soldier had before him the baton of a French Marshal, and so every vestryman will have before him the badge of a Lord Mayor. And now as to the outcry respecting expenditure, which it is said will be greatly increased. Will anyone explain to me why there should be a great increase of expenditure? There is one species of expenditure at present I should rather like to get the figures of from my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor and the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that is the cost of the battle they are waging about the sewage of London. I am told each of them has spent £20,000 in having got through only half of the inquiry. That shows that dual government is not always an economical affair. What are the items of expenditure? Take the Staff of the Corporation. There are the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, solicitor, engineer, architect, and so on. Why should you spend more than on the combined Staff of the Guildhall and Spring 1939 Gardens? Without imputing extravagance to the Corporation of London, its Staff is very generously paid. The Staff of the Metropolitan Board is also well paid, and I venture to say that the expenditure on the two combined cannot be exceeded by that on the Staff of the Central Body. Then, as to the next head, why should the Central Body spend more money than the present Metropolitan Board of Works? Of course, if they undertake greater works, the expenditure may be greater; but there is nothing in this proposal of a Central Body which means greater expenditure. And as to the local expenditure of the parishes, why should that be greater? By the Bill each of these parishes forms its own budget. It is not the Central Body which says— "You will expend such and such a sum of money." There is no power to force on the Vestries an expenditure they do not desire to make, except in two cases, which, I venture to say, are necessary— namely, matters affecting the sanitary condition of the whole population and the housing of the poor. In all the rest the district authority is absolute master of its own expenditure. I see nothing in the Bill to justify the suggestion that it will lead to a larger expenditure, for that is the extent of the delegation of the powers; and the position of the Vestries, in respect of their administration and expenditure, will be exactly as it was before. Something has been said about the proposed number of the Corporation. Some people say the number is too great, and others say it is too small. My right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor will not say that the number is too great, for it is about the same number as the Common Council. I should have thought that 206 was too great a number for the Common Council, which administers the affairs of one square mile. However, I will say nothing against the existing system; but, on the other hand, it is an extraordinary thing that the whole of London is administered, in all its details, by a body numbering 46. I say it is marvellous. I should have said that the number was too small for such a great work. But the work we are going to throw upon this Central Body is not going to be very much different. That Central Body will have more authority than the Metropolitan Board, but its work will be 1940 exactly of the same character. The object of our arrangements is not to take away from the work of the Vestries. What the Bill does is to give to the Central Body a controlling power which will bring these local bodies into harmony in the duties they have to discharge. That is the central idea of the measure. A Corporation of 240 men can never be congested by work. I want it to be clearly understood what is the vital principle of the Bill. The measure will not for the first time establish a single body for the government of London; that was done 30 years ago. There is a single body which, for all improvement purposes, does govern the whole of London, and for a great many purposes the area of the City. It exists now, and that is the Metropolitan Board of Works, and all the powder spent by the opponents of the Bill in the argument that this is the introduction of one body for the government of London is thrown away on the air. The principle of a Central Body has grown with the strength of London, and each succeeding want has been met by giving further power to the single body—the Metropolitan Board of Works—and not to the Local Authorities. The Bill, therefore, establishes nothing new; but it makes a representative body more representative than it was before by bringing within it members elected more directly by the ratepayers, and giving the ratepayers more representation in proportion to the wealth and population of each district than they possess on the Metropolitan Board. Now, as to the local bodies, the Bill does not destroy their power, nor does it dispense with their aid. On the contrary, it places them in a much more powerful position than they have ever been in before, because it affiliates them to the Central Body; and for the first time the Bill really does—what it is intended to do, and what I claim to be its vital principle—to establish a definite community of action among the different Governing Bodies of London. There are 38 of these bodies in London, each of which does exactly what it pleases. The principle of the Bill is to bring harmony of action in the central authority to bear upon the different districts of the Metropolis, and the question arises as to how that control is to be exercised? It is to be exercised by the persons most obviously competent— 1941 the persons who are now members of the local bodies and who are elected by the ratepayers. That is a far better control than Parliament can contrive, or Government can exercise. I have pointed out that, with cholera in a neighbouring country, the existing practice is an immense danger. ["Oh, oh!"] I repeat that warning in the most solemn way. Yon may have one pestilential parish in London, which refuses to have sanitary inspection, and if the House refuses to establish some system which shall exercise control over the Governing Body of such a parish, then the consequences will rest with the House, and not with the Government. I will now refer to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ritchie). The hon. Gentleman does not propose the rejection of the Bill; but he raises the most extraordinary minute points, which are not in issue in the Bill at all. If you come to read the Amendment it is quite consistent with the Bill. It does not traverse any principle of the Bill. It is to the following effect:—That while ready to consider the question of a reform in the Government of London, this House declines to assent to a proposal by which the control over the levying and expenditure of rates would be vested in one Central Body to the practical extinction of the local self-government of the various cities and boroughs of the Metropolis.But there is no local self-government at all, except in the City of London. It is an assertion of a fact which has no existence; and, therefore, the Amendment shows a want of acquaintance with the local self-government of London on the part of the hon. Member which I did not expect to find. The Amendment says that the levying and expenditure of rates will be vested in one Central Body. What rates does he mean? He cannot mean the poor rate, the education rate, the police rate, or the Metropolitan Board rate, which are vested already in a Central Body; and we leave other expenditure in the hands of different bodies. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members may cry "Oh!" but that shows they do not understand the Bill on the very point on which they attack it. The expenditure would be left there absolutely, when you once define the duty—["Oh, oh!"]—that shows still more that you do not understand the Bill. The ques- 1942 tion only is—Who shall define the duty? When you have once defined the duty, either by Parliament or by the Central Body of each separate body, neither of them has control of the expenditure; it is a defining of the causes from which expenditure arises. But you then say that Local Government is destroyed. No; for you determine that the Vestry shall cleanse, light, and pave its streets, and have them, in its own control. If my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire had had stomach for the fight upon the proposal of that day three months, no doubt the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets would have made way for them; but they have apparently thought it much more convenient that they should not pledge themselves to a proceeding of this kind. Therefore, the Bill is met by an Amendment which does not challenge any vital principle whatever of the Bill. It is put in simply as an Amendment to be voted upon, without committing anybody to anything. The Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for the County of Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) is framed in the same judicious spirit; it does not attack the principle of the Bill in any respect, and it is founded on a total misconception of the provisions of the Bill. I am afraid that I have detained the House much longer than I had intended; but I only wish to refer to the action of the Bill from a sanitary point of view. Now, the medical officers of the medical districts have a society of their own. That society met as soon as this Bill was introduced, and the council reported, without expressing any opinion upon the political aspect of the Bill—That they noted with satisfaction that its provisions appeared well calculated to promote the much-needed unity of sanitary administration.That is the opinion of the men who are responsible for the health and sanitary condition of London. If there were nothing else in the Bill but the security to be given to the health of the Metropolis, that the neglect of a single fragment of this great framework should not imperil the safety of the whole, it would be enough, in my opinion, to command the support of the House. But there are many other objects which, I believe, 1943 are necessary for the welfare of the community of the 4,000,000 of people; and I trust that, reserving to themselves every possible freedom in dealing with the details of this Bill in Committee, the House will affirm its principle by passing the second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time," — (Secretary Sir William Harcourt.)
§ MR. RITCHIE
, in rising to move the following Amendment:—That, while ready to consider the question of a reform in the Government of London, this House declines to assent to a proposal by which the control over the levying and expenditure of rates would he vested in one central body to the practical extinction of the local self-government of the various cities and boroughs of the Metropolis,said, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) had begun his speech by congratulating himself upon the quietness which reigned in the House. He (Mr. Ritchie) thought it was an astounding thing that when the right hon. Gentleman was moving the second reading of a Reform Bill, and a Reform Bill which affected a population larger than that of Scotland, and an enormous amount of rateable property, the number of the right hon. Gentleman's listeners was 15, and at no time had it exceeded 50. He thought that that was an illustration of the quietness which reigned in the country with reference to this Bill. No doubt, there had been a great amount of effort on the part of the supporters of the Bill to create a public feeling in its favour; but, notwithstanding these efforts, he was satisfied that there was hardly an hon. Member in that House who really and honestly believed that there was any real demand for it in the Metropolis. He thought that, at the outset, he might fairly complain of the time at which this measure was brought forward. They were now in July, and this measure was one which the right hon. Gentleman himself acknowledged to be one of a most complex character. They were, therefore, asked seriously to consider a Bill of this great magnitude, abounding in detail, at a time when the Business of the House of Commons was considerably in arrear, and when it was notorious that the Government required 1944 almost the whole of the time to get through the ordinary Business of the Session. As far as he had understood, the right hon. Gentleman had asked them to consider this Bill as a matter of urgency. For what reason? Because the right hon. Gentleman said that he would not be responsible for what would occur if they did not, seeing that cholera had invaded a neighbouring country. But had it not been for the painful misunderstanding between the Prime Minister and his followers, in all probability they would never have heard of this Bill at all this Session. It was rather strange, he thought, that the right hon. Gentleman should come down there and tell them, in stentorian tones, that he would not be responsible for the consequences if this Bill were not passed, when it was not to come into operation until next May. Would the cholera wait in a neighbouring country till then? He did not wish to be in any way disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman; but it was really absurd to come before the House of Commons, and thus to make use of the dread arising from an outbreak of cholera as a means to urge a Bill on them, of which they would have heard nothing but for the misunderstanding to which he had alluded. He confessed that, in his opinion, to introduce a Bill of that nature and magnitude at such a time was very much like Obstruction. It was perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman could not hope to deal in Committee with this great and complex measure, and to pass it in the time which remained to them of the Session. That was the first objection which he had to the Bill; but there was another, the consideration of which he would leave to those who were more familiar with the matter than himself; and that objection was, that this was a Bill which ought to have complied with the Standing Orders of the House which were applicable to Private Bills, as it came under both categories of Bills to which they applied. As regarded the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, it was like the speech which he had made in introducing the measure, an exceedingly able one, as might have been expected from the right hon. Gentleman; but it was, in addition, what they could hardly have expected from him, of a moderate and conciliatory character. Both on that night and on 1945 the previous occasion he had spoken of both the Corporation and the Metropolitan Board of Works in terms, at any rate, of qualified praise, and he had even admitted that the Vestries had done some good work. He (Mr. Ritchie) was afraid that, even with all this praise, there was the cloven hoof of the destruction of the ancient Corporation of London; and, notwithstanding all that the right hon. Gentleman had said that night, practically the destruction of local self-government in the Metropolis, and the inauguration of a vast system of centralization, which he would venture to say would not tend to the good government of the Metropolis in any way. They were told that the Corporation of London was not to be destroyed, but that it was to have a number of partners in its property. He doubted whether a desire to be partners in it was not one great cause for urging on the Bill, and probably was at the bottom of it. He did not propose to undertake the defence of the Corporation—there were many much more able champions than he; but he would not be doing justice to his own feelings and to those of his constituents in the East of London, if he did not bear his testimony to the vast amount of good the City of London had done in the administration of its funds. The population of the East End had many reasons to speak well of their public spirit; and when he remembered the way they had exerted themselves for the purpose of maintaining and securing Epping Forest from the grasp of the destroyer, and the many other charitable undertakings in which the Corporation had assisted, he was glad to bear his testimony to the fact that, on the part of the people of the Metropolis outside the City, there was no desire to see this ancient Corporation destroyed. It might be said that they would have a share in the funds. That he greatly doubted, for when they came to be filtered through so many hands the result would be that what there was to divide would be comparatively little and valueless. He wished to revert for a moment to what the right hon. Gentleman opposite said about the Metropolitan Board of Works and the Vestries—namely, that they deserved a tribute of public approbation for the work they had done, though that was not to save them from the ruthless 1946 hand of the destroyer. It was true that the right hon. Gentleman declared that some were good, some were bad, and some were indifferent; but of what public bodies, or of what public men, could not the same be said? Even the Members of Her Majesty's Government were open to the same criticism—some of them were good, some indifferent, and some bad. [Laughter, miseries of "Names !"] No; when the right hon. Gentleman himself made the assertion, he had not condescended to give any name; and, therefore, he (Mr. Ritchie) must decline to undertake such an invidious task as that of distinguishing between the Members of Her Majesty's Government; they might settle that among themselves. It was very much the custom to speak ill of the Metropolitan Board of Works and the Vestries and the government of London generally; but this fact could not be gainsaid, notwithstanding the complaint of the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and those who supported him, that, under this administration, which the right hon. Gentleman was going to abolish, London had been converted from a badly-paved, badly-lighted, and badly-drained City to the healthiest City in the world. He would not weary the House with statistics; but the death-rate was an unerring proof of the sanitary condition of towns. In the years preceding 1860, the death-rate in London was 22.7; last year it was 20.4; showing a reduction of 2.3, or a decrease of 10 per cent. Comparing this rate with that of other large towns, what did they find? Between the years 1873 and 1882, the death-rate in Birmingham was 23.4; in Leeds, 24.8; in Liverpool, 27.6; and in Manchester, 28.8, yet all these towns enjoyed the blessings of centralized government, which the right hon. Gentleman wanted to bestow upon London. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT: Take Derby.] He understood the death-rate there was less. [Sir CHARLES W. DILKE: Sixteen per 1,000] That was lower, no doubt; probably due to the purity of the liquor, the size of the town, or the right hon. Gentleman's able representation of the constituency; but to cite a town like Derby as an instance was a reductio ad absurdum of the whole Bill. Taking the death-rate of towns outside England, they found, in Glasgow, it was 28.2; in Dublin. 29.2; in Paris, 25.2; 1947 in Berlin, 29; and in New York, 27.4. He had been told it was hardly fair to strike a comparative rate without taking into account inherent differences, and doing that they obtained this result— In 1883, the death-rate was in Birmingham 22.75; in Leeds, 24.85; in Liverpool, 29.28; in Manchester, 30.8, or 50 per cent higher in Liverpool than in London. Whitechapel had been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University (Sir Lyon Playfair) as having a high death-rate—24.0; but, considering the class of people living there, it was wonderfully low. It should be remembered that the inhabitants of that district were people who suffered from privation and distress, and whom no amount of centralized government could keep alive. Then, as regarded the efficiency of the Local Boards, if the elections were not so satisfactory as could be wished— though he did not say so—he did not mean to convey the impression that he was entirely satisfied with things as they were, and with the little interest taken in the elections; but that they had not good representatives on those bodies was the fault of the electors, and not of the system, and it was not by taking away duties and responsibilities from the Vestries that they could hope to remedy that] defect. The question, after all, to be considered was, not whether reforms were necessary, but whether the proposals contained in the Bill were of so sound a principle that they would accomplish the objects in view, and whether the measure was likely to work? When the right hon. Gentleman said that the amount of centralization he proposed already existed in the Metropolitan Board of Works, he entirely forgot the difference between the constitution of that Body and the constitution of the central authority under this. Bill. Its proposals were distinct of a centralizing character, the Central Council having to consider and determine upon the proposals of the District Councils. He had heard that there were rumours in the air that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to make considerable concessions; and he had waited, with some anxiety, to hear whether the right hon. Gentleman would cut the ground from under his feet by making those concessions. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had sat down without 1948 suggesting the possibility of his conceding anything; and, therefore, he must treat the Bill as he found it. He maintained that the measure was one of a centralizing nature, and that it was directly aimed against local self-control. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the government of London was to be transferred from the various bodies that now governed it to one central body. This was not the first time that this proposal had been under consideration. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing the Bill, had referred to the Commission of 1854. That Commission was composed of three eminent men—Mr. Labouchere, Mr. Justice Patterson, and Sir George Cornewall Lewis—and it was appointed to inquire into the state of the Corporation of the City of London. And what was the conclusion that those Gentlemen arrived at after full inquiry? It was that the very proposal which the right hon. Gentleman now made should not be adopted. They said, in their Report, that the advance of the boundaries of the City of London would create a Municipal Body of unmanageable dimensions, and that, therefore, the proposal should not be adopted. The fundamental error into which the Government had fallen in framing this Bill was that of supposing that London was one harmonious whole. The right hon. Gentleman had presumed that London was like other cities, in which all interests were in common; whereas, in truth, London was composed, not of one city and one borough, but of several cities and several boroughs which had nothing in common with each other. What, for instance, was there in common between Kensington and Poplar? Could interests be more widely different than those of those places? That fact had been fully recognized by the Commission, who had stated that London was not a City, but a Province, covered with houses, whose diameter was so great that those who lived at one end of it were altogether unacquainted with the wants and requirements of those who lived at the opposite end of it; and they had said that the duties of the administration of such a vast community were so great as to lead them to decide against recommending that the whole of the Metropolis should be placed under one Corporation. At the time when the Commission arrived at that conclusion, London 1949 contained a population of 2,000,000— now it contained 4,000,000 of people; then its rateable value was £10,000,000 sterling—now it was nearly £30,000,000 sterling. If, therefore, the decision arrived at in this respect by the Commission was right in 1854, it would be 10 times more right in the present day. And yet Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to bring forward that proposal, which was expressly and in terms condemned by the Commission. In his opinion, the administrative machinery proposed to be set up by this Bill would be altogether unworkable. Look at the vast amount of work to be done. It might be that, at the first election, they might get a Council composed of the best men to be found in the Metropolis; but, as the real nature of the work to be done came to be fully appreciated, the administration would fall entirely into the hands of a few who would probably form a set of wirepullers, who would manipulate the affairs of the Corporation with motives and ideas very far removed from those now held by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech that night, had said that this Bill would not interfere with local self-government; but he (Mr. Ritchie), on the contrary, maintained that it was one of the most centralizing measures that had ever been introduced into that House. At present, every part of the Metropolis was self-governed by its different local bodies; but what was to be the position of those different parts of the Metropolis under this Bill? Take the Tower Hamlets, for instance, with its population of 500,000. Under the Bill, it would be represented on the Central Council by 20 Members out of a total of 240. He was convinced that, in such circumstances, the Tower Hamlets would stand very little chance of having its wants considered, or of the recommendations of its District Councils being approved of by the Central Body. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to consider that the District Councils would perform the functions which were now performed by the local bodies; but, in his (Mr. Ritchie's) opinion, the position of a district councillor would be such as not to present any attraction to men of self-respect.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that, looking to the fact that the Central Council would be able to select for that office any person outside their body, he was afraid that no Tower Hamlets district councillor would find that he carried the Lord Mayor's baton in his knapsack. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Central Councillors would also be District Councillors; and that, therefore, the different districts would be well represented on the Central Council. But each locality would be so sparsely represented that it would be unable to enforce attention to its wants. Then, moreover, what was the position which the District Councils were to occupy? They were not to appoint their own officers, and their expenditure was to be controlled and subject to the veto of the Central Council. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. Let that point be cleared up then. As he (Mr. Ritchie) understood the Bill, when any money was required for any local purposes, the District Council was to make a representation on the subject to the Central Council, with an estimate of the cost of the improvement, and the Central Council were to have a power to veto the proposal of the District Council. The right hon. Gentleman did not shake his head to that view of the operation of the Bill. Then, in future, he (Mr. Ritchie) hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would nod his head instead of shaking it when he stated his view of the operation of the Bill. The fact was that the Bill would furnish a gross parody on local self-governmont, and was one of mere centralization, which he had heard the Prime Minister himself say would be the greatest curse to the country. If this Bill were proceeded with on the lines indicated by the right hon. Gentleman, instead of inducing the best men, who had hitherto taken part in the administration of local self-government, to come forward and assist in the working of the measure now proposed, would, on the contrary, deter them from doing so when they found that the deliberate decisions of the District Councils were to be overruled by the veto of the Common Council; the Bill was, therefore, a measure to ignore local self-government, or to establish a system of centralization. Hence it was that, in spite of the solitary vestrymen, to whom reference had 1951 been made, it could not be denied that the enormous majority of the members of the Local Bodies in the Metropolis were opposed to the present Bill. As a compensation for all those advantages, they were not even to have the benefit of one uniform rating, as had been expected would have been established by the Bill, dealing, as it did, with the whole Metropolis. On the contrary, he found that the people in the East End of London would still have to pay 5s. or 6s. in the pound; while their neighbours in the West End paid only 3s. or 4s. in the pound. The former were to give up their right of local self-government; but they were to be taxed all the same at the dictation of a Central Board. It was, in point of fact, impossible that they could treat London as a whole, and the Government themselves acknowledged the difficulties existing in the case by note conferring on the Board many of the powers which it was hoped by those who were mainly instrumental in raising the question would be vested in a new Municipality. As an instance, he might mention the case of the police, although he was not contending that the police of the whole of the Metropolis ought to be handed over to local authorities. The Government had more than once expressed a desire to exercise their power over the licensing; but the right hon. Gentleman had very prudently abstained from conferring such a power on the new Municipality.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he had stated a reason why that power and other powers had not been introduced into the present Bill. To introduce them would necessitate the insertion of numerous clauses; but it was the intention of the Government subsequently to give the powers.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he supposed, then, they were to understand that this was not a complete measure, and that it was, indeed, only the first of a series of proposals which would be laid before the House. Well, a few more clauses introduced into the Bill would not much matter. The Government would have cut out work for a good many Sessions if they were going to deal with all these matters in separate measures. Then there was the question of cholera and 1952 small-pox. A writer in The Times in November, 1882, pointed out that if a really satisfactory Government existed for London there could be no reason for the separate existence of the Metropolitan Asylums Board. Was there to be another Bill introduced afterwards to transfer the powers of that Board to the new Municipality for London? Yet, in respect to sanitary matters, the Asylum Board took cognizance of them in a way to afford general satisfaction. It appeared to him that if this new Council were to be intrusted with anything at all, it might fairly be intrusted with the powers now possessed by the Metropolitan Asylums Board.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was aware there were many things which the right hon. Gentleman did not deal with. That was exactly the point, and that was the difficulty experienced in dealing with so large a place as London. If a Central Council were established, ought not London to have the control of the River Thames and the River Lea? He did not assert that the Government had done wrong in not conferring all these various powers on the Central Body; but he merely gave these as illustrations of the difficulties which the Government themselves saw in the way of parrying out their magnificent scheme. Large bodies in the Metropolis had proved to be very costly, as was seen in the case of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the London School Board. Possibly, under the new scheme, the cost of the Lord Mayor might not be so great as at present; but the Administration would feel the want of that hospitality which was now extremely beneficial, and which conferred a considerable amount of good, not only on the locality itself, but also on the nation at large. He found that London was governed at an expense of £1 10s. per head, as compared with £4 11s. 2d. in Paris, and £6 per head in New York. He also found that while the cost of the London rates was 4s. 5¾d per head, per pound, that of Bristol was 5s. 8d.; of Birmingham, 6s. 7d.; of Leeds, 6s. 8d.; and of Dublin, 9s. 3d.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he presumed that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking from actual knowledge when he stated that the rate in all those towns included water and gas.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that Birmingham presented a flagrant instance of extravagance. He was told, however, that the rate there did not include the cost of gas. This Bill would not only be destructive to local self-government, but it would be cumbersome and unworkable, inefficient, and extravagant, while it was distasteful to those who were most deeply interested in the welfare of London. The right hon. Gentleman had asserted that "public opinion inside and. outside the House was in favour of the Bill. The fact was, that out of 38 Vestries and Boards of Works, 33 had passed votes against it, while only two had passed resolutions in its favour. Did the right hon. Gentleman consider that the public Press was evidence of public opinion? Out of 85 organs of public opinion in the Metropolis, 71 were against the Bill and only 14 in favour of it. Speaking of his own locality, the four or five Liberal organs were unanimous in condemning the Bill. [Mr. BRYCE: No !] The hon. Member would have an opportunity of telling the House what newspapers were in favour of the Bill. The paper which was loudest in praise of the hon. Member was also strongestin its opposition to the Bill. The evidence of public meetings was to the same effect. Means, no doubt, had been found to get up a bogus agitation in favour of the Bill; but it was through the instrumentality of packed meetings, where wilful and misleading statements were made, and freedom of discussion suppressed. In one meeting in the Tower Hamlets, a well-known Liberal —Colonel Munro—moved a resolution against the Bill. At that meeting, the supporters of the Bill were drawn from every quarter of London, and one gentleman came from Cookham. Then, the Kensington meeting was, to a great extent, a packed meeting. One-third of the Hall was filled before the meeting began; and hired bullies ejected with shameful violence all those who ventured to express dissent. Then, there were meetings at the East End and at Peckham Rye. The House might judge 1954 of the character of the latter meeting by the fact that it was held on Whit Sunday. At these meetings the most false and misleading statements were made. At the Kensington Meeting, the junior Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) wished to make the audience believe that the Metropolitan Board was grossly extravagant and spent £4,000,000.
§ MR. RITCHIE
asked whether the hon. and learned Member explained that that was not the expenditure of the Metropolitan Board?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the audience would not understand the distinction; and that the hon. and learned Member had not explained the difference between the budget of the Board and its own proper expenditure, until he "was challenged to do so. The hon. and learned Member intended to mislead the meeting. Then, at Peckham Rye, the inducement was held out, that the Bill would bring about an equalization of poor rates throughout the Metropolis. But the Bill contained no provision to that effect. Then, where were the Petitions in favour of the Bill? Comparatively speaking, there were none. There had been, in fact, eight Petitions, signed by nine people, in favour of the Bill; whereas there had been 173 presented against it, signed by 16,000; and even that did not represent the full extent of the feeling against the measure, as, in many cases, a Petition from a meeting was signed by the chairman only. He maintained, therefore, that the people of the Metropolis were not in favour of, but were opposed to, that expensive, delusive, and inefficient Bill. He was not opposed to reform; his Amendment did not say that he was; reform might be necessary, and he thought it was. It was a great misfortune, he thought, that so little interest was taken in the election of members of Vestries and District Boards; but it was quite a different question whether this was to be remedied in the way proposed by the Bill. The reform which he should like to see carried out was one which would increase the vigour and 1955 effect of local government, instead of extinguishing; it. If they wanted more interest taken in the matter, and better men to take it, they must increase the responsibilities rather than decrease them. How was that to be done? The right hon. Gentleman had denounced the principle of separate Municipalities as absurd, and said the reason he did not propose it was because the people did not want it. Was it absurd? He (Mr. Ritchie) was not prepared to say that it was absolutely the best way of doing what was desired; but this he did maintain—that, call the Body what they liked, whether a Municipality or not, it would probably be a great improvement if, instead of having half-a-dozen Vestries or Boards of Works in a district, like, for instance, the Tower Hamlets, having jurisdiction within the area of one Parliamentary borough, there should be within the borough only one Vestry or Local Sanitary Authority, whatever it were called. If a rearrangement of this kind were carried out, and some of the Vestries governed larger areas, it would be expedient to transfer to them many of the matters which were now attended to by the Metropolitan Board. By thus increasing the responsibility of the Local Bodies they would attract to them better men, and they would induce the ratepayers to take more interest in the elections and in the proceedings of the Local Bodies. However that might be, the Royal Commission of 1854 did not think this idea of separate Municipalities absurd. It was in this direction of consolidation, so as to get larger areas, governable with economy and efficiency by better men sensible of larger responsibilities and directly responsible to their local constituents, that they ought to look for improvements and greater public interest in local government, rather than in the creation of a great Central Municipality empowered to weaken the local feelings that now existed by supervising and controlling the action of the Local Authority. If the Government would come forward with some such scheme of consolidating the numerous Local Bodies now existing, he was satisfied that the proposal would not be so distasteful to the majority of the people of London as the present scheme was. The more people considered the great complexity of the measure, and the numerous details with which it dealt, the less they liked it. 1956 The secretary of State for the Home Department had said that the Metropolitan Board of Works were in favour of the Bill, whilst the Amendment of his right hon. Friend the Chairman of that Board practically assented to the scheme; but he (Mr. Ritchie) had read a speech of Mr. Selway, at a meeting of the Board, in which he denounced the proposal in on unmeasured terms, as a great scheme of centralization, and his remarks were received with assent by that Body. How, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman could contend that the Metropolitan Board were in favour of the Bill, he could not conceive. As to the Amendment of the Chairman, it did not strike him in the same light as the right hon. Gentleman would have them believe it struck him; because, at that period of the Session, to refer such a Bill to a Select Committee was practically to shelve it altogether. The right hon. Gentleman had said that his (Mr. Ritchie's) Amendment was in accord, practically, with the principles of the Bill. What he (Mr. Ritchie) then would recommend him to do, if he believed what he said, was to gracefully withdraw the Bill, and accept the Amendment, and bring in a well-considered measure based on the principle laid down. If the right hon. Gentleman did that, he would assure him that it would receive the approval of the great majority of the House of Commons and the people of London. With regard to what had been said as to the position of his Amendment, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that, since he placed it on the Paper of Business, it had undergone many changes in that particular, and the prominence it now occupied was due rather to accident than from any compunction on the part of his right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor to move his Amendment for rejecting the Bill altogether. The Bill, undoubtedly, so far from having the support of the people, was diametrically opposed to their wishes; and he desired to move the Amendment standing in his name.
§ LORD ALGERNON PERCY
, in seconding the Amendment, said, he hoped that, notwithstanding- the solemn warning of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) as to the cholera, the House would not assent to the second reading of the Bill. Under the plea of strengthening local self- 1957 government, it would practically extinguish such government by vesting a Central Authority with unlimited power. The right hon. Gentleman had said something about the exertions put forward by the Corporation of the City of London against the Bill; but he apparently forgot to mention that efforts had been made to obtain Petitions from the Corporations of Provincial towns in support of the Bill; and he (Lord Algernon Percy) believed that two such Petitions had been presented, which came respectively from Leeds and Congleton, two towns, no doubt, admirably capable, in their own estimation, of judging and deciding as to the wishes of the people of London. The right hon. Gentleman opposite argued as if the whole question was a question between separate Municipalities and one Central Authority; but it seemed to him (Lord Algernon Percy) that the real question was whether the Central Authority contemplated by that Bill was combined with a due provision for the preservation of local self-government. There were some rather curious circumstances connected with the introduction of the measure. On that occasion, the right hon. Gentleman had carefully praised the existing Bodies, and had alleged no maladministration, or that great evils existed in their administration; the only reason seemed to be that there was a want of symmetry in the present system, and a lack of power on the part of the Local Authorities to deal with certain matters intrusted to them. It might, therefore, have been thought that the right course would be to strengthen the powers of the Local Authorities; but that was not what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do. On the contrary, he sought to sweep away the whole of the existing Local Authorities, and to substitute an entirely new creation for them. Again, although Returns had been asked from the Local Authorities, and cheerfully furnished, not one of those Authorities had ever been consulted in regard to that Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the supporters and the opponents of the Bill outside of the House, and had referred to the former as belonging to some thinly-attended Vestries; but he had not mentioned the fact that the meetings in its favour had been held in small school-rooms, where the majority of the 1958 audiences were old women. The fact was, that the agitation in favour of the Bill did not arise amongst those remarkable either for their knowledge of local matters, or with individuals who had spent much time in the management of local affairs; whereas almost every Vestry or other Local Authority in London had passed resolutions in opposition to the measure. It was said that the Vestries were interested; but "the people" who figured so prominently in the placards connected with the small meetings to which he had referred were equally interested parties. Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman had admitted that the Local Authorities had performed their duties well, and with a considerable knowledge of the local affairs of London. It was rather curious, too, that since the first reading of that Bill the elections for the different Vestries had taken place; and in almost every instance the men who were opposed to the measure had been returned. It was alleged, from the fact that in one parish a Vestryman had been returned by only 19 votes, that comparatively very few of the ratepayers took part in the choice of those who managed the local affairs of London; but the Bill made no new departure in that respect. Under it the ratepayers within the limits of the Metropolis Management Act were to become burgesses, with the power of electing 240 members to the Central Council and also of electing District Councils. But, under the present system, all ratepayers were entitled to vote for their representatives; and, if they did not chose to do so, it was their own fault—not the fault of the system. They could elect men in their several districts who were acquainted with all its requirements, and those representatives again elected members of the Metropolitan Board of Works; and no difficulty was experienced in finding men of ability and intelligence, who devoted their time and energies to the service of the ratepayers, and who performed their duties very satisfactorily. The incident to which he had referred, therefore, exemplified a fault in the ratepayers and not a fault in the system. The right hon. Gentleman asserted that the Vestries did not want reform; but he (Lord Algernon Percy) was not aware that one of the resolutions passed in a Metropolitan Vestry expressed any op- 1959 position to reform. He believed they were prepared to accept reform; but, naturally, they did not wish the power taken out of the hands of the Local Authorities. At the present time, the London Vestries were composed of men. of all classes, who were thoroughly acquainted with the requirements of the neighbourhood. They did their work in the evening after their own business was over; but, under the Bill, those men would no longer be able to perform their duties, owing to the enormous area of the Metropolis, and the time which a consideration of its numerous details would involve; nor could they afford the expense which would be necessary in order to enable them to become candidates for such constituencies as they would have to represent. On the other hand, only rich men who could spare the time, or persons who would make municipal government pay, would find their way into the proposed Common Council, and, thereby, one very important element in good local self-government— the element of the participation of all classes of the community—would be destroyed, while the door would be opened to an enormous amount of jobbery. With regard to the proposed District Councils, their constitution appeared to him one of the most objectionable features of the Bill. The District Council was to be elected by the ratepayers, and, therefore, it might be supposed that the members of that Body would be directly responsible to the electors. But that was not really secured by the Bill. Any person, however, in reading through the Bill would find it difficult to discover what those powers were. They would, under its provisions, be incapable of performing the most ordinary duties without consulting the Central Body. They would not even be able to alter or improve a street.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
If the noble Lord looks at the Bill, he will see that if the District Council has assigned to it the care of a street, that Council can do anything in such street without consulting the Corporation at all.
§ LORD ALGERNON PERCY
said, that was so, if, in the first place, the Common Council delegated the authority to the District Councils. The question of the expense of repairs had to be brought before the Common Council before the repairs to a street could be carried out. 1960 Then, the District Councils had no power of rating—they could not spend a single 1d. on their own account, and to the expenses they wished to incur the Common Council might refuse to give consent. The carrying out of works would have to be decided by a Central Authority sitting a considerable distance away, connected with which there would only be a very small number of gentlemen representing the locality where the improvements were to be effected. Westminster, for instance, would only be represented by 23 members, and, therefore, would be in a small minority in the Common Council. The result might be the causing of a great deal of friction, loss of time, and damage to the interests of the public; and there would exist this extraordinary anomaly—that while the members of the District Council would be directly responsible to the electors, they would only be able to exercise derivative authority. He should hardly think that any independent and able man would be likely to put himself into such a position. By this Bill the public would lose three securities which they at present possessed—in the first place, security as to numbers, which they had in the existing government of London; secondly, they would lose the security of the local opinion brought to bear on the 3,000 representatives who were living in the localities they served; and, thirdly, the rating authority not being the same as the spending authority, they would lose the security resulting from the operation of public opinion locally generated and expressed in regard to expenditure. The argument, that the Metropolitan Board of Works had performed those duties, was no argument whatever, because that Board had never attempted to deal with all the minute matters which would come under the attention of the Common Council under this Bill; and it stood to reason that if they spread the principle contained in the measure over too great an area, individual authority would be swamped and lost. If the whole of London, with its varying interests and enormous population, was to be governed by one Body, and that Body was to be elected, they would to a certain extent get self-government in the same way as the people got self-government through Parliament; but it could not be said that they were developing the principle of local self-government. 1961 To call it that was to give it a false name. He hoped the Bill would meet with a treatment which was somewhat unusual with Bills brought forward by the Government—that was to say, that it would be dealt with on its own merits; because there were many both inside and outside the House, of all shades of political opinion, who looked on it as inconsistent with the principle and incompatible with the practice of local self-government.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "while ready to consider the question of a reform in the Government of London, this House declines to assent to a proposal by which the control over the levying and expenditure of rates would he vested in one central body to the practical extinction of the local self-government of the various cities and boroughs of the Metropolis,"— (Mr. Ritchie,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. FIRTH
said, he was quite sure his hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets was sincere in the opinion he had expressed, that the people of London were to an appreciable extent against this measure, and that no important meetings had been held in support of it. He (Mr. Firth) would deal with the hon. Gentleman's observations, which, whilst sincere, had struck him, as one having as wide an experience as any living man of the opinions of the people of London on this subject, as perfectly astounding. He had just received a telegram—he would not at present read it—relating to a meeting held that night at Kensington. The Kensington Vestry had called a meeting, and had placed a rate collector at the door, so that no one could enter who was not a ratepayer. A resolution was moved against the Bill; but an amendment in its favour had been carried by 10 to 1; and he believed that in no single quarter of London, where the Bill was fairly explained, would there be a smaller majority in its favour. [Laughter.] He expected that statement to be received with astonishment by some hon. Members. [An hon. MEMBER: No; with laughter.] He had been down to every quarter of London, and knew the feeling of the ratepayers. Did hon. Gentle- 1962 men pretend to suggest that he had ever misrepresented the case? If they did, they were wrong—he had never misrepresented the case of the opponents at any meeting held in support of the Bill. But he would have a word or two to say with regard to meetings later on. The way in which the hon. Member had commenced the debate that night had struck him as rather peculiar. He had commented upon a Bill of this magnitude being brought on for discussion on second reading at so late a period as July, and had declared the Government to be obstructing useful legislation; but how was it that the measure was only in its present stage in the month of July? Had the hon. Gentleman forgotten the constantly recurring Votes of Censure, for which the Government had been obliged to find time? It was only owing to an accident that the intention of bringing forward another Vote of Censure had been frustrated, and that the House had the privilege of going on with this Bill now. If it were Obstruction to bring forward a Bill of this kind, the system of Parliamentary Government would resolve itself into this —that a number of Gentlemen who were opposed to certain legislation would be able, by one proceeding after another, to bring about a process of exhaustion, and, at the end of the year, would go down to their constituencies and say of their opponents— "See, they have passed no legislation at all." Beyond doubt, the measure was one of magnitude as far as its physical side were concerned; but it contained only two important principles, and those, as some hon. Members might recollect, he had ventured to state some time ago. The Bill consolidated Central Authorities, and gave a proper control over the Local Authorities. Those two principles established, the rest of the Bill was almost entirely consequential—that was to say, every clause in the Bill could be shown to be a necessary consequence of those principles. The hon. Gentleman had complained that the Bill did not go far enough. Before criticizing details, he had complained that the Bill did not hand over the control of the Police to the new Authority. Well, he (Mr. Firth) would be glad to see such control in the hands of the Municipality; but they must move in this matter by steps. The hon. Gentleman also com- 1963 plained that the Bill would not give the Municipality control over licences. That, again, he should be glad to see conferred on the Local Authority; but hero, once more, he must remark on the necessity of their moving by steps. It was further complained that the Bill did not deal with the Metropolitan Asylums Board. That Board was a part of the Poor Law system; and he must say that he should like to see the Poor Law system of the House of Commons in the hands of the Municipality. But for that which was contained in the Bill they had waited long enough; and that of London was the only unreformed Corporation remaining. The management of the affairs of all large towns, save those of London, had been, by the Corporations Act of 1835, put under vigilant popular control. London alone remained unreformed, and, to his mind, had remained so long enough. Every local interest in this country, and every local interest in the Sister Island, had been considered again and again by one Administration after another. The present Administration had brought in a dozen Bills with respect to the agricultural interest of the United Kingdom and Ireland; but London remained without that simple elementary control over its own municipal affairs that the smallest town in the Provinces possessed. He admitted the problem was a difficult one to solve. If he might say so, it required a far deeper knowledge of the things dealt with than was ordinarily necessary to understand the measure properly. Many hon. Gentlemen were aware of the circumstances of the Corporation of London and of the Metropolitan Board of Works, and the circumstances attending the Vestries; but it was necessary to know the circumstances attending them all before they could form an opinion as to the best method of weaving them together, and in which Municipal unity could be produced. It was true that some of the Royal Commissions which had alluded to the question had come, in a certain sense, to a different conclusion; but the Royal Commission of 1835, which was appointed in 1833, was the only one which really sat on the question, and that had proposed a solution exactly on the same lines as the present Bill. Its solution of a similar question in other towns was exactly on the same 1964 lines as the proposals of the Bill, so far as their central principle was concerned. The Royal Commission of 1854, to which reference had been made, had not been appointed for the purpose of inquiring into that question at all; and all that was contained in the Report was not within the scope of its inquiry. That part of the Report to which he had alluded was not to be regarded as in any sense binding. As an illustration of what he meant, he might say that Sir George Grey had proceeded in the matter on very different lines from those recommended in that particular part of the Report. This Bill was really very little more in its essence than a Bill making the Metropolitan Board of Works a Representative Authority. The Earl of Camperdown, as they knew, brought in a Bill for the purpose of doing that a few years ago, and the present measure did little more than carry out the provisions of that Bill. As he had said, it would bring about the union of Central Authorities and the control of Local Authorities. Was that union desirable? Would it not produce economy, and give them that control over their affairs that they now wanted? First, as to the constitution of London, the hon. Gentleman had been mistaken in supposing that the Bill sought to produce a revolution in the City of London. It touched the City, but only incidentally. It was said that the Bill had designs on the revenues; but the City had none worth appropriating. The accounts did not balance; for years they had been thousands of pounds on the wrong side; and when, in 1889, the Coal Dues came to an end, there would be a deficiency of at least £1,000,000 sterling still remaining on the Holborn Valley Improvement, and necessitating an increased payment out of City rates of at least £35,000 a-year. It was impossible to carry out any reform of this kind which did not involve dealing with the City of London. The Metropolis had grown around the City. Did they not remember reading how Queen Elizabeth had stopped the building of houses when there were 150,000 people in London, because, as she said, "a larger accumulation of people would be too many to serve God and honour the Queen?" Since then, however, London had enormously increased, and whilst the population of London had increased, 1965 that of the City had diminished. In the time of Queen Elizabeth there were 150,000 within the walls of the City; but now there were only 50,000. The City was merely a shell, and in any London Government Reform Bill they were bound to deal with it. They were bound to deal with the whole locality; and it was just that they should do so, because the Corporation of the City of London not only assumed to speak in the name of the people of the Metropolis, and not only spent money levied from them, but it controlled their market arrangements, and in many other respects ruled them, without their having direct representation on it. As to its market jurisdiction, the House was aware how strenuously it adhered to the powers given to it originally by the Charter of King Edward III., confirmed by that of Charles I.—powers which enabled it to prevent the establishment of any market within seven miles of the City walls. The House had not forgotten the fight they had some years ago to get for the Metropolitan Board of Works power to inquire into the market question. Was it not right that powers of this kind exercised by an Authority, on which the inhabitants of the Metropolis had no representation, should be handed over to an Authority on which they had full representation? Undoubtedly, and such transfer of power would be effected by the Bill. With regard to the Metropolitan Board of Works the same arguments applied, and the same change would be effected by the Bill. At present, the people of the Metropolis had not the power of controlling the budget of the Metropolitan Board. That budget was rather over £4,000,000, and the people had no power of control over that part which the Board itself actually spent; and with respect to the rest— loans to the Asylums Board and other Public Bodies—they had no opportunity of deciding whether or not they should be advanced.
§ SIR JAMES M'GAREL-HOGG
The hon. and learned Member, I am sure, would wish to be correct. Does he wish to put it to the House that the budget of the Metropolitan Board of Works is over £4,000,000 exclusive of the loans? He must know the loans are included in the £4,000,000.
§ MR. FIRTH
But I did say so. The argument he had put to the people of Mile End was, that when an immense sum of this kind was raised either by loan, or rate from the inhabitants of any place, those inhabitants ought, through their directly elected representatives, to have full control over the expenditure. That was exactly what they did not possess in London at the present time, and that was exactly what this Bill would give them. The main work, almost the only work, the new Corporation would have to undertake, would be the work now undertaken by the Metropolitan Board, and the only difference would be that the work would be performed by a Body directly responsible to the ratepayers, and not by a Body which was unknown in its form of action, and over which the ratepayers had no control. The problem was an extremely difficult one to solve; and he was sure hon. Gentlemen would believe him when he said that those of them who had carefully considered it, had been driven to the solution contained in the Bill by the circumstances of the case rather than by any preference for it over other possible solutions. The various powers of the Metropolitan Board could not well be divided among a series of Corporations. He would illustrate what he meant by that statement, and would do so by alluding to the lesson they had learnt in London since 1855. In that year there was given to the Metropolitan Board the control of the main drainage. That was the main object for which the Board was established; in fact, it was supposed at the time that the Board would only be of a temporary character. Well, did anyone suppose that it would be possible to divide the carrying out of a main drainage scheme amongst a series of Corporations in London—did anyone suppose it practicable to give each portion of London a separate cesspool? Parliament had decided that as to drainage there should be but one system; therefore, it was necessary that there should be union. In the same way as to buildings, in 1856 control over them was given to 1967 the Board by a deliberate decision of Parliament. It was absolutely necessary that there should be but one Authority in this matter. His hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) had alluded to the question of the River. Surely he would admit that there must be but one Authority to control it. At the present time the Metropolitan Board dealt with the question of floods and embankments; and surely these were matters affecting the South as well as the North side of the River, and as to which there should not be a division of authority. The conservancy and purification of the River ought to be all in the same hands. There was another thing in respect of which there should be absolute control vested in one authority in the Metropolis— namely, the management of parks and recreation grounds. The Metropolitan Board of Works had had authority over parks and recreation grounds given to them, and they had obtained something like 1,700 acres of land. That authority should be continued in the same hands, otherwise there would be no uniformity in the Metropolis; one Local Authority would be prepared to tax its district for these necessities of modern civilization, whilst another would refuse. In other towns these things were managed by the ordinary Corporation. Not only did the lesson from 1855 down to the present day show that these affairs could be well managed by one Authority, but that they must be. Take, again, the Fire Brigade. Since 1869 the Metropolitan Board of Works had had the control of it in the Metropolis; and did anyone believe that it would be well to divide the control so as to have different Fire Brigades for the different Municipalities? He would give one or two further illustrations. Main street improvements had been put in the hands of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Metropolitan Board of Works acted under more than 100 Acts of Parliament, and this Authority had not worked so badly as some people expected. They had not heard much about danger to the Constitution—perhaps, in regard to the present Bill, they might hear more about it in the future; but it might be remembered that, in 1855, Lord Fortescue declared that the Metropolitan Board would be a menace to the Throne. Did anyone so regard it now? The Authority which, he trusted, they were going to constitute 1968 by this Bill, was one which had had all these powers deliberately given to it by Parliament, and which had used them and performed its duty certainly far better than had been expected. It had also had powers given to it in respect of artizans' dwellings; but they had been mainly powers to enable it to clear largo sites, at great cost to the ratepayers, and not powers to enable it to rebuild the houses pulled down. It was not only, however, in regard to the large main questions he had referred to that Parliament had exercised its judgment and given the Metropolitan Board of Works these powers. Powers had also been given to it in regard to matters requiring much detail work. In the construction of buildings they could exercise authority as to the thickness of the walls; they could also exercise authority as to the numbering of the houses, their cubic contents, and even as to the preparation of the sites, so that the old custom of speculative builders, under which the gravel was removed and sold, and houses built upon refuse, could be no longer carried out. All those powers over matters of detail had been given to the Central Authority, so that it could not be suggested that such Authority could not perform detailed work. In addition to the things he had mentioned, the Metropolitan Board of Works had power over offensive businesses, the storage of petroleum, and the regulation of slaughter-houses and cowsheds; but there were some matters in regard to which Parliament had not gone as far as it might. It had given the Metropolitan Board of Works power over tramways to a certain extent; but what was wanted in regard to the whole question of traffic was something more extended than anything they had now. The time of this Imperial Legislature should not be taken up with the discussion of such matters as London cab-fares, with the regulation of stage-carriages, and so forth. To his mind, a competent London Authority ought not only to be charged with the regulation of the things he had enumerated, and intrusted with the powers which other Corporationshad, but it ought also to have control over street traffic to a greater extent than it had now, and control over steamboat traffic; and it ought to be a deliberative Assembly which would examine into Railway Bills, and gas and other projects affecting Lon- 1969 don, before they were presented to the Imperial Parliament. Every year they had proofs of the absurdity of the present system. Railway Companies came and suggested improvements within the Metropolitan area. Their proposals were submitted to Committees of Gentlemen having no knowledge of local affairs. If hon. Gentlemen wanted to see the result of this method of procedure, let them go to Clapham Junction, and other similar districts, and see the large amount of land wasted, a large portion of which land might have been saved if there had been an efficient Central Authority understanding the localities, with power to examine schemes and see that they were presented to Parliament in a uniform and definite shape. What these matters required was definite control. In the course of its existence the Metropolitan Board had had given to it one function after another, and why? Because Parliament recognized the fact that these were matters which should be dealt with in London by a single Authority. The Metropolitan Board had discharged its functions, having regard to the limited number of its members, he thought he might say fairly well, certainly better than they might have expected. Matters could be pointed out in regard to which they had not discharged their duties well; therefore, he was putting it as strongly as his hon. Friend could expect. Were they going to change all this? Did the House of Commons wish to go back from the decisionsithad deliberately arrived at during all these years? He thought not—he trusted not. What the Bill proposed was that such matters should, in future, be decided by a Central Authority, which should be representative. There were some other things as to which the Central Authority ought to have powers which it had not at the present time— and he must allude to them here, because it seemed to him that they would properly come in at this part of the observations he was making to the House on a question to which he had given the best study and attention of which he was capable. As to the question of the control of the water supply, they in London were probably in a worse position than any Municipality where the English language was spoken. He was not going now to enter into a contest with the hon. 1970 Member for Middlesex (Mr. Coope) as to whether the statement of the Government analysts, to the effect that the water of London was unfit for human consumption, was or was not true. There was, at present, no Authority to deal with the Water Companies; and was it not the opinion of Gentlemen on both sides of the House that such an Authority should be constituted? In 1871 the Metropolitan Board of Works promoted a Bill to empower them to purchase the interests of the Water Companies; but the House had refused its consent to that measure, because it thought that the Board was not such a Representative Body as could be safely intrusted with such extensive powers. In 1878 the Board brought forward a Bill to enable them to provide an independent supply; but it met with the same fate, for the same reason. The fact was, London was helpless, supine, and voiceless on these matters seriously affecting her welfare. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Asshaton Cross) then brought in his Bill; and what was it that he proposed? He (Mr. Firth) would not go into the question of price; but the right hon. Gentleman proposed that there should be one Authority in London, who should be able to deal with the question. In 1880 a Select Committee sat to consider the question, and in its Report it proposed the same thing, as the Report said, "in the absence of any Municipal Authority." Well, it was exactly that Municipal Authority which the Bill asked them to constitute—that was to say, a Municipal Authority differing from the Metropolitan Board in that it would be representative. It would, therefore, be a Body to which the functions which he referred to might properly be given. The people of London were anxious that they should have someone to act in their name against powerful private organizations like the Water Companies. The Metropolitan Board, in 1871, was empowered to demand a constant supply; but that, he was afraid, was one of the matters the Board had almost entirely neglected. In 1869 was passed, as they knew, the Metropolitan Assessment Act, under which the Water Companies had been enabled to raise rates without increasing the supply—that was to say, to take a course unjust in itself, though 1971 perfectly legal. How was it that such a power was conferred by the Act of 1869? Why, simply because neither the Corporation of the City nor the Metropolitan Board of Works substantially attended to the interests of Londoners, and took care that they were safeguarded in the passing of such an important Act. He took it that it was necessary that the people of London should have someone to speak in their name on the question of the Water Supply. Was the present state of things to go on—were they to be left in this condition year after year, with their rates increasing upon them without additional advantage, when they saw in such places as Manchester, Liverpool, and Glasgow the Municipality obtaining the purest water and the largest supply, and putting the profits into the pockets of the ratepayers instead of into the pockets of the Water Companies? The new Authority should have power to deal with the question of Lighting. He would undertake to show that the Metropolitan Board had not attended to the interests of the inhabitants of London at all in the matter, though, in 1860, the Vestries endeavoured to deal with it, finding themselves, in the end, beaten out of the field by the Gas Companies. The condition of the lighting in the Metropolis was more satisfactory now than it was in 1860. The recommendations of a Select Committee of the House of Commons had put it in a somewhat better position; but, under this Bill, control over all these matters would be given to the Central Authority. If the management of these things were handed over to a Central Authority, what would there be left for the independent Local Authorities to do? And, in considering that question, he must, of course, deal with what the Vestries now did. Probably, he might be giving information to some Members of the House — and, doubtless, those to whom he was not giving it would" excuse him—when he said that in London there were 38 Local Authorities, 23 of which represented the old parishes, differing in size, and 15 of which were District Boards formed out of the union of parishes. These 38 Authorities were supposed to be directly elected. He said "supposed," because the election of a London Vestry was more often than not an utter farce. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Members objected to that; then he would 1972 give an illustration of his meaning. For instance, take the Islington Vestry election—Islington being the largest parish in the Metropolis. There were eight wards there, and in seven of them there was no contest last May. In Maryle-bone, the same was the case. In his own parish of Kensington, there was a contest. Hon. Gentlemen opposite did not seem to think that the fact of having no contest illustrated his point. He himself had thought it did. If they liked, they should have a contest. There was a contest in Kensington, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon) was returned after a severe fight.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, the hon. and gallant Member was returned after a severe contest, according to the local Press. The parish had 170,000 inhabitants, and its rateable value was £1,700,000. Was it, or was it not, an illustration of good local control, when even so excellent a Gentleman as his hon. and gallant Friend was elected in such a parish by 36 votes? He himself had had about the same number, he believed. The election happened in this way—those who were present at the meeting held up their hands, and no one demanded a poll. Was that a farce, or was it not? If anyone differed from him, he had nothing more to say on the subject. If they thought that was a satisfactory condition of local government, he was not disposed to quarrel with them about it. If they thought that in a great borough such as he represented (Chelsea), it was a satisfactory state of things to have only some 500 persons voting at the election of the whole of the Vestries in the borough, he confessed he disagreed with them; but everyone could form his own opinion about it. The Vestry was the street authority—and here he came to the second principle of the Bill, and would ask whether there should be control over the action of the Local Authorities? In the case of streets, frequently, after they had been made by the Vestry, in came the Metropolitan Board of Works and tore them up to lay down a main sewer; then the Gas Company would come in, later on, to put down gas pipes; and, at another time, the Water Com- 1973 pany to lay down or repair water mains. The result was that the roads were being constantly interfered with, that there was no unity of action, and no proper control over the authorities who disturbed them. They frequently saw streets and roads torn up a few days after they had been made at great expenditure of time and money. With regard to Vestry accounts, what was the system under which they lived? He could not suppose that the majority of Members in the House were aware of the hideous state of chaos into which the accounts had got—or the hideous method, or rather absence of method, in dealing with financial matters which characterized the London Vestries. They spent over £2,000,000 a-year, which was raised by rate. The Metropolitan Board of Works had fortunately assisted him with two Returns, to enable him to illustrate his point from unimpeachable authority. In 1874 the Metropolitan Board asked for Returns from the Vestries, showing the work they had done, under certain heads. These Returns were presented, and he had copies of them with him now. In 1882 similar Returns were obtained, and they were extremely instructive. He had compared the figures in both Returns, and had had the figures analyzed and certified by an experienced Vestry Clerk in London. Of course, the cost of paving in different districts varied; but these were the days before wood paving; and if the number of yards laid down in the 18 years was compared with the cost, it appeared from this Return that the average cost of all the paving throughout Chelsea was, approximately, 2s. per square yard; Paddington, about 4s.; Bethnal Green, 6s.; Camberwell, 8s.; St. Greorgo's (Southwark), 12s.; Kensington, 15s.; and St. Pancras, 17s. Either the paving in some parts of London was in a remarkable condition, or something should be done to bring these matters into greater harmony in the different districts. One of the heads of Return was for expenses on "Sanitary works other than new sewers." Under this head, St. Pancras returned an expenditure of £211,662. Lambeth was in every respect larger than St. Pancras, but she only returned £10,200; whilst Islington, which was largest of all, returned £1,364; so that St. Pancras, according to this Return, spent 150 times 1974 more than Islington under this head. This was, surely, an illustration of the necessity of something in the shape of uniformity in the keeping of accounts and the carrying out of works in the Metropolis. Islington, as they had seen, returned her expenditure for the 18 years, 1856–1874, on sanitary works other than new sewers, at £1,364. She now returned her expenditure under the same head for the 25 years, 1856–1881, at £980,823—that was to say, that in seven years, 1874–1881, she expended on this item £979,000 more than in the 18 years, 1856–1874. Islington Vestry opposed the London Bill. Hackney expended in 1856–1874, under this head, £367. She expended in the years 1856–1881, no less than £130,150. Hackney District Board opposed the London Bill. St. Martin-in-the-Fields spent £1,000 in the first 18 years, and £ 11,000 in the next seven years; Wands-worth spent £528 in the years 1856–1874, and £86,776 in the years 1856–1881; but St. George's-in-the-East had executed a still more remarkable feat. Under this head she returned her expenses in the 18 years, 1856–1874, at £21,529, and in the 25 years, 1856–1881, at £19,867; so that she did the work of the seven years for £1,600 less than nothing ! Nor was this by any means the only case in which the Vestries could perform feats like that. Limehouse, having made between six and seven miles of sewer for £78,731 in 1856–1874, returned that in the years 1856–1881 she made 9½ miles of sewer for £9,964— that was to say, she made three miles of sewer in the last seven years for £69,000 less than nothing. St. Martin's-in-the-Fields made, in 1856–1874, 1,000 yards of sewer for £8,264. In the years 1856–1881 she constructed 1,200 yards of sewer for £2,350; so that, according to her own Return, she made 200 yards of sewer in the last seven years for nearly £6,000 less than nothing. Another example might suffice. Rotherhithe returned the cost of 10⅓ miles of sewer, made in 1856–1874, at £21,618. In 1881 she had made 14 miles of sewer, but returned the cost as reduced to £19,259; so that she also made four miles of sewer for £2,000 less than nothing, on her own Return. In another way the Returns were equally instructive. Thus, Marylebone returned that in 18 years, 1856–1874, she made 25½ miles of new sewer 1975 for £80,135. For the 25 years, 1856–1881, she returned 28 miles of sewer at a cost of £161,616; so that, if the Returns were correct, she made the first 25½ miles at a cost of nearly £3,200 por mile, and the remaining 2½ miles at a cost of about £32,000 a-mile. These accounts showed the necessity of a satisfactory audit; and the Bill said there should be a satisfactory atulit—that was to say, a valuable audit. One Vestry, to his knowledge, had appointed an auditor who could neither read nor write. ["Name !"] He should be glad to give more precise information privately, if hon. Members would ask him for it; but it did not seem desirable to give the name of one particular Vestry, when they all acted in very much the same manner. There could be no doubt that the audit of the Vestries was in an extremely lamentable condition. There were elected auditors, and, under the Metropolis Management Act of 1855, they had power to surcharge. But, curiously enough, the Act contained no power of enforcing the surcharge; and so it happened that, notwithstanding expenditure on all kinds of things not contemplated by the Act, there had never been any surcharge enforced in any London Vestry since their establishment in 1856. This was a very good illustration of the condition in which the accounts were. Was it too much to suggest that there ought to be something in the shape of control over this expenditure? If the Amendment of his hon. Friend went to anything, it went to the establishment of Bodies over whom there could be no control—to perpetuate the most lamentable chaos which had ever existed under the sun. With regard to Vestry functions other than those of street control, the Vestries frequently declined to exercise the authority Parliament had vested in them. Ought they, or ought they not, to carry out these Acts of Parliament? Parliament had decided that baths and wash-houses and mortuaries should be established under the authority of the Vestries, and yet very few of the Vestries had put up either of these. In one great Vestry, recently, a man's body had been dissected on his own dining-room table. Was there no mortuary in the whole area? In Clerken well a similar thing had happened in a small dwelling, because there was no place provided by the parish to which the body could be removed for 1976 examination. Very few Vestries had interested themselves in the matter of baths and wash-houses. Parliament had given them power to erect such buildings, but very few had availed themselves of it, although those which had— where the buildings had been established under satisfactory conditions, and something approximating to the value had been paid for the structures—generally found them to pay. He believed that in St. Martin-in-the-Fields the baths and wash-houses paid a profit. He had a right, then, to ask, should there not be a controlling power in the Metropolis to see that these things for the benefit of the people were carried out? Even where they were carried out, it was done in so irregular a manner, that it was essential that some central control should be exercised. Take, again, the Act with which the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. W. M. Torrens) was so honourably connected; no one knew better than the hon. Member how the Vestries had neglected to carry it out. Should there not be some controlling power to see that such a practical measure was carried out? As to the Sanitary Laws, his right hon. Colleague (Sir Charles W. Dilke) could, no doubt, testify as to the frightful irregularities which existed amongst the Local Authorities of the Metropolis with regard to them. The same thing might be said of the Adulteration Acts, and all the minor functions of the Vestries. The Bill provided that for these purposes there should be something like control over the Local Authorities. It had been suggested that it was a centralizing- measure. ["Hear, hear !"] He was glad he had arrived at a point on which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite distinctly contested the principle of the Bill. He would point out why he thought it a decentralizing measure. So far as the City was concerned, the Bill took from it, and gave to a Body representing the ratepayers, control over the Markets, the Coal Dues, and a good many other things —it took powers from a non-Representative Body, as far as London generally was concerned, and gave them to a Representative Body. The Bill would take some powers which at present Parliament alone had in its hands. It would take over the control and management of cabs and carriages, and give it to the new Municipal Authority. Surely, that 1977 was a decentralizing operation. It took from the Gas and Water Companies the powers they possessed, and gave them to the representatives of the ratepayers; and, surely, in regard to these matters, it was a decentralizing measure. How could it be said to be a centralizing measure? It was so-called, presumably, because it took over the expenditure of the money of the ratepayers from the Vestries, who so miserably discharged the function. "Well, in dealing with this question, if they were to have a central control, how were they to concede it? Should or should not the Central Council be directly elected? All would agree that it should. What, then, should be the qualification for the electorate? The qualification in this Bill was the same as that in other Municipalities. The City of London had recently brought into the field a champion who had quoted against the Bill the case of New York. There was no similarity between the case of London and that of New York. No reasonable comparison could be drawn between New York and London, or Paris and London. The qualification under the Bill for the electorate in London was to be the same as in other English Municipalities— that was to say, the rating and household franchise of 12 months' standing. In New York, everyone might vote who had lived a year in the State and six months in the City, even if he had lived in an hotel. Of course, there was a great difference between the two cases, and there was the greatest difference in the result. It had seemed to him a most extraordinary thing that the condition of New York should have been selected as an example of what was likely to result from this Bill. Anyone who was familiar with the condition of things in New York some years ago, anyone who had read The New York Tribune or Times during the autumn of 1871, would know what a fearful amount of corruption had existed. They would remember how some 'millions of dollars had been charged for the furniture of the City Hall, and how warrants to the extent of $6,000,000, stated to be fraudulent, were signed one afternoon. The whole of the expenditure was controlled by the "Tamanny Ring," and the Mayor of New York at that time was the new City champion, Mr. Oakey Hall. There was no comparison whatever to be 1978 drawn between what New York was and what London would be under this Bill. Then, what would be the result of the establishment of an Authority of this kind? Contrary to the assertions made against the Bill, he said it was a decentralizing and not a centralizing measure; and that so far from its tending to extravagance, its effect would be in the direction of economy. He did not think that under it the tendency would be towards increasing cost. Apart from other considerations, if it had the effect of producing harmony between the Authorities, that, in itself, must tend to economy. His hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) had given, as one illustration of this point, the fight which the Metropolis had had with respect to the discharge of the sewage into the Thames, which contest cost £40,000. They had not forgotten that contest, nor had they forgotten the contest about the Metropolitan Open Space, when the Metropolitan Board of Works prevented the Corporation of the City from expending the Grain Duties within the Metropolitan area. The Thames Sewage contest was not the only one which had been engaged in between those two great Bodies; and he believed, although, they were united now against the Bill, that if they were to defeat the efforts of London after local self-government, they would continue on the war-path hitherto followed by them, and that these costly contests would recur. The Metropolitan Board of Works fought the Vestries; they fought the Gas and Water Companies; and in this way the amount of money expended was very large. Surely, then, if Parliament established a controlling Authority for the Metropolis, there must be economy. Well, they had been told that the School Board afforded an illustration against the Bill. But it did not seem to him that the question of the School Board had any place whatever in this argument, because the School Board had been established to do altogether new work—to take 300,000 children from the streets, and to provide school buildings and education for them. But this Bill had been established in order to harmonize that which already existed; to take it over and to put it into a new form. He had been watching to see whether his hon. Friend, in his opposition to the Bill, would strike at it as a Centralizing Bill, or as a measure destruc- 1979 tive of local self-government; and he found that he contested it on the point that the functions of the Local Councils were not settled in the Bill. The functions of the Local Councils were to be settled by a Central Authority; and he (Mr. Firth) asked if it would not be better that those functions should be settled by a Body representing all the people amongst whom those functions were to be discharged, than by Act of Parliament, which would have to be amended whenever it was found desirable to change them? For his own part, he thought there was very little probability of the Central Authority taking more powers than the Bill conferred. It had been suggested that the budgets of the Local Authorities would be things which the Central Authority might control, and that their independence might, in that sense, be taken away. Now, it seemed to him that the budget of a District Council presented to a Central Council bore exact analogy to the budget supposed to be examined by the Treasury, and annually presented to that House by the Metropolitan Board of Works. He might have said that this budget itself was supposed to be presented, because it came forward at hours damaging to the health of the few hon. Members who thought it necessary to watch over it. However, the analogy was complete, and he contended that the argument with regard to the local budgets had no force as against this Bill. He said that the Bill would provide an absolute remedy for the evils which had arisen under the existing system. Every Local Body would discharge under it not only the duties now performed by the Vestries, but a great many more; the Central Body would delegate more duties to them than they had at present, because the Metropolitan Board of Works had no power to delegate to them any duties at all. Therefore, on that ground, also, he thought the danger apprehended was non-existent. Again, it was said that the Local Councils would be less attractive to ambitious men than the Vestries. He did not think that the Vestries were attractive at present, or that many persons knew much about them. But what was the alternative to the Bill? It was all very well to criticize the details of the Bill; but, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had pointed out, the 1980 only alternative was the establishment of separate Municipalities; and he (Mr. Firth) thought it worth while to draw attention to what the effect of that would be. There would, of course, be a dozen School Boards. ["No, no !"] Not of absolute necessity, certainly; but he would point out that directly hon. Gentleman contested that proposition, they took the first step on the line which he was following for the purpose of showing the great necessity which existed for the establishment of a unified Body for all London. No scheme for separate Municipalities had been proposed either by the Corporation of the City of London or by any other Body. The effect of the establishment of separate Municipalities, so far as the Tower Hamlets were concerned, would be that the School Board rate would be doubled. But it was not necessary to argue the question of the establishment of separate Municipalities, inasmuch as no one had proposed such a scheme. Before sitting down he wished, to say a few words with respect to a matter alluded to by his hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie)—namely, the attitude assumed by the various Authorities towards the Bill. It would, no doubt, have been too much to expect the Corporation of the City of London to support the Bill; that would have been contrary to the whole course of its recent history, and therefore he need not indulge in any such speculation. They had not forgotten how the Corporation of the City of London acted with regard to the Commission appointed to consider the question of Municipal Government; how they had dealt with the Bills of Sir George Grey in 1856 and 1858, with the Bill of Sir George Cornewall Lewis in 1859, and with the Bills of Mr. John Stuart Mill. Nor was it forgotten how they dealt with one proposal, by what he understood to be about the meanest of all methods of stopping a Bill—namely, by objecting to it on the ground that the Standing Orders had not been complied with. There had been proposed a good many other measures in the interest of the reform of London Government, all of which had been opposed by the Corporation of the City of London in the same way as they had opposed the measures he had more particularly referred to; and he would remind the House that evidence had been given before the Commission of 1981 1854, that they expended large sums on secret service, which were dealt with in the accounts of the Chamberlain in such a manner that the money so expended could not very well be recognized. His hon. Friend had spoken of the amount of support given to this measure, and on that subject he wished to make one or two remarks. Although it had been suggested that Parliament had never been petitioned on this subject, there had been Petitions presented in favour of the Bill; and to-morrow he should present Petitions in its favour from a series of the largest free meetings ever held in London, according to his honest belief, on any question. But they had not canvassed London for the purpose of obtaining signatures to Petitions—first, because it would have been difficult to get a sufficient number of canvassers able to explain the Bill; and, secondly, because the operation would have cost a large sum of money. In that respect they had acted differently to the Corporation of the City of London, one of whose canvassers, he was informed by the lady who attended his (Mr. Firth's) chambers in the Temple, called upon her and ask her to sign a Petition against the Bill, on the ground that it was a Petition the object of which was to lessen the rates. He had no right to complain of the way in which the Corporation of the City of London had conducted their case against the supporters of the Bill, and that because he had read the past history of their opposition to other London Bills; he had no right to complain that Associations were started against it, and largely supported by City subsidies; he had no reason to complain that the City Authorities had expended thousands of pounds in placarding every hoarding, and in advertizing in every London newspaper, and in circulating in the houses of the people statements incorrect and grossly abusive of his humble efforts after reform; he had no reason to complain, nor did he complain, of all this, because he had read the history of their former proceedings before he went into the work, and knew what he should have to undergo. But there had recently been imported into the contest a feature which had, he believed, never appeared in such a contest before. It had remained for the right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor 1982 (Mr. R. N. Fowler)—not content with the operations of the agents of the Corporation of the City, not content with, prosy denunciations of what the supporters of the measure had done —absolutely to quote poetry against them. The right hon. Gentleman, not long since, at a public meeting put himself in the position of a Turkish Pasha, and spoke of those who would—tamely view old Stamboul's wall Before the dogs of Moscow fall.The right hon. Gentleman did not give the context—Nor strike one blow for life or death, Against the curs of Nazareth.He (Mr. Firth) was very much astonished to find the Lord Mayor of London quoting The Bride of Abydos. The poem was an old friend of his, and he confessed to finding some difficulty in understanding why the right hon. Gentleman should have selected that poem from which to make a quotation against the supporters of the Bill. But his surprise disappeared when he recalled the lines with which the poem began—Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtleAre emhlems of deeds that are done in their clime,Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle,Now melt into sorrow, now madden to crime.He sincerely trusted that the "love of the turtle," whilst it might "melt into sorrow," would not "madden to crime." Well, the attitude of the District Boards and the Vestries had been alluded to; but he did not think their position in this matter had been quite accurately stated by his hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie). He had no doubt his hon. Friend was of opinion that 33 Vestries and District Boards had come to a conclusion against the Bill; but, as a matter of fact, that was not the case. The decisions at which the Vestries had arrived were very various. There was a considerable number of them in favour of the establishment of one Municipal Body, and who said that further powers should be given, to the Local Councils. Others, such as the Vestries of Greenwich, Deptford, and Lewisham, had all gone solid for the Bill. Therefore, he said, his hon. Friend was not quite correct as to the verdict which the Local Authorities had passed upon the main complaint amongst them, 1983 that the Bill did not give sufficient power to the Local Councils That was a matter which he thought might he fairly dealt with in Committee. As far as he was aware, the meetings which had been held in support of the Bill were free meetings. He himself had most of the responsibility for the Kensington meeting, and he would tell the House in what respect he differed from his hon. Friend on that subject. Their intention was that there should be no tickets whatever, and no tickets of any kind were issued; but, upon the morning of the Saturday on which the meeting was held, he received from many parts of London cards which had been sent to Conservatives and others, inviting them to attend—he believed that many were sentto him by Conservatives, because he had many Conservative friends, some of whom agreed with him upon this question. However, they had a number of tickets which came from Upton, Fins-bury, Stoke Newington, Bow, and other similar places, asking the people to whom they were sent to be "in their places" at Kensington Town Hall to support an amendment to be moved against the Bill at 7 o'clock. Now, he and his friends having called a perfectly free meeting at 8 o'clock, he asked hon. Members, on the supposition that they had been responsible for the meeting', what would they have done under the circumstances? Evidence came later on, and which they had by deposition in writing, that a considerable number of men were paid to come and interrupt. These men were booked from the Temple Station, mid they went straight to Kensington. The promoters of the meeting had hoard of their coming, and had them watched. He asked hon. Gentlemen interested in public meetings what they would have done under such circumstances? He would tell the House what he did, and what he thought he had a right to do. His hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Ritchie) had suggested that something was done which ought not to have been done. On the Saturday morning, he telegraphed to Chelsea what the facts were — namely, that opponents were coming to the meeting at 7 o'clock. Afterwards, they ascertained that the men had been paid to attend, and interrupt; and they asked all their friends to come as early as possible, and gave instructions that the doors of the 1984 Hall should not be opened until half-past 7, and that everyone who was known should be admitted by a side door. [Alaugh.] He might have been wrong in judgment, but as at present advised he should do the same again if he had a similar state of circumstances to deal with. What was the result? That they packed the whole front of the Hall. Because the men who came were instructed to storm the platform; and, indeed, they had a discussion at the back as to how the platform could be stormed. The men were paid from the same source as other men who had attended meetings to stifle free expression of opinion. He and those over whom he had any control had done their best to ascertain the opinion of the London people on this question. Having attended very large meetings held in every part of the Metropolis, his opinion was that London was very strongly in favour of the Bill. In the London Vestries there was a very strong feeling in favour of the Bill. A conference of Vestrymen favourable to the Bill had been held, and some of the most skilled Vestry Clerks in London strongly approved of the proposed measure. Mr. Gibb, the Vestry Clerk of St. Panoras, one of the largest of the Metropolitan parishes, had analyzed the Bill in a pamphlet of great length; he asserted that this was a measure which would work; and he used some of the arguments which he (Mr. Firth) had ventured to put forth that night as to the result of harmonizing the institutions which existed in the Metropolis. It was a very responsible thing for a man in the position of a Vestry Clerk to take up so strong a line with respect to a measure of this kind; but he thought he might fairly quote Mr. Gibb's opinion, because it snowed that there was a most intelligent opinion even in the Vestries in favour of the Bill. He (Mr. Firth) should have been glad if this question could have been regarded as in no sense a Party question. Although the Bill seemed to have amused some hon. Gentlemen opposite, there were many Conservatives in the part of the town he lived who were in favour of it—there were, of course, some Liberals who were opposed to it. An august Assembly, known as the "Kensington Parliament" —which turned out its Ministry upon Egypt—passed the London Government Bill neminc contradicente. It was the fact 1985 that there were many Conservatives who thought that London should have the same rights as other towns had, and he would—he did not know whether he ought to say appeal; but he would suggest that this should not "be treated as a Party question. Some time ago something was said about the political effect of the Bill. It was said that by the Bill a huge Caucus would be established. His hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) said there would be wire pullers in the Central Body it was proposed to set up. He (Mr. Firth) hoped that would not be so. His hon. Friend might take it from him that the most skilled Caucus drivers said that under the system of separate Municipalities a Caucus might be effectively worked; but they did not see how it was to be worked under this Bill. He only stated this as a fact for his hon. Friend's consolation. He thanked the House for the time and attention they had given to him while he had treated upon a somewhat dry subject, but one in which he had for many years taken a deep interest. It did seem to him that this Bill would, at least, give to London one voice. London at present was practically supine and voiceless; it had no one to speak in its name. Private Companies worked their own will upon it; but this Bill would give the people a deliberative body, who would be able to examine into the various projects affecting all London, and it would establish a body able to deal with the different bequests which had been left for the benefit of the poor; and, in addition, it would strengthen, and, he trusted, extend the public life and the public spirit of the Metropolis. He certainly hoped and expected that the best men of London—men who had rendered good service in various departments of public work all over the world —might be willing to join the body which would be established, and that in that body there should be representatives, not merely of one class, but of every class of the community; that the artizans themselves would send representatives to make their wishes known. He thought this was a Bill which would give the people of the Metropolis a citizenship which had long been wanting. There were many questions, as he had pointed out, upon which London had been practically united, upon which the brotherhood and citizenship of the whole 1986 town had been completely recognized, and he thought this measure would tend very much to strengthen that position. There were some gentlemen outside who had described it as a revolutionary measure, and who seemed to anticipate a reestablishment of the riotous folkmote of the Plantagenet period, or that there might be established a state of things analogous to that in which St. Paul's became a mart for newsvendor's, as it was in the time of Elizabeth, or a Cavalry barrack, as it was in the time of Cromwell. Such ideas were absurd. This was a Conservative measure in the best possible sense, in that it preserved all that was worth preserving, and extended it for the people of all London. The history in continuity of the Metropolis would be preserved unbroken. During the 1,900 years which had elapsed since Caesar's 10th Legion first landed on English shores, the history of London had been the epitome of the history of England. The people were anxious that the old Guildhall, around which clustered memories they could ill afford to lose, should be theirs. The Guildhall where Whittington and Walworth ruled; where Lady Jane Grey was tried; where King Charles the First appealed to the Common Council to give up Hampden; where the Lords and Parliament declared for the Prince of Orange; where the old Corporation struck many a yeoman, blow for English liberty. He thought it was the crowning glory of this great measure that in addition to endowing London with this grand heritage of the past, it would also confer upon the 4,000,000 of people who now lived within sight of the burnished cross of St. Paul's a living representative Municipal Government worthy of the capital of the world.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. W. M. Torrens.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.