HC Deb 09 June 1884 vol 288 cc1742-66

rose to move the Motion of which he had given Notice, and he asked the House to observe the precise terms of that Motion. It was merely an empowering Instruction to the Committee, and it was not framed in such terms as would finally dispose of the question. The state of the case was this. The Cardiff Corporation had promoted a Bill in certain clauses of which provision was made for contributing by the Cardiff Corporation £10,000 towards the University College of South Wales. The Committee which had been sitting on the Bill considered themselves not empowered to pass, or not justified in passing, such a clause, as it seemed to involve a general principle which might or might not have the approval of the House. He had not been able to gather that the Committee were opposed to the provision in this particular Bill; but, as he was informed, the Committee thought it desirable these clauses should not be passed by the Committee without an Instruction from the House to deal with them. Now, he hardly knew how to proceed, for this simple reason—that it seemed to him that for the House to refuse to allow a Private Bill Committee to deal with this question at all, to pronounce it unreasonable legislation, would be such ail extraordinary proceeding, such a violent interference with the principle of local self-government, such a deviation from precedent, that he could hardly conceive the House taking that course, though he could perfectly well understand the desire of the Committee to have the opinion of the House on the matter expressed. Stating the case as briefly as he could, the position was this. In 1880 the Government appointed a very influential Committee to consider the state of Higher Education and Intermediate Education in Wales and Monmouthshire. That Committee was presided over by Lord Aberdare; and, after a lengthened and searching investigation, they recommended the establishment, under Government patronage, and with the sanction of Parliament, of a University College for South Wales, to be situated either in Swansea or Cardiff, as might be hereafter determined. The town of Swansea subscribed a considerable sum of money, and undertook to give a most valuable site as the town's contribution if the University College were erected there. Cardiff subscribed a very much larger sum by voluntary effort, and undertook through its Corporate body to give a site for the erection of buildings for the purposes of the College. The scheme of the Committee met with the approval of Government, Cardiff was selected by the arbitrators, and in October, 1883, the College was founded, Professors were appointed, and it now educated 150 students, and the whole proceeding of the University College was founded on the faith of the Town Council providing their volunteered support. It had happened, however, that the only site that was at the disposal of the Corporation for the University College was found to be less satisfactory in Cardiff than the actual site on which the College work had been commenced, and where it was now proceeding; and the University College authorities were very desirous of having a change made in the form of the town's contribution to the College—of having a sum of money substituted for the piece of land. That was the proposal in the Bill of the Corporation—that they should be allowed to substitute £10,000 from the Corporation Funds in lieu of the land promised. This proposal, in one form and another, had been before the town of Cardiff for two years past; and not only so, but a Bill, the very Bill in question, with the clauses providing for the contribution of £10,000, had been, under the requirements of the Borough Funds Act, submitted to the ratepayers at a public meeting, and approved without opposition. When the Bill came before the Private Bill Committee there was not known to be any opposition whatever. It had happened, however, during the consideration of the Bill by the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot), that some opposition to the clause was raised on the part of Lord Bute, who, as owner of docks and other property, was a large contributor to the rates of the town. Now, he would point out, in regard to this opposition, that in common fairness to the College authorities, the town authorities, to the town itself, and everybody concerned, it should have been raised when the question was referred to the ratepayers in accordance with the Act of Parliament; but on that occasion no voice whatever was raised on behalf of Lord Bute or his agent. This was a strong circumstance, which should operate very much against the present opposition of Lord Bute. And, in the next place, he had his own reasons for believing that this particular clause of the Bill would not have been opposed by Lord Bute if it had not been associated with other powers in the Bill, other town questions which Lord Bute would desire to oppose. Now, he believed the great question which had presented itself to the minds of the Committee, so far as he had been able to gather the facts, was this—whether the grant from the Corporation Funds of a sum of money towards the maintenance of the University College was a legitimate application of those funds; at any rate, he understood the Committee thought it was not an application they should sanction without an expression of opinion by the House. He did not know the minds of the Committee; but he had not heard that, either individually or in the aggregate, they had expressed an opinion against the grant. But he wished to point out that his Motion in no way whatever proposed to override any view the Committee might think proper to take; it simply asked the House to empower the Committee to consider the subject. The terms of the Motion were— That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee on Police and Sanitary Regulations that they have power to insert in the Cardiff Corporation Bill provisions enabling the said Corporation to contribute the sum of Ten thousand pounds to or for the purposes of the 'University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.' That was what the Committee should have the power to insert in the clause if, in the exercise of their discretion, they thought proper to do so. He hardly thought the Committee would refuse to allow the Corporation the liberty of contributing to the University College of South Wales out of the rates of the town when there was no objection on the part of the ratepayers themselves, though there had been ample oppor- tunity of investigation, and the only opposition now raised was in an unexpected, he might almost say an irregular manner, for it ignored the regular and legal process. Should the objection as now urged prevail, he really did not know what was to become of the considerations by which the House had supported the principles of local government. He could hardly imagine a more extraordinary action than for the House to intervene in this case, where a town was asking for itself to contribute from its own local funds. The University College was to receive under the auspices of the Government £4,000 a-year, for assisting the maintenance of the College. Now, £4,000 at 3 per cent capitalized was a large sum—£130,000—and to say that a College that was to receive the equivalent of £130,000 from the general funds of the country was to receive nothing at all from the funds of the town in which it was advisedly located, after the utmost deliberation, and which town wished to contribute a sum of money, would be an extraordinary interference with local self-government. In saying this, he made no complaint of the action of the Committee, and he apprehended no objection from the Committee itself. The House had a natural regard for precedents, and he should just like to mention that there was a precedent — possibly there were more than one—but there was a precedent bearing most materially on this case. In 1874, the town of Nottingham promoted a Private Bill, authorizing it to erect public buildings, museums, &c., and that Bill became an Act. The town of Nottingham erected out of its funds a University College, with other buildings; but doubts arising whether the Act of 1874 covered the erection of that College, the sum of £10,000 was subscribed by the town to meet the cost of the building, about which a doubt existed. But, in 1878, Nottingham came to the House and asked for authority to contribute that £10,000, and to have authority to grant an annual sum out of the rates for the permanent maintenance of the University College at Nottingham. Now, it would seem to him an incredible thing that the House in 1878 should empower the authorities at Nottingham to make an annual grant in perpetuity for the maintenance of their University College, and in 1884 deny to the town of Cardiff the right to contribute a lump sum in lieu of land promised. He would not detain the House at greater length. He would only add that serious consequences might result from the refusal of the Motion. The College was established and in full working order, and if by the intervention of the House the right of the town to make the promised contribution was denied, the whole established machinery of the College would be upset. Though he thought too well of the people of Cardiff to suppose that even under such an extreme state of things the University College of South Wales would not still remain in Cardiff, he thought the House would be slow to inflict such an injury on the College for which such exertions had been made. He hoped in his remarks he had said nothing of which the Chairman of the Committee, or his Colleagues, could complain, and he earnestly hoped the House would not refuse his very simple Motion.


seconded the Motion. The hon. Member, who was indistinctly heard, said, that he had had something to do with the establishment of the College referred to in the Motion of his hon. Friend, and he naturally felt great interest in the proposal which his hon. Friend had made. The Government had appointed a Committee to inquire into the question of Intermediate and Higher Education in Wales. He had the honour of being a Member of that Committee, and among other questions which came before it was that of establishing one or two or more Colleges in Wales. The Committee recommended, among other things, that a College should be established for South Wales, and soon afterwards there arose a keen competition between the towns of Swansea and Cardiff as to the place in which that College should be situated. The question was referred to arbitration—the arbitrators being Lord Carling-ford, Lord Blackburn, and the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Committee of Council for Education. His hon. Friend the Member for Glamorganshire (Sir Hussey Vivian) appeared before the arbitrators as an advocate for Swansea, and made a very powerful and exhaustive statement on behalf of that town. Another gentleman rendered the same service for the town of Cardiff, and the arbitrators ultimately decided that the site of the University College should be at Cardiff; being guided partly, he thought, by the fact that the people of Cardiff, when they heard of the probability of a College being established, at once started a subscription, which amounted, he believed, to the sum of £26,000, for the purposes of the College. The Corporation of Cardiff further agreed to grant a site for the erection of the College. The College had now been established, and it had been singularly successful. As his hon. Friend had stated, it had already 150 day students and upwards of 600 night students; and he understood that the number was continually increasing week by week. Indeed, there was every probability of the College becoming a great success, and a blessing to that part of the Principality. He thought it was very much to the honour of the people of Cardiff that they were prepared to make such great sacrifices for so important an object as the promotion of higher education in Wales, and it would be very much to be deplored and deprecated if that House were now to step in and impose an obstacle in the way, throwing, as it were, a wet blanket upon a work which promised to be so eminently successful. He trusted, therefore, that the House would accept the Resolution of his hon. Friend, which was in itself a very moderate one, being simply to enable the Corporation of Cardiff to contribute a sum of £10,000 towards the purposes of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, in lieu of the site they originally promised.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee on Police and Sanitary Regulations that they have power to insert in the Cardiff Corporation Bill provisions enabling the said Corporation to contribute the sum of Ten thousand pounds to or for the purposes of the 'University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire.' "—(Sir Edward J. Reed.)


said, that it fell to his lot, as Chairman of the Committee to whom this Bill had been referred, to ask the judgment of the House upon the Motion now made. In the first place, in order to remove any misconception which might prevail in the mind of any person as to the matter, he wished to assure the hon. Member who had made the Motion that the Committee had not the slightest feeling about Lord Bute and his opposition, and he did not appear there in the least degree as the spokesman of any opponent of the Bill. All he asked was that the House should take the matter into consideration upon its real merits and as a matter of public policy. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), who moved the Resolution, had spoken in most moderate terms, and had rightly said that the Committee desired that the House should determine if this was a provision which they ought to consider with a view of inserting it in the Bill. The hon. Member was perfectly right in that statement, and, speaking on behalf of his Colleagues and of himself, he might say that they all thought that the matter was so grave in its bearings that it ought not to be decided solely by a Committee sitting upstairs. He might further say, at the outset, for the information of hon. Gentlemen who did not know anything of the working of this particular Committee, that it had had a good deal of hard work to do, and it seemed likely to have a good deal more in the future. The Committee was appointed in pursuance of Standing Order 173A. He would not read the Order, but he gave the number of it in order that hon. Members who desired might refer to it. The object of that Standing Order was this. It had been found that in many Private Bills enactments were proposed which very largely extended the scope of the general law. It was thought desirable to put a check upon that system, in order that the House might have an opportunity, through a Committee appointed for the special purpose, of saying how far the general law should be departed from. The Committee had had a good deal of work to do. They found that a number of Corporation Bills were being constantly introduced—the number was far larger than might be supposed—enacting all kinds of burdens, which were proposed to be laid upon the ratepayers—not only pecuniary burdens, but burdens affecting almost the daily life of the population of the great towns. In point of fact, attempts were made by means of these Private Bills to introduce into large towns provisions which he ventured to say were never contemplated, and which had never been proposed, by any Public Bill in that House. Whenever changes of this kind were made, they ought to be made in the face of day, and Parliament ought to have a full opportunity of expressing itself upon such questions, and of determining, with full consideration, the alterations which should be made in the law. But, as hon. Members well knew, many things were done in Private Bill Legislation which he was bound to say were done in a very slip-shod way. For instance, some Bills were unopposed, and might contain alterations of the kind referred to, which might have passed unopposed, unless the vigilance of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees, or of some of the officers of the House, had detected in them provisions that were largely beyond the powers conferred by the ordinary law of Parliament. And thus Parliament, without knowing anything of these provisions, which, in some cases, were inserted almost behind the back of Parliament, would find most important powers enacted which had never been really discussed before they became law. He had said so much because he thought it was desirable that hon. Members who did not know very much about the working of this Committee on Police and Sanitary Regulations should understand the principle upon which the Business before them was conducted. He now came to the particular question involved in the present Bill, and he contended, in the first place, that it was a matter upon which the Committee ought to have the instruction and judgment of the House. Personally, without speaking on behalf of his Colleagues on the Committee—for he wished to guard himself carefully against doing that, although he knew that some Members of the Committee shared his opinion—he thought that this was a most improper and objectionable proposition, and he should, therefore, feel it his duty to oppose the Motion. He did so on this ground. He had nothing to say against the University College of South Wales. It might be a good institution, but he had no local knowledge with regard to it. It might be doing good work. They had been told that day that it was an institution of very great value, and that it had already begun its work; but he ventured to assert that it was not an institution which ought to be supported out of the local rates. If it was an institution doing good educational work it had a fair claim to come to that House and to the Government of the day—the responsible Advisers of the Crown—for a grant out of the public funds. It would be perfectly justified in making such an application, and let it take its place with the Scotch Universities, the London University, and other similar institutions; but to impose upon the ratepayers an additional charge to those great and excessive burdens almost daily increasing which they now had to bear, was not what he hoped this House would sanction. It was the duty of the House to remember who the ratepayers of the town of Cardiff were. They were not all of them wealthy people, interested in higher education, but many of them were people struggling on the very verge of pauperism—persons upon whom the burden of local rates was already pressing with the utmost severity. The subject of local taxation was one which had been a matter of much controversy in. the House of Commons. It was a subject on which the Government, strong as it was, had not been able to command a majority in that House. Indeed, the feeling was so strong upon the question of the constant increase of local rates that the Government had already this Session been placed in a minority upon it. If that were so, surely they ought to watch with great jealousy any proposition that might have a tendency to increase local burdens, and he contended that the higher education of the people was not one of those objects for which provision ought to be made out of the local rates. Besides, the question of higher education, there was a further supplementary question involved—namely, whether the particular University College proposed to be established was conducted on principles that would commend themselves to all the community of Cardiff. If not, he would ask the House to observe what was virtually being done by accepting a proposition of this kind. They were saddling, by a mere vote of a majority of the ratepayers, upon the minority of the ratepayers an institution of which they might disapprove. If this was to be done in one way in one case it might be done in another way equally in another case, and in matters of education, where conscientious differences of opinion existed, it would be unwise for Parliament to sanction the imposition of such burdens upon the ratepayers. He saw opposite the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and he hoped the House would have his opinion upon the matter before the debate closed. The right hon. Gentleman was the Minister charged with the representation of the ratepayers, and was supposed to watch over their interests in order to see that no undue burdens were imposed upon them. He would, therefore, be glad to hear, before the debate closed, whether the right hon. Gentleman thought that a burden of this kind was one that ought to be fairly thrown upon their shoulders. But, whatever the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman might be, he, for his part, contended that this was not a proper purpose to which the rates of the Corporation of Cardiff ought to be applied. If the House chose to give the Committee the Instruction moved by the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed), and which, no doubt, was couched in moderate terms, it would be the duty of the Committee to do their best to carry out the wishes of the House, and to take the matter into their serious consideration, although, personally, he should much prefer that the matter should be kept as it was, and that the Corporation Bill should proceed without this power being inserted in it. It was said that a precedent had been established in the case of the Nottingham Corporation. That there might have been a precedent established in that case he did not deny; but if there was only one precedent, it was obvious that the matter could not have frequently commended itself to the judgment of Municipal bodies. If there was only one precedent for a provision of this kind, he thought he might say that it was almost an exceptional proposition. He might further say that the very fact of the Nottingham Corporation having obtained this power from Parliament was an illustration in substantiation of his first remark—that it had been obtained with very little discussion in Parliament, and that, in point of fact, it was one of those things which had slipped through Parliament without being observed, and in the way he had referred to, without real discussion. He knew that Private Business was not attractive to hon. Members, and that it was never discussed at great length; but it must be borne in mind that this was a question of more than ordinary importance, and he did not think there was any subject to which the attention of Parliament ought to be more carefully given than to questions which involved an increase of the local burdens of the ratepayers. Whatever the judgment of the House might be, he trusted that local bodies would in future be more jealous as to the manner in which they imposed burdens upon the rates. He was much obliged for the indulgence of the House, and he felt bound to oppose the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cardiff.


said, he proposed to detain the House with only a very few remarks upon this very important question. He believed that the Committee which had been appointed to deal with questions relating to Police and Sanitary Regulations had had before them a good many precedents of the very worst kind, and it was owing to the existence of those precedents that the Committee themselves had been appointed, in order to prevent in future such precedents from becoming part of the general law of the land. His hon. Friend who had just sat down asked them to pause before they embarked in what appeared to be an extremely perilous course—namely, that of allowing the endowment of University Colleges by empowering a Municipal Corporation to impose burdens upon the ratepayers. He agreed with his hon. Friend that if they sanctioned such a proposition they would be embarking upon a highly dangerous course. He must confess that he had heard with considerable surprise the remarks of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) in support of the proposal. He had always been of opinion that his hon. Friend was personally opposed to religious endowments, and this was either a religious endowment or it was not. [Mr. RICHARD: It is not.] In that case it was open to the objection which was taken to the Queen's Colleges in Ireland. It was said that Lord Bute's Petition was the only Petition against the Bill. He did not speak on behalf of Lord Bute. He had had no communication with that noble Lord, and he knew nothing about him, except that he was a Roman Catholic Nobleman, who had a large interest in Cardiff, and that in his Petition he had put the matter very fairly. Lord Bute pointed out that the Corporation of Cardiff ought not to be allowed to impose an obligation on the owners of property in the borough of Cardiff, who were sufficiently burdened with rates already. He further pointed out that they had already very largely contributed towards the establishment of the proposed College, and that he himself had subscribed the sum of £10,000. He added that the work ought to be carried on either by private subscription or by a Government grant, and that Parliament ought not to give power to the Corporation of Cardiff to levy additional taxes upon the ratepayers in aid of the College. The noble Lord further alleged that he himself was one of the largest ratepayers in the borough of Cardiff. He (Mr. West) had no wish to enlarge upon the danger of permitting this grant to be made out of local funds, and it was only because the Institution itself had the sympathy of the Members of that House that such a proposition had been made. If it had been made in respect of some other institution, such as a theatre or a racecourse, however much the ratepayers generally might desire to have it, there would be no sympathy with it in the House and it would not be acceded to. In the case of a theatre, no doubt the interests of a large number of persons might be served by establishing one; but would any great public service be rendered by a granting of the money of the ratepayers towards such an object? There was only one other observation he desired to make, and it was this. If the House of Commons agreed to embark in this dangerous course, they would run the risk, not only in Cardiff, but in other places, of inducing people to refrain from subscribing privately towards educational purposes, because they would consider that the contributions ought to come out of the rates. Even in this case, Lord Bute, who was a large subscriber to the school, said that he would not have given the contribution he had made if he had known that the money of the ratepayers was to be devoted to the same object.


said, he was bound to say that he had never been more astonished than when he found that an opposition had been raised to this grant being made by the Corporation of Cardiff to the University College of South Wales. It seemed to him that the Committee had been appointed to prevent jobs from being perpetrated on the part of Corporate bodies; but it would appear that in addition to that duty they were endeavouring to exercise a kind of paternal influence in guiding those who were elected by the ratepayers of the borough of Cardiff as to the way in which they were to manage their own affairs. In point of fact, the Committee were endeavouring to intervene between the ratepayers of Cardiff and that which was undoubtedly regarded on all hands as a most important and valuable Institution. The ratepayers were almost entirely unanimous upon the subject—indeed, he thought he would be justified in saying that they were altogether unanimous. [Mr. WEST: Quite unanimous.] His hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, who was on the Committee, confirmed him in saying that they were quite unanimous. Then, why should this paternal Committee step in and say—"No, Gentlemen; you do not know anything about your own affairs. You shall not grant this money towards the University College of South Wales. We all know you will be immensely benefited by the establishment of this College, and that you all desire it above all other things. You have already pledged yourselves to support it, and by that pledge you have been allowed to locate this College in your midst. We know that it is going to be of the utmost value to you; but we are a paternal Committee, and we therefore step in and say that you shall not grant this sum of £10,000 out of the rates towards it?" Surely that was an extraordinary position to take up. The Representatives of a great borough like Cardiff were surely the best judges of what it was right for them to do. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. West) said that education was not a proper subject for the application of the rates, and he likened this University College to a theatre or a race-course. He could scarcely understand what his hon. Friend was thinking about. At this time of day, when the country was granting such enormous sums of money for the support of education, were they to put educational grants on the same footing as grants for theatres and race-courses? He confessed that he was lost in wonder and astonishment. Then, again, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot) was about the last man he should have expected to come forward in opposition to a grant for educational purposes. He (Sir Hussey Vivian) entertained the hope that the establishment of this College would have the effect of inducing a large number of Welshmen to find their way into the University of Oxford hereafter, and yet one of the Members for that University came forward to say that institutions of this nature ought not, in any way, to be suppported out of local rates. It certainly seemed to him to be a contradiction in terms, and he would venture to appeal to his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Committee of Council on Education, and to ask him whether, when this question was decided by those to whom it was submitted, of whom his right hon. Friend was one, this grant of £10,000 by the Town Council of Cardiff did not exercise very considerable weight upon the judgment of those by whom the decision was arrived at? In regard to the site of the new College, there was a considerable amount of contention between the towns of Swansea and Cardiff. The Corporation of Cardiff said—"If you will give us the estimable blessing of having this institution in our midst we we will contribute £10,000 towards it;" and he had no doubt that that fact did have considerable weight upon the minds of the arbitrators. The town of Swansea came forward very much in the same way, and said—"We will give you a very fine site for the College, which we consider to be worth very nearly as much." Were the Corporation of Cardiff to be told now, at the last moment, that they were not the best judges of the way in which their own funds ought to be expended, and that it was contrary to public policy for the money of the ratepayers to be applied to educational purposes? He hoped his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward T. Reed) would take the sense of the House upon the Motion. He could not for one moment believe that the House would refuse to assent to it, and that the Town Council of Cardiff would not be permitted to devote this comparatively small sum of £10,000 towards assisting the great educational work which had been commenced in their midst.


said, he would only detain the House for a few moments. He thought the Resolution which had been submitted raised a very important question. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had let the cat out of the bag. It now appeared that the towns of Cardiff and Swansea had competed against each other, and the Corporation of Cardiff obtained the preference because it promised to pay in aid of the College a sum of £10,000 out of the rates contributed by the ratepayers of the borough, provided that the Institution were established at Cardiff instead of Swansea. He would ask the House to remember what it was they were now called upon to do. They were asked to interfere with and override the decision of a Committee which had been expressly appointed to take note of such exceptional and extraordinary proposals as those inserted in the present Bill.


said, he was sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. The Committee had not refused to give effect to the proposal contained in the Bill, but simply asked to have the decision of the House upon it.


said, the explanation of the hon. Member was not strictly correct. A clause originally appeared in the Bill sanctioning the expenditure of this sum of money, and it had been struck out by the Committee.


said, it appeared that his information was perfectly correct, and that this was an appeal to the House to interfere with and override, by an Instruction to the Committee as to what their duty was, a decision at which they had already arrived. The House must remember that very large and exceptional powers had been deliberately placed in the hands of this Committee. He was himself Chairman of the Committee two years ago, and he knew, therefore, how arduous and responsible the duties were which were imposed upon that Committee. He thought that in the exercise of their responsibility the Committee were perfectly justified in striking out this particular clause, and his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. J. G. Talbot) might fairly complain of this attempt on the part of hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies in that House to interfere with the pro- gress of a Private Bill and with the conduct of the Committee in regard to it. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) said that this would not be an interference on the part of the House with the business of the Committee, but that it was merely an Instruction which would permit the Committee to do a certain thing. Now, the House knew very well what an Instruction to a Committee meant. If the House passed this Instruction, it would be tantamount to a direction to the Committee that the purpose for which the Instruction was passed should be carried out. It must be borne in mind that the Committee in question was not an ordinary Private Bill Committee of the House. On the contrary, it was a Hybrid Committee, which had been placed in charge of the general interests of the public, and of the House, and of the ratepayers of the whole of the United Kingdom. He was certain, therefore, that if the House sanctioned this Instruction, they would inflict a heavy blow against the interests of the ratepayers generally, and that it would be almost impossible for any amount of labour on the part of the Committee itself to recover the effect of that blow. It was said that the contribution of this sum of money towards the University College would be of great advantage to the town of Cardiff itself. He dared say that that would be so; but there might be a good many other things that would also be of advantage to the town of Cardiff—improved railway communication, for instance. Only last year a very important railway proposal was brought before a Private Bill Committee, and if the Committee had been armed with the excessive powers which the Instruction of the hon. Member for Cardiff was intended to give they might have authorized three important towns to carry out an undertaking, which they were quite prepared to carry out, by contributing a sum of £70,000 out of the rates, for the purpose of assisting in the establishment of improved railway communication. The towns in question were situated at some distance from each other, and an improved railway communication would, no doubt, be of advantage to each; but the Committee thought it their duty to strike out of the Bill those clauses which would have enabled that undertaking to be completed, and he thought they were perfectly right in doing so. In the case of the town of Halifax, also, another Committee refused to allow a contribution to be made in this way out of the rates of the borough. Allusion had been made to the Nottingham Bill. His own opinion was that the Nottingham Bill was one of the most flagrant instances of an abuse of Private Bill Legislation ever assented to by the House of Commons. It was a Bill which held over for an excessive number of years the repayment of a loan until it amounted to something like a perpetual annuity charged upon the rates of the town. In the present case, the Town Council of Cardiff were asked to obtain an advantage for themselves by mortgaging the rates of the town. He could hardly conceive a more improper proposal. The ratepayers of Cardiff were not more interested in this College than the whole of the ratepayers of South Wales. It was merely a struggle to get the College established in Cardiff instead of somewhere else. Town Councils and Corporations were not supposed to be possessed of infinite wisdom, and they were not always entrusted by the Legislature with the right of scattering broadcast the money contributed by the ratepayers. If they were now to introduce a new system, where was it to end? What was to become of the Borough Funds Act which now stood between the public and Corporate bodies in order to prevent excessive demands from being made upon the rates in aid of extraordinary projects which might be promoted by particular individuals? He trusted that the House would not permit this Instruction to be passed, but that it would firmly set its foot down upon every proposal of such a character.


said, he would not occupy the attention of the House for more than two or three minutes; but he wished to state what the question really was. It was a question of establishing in a condition of efficiency a University College in South Wales. As far as local feeling was concerned, the whole of Wales was of one mind. All of the Welsh Members on both sides of the House were in favour not only of the College, but of the present Bill, He had been surprised to hear the observation which had been made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. West), although he had been quite prepared for the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who was Chairman of the Committee whose decision was the subject of the present Motion, because he remembered very distinctly that that hon. Gentleman had been from the first a most consistent opponent of the scheme for establishing Colleges in Wales.


asked if the hon. and learned Member referred to him?


said, that he did.


said, he was bound to say that the remarks of the hon. and learned Member were entirely inaccurate.


said, he was very glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman had withdrawn his opposition to the scheme. His recollection went back to the year 1879, and to the debate which took place in that House in reference to the establishment of Colleges in Wales on that occasion. He mentioned that circumstance in justification of the observations he had made. He was glad, however, to hear that the hon. Gentleman was no longer an opponent of this College. The hon. Gentleman said that they were establishing a dangerous precedent. Now, it was a precedent that was very unlikely to occur frequently, because it was a very unusual thing for a College of this nature to be established at all, and he believed there was no danger that many other towns would be called upon to follow the precedent. Not only were the ratepayers of Cardiff in favour of the present Bill, but it was universally supported by the Welsh people—at all events, in that part of the Principality; and he trusted that the House would give the Committee another opportunity of considering the question.


wished to say a word, because he thought that the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Beaumaris (Mr. Morgan Lloyd) were altogether beside the question. He (Sir Gabriel Goldney) was in favour of the College, and if he were a landowner in the locality he would be very glad to subscribe to it; but the question was whether it was a proper object for a contribution from the rates. The expenditure of the rates of a town was regulated by the Municipal Corporations Act and the Borough Funds Act, or the Provision for Health of Towns Act; and it was clearly provided by those Acts what objects were to be furthered by the application of the rates of the inhabitants. The Committee to whom it was proposed to give this Instruction were specially appointed in order to prevent any clause being inserted in a Private Bill that would override the general law, unless there were some special reasons for doing so, and, in the event of such special reasons existing, that they should then report them to the House. He thought it was quite clear that the borough rates should not be applied to the endowment of Colleges. In the case of public baths, wash-houses, public libraries, and so forth, a general law had been passed enabling the expenditure to be paid out of the rates; but in regard to the endowment of Colleges no such general law had been passed, and the present proposal amounted to an infringement of the general law. The hon. and learned Member said it was very hard that the Corporation of Cardiff should not be allowed to do as they liked; but the Municipal Corporations Act was passed specially in order to prevent them from expending the money of the ratepayers as they liked. He had no doubt that the Corporation were unanimous as far as they could be, and probably a good many of the people of the town were consenting parties; but the population of Cardiff now amounted to 120,000, and he should like to know how many of the inhabitants were present at the meeting which sanctioned the present application? He was informed that the number present did not exceed 4,000, so that it was quite impossible to say that the meeting represented the feeling of the ratepayers of Cardiff. The House must bear in mind, before they consented to give this Instruction to the Committee, that the Committee itself had been appointed under a special Standing Order to guard jealously all expenditure out of the rates in aid of projects that were in excess of the general law. This was, practically, a test case; and if this precedent were now established, he was afraid they would find something of the same kind in every future Bill that might be introduced by a public Corporation. The hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) had mentioned the precedent of the Nottingham Bill, and if the House consented to legislate exceptionally for particular localities, they would find increased demands made upon them year by year by different Corporations. Other towns, jealous of the privileges conceded to Cardiff, would endeavour to do something of the same kind for themselves. He, therefore, thought this was a matter which ought to be carefully and jealously watched by the House; and he trusted the present Instruction would not be adopted. Of course, if the House said that it ought to be adopted, the Committee would do it; but, without a special Instruction from the House, the Committee had no power to do it.


said, he was unable to accept the statement of the hon. Baronet who had just sat down—that the general law, as at present framed, prevented the application of the money of the ratepayers in this matter. He could only say that the Conservative Corporation of Liverpool had recently given more than double the amount the Corporation proposed to give for purposes that were somewhat similar. No objection had been raised to their action, and he did not see why what the Corporation of Liverpool did the Corporation of Cardiff should not be able to do. He was quite sure that both the Corporation of Liverpool and the Corporation of Cardiff were doing a good stroke of business for the ratepayers.


said, that he was a Member of the Committee, and he desired to express an opinion upon the very important principle involved in the Motion. As a Member of the Committee, he was prepared cheerfully to carry out any order that might be given by the House; but, as far as his own private opinion went, he felt that it would be a mistake to pass this Instruction, and for this reason—that it would raise the whole question of local taxation. Although the ratepayers were ready to provide elementary education, and they were bound to do so, they nevertheless very much objected—and he thought justly objected—to be called upon to provide higher education. There was another point which deserved mention. Anyone who looked into the question would be astonished to see the extraordinary amount of indebtedness of the Local Authorities which had grown up within the last generation. Nowadays the towns were vieing with each other in the grandeur of their new streets, in the magnificence of their Town Halls and their school boards, public buildings, and other improvements. It was now proposed that the ratepayers should provide funds for establishing Universities. He thought it was necessary to impose some limit upon this kind of expenditure; and, although the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) said that the town of Cardiff had decided upon spending this money, he would ask what was the use of coming to Parliament for any money at all if such questions were to be decided locally? Another point was that hereafter the ratepayers might be called upon—he did not say more in regard to Cardiff than any other place—to provide for religious education, which would certainly give rise to a considerable amount of bickering and difficulty.


said, he had not been aware when he come down to the House that this question was about to be brought before it, and until he heard himself appealed to by his hon. Friend the Member for Glamorganshire (Sir Hussey Vivian) he had not intended to take part in the debate. What he knew of the matter was that when Lord Carlingford, Lord Blackburn, and himself were appointed arbitrators to decide whether the site for the new College should he fixed in Cardiff or Swansea, both of those towns offered a site worth £10,000, and the decision of the arbitrators was in favour of Cardiff. Ultimately, the South Wales University College was established on the site of the old Infirmary, which was preferred to the site offered by the Corporation of Cardiff; and then the Corporation, in order to keep their engagement with South Wales, Swansea, and the University College, came to the House of Commons and asked to be allowed to rate themselves to the extent of £10,000, the value of the site. Those he believed to be the facts of the case. At any rate, they were the facts which came before him. He might say further that no new precedent was proposed to be established. It was quite true that the Borough Funds Act was in existence; but the Borough Funds Act simply provided that expenditure of this kind should not be undertaken without the consent of the ratepayers. It did not matter whether the whole of the 120,000 inhabitants of the borough were present at the meeting, or only 4,000 or 400. One man alone could raise an objection; and, as a matter of fact, he believed that at the public meeting convened on this question some of the clauses of the Bill were modified, after which the Bill passed without further opposition. Liverpool had recently voted £20,000 for a University College, and the town of Nottingham came to the House of Commons in the last Parliament and obtained powers, in a very extensive Local Government Bill, for establishing a Free Library, an Art Museum, and a University College. Further than that, he believed that Birmingham was at that moment building an Art Gallery and furnishing it under its powers of rating.


Yes; with unlimited powers.


said, that several other towns were following a similar course and doing the same thing. The town of Cardiff was bound to enjoy very great advantages under this scheme. Already there were a large number of day students who came from a distance, and in addition there were about 700 night students, who were receiving some technical education under this scheme. These were no small advantages for a town like Cardiff, and it was a matter of the highest importance that these facilities should be afforded. If hon. Members would turn to the Report of the Commissioners on Technical Education they would see how strongly they recommended that Corporations should exercise their powers of rating for the encouragement of education of this kind. Already some of the chief towns in England were exercising the right of spending their own funds for educational purposes; and as the Corporation of Cardiff, supported by the population whom they represented, wished to expend their own funds for such purposes, he thought the House would do well not to stand in the way by overriding the desire of the locality.


said, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council for Education as well as the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone) had pointed out that Liverpool and other towns were already exercising their right to expend the funds of the ratepayers in this manner. If that were so, those hon. Members had given the strongest possible reason against the introduction of this clause into the Cardiff Bill. The real fact of the matter, however, was that the question came before the House because the Corporation of Cardiff know perfectly well that they had no power to expend this money without the assent of Parliament. The question submitted to the House appeared to him to be a most serious and important one—namely, whether the policy which had prevailed of late years as to what was to be done with rates raised by a compulsory process, as defined by Act of Parliament, was to be departed from when there happened to be a chance majority for the time being? The fact that a Museum and Free Libraries had been established in Nottingham did not affect the particular question now before the House, because in the case of Nottingham the expenditure was not incurred until after legislation had taken place in regard to it.


wished to point out that all he had said was, that an Art Gallery Museum, a Free Library, and a University College had been established under the rating powers of the Corporation.


said, he had understood the right hon. Gentleman to speak much more generally. As, however, the right hon. Gentleman had explained the matter, it did not appear to be the very best precedent to follow. Everyone who knew anything about the history of Municipal Corporations and the legislation which had been applied to them of late years, knew that one of the principal objections to the exercise of the powers of such Corporations was that from time to time they got money from the ratepayers and applied it to purposes that were beyond the objects for which local self-government had been conferred upon Corporate Bodies. It had, therefore, been thought right to impose certain restrictions upon the powers of Municipal Corporations, and Parliament had deliberately enacted restrictions. The question was, whether in a Corporation Bill, the principal object of which was to im- prove the supply of water, powers ought to be introduced to enable the Corporation of Cardiff to redeem a promise which it was admitted they had no right to make? The Corporation of Cardiff had no right whatever to promise a contribution of £10,000 out of the rates of the borough towards the establishment of a University College.

An hon. MEMBER

What was promised was a site.


said, that was quite true; but when the site the Corporation offered to give was not selected, they promised a contribution in money of £10,000, and they had distinctly no right to make any promise of the kind. The College declined to move out of their present quarters in order to occupy the site selected by the Corporation, and therefore the Corporation asked Parliament to sanction their contribution of this sum of money. No doubt there were many people in Cardiff who would have lodging-houses to let, and who could easily raise an agitation upon a question of this nature; but the point was, whether Parliament should not interpose its authority in order to prevent the ratepayers from being offered up as a sacrifice in such interesting transactions as those which the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed) and the hon. Member for Glamorganshire (Sir Hussey Vivian) had described? There had been a race between the two towns of Cardiff and Swansea, and now that Cardiff had won the ratepayers of Cardiff were called upon to bear the expense. He sincerely hoped that the House would refuse to pass the Instruction.


said, that as Monmouthshire had been referred to in the course of the debate, he rose for the purpose of cordially supporting the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward J. Reed). He thought that the question was purely one for the ratepayers. He understood from hon. Member's opposite that all they desired was to protect the ratepayers. His own impression was that the ratepayers were fully competent to protect their own interests; and if hon. Members opposite would devote their time to the consideration of larger and more Imperial interests, it would be more for the advantage of the ratepayers generally. When the University College was fully established at Cardiff, it would necessarily attract a large number of people who would have to live in the town, and thus the town would be materially benefited. In addition, the sons and daughters of the poorer ratepayers would be able to obtain the educational advantages offered by the new College at a cheap rate, and others would be prevented from expending considerable sums of money in obtaining higher education elsewhere. Therefore he trusted that the House would support the proposal of the hon. Member for Cardiff. Something had been said to the effect that the Marquess of Bute would not have subscribed so large a sum if he had known that the Corporation of Cardiff intended to contribute anything towards the establishment of the new College. It was a well-known fact that the Corporation promised to give a site long before the Marquess of Bute sent in his subscription; therefore that argument fell to the ground. Reference had been made to the Borough Funds Act. That Act was passed in order to prevent Municipal Corporations from spending the money of the ratepayers improperly. In this instance, there was not a single ratepayer in Cardiff, with the exception, perhaps, of the Marquess of Bute, who was opposed to this contribution; and he thought the House might well allow the people of the town to be the best judges of what would be advantageous for themselves.


said, that in the course of the remarks of the hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Talbot) he (Sir Edward J. Reed) had made a correction, and he wished to say that he had made it in perfectly good faith. He had been assured that when the Committee presided over by the hon. Gentleman took action with regard to the clause contained in the Bill of the Corporation of Cardiff, it was quite understood that the matter should be left open for the consideration of the House itself, and that the Committee would be guided by the decision come to by the House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 185; Noes 141: Majority 44.— (Div. List, No. 108.)