HC Deb 28 March 1884 vol 286 cc1023-105

, in rising to call the attention of the House to the subject of Local Taxation; and to move— That this House, while ready to entertain any necessary reforms in local administration, deprecates the postponement of further measures of relief acknowledged to be due to ratepayers in counties and boroughs in respect of local charges imposed on them for National services, said, he should have been perfectly ready to waive his right to bring forward this Motion if Her Majesty's Government had proposed the adjournment in consequence of the melancholy intelligence they had received. But as they had not done so, and as there had been no precedent for such a proceeding, he would now proceed with the Motion of which he had given Notice; and he trusted he should be able to remove the common idea that the Imperial and local Revenue concerned different classes of people. The local and Imperial Revenues made up one enormous fund, out of which all local and Imperial obligations had to be discharged. Thus, if one was spared the other had to be more heavily burdened. The question then arose, which of the two applicants had the stronger claim upon that House? The total local and Imperial Revenue was £146,000,000—the Imperial Revenue amounting to £89,000,000 and the local to £57,000,000. Before he went further, he desired to say that since the question which he was bringing forward was first introduced there had been considerable progress in the opinion both of the House and of the country. It was, therefore, unnecessary for him to repeat the old arguments which he had urged upon the House 14 or 15 years ago. The inequality of which he complained of the incidence of the two forms of taxation was admitted by all in that House, from the Prime Minister to the humblest Member. Nor was an inquiry into the subject any longer necessary. The right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), whom he regretted not to see in his place, had many years ago furnished a most valuable Report, which was almost a text book on the subject. Since then the question had been illustrated by the inquiries of Committees, statistical Returns, and the independent examinations of private Members. In particular, great service has been rendered to the country by the exertions of a number of Members from both sides of the House, who had constituted themselves into a sort of Committee of vigilance, and who had had the good fortune to be served and advised by a gentleman. Major Craigie, whose name was well known in that House and throughout the country. A large body of statistical information had been collected, although it was not so complete as he could desire. As he saw the President of the Local Government Board in his place, he wished to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a want of diligence—he might almost say a want of respect—on the part of the Local Government Board, with regard to one little matter. And it was not the first time that such a thing had happened. More; than a rear ago he moved for a short abstract setting forth the different items of local expenditure and the sources from which money was raised to meet that expenditure. That Return—now an annual one—was ordered on the 14th or 15th of February, 1883; but it had not yet been printed, and so would be out of date. The right hon. Gentleman had a staff of experts—paid and able: officials — who could give, in a short and concise way, a summary of facts and figures which it would be a work of immense difficulty for an independent Member to obtain for himself, and almost impossible to obtain with complete accuracy. On the £89,000,000 of Imperial Revenue, the principal items of charge were £16,000,000 for the Army, £10,000,000 for the Navy, £10,000,000 for the Civil Service—in which, strangely enough, the Irish police was included—£29,000,000 for the National Debt, and £6,000,000 for the Post Office, which, of course, was a remunerative Department. £1,500,000 went under the head of Civil List, Pensions, and Courts of Justice, £7,000,000 wont to exceptional charges, like Egypt and India, and £7,000,000 were appropriated to a kind of partnership concern, between local authorities and the central authority in London. Thus already Imperial and local expenditure were interlaced and irrevocably mixed up. There was, then, no pretence for saying that relief to local taxation could not be given until a grand scheme was carried into effect of Local Government Reform. Such a plea was a mere subterfuge. Of the £57,000,000 of local revenue, the rates contributed £28,000.000, or nearly half; and of the other half no loss than £17,000,000 went to what were strictly national as opposed to local purposes—purposes which were inseparable from civilization and the attainment of social comfort—all the provisions, for instance, on which depended the security of life and property. These were strictly national, and should not be charged on local funds. First among these came the relief of destitution, which absorbed £8,000,000. Some bad said that the English Poor Law was a bulwark against revolution. He thought, rather, that it operated as a discouragement to industry and thrift. Then there was the education rate, amounting to £2,000,000, by means of which, according to the Vice President of the Council, the police were to be rendered superfluous and society was to be regenerated. But since a complete system of elementary education had been introduced, it had not been found that the number of the police force in the country had been reduced. He was, of course, speaking in round numbers; but if any hon. Member wished to enter into details, he should be happy to see him to-morrow and discuss them with him. The balance of the £28,000,000 was made up by the expenditure of the county, highway, and sanitary authorities. The £7,000,000 which was contributed by the Imperial Exchequer, and was spent by the local authorities, was a sort of hybrid expenditure, under dual government, which made itself felt from Whitehall to every village and town. It was made up by contributions from the State of £4,000,000 for education, £1,425,000 in respect of the police—this was in Great Britain alone—£367,000 in respect of reformatories, £600,000 for pauper lunatics, £250,000 contributions to the highway rates, which was won by the exertions of the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Harcourt), £250,000 for Miscellaneous Grants in Aid, under the supervision of the Local Government Board, £17,000 which went to the Irish, hospitals, and £7,000 which was paid in respect of certain Courts in the Metropolis. In most cases the ratepayers made a larger contribution than the State to the sum expended under dual control. Now, one thing which made it more easy to assail the ratepayer than the taxpayer was that the latter was represented on the Ministerial Benches by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whoso policy must be one of economy, and whose duty it was to see that public money was not wasted or misused. On the other hand, the bias, of the Local Government Board was towards expenditure upon old objects or upon new ones. One reason for this was that: in Whitehall there was a host of eager, hungry, and not always the most able professional men, representing doctors and engineers, who received public money, who could not receive it for doing nothing, and whoso existence depended on indicating how they could be employed. Some engineers had rendered great services; but he could not say quite as much for the doctors. There was nobody except the weak, trembling local authority to put a check upon the extravagant proposals of the Local Government Board in London; and, therefore, there was an opening for wasteful expenditure which was not permitted in the expenditure of the taxes. Every farthing of the taxes must be voted in Committee of the Whole House. When any humble private Member like himself got the opportunity of calling attention to the case of the ratepayers in the still hours of the night, he might say, without making this a Party question, that he had been met by a Conservative Government with sympathy, with desire to relieve the ratepayers, and by the actual granting of a subvention; but he had been invariably met by a Liberal Government with subterfuge; and any concessions which had been made were given grudgingly. When the hon. Member for Oxfordshire had forced the Government to grant £250,000, the Chancellor of the Exchequer offered to provide the relief in the most odious way by the increase of the tax on carriages, a proposal which ultimately had to be withdrawn. When a Commission was asked for in 1869, the Prime Minister said that he would be the Commission. The demand for inquiry of the hon. Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) was met in 1871 by the Previous Question, and in 1872 by the proposal to divide rates between owners and occupiers, which was transparently a subterfuge. Last year, when he brought forward a Motion for immediate relief, he was met by an Amendment from the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey) declaring that it was expedient to postpone the giving of relief until the whole question of local taxation and local government was brought under the notice of the House. The Liberal Party crept out of the difficulty with a fair majority of 12; but the effect of that small majority was marvellous. It produced qualms, hesitation, and remorse, on the part of some Members who had voted against the Motion, and soon afterwards there was presented to the Prime Minister an extraordinary Memorial, to which he would hereafter refer. Although it had been admitted in the debate that relief ought to be given, the Government attempted, in the Army Regulation Bill, to impose upon ratepayers in counties the whole charge for Militia storehouses and barracks. He should have thought that they would have postponed that until the Local Government Bill was brought forward. Later on, in 1882, a Bill was introduced with reference to the expenses of elections. That was a matter which might well have been considered in a re-arrangement of county business; but the Government, instead of waiting until their Local Government proposals were prepared, supported a proposition for the purpose of placing the whole cost of the official expenses of Parliamentary elections upon the ratepayers. How could the noble Lord (Viscount Lymington), who had an Amendment ou the Paper, in the face of that proposal, say that he desired to see the ratepayers relieved of their burdens? As a substitute for effective relief, an extraordinary Memorial was, as he said, last year presented to the Government upon this subject by 31 hon. Gentlemen. He would illustrate the position of those Memorialists in this way—Suppose that a man in passing down a street was pinned to the ground by a falling bale of goods, and that other persons—the hon. Members for South Northumberland, or Great Grimsby, or South Norfolk, or Barnstaple, for instance—instead of hastening to render the miserable man assistance, proceeded to deliver a lecture on the Law of Gravitation—[Laughter] —and to point out the impossibility of giving any relief until some great scheme for packing bales on vans had been settled by the authorities of the town. [Laughter.] This was not a laughing matter. The question would not be laughed out of the House, and hon. Gentlemen would hear of it at the next Election. To carry his illustration further, he would suppose that the next morning the spectators of the cruelty, perhaps in consequence of the sounds of popular discontent, carried on the farce by signing a Memorial to the Mayor expressing their sympathy with the groaning wretch, but advising the Mayor to leave the man where he was until his worship had been instructed on the Laws of Gravitation, and until he had framed some distinct municipal regulation upon the matter. They would all certainly describe such conduct as ''humbug," and the sufferer might consider it unfeeling. He thought that that was a fair illustration of the conduct of the Gentlemen who presented the Memorial to the Prime Minister. The result of the Division on his Motion evidently had an effect on those Gentlemen, and no doubt they began to think that they were not quite on the right side. The 31 Liberal Members who signed the Memorial did so for the purpose of explaining their vote to the Prime Minister. That was very curious conduct on the part of Members of Parliament. What he had to say he said in that House, and did not explain his vote by signing a piece of paper upon which something had been written in a back room. The Memorial was forwarded to the Prime Minister by the not over-buoyant Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Duckham) with solemnity and due decorum. The Memorialists stated that they voted fur the Amendment, which declared that a measure dealing with the whole question of local taxation and local government was most urgently needed, in the full confidence that the often-promised legislation for this object should be proceeded with with the least possible delay. The hon. Member received—perhaps he should say was flattered by—a letter acknowledging the Memorial, and saying that the present state of Business in the House of Commons rendered it impossible to deal with the subject. Would anyone think it possible that 31 Liberal Members should occupy the valuable time of the Prime Minister merely to elicit from him a civil letter stating that there was no time to attend to the Business, though two days before they rested their arguments for the vote against him (Mr. Pell) on the ground that there was time? Perhaps they had forgotten what the Prime Minister himself had said. On February 21, 1882—only a year before that little scene—the Prime Minister, on the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire, said that the Government had, in the most solemn and formal manner, pledged themselves to open the whole question of local taxation and administrative reform with a view to remove those grievances. That was on the 21st of February, 1882, and this was the 28th of March, 1884; and had any single step been taken in that direction? If the words of the Prime Minister had not been made good in the two years which had passed, was it reasonable to expect that they would be made good in the two years to come? The Prime Minister was the creature of circumstances; he meant, perhaps, to do good, but he could not do it after this fashion. He could not bring forward a measure of local government reform this year, nor possibly nest year; but he could give relief. As late as April 8, 1883, the Prime Minister, in answer to a Question put by him, said—"Have we lost any opportunity for introducing or pushing forward such a Bill?" Well, this year they had lost an opportunity, for they had put other measures before it. Then the right hon. Gentleman said— What was the year, what was the Session, what was the period, what was had been time to procure the proper discussion of such a Bill in this House? When indeed! Experience showed that the right hon. Gentleman was not likely to bring it forward. How was it that ratepayers never received in that House the attention that taxpayers received? The ratepayer was very often a poor man. He worked and voted, sometimes he prayed; but his chief business in life was to pay. When he prayed, it was to be hoped it would not be for the Party that did him no good. His name never got into the newspapers except when he married or died. He might grumble sometimes with his wife over his grievances, but he did not talk politics in the tavern, nor often sign Petitions; he hardly ever interviewed the Premier, and so it came to pass that he was forgotten. He provided Boards, and Inspectors, and institutions, and education, and other things, which ought to be found by the interested parties. No Minister of Local Taxation kept watch on his exchequer. His pocket was left unbuttoned, to be picked by every philanthropist and humanitarian, whose benevolence consisted in emptying the ratepayers' purse to protect the good-for-nothing at the cost of the industrious. The ratepayer had toiled hard, he had made his small investment, and just at the time he expected to reap the fruits of his self-denial, he found himself obliged to take care of some of his neighbours to save the coffers of the Imperial Exchequer. That was a harsh and unjust burden to lay upon the ratepayer, the more unjust because no one took the trouble to think of him when a burden was laid exclusively upon his bade which should be shared by others. It was this man's cause that he was pleading. The Liberal Government persisted in postponing his claims; and he now appealed to the Party to which he belonged, and to just men on the other side of the House, to forget their Party for once, and to support, by their vote to-night, his advocacy, however imperfect it might have been, of a righteous cause. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution which stood in his name.


Sir, I beg to second the Resolution. I am not sure whether it is quite correct to take for granted that there is a general consensus in the House that this great relief should be given, and that there is only a question as to the mode and amount; because we are placed in this peculiar position—that, while the present Government apparently agrees as to the general proposition, they take every opportunity of raising objections and indefinitely postponing it. I will, therefore, with the permission of the House, state the facts and figures, and then answer the objections that are made. But first I must ask the House to consider the exact position of the question and the reasons that have compelled my hon. Friend and myself to bring this forward as an urgent question; and I would ask the House to accord me its special indulgence to-night, for I do not often trespass on the time of the House; and on this question it is well known, I think, that I have some special knowledge and experience. And if I am compelled, in order to make the matter quite clear to the House, to go into some little detail, I shall not do so move than is absolutely necessary to set forth the necessity of equitable relief coupled with administrative economy. Now, I will not take the House back over the last 40 years of promises half fulfilled, of Reports of Committees and Commissions, of statements and admissions of prominent Members on both sides—beginning with Sir Robert Peel and ending with the present Prime Minister—all admitting this injustice, and expressing themselves anxious to give relief. I will only ask the House to go back two years, and especially two months. Two years ago the Royal Commission on Agriculture reported ou this subject that all the cost of indoor poor, including lunatics, should be a charge on the general taxation of the country other than local rates. To show how moderate are our demands, I may say that my hon. Friend and I should be content with relief to half that amount. A Select Committee of the House of Lords had previously reported that the incidence of local taxation for the roads was an unjust charge on one description of property. In 1882 a deputation went to the Prime Minister on the subject and received a favourable answer, and the relief of local taxation was put in the Speech from the Throne. I think it was omitted the next year; but on the debate and Division the Government adopted an Amendment saying that "a measure dealing with the whole question was urgently required." Three days after 31 Members who had voted with the Government, and saved them from defeat, sent a Memorial to the Prime Minister, saying they had only voted with them on the understanding that the question was really going to be dealt with at once. Of course, the Government Whips laughed at the protest of hon. Members. They had got their majority, though a narrow one, and protests did not count in practical politics; but I shall be surprised if all of those 31 Members can vote again for indefinite delay; and I know that the constituents of the hon. Member for Herefordshire (Mr. Duckham), who took the lead in that deputation, are regarding with the greatest interest the course he will take to-night, after what has happened. Then we come to this year. A shadowy hope was expressed in the Speech from the Throne that after certain large and drastic measures had been disposed of something might be done, if there were time, for local government in the counties and local burdens; and, in answer to a letter from the hon. Member for Herefordshire, the Prime Minister rather emphasized the proposal—the shadow I think more than the hope—by saying that when the Government had time they would endeavour to bring in a Bill for the reform of Local Government, "with which local taxation was connected." But we are not left without still more positive evidence of the shadowiness of this hope. The right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board had the matter brought home to him by a deputation of his constituents at his private residence the other day; and he told them that whenever the Government had time they would set about the reform of local government, and give them—what? Why, nothing in relief. They would withdraw the subventions and give them some local licences instead. Therefore, after waiting one, two, or three years, we are to get absolutely nothing; at least, if it is any trifle, it would apparently go to the towns, and not to the county ratepayers. That is the present position of the question, and that is why the ratepayers feel that they are being juggled with, and will be juggled with no longer, ["Hear, hear!"] Now to come to facts and figures. I do not wish to pile up statistics, or to overwhelm the case with figures. Rather, I would desire to limit the question as far us possible, and to place figures and facts before the House which shall carry conviction and conclusion to the minds even of those hon. Members who may not have had time to devote to a full consideration of the subject; and I can assure the House that I desire rather to under-state than to overstate the case. I would not, for any consideration, exaggerate or mislead the House in a matter of this kind. The gross expenditure oil local taxation is over £50,000,000; but it is only to about a quarter of that we desire to call attention to-night — namely, to some £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 in England and Wales, expended under these items—Poor, Roads, Police, and Lunatics. These heads have been acknowledged by inspection and grant, as well as by Reports of Committees and Commissioners, to be of national rather than local importance; and, in addition to that, the charge under the Statutes has always been on the general income of the place, and not on one description of property only. In fact, the present incidence of this taxation is an obsolete accident and a fiscal mistake, arising out of the fact that real property was more easily taxable than personalty. Now, I wish most distinctly to premise that, in advocating this relief, we are asking, not only for equitable taxation, but also for administrative economy. we are not asking that the whole of this £12,000,000 or £13,000,000—and these figures are only for England and Wales; but, of course, we include Ireland and Scotland in relief—should be charged to the general income, as the Statute directs in 43 Elizabeth; but that relief should be given by way of administrative economy of a quarter, or, at the most, a third of this amount, and I hope the House will realize the moderation of our demands. And the House will observe that those figures do not include education and public health, about which a good deal more may be said. The figures of these charges are, in round numbers, these—Maintenance of poor, £8,000,000, including lunatics; main roads, about £1,000,000; police, about £2,000,000; Scotland and Ireland, about £3,000,000 more. The general income of the country is estimated at about £1,200,000,000. The assessment to Income Tax is about £500,000,000 for England only, and £600,000,000 including Ireland and Scotland; but the property on which this expenditure is charged is only about £200,000,000, or about one-third of what is assessable to Income Tax, and less than one-sixth of the general income. Now, let us see the practical effect of this incidence—first in towns, and then in rural places. The rates in towns are about 5s. in the pound; and it was well observed by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), last year, that the amount of taxation and increase in urban rates is considerably more than rural rates, though the exact incidence may be different. The reason why the question has not been so strongly taken up in urban places as yet is that there is this element of confusion and complication in towns—namely, that a large portion of the rate is paid for purely local purposes, or, in fact, for services rendered — such as paving, lighting, sewerage, &c.; and there is this further complication—that, in some boroughs, water and gas, as belonging to the Municipality, are charged as rates; in others, they are the charges of various Companies. Now, I have been to some trouble to endeavour broadly to divide the purely local rates from national rates in towns, and I believe national purposes are three-fourths or four-fifths—that is to say, where—as on the average I reckon them—they are 5s. in the pound, about 4s. in the pound are for national purposes. Now, taking au average tradesman assessed for house and shop at £200 a-year, he will be paying, at 5s. in the pound, £50 a-year, or £40 a-year for these national services. Then, putting his income at £400 a-year, which, I believe, is a fair estimate, he is paying 1s. Income Tax for these national services, which, compared with his wealthier neighbours, is quite out of proportion according to his ability. Then, take the unskilled workman, who, for one or two rooms, is often paying some 4s. to 5s. a-week. The rates are paid by the landlord, but charged in the rent, and cannot be put at less than 1s. per week. Assuming the average wage of this class is £1 a-week, and taking the same ratio of four-fifths of the rates for national services, this labourer is paying an Income Tax of 10d. in the pound for these objects, which, compared with his richer neighbours, is altogether out of proportion for his income. This question of the rent of working-class dwellings in large towns is becoming a serious one, and I am thankful to say the country is awakening to it; and the Government has appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into it. But it will be found that one of the chief difficulties of the question—I might almost say the crux of the question—is that extra 1s. a-week. Philanthropic Building Societies find that they cannot supply these houses for less than that amount, after payment of rates and all outgoings, on any sound economic system; and the consequence of this is that respectable working men are compelled to herd with all their family in one room, instead of, as they ought, obtaining a minimum of two rooms for this amount of rent. Have hon. Members ever seen and visited these places? —rooms not much larger than twice the size of the Table in front of you, Sir, in which, in the wealthiest City in the world, respectable working men are compelled to live with all their family. What wonder if they are driven out to the public-house by this condition of things? The question of the skilled labourer's dwelling, which he can afford to pay 6s. or 7s. a-week for, is comparatively easy of solution; but the question of the poorer dwellings is greatly hindered by this system of taxation. The most philanthropic and best-managed Companies cannot afford to let decent accommodation to the working classes as long as they are compelled to pay these rates, which entirely fall on the working classes. Now, to come to the rural ratepayer, who is chiefly the tenant farmer. I estimate the amount of this rate at 3s. in the pound, five-sixths of which is for national service, according to the classification with which I started. The way I obtain this; 3s. in the pound is this—in his valuable work on Local Taxation, published some 15 years ago, by the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), the average rural rate comes to 2s. 5d. in the pound. Since then, disturnpiked roads and education and sanitary rates have added about 6d. in the pound. In many places a voluntary school is supported by subscriptions, which must be reckoned. There have been subventions and remissions amounting to some 10 per cent, or, say, 3d. in the pound; but there has been, to balance that, a fall in the value of the land to, at least, the same amount—namely, 10 per cent, he that the average rate or charges may be set, I think, at 3s. in the pound. The right hon. Gentleman said, some short time ago, that if relief was due then, it must, unquestionably, be far more required now; and at that time he proposed to give up the House Tax, which now amounts to £1,800,000, so that I hope we may have his support to-night. Now, taking these rates at 3s. in the pound, the tenant farmer is paying a 6s. Income Tax, because he is assessed at twice his income. If you say the rate falls entirely on the landlord, he is paying a 3s. Income Tax; if you divide it between the two, and say the landowner is paying two-thirds, then they each pay a 2s. Income Tax. This is manifestly out of all proportion to their ability as compared with other interests, especially considering the great depression of all agricultural property. But let me go a step further, and show the exceeding anomalies which arise from this system of unjust taxation. Here are four parishes in one Union, A, B, C, D. A is an agricultural parish, assessed to the Income Tax at £30,000 a-year. B, C, D are mineral, manufacturing, populous places, assessed to the Income Tax at exactly the same amount—namely, £30,000 a-year each. But how are they assessed for purposes of local taxation? Why, parish A is assessed on the full £30,000; while B, C, and D are assessed at about one-third, and nearly all the pauperism, crime, and lunacy for which the rates are levied are produced by B, C, and D parishes. Surely it has been well said that the agricultural interest is like the pastoral tribe Issachar, the strong ass crouching between two burdens—the burden of local and Imperial taxation. Then here is another anomaly. A large farmer is rated, we will say, at £600 a-year. His income is £300. His neighbour, living in a villa with fen times his income, perhaps, is assessed on his villa at £50 a-year. Now, for every penny in the pound of rates the farmer will pay 1s., while the villa resident, with ten times his income, will pay 1d., or one-twelfth. Purely, Sir, these are anomalies that ought to be corrected, and corrected at once. But, now, there is another class besides purely urban or rural ratepayers that is most unfairly taxed under this system. I allude to the country clergy. They are not directly represented in this House; but I hope it is not going to be felt generally what has been lately said in private, that Her Majesty's Government will concede anything and everything to threats and big battalions, but will grant nothing to truth and justice unless backed by such big battalions. Here is a statement of a clergyman in one of the Home Counties, which will require no comment from me— My tithe average is £325, nearly the whole of my income. I am assessed at £303 a-year. The rates were, and I beg you to note the amount, for poor, highway, and School Board. £80 16s., or over 5s. in the pound. The reverse picture is this—1, A parishioner driving two carriages, four horses, and two carts, and enjoying an income of £4,000 a-year, pays £25 yearly. 2. A Government clerk with £600 a-year pays £11 3s. 3. A tradesman turning over £7,000 a-year and driving pony carriage, two carts, and two horses, pays £6 10s., and so on. As for the farmers, the land cannot bear the burdens. One man failed, another threw up his farm, and another cut his throat. Now, Sir, if some of the anomalies I have instanced require immediate correction, surely this out-Herods all. A struggling clergyman on £300 a-year is compelled to pay £80 a-year for taxation for national services. You would not find such a system in any civilized country; to find a parallel you must go to Turkey, or Egypt, or Asia Minor, where taxation has paralyzed and destroyed all industry. Surely this is not only a perversion, but an inversion of the 43 Elizabeth, where men are taxed not according to ability, but according to in-ability. There is another element in this incidence—that is, the great tendency to increase, which I have already referred to generally; but here are some Returns taken at haphazard from four large agricultural parishes in my own county, and one farm in another county. They are ordinary agricultural parishes, and could not in any way be described as ever having been close parishes. The Return is from 1866 to 1880:—

1866. 1880.
£. £.
Parish A. 335 651
Parish B. 265 558
Parish C. 710 941
Parish D. 950 1,022
Farm E. 20 65
Many farmers in these depressed times have paid the whole of their profits in local rates. But, now, there is a collateral consideration that ought to weigh with hon. Members opposite. They profess, and I am sure sincerely, to wish to see the purchase and ownership of land and houses made more easy and general. Then I trust they will help us to-night in trying to get each purchaser less unfairly taxed. A labouring man or artizan saves £200, which he invests at 3 per cent. He wants to buy a house and garden, which, we will assume, is worth the same amount per annum—namely, £6 a-year; but the State, in the form of the rate collector, at once comes down on him and says—"You must pay mo £1 out of that £6." Or, take a retired tradesman who buys a villa and a plot of land worth £60 a-year. Why is he at once to be taxed to the amount of £10 as soon as his money is invested in this commodity which he did not pay before? That is the way in which purchase and ownership are encouraged in this country by this system. Or, again, a man wants to improve his land—say to drain a morass—and spends £10 an acre on land worth little or nothing before. The spectre of the rate collector at once appears and says—"True, you have improved that land and made it worth 8s. or 10s. an acre; but you must give me one-sixth of that improvement for national purposes." The other day, whilst this subject was being discussed at the Central Chamber of Agriculture, an American farmer who was present asked to be allowed to address the meeting, and expressed his immense astonishment at the taxation which the British farmer was subject to. An acre of wheat-producing land in England paying some 7s. an acre in tithes, taxes, and rates, which the same acre in America was only paying about as many pence, because the taxation there was levied fairly on all property, and not on one description; but he added significantly—"You have the remedy in your own power;" and I believe, Sir, we have. Then, with regard to Scotland and Ireland, I am sure the House will not think I am unduly passing over any important item if I only glance at them. Three years ago a deputation of Scotch Members went up to the Lord Advocate, who advised them not to stir in the matter, as they were not heavily taxed. The deputation was important enough for the Lord Advocate to have his answer printed, and he kindly sent mo a copy. I think, perhaps, it was not perceived by the Scotch Members that a low rate in the pound on a high assessment does not necessarily mean low taxation. But what the Scotch say is that they would be satisfied if the large mercantile and commercial incomes that at present pay nothing were to contribute fairly. That is exactly what we say in England—it is because of the impracticability of applying such a principle locally that we urge the Government to make the assessment, and to contribute to the localities which they inspect and order. Then, as regards Ireland, there are one or two points of special importance there as to the incidence of present rates. The police are paid by the State; but the county cess—about 1s. 6s. in the pound—falls entirely on the tenant, and the poor rate is divided. It is about the same as the county cess, or rather higher — some 1s. 6d. or 2s. in the pound. But in some of the Western Unions, and the poorest, the rates have lately been quite abnormally high—in some parts the amount is so ruinous that the Government has had to interfere and provide an Imperial rate in aid of 3s. or 4s. in the pound, and this has been going on for some two or three years in the very poorest districts. No wonder the tenants are in distress when they are asked to pay a quarter of their income for these charges, and no wonder they re- fuse to become purchasers of their holdings under such circumstances, when the whole rate would fall on them. It amounted to positive confiscation, and the fear or possibility of such confiscating taxation falling on them is quite sufficient to prevent any effect taking place by way of purchase and sale. If a man is liable to have to pay 10s. in the pound—and that is the actual rate in some places—how can anything induce him to become a purchaser? And yet hon. Members opposite, who profess to be so anxious to promote purchase and ownership, are going to vote against this moderate proposal to assist it tonight. I do not know whether the House is aware that in the Eastern Counties there are at present thousands of acres lying uncultivated, which anyone may have rent free if they will only pay the tithes, rates, and taxes on them. Such a state of things has, I believe, never been seen before in this country. Now, let us consider what are the objections to giving relief; they come, I think, under three heads—1, Hereditary burdens; 2, That any change in the incidence will be a transfer of taxation from property to labour; 3, Postponement to Local Government Reform and objection to subventions. I do not know to-night whether we are going to hear anything about hereditary burdens or not. Well, the first time I had the opportunity of speaking on this subject in this House. I said, as I say again tonight, that all these so-called hereditary burdens that we ask to be removed have been laid on real property in my lifetime, and most of them within my recollection, and I am not an old Member of this House. This can be demonstrated. Police and lunatics were made a charge between 1840 and 1845, during the time of the Corn Law. Public health, education, and turnpike roads were imposed during the last 10 or 15 years; the maintenance of the poor was a charge on the general income of the parish up to 1840, and so were the roads. Personalty was then exempted by annual suspension, but never by repeal; and meanwhile personalty and unrated property, together with population, have doubled, trebled, and quadrupled. But, in addition to that, by the Union Assessment Act of 1865, these charges which were on the general income of I each parish "according to ability" for the poor of that parish, is now a charge for the poor of a whole Union, including unrated industries, charged solely on one description of property. But, it may he said, real property may be too heavily burdened; but it has escaped from some taxation which it was formerly subject to. Now, I do not know if any Member of this House is prepared to risk his financial reputation by adopting the views of The Liverpool Financial Almanack;, and I am not sure if I could trespass on the time of the House by anticipating or combating arguments that may never be advanced and are untenable. But I say that not only has real property not escaped from any due taxation, but it is personalty that has slipped out of this taxation, and I will just put these points shortly. First, the so-called Land Tax—4 William and Mary, c. 1, 1692—was a general Income Tax charged not only on income, but on chattels—that is, capital not producing income. Mr. Brodrick, in his able work, published by the Cobden Club, says, at p. 468—"The Act of 1692 was, in fact, an Income Tax, with three modifications;" and he goes on to explain them. He further says—"Personalty was taxed equally with land." Well, why is not personalty taxed equally with the Land Tax now? Then it is said that the rate was 4s. in the pound. The assessment was taken absurdly low, so that the rate was made absurdly high; but since then later equivalents to about 3s. in the pound have been piled upon real property as I have described, so that it is at present paying something like 4s. in the pound with Income Tax and Land Tax for national service, contrary to the intention of these Statutes. Therefore, to carry out the Act of 1692, you should impose an Income Tax of 3s. 6d. on all personal income, and that is a suggestion I make a present of to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the forthcoming Budget. Then it is said that there were certain Military Services charged on land; a sort of Militia was provided, but they were paid for their service; and anything that could be a charge would be more than represented in the £2,000,000 of Land Tax still charged. But I again turn to the Cobden Club for information. It says— Clearly the nation cannot even pretend to claim anything, but a contribution bearing the same proportion to the present national income as the revenue from the Court of Wards bore to the national income, say, in 1643. And, again— The Land Tax was probably an effective substitute in the 17th century for the profits of the feudal tenures. And then this writer of the Cobden Club adds— The statements of the almanack"—that is, The Liverpool Financial Almanack—"are utterly misleading. But if we are to go into archaic taxation and finance, we must look further. we must ask about the origin of alienated tithes, and inquire why land that paid tithe partly for the poor is now asked to contribute doubly by way of poor rate? Also, we must inquire why the expense of public prosecutions is charged on private individuals, as landowners, who are sheriffs, seeing that the office was formerly one of profit? We must ask why Schedule A on land is charged on the gross—on profits, namely, that are never received—while all the other Schedules are charged upon the net, making the difference, as Sir Robert Peel stated, of nearly 50 per cent as against real property. So that, in addition to the injustice of rates which were distinctly charged on general income and on personalty, we have these four cases—Land Tax, tithes, public prosecutions, and Schedule A of Income Tax, in which personalty is unduly exempted at the expense of real property. Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has stated, I think in this House, but certainly to his constituents at Birmingham, that "any relief to local taxation would be a transference of taxation from property to labour." Sir, I entirely deny and traverse that statement. Why, surely, in the first place, it will depend on how the transfer is effected. Suppose a sum of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 were so relieved, and it were raised by an Income Tax, would that be a transference to labour? Or, supposing you went a step further, and transferred it to a graduated Income Tax, as proposed by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), would that be a tax upon labour? Or if it were transferred to a Stamp Duty on transfer of property, which has been always held by political economists to be essentially a tax on property, would that be a tax on labour? Sir, this pro- position will not hold water for one moment. It is one of those bald, superficial statements utterly untenable. But I go a great deal further than that. I say the tax at present is on labour. Is the tradesman and farmer, working hard with head and hands 10 hours a-day, not being taxed on his labour? Is the hard-worked clergyman, paying a quarter of his wretched stipend in this taxation, not being taxed on his labour? Are the working classes in our towns, who have to pay 20 per cent more for their house rent by these rates, not being taxed on their labour? Is the Irish cottier of the West of Ireland, paying a quarter of his wretched income in this taxation, not being taxed on his labour? The right hon. Gentleman even went so far as to say that to give any relief to the overburdened ratepayer would be to quarter the landlord ou the State. It is the commercial interest that has already quartered itself on the labour of the country, and now endeavours to conceal the fact by raising a false issue. It is personalty and monied wealth that has been exempted, not land and houses. To make such a statement, the right hon. Gentleman must either have failed to comprehend the bearings of a very simple fiscal question, or else he has, for Party purposes, made a statement wholly unworthy of his reputation. But I do not ask the House to take my statement of these facts. Here is the case put in a nutshell, in better words than I can put them, by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), formerly Member for Liverpool, who has a right to he heard on this question. It is well known that the hon. Member has given special attention to this subject, and also has great practical experience of this question in Liverpool. The hon. Member also occupies a high place in the commercial world, and this is what he says— The principal wealth of our large towns consisted of commercial, manufacturing, and trading interests; but, except incidentally, none of these interests contributed to the poor rate, and the more their wealth had increased the more they had escaped from anything like a legitimate amount of contribution to the support of the poor. They did not pay on their capital, because that capital, consisting mostly of personalty, was not subject to local taxation. Now, I pray the House specially to attend to this last part — Merchants, who had made the calculation, informed him that the proportion of their income derived, from trade on which they paid poor rate amounted to only from ½ to 2 per cent, while the proportion of their income on which labourers in the employment of those merchants paid poor rate was 3½ per cent. From this it appears that the proportion in which persons paid in large towns was in almost inverse ratio to their wealth. Upon the class of small tradesmen the poor rate operated most oppressively, and with especial severity upon those who were in the humblest circumstances. It might be said that it was foolish for the mercantile community to be active in promoting a change, of system: but the mercantile community were not foolish or short-sighted enough to believe that a system could be good which transferred a considerable portion of the burden of taxation from their shoulders to those of the very poor. Those are not my words, but the words of a Gentleman with a high position in the commercial world. Let the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade upset those arguments and statements if he can. Since these arguments of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) have been put forward, I have been at some pains to inquire what was the exact incidence of this taxation on the different classes, and I must say that the results have been rather startling. The law of the 43 Elizabeth, under which we are levying this taxation, expressly states that it is to be paid according to ability. The conditions under which we are actually living appears to be an exact inversion of that principle; and we are paying according to our inability, thus:—The highest-rated class is the poverty-stricken cottier of the West of Ireland, who is paying, in many places, 25 per cent of his income. The next highest-rated in proportion is the unskilled workman in large towns, who has to pay 25 per cent more for house rent. After that the large middle classes who are excused Income Tax, or who pay under remission, and who are taxed at the rate of 1s. 6d. to 2s. in the pound on income—namely, the small tradesman and the struggling farmer. The capitalist in land pays 2s. in the pound on the statistical assumption that he pays two-thirds of agricultural rates; and the monied, or manufacturing capitalist, pays a fraction of a penny, or, in some cases, the fraction of a farthing. So now we come to the last argument—namely, postponement till after something has been done with Local Government. We are to wait for one, two, or three years, when the subventions are to be taken away, and some local licence given in their place, which will probably be of no effect whatever in making a reduction. But there is to be reform of Local Government that is to do wonders. How? How, in the first place, is it m any way to affect the rates in towns which are the principal sum? How is it to affect the poor rate and road rate which are now administered by elected bodies? The amount of county rate is quite insignificant, even if you reduced it by half, and you will probably increase it by any change. Oh, but you will divide the rate between landlord and tenant. Well, that is no relief whatever; and how will that touch the clergyman who is his own landlord, or the compound householder in towns? How are you to do that with leaseholds hi town, especially beneficiary leaseholds, where a capital sum is paid down? Then, if you divide the rate, you must divide the representation, and begin by pulling to pieces the constitution of all your local bodies. But we propose to extend the incidence of certain charges, such as in-dour poor, to county areas. Then, how about boroughs? Half the Unions include a borough, which is not assessed to the county rate. You must have a new assessment area, and a new valuation. I do not greatly envy the post of a Minister who is going to re-adjust county and Union boundaries—he will find himself in a veritable Tower of Babel—but the Minister who is going; to pull down and attempt to reconstitute all our local authorities, some 2,000 or 3,000 on these sort of lines, should be the Member for Bedlam. ["Hear, hear!"] These proposals are either made in theoretical ignorance, or they are mere pretexts for postponement. But it is said that subventions are extravagant and wasteful. According to the official figures, that is most positively not the case. The figures prove rather the contrary, and the facts still more so, as I will show; but, I say at once. I am in favour of strict administrative economy, and though equitable relief is required, I will support no proposal that, in my opinion, is not in the direction of economic administration. Will anyone say that the subventions for education are wasteful? No, Will anyone say that the people could have been educated without them? No. Then, as to police and lunatics, the subventions given by the late Government, which have been so greatly cavilled at, I will not say what has been often urged, that it is only because they were given by the late Government, that that charge is made; but I say it is unfounded. As regards the police, the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board quoted figures last year in this House, which proved exactly the contrary to what he stated — namely, that since the subventions the proportion of increase had been greater than before. I have been told that since then he has acknowledged his mistake; but all through the debate he clung to this fallacy, so that we must take any of his statements with reserve and cum grano. Then, as regards the lunatics, a great mistake is made in supposing that the grant of 4s. per head per week can be a pecuniary inducement to Boards of Guardians to send paupers to an asylum. It costs them more, with the 4s. grant, to maintain them in the asylum than the workhouse—almost double. The reason of the increase is, I believe, the effects of intemperance, promoted by the high prices of 10 years ago, and, possibly, from the facilities introduced by the present Prime Minister in the grocers' licences. But let us see what the right hon. Baronet himself says, in answer to his own assertion of last year. Last year he says— The figures bearing on lunatics were also before him, him, and he should almost go so far as to state that many lunatics had been invented since the establishment of the subvention. Now, let us appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober, and see what the right hon. Baronet says in his official Report, published a few months ago— It has been suggested that the increase of late years in the number of pauper lunatics in asylums and licensed houses is due, to a considerable extent, to the effect of the Government subvention of 4s. a-week for paupers in these establishments, and that the subvention has induced Boards of Guardians, in many cases, to send to asylums paupers who might be sufficiently cared for at a less expense in the workhouse. It will, however, be observed, from the above table, that the increase in question has been accompanied by a considerable increase in the number of pauper lunatics in workhouses.… In January, 1874, the number of insane paupers chargeable to the poor rate in asylums and licensed houses was 31,024, and the number in workhouses 15,018. In January, 1882, these numbers had respectively increased to 42,230 and 16,976. The increase in the number of in- sane paupers was 13 per cent.… In 76 of the Unions in England and Wales the number of these lunatics was the same in the two years, while in 314 there was an increase, and in 259 only a decrease. I have nothing to add to that, except that it is signed by the right hon. Baronet himself; and I think it will be more satisfactory that he should contradict himself in his own words than that I should do so. But, Sir, I go a great deal further than that. I say that the power to order the expenditure without the responsibility of having to pay for it is a cause of extravagance and waste, and gross injustice to the ratepayers, and I could give half-a-dezen instances that have happened in my own immediate neighbourhood. Some few years ago the Government Inspector came down and ordered the magistrates of my county to increase the number of police; it was in vain they asked on what principle, and pointed to the absence of crime, and especially of undetected crime. A contention took place, and the Government grant was refused. A compromise of some sort was at length come to, and some third or half of the number asked were added to the force. Again, in two or three parishes the Government Inspector came down a few years ago and ordered new schools to be built a mile, or so off the old schools, which would have necessitated a great expense—a School Board probably, and the destruction or waste of the existing schools, which were thoroughly efficient and under Government inspection. In one case the provisional notice was actually put on the church door. After considerable correspondence the Inspector of the Education Board was induced to see the unreasonableness of his demand, and it was given up in each case. Again, the Lunacy Commissioners ordered the Asylum Authorities to purchase more laud than they required, and refused to pass the plan for some additional buildings until they did so. They appealed to the present Home Secretary, who, I am glad to say, supported the county magistrates, and it was not insisted on. I could give the House some other cases; but I want to know, would the Government have attempted to force this unnecessary expenditure on the local bodies if they had had to pay for it? I am certain they would not. But now, if in one district all these attempts at extravagance were going on, there must be hundreds and thousands of such cases over all England, and in too many they have succeeded. So much for subventions being extravagant. It is on the ground of economy that I ask for them. But the money should be given, I think, on a three years' average, so that every penny the local authority can save goes to them, and is not shared. I am opposed to any extravagance and waste whatever. There may be difference of opinion as to the best mode of providing and dispensing this relief, into which, therefore, I will not go now—sufficient for to-night is the burden of local taxation. If we are to discuss Ways and Means, we shall have to go into the questions of expenditure and policy, which will become controversial and lead us far away from our subject. We shall have to ask what has become of the money raised by the increased Probate Duties and the increased Beer Duty? We shall have to ask why the Terminable Annuities were applied to the reduction of Debt last year, and why the present Government are spending some £2,000,000 more in Ireland and Egypt than the late Government? We shall have to ask why the Chancellor of the Exchequer is proposing to give away some £500,000 to India that is not yet due, and it is rumoured to abolish the £500,000 Carriage Tax, which might be applied to paying for the main roads? But it is not difficult to indicate where this money should come from. Carry out the principle of the 43 Elizabeth, Let property and income fairly contribute without favour and exemption. Tax income, tax wealth; you would have the support of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) if you taxed drink, the fruitful parent of crime, pauperism, and lunacy. Tax luxury, speculation, or waste; but do not throw the whole weight of this unequal taxation on depressed interests of trade and agriculture, contrary to statute and contrary to equity. Do not overtax poverty and misery. Sir, we shall probably be told again to-night, for the hundredth time, that the Radical Party desire to look at this question as a whole. Sir, they have been looking at us as a whole for 40 years. We would rather be looked at as a part. Men have been born, have lived, farmed, traded, died, and ruined, while the Party opposite have been looking at the question as a whole—we mean to have this relief now without further delay, adequately and equitably. We mean to take the sense of the House to-night, and if the Government should refuse it we will take the sense of the country at the coming General Election.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while ready to entertain any necessary reforms in local administration, deprecates the postponement of further measures of relief acknowledged to be due to ratepayers in counties and boroughs in respect of local charges imposed on them for National services,"—(Mr. Pell,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that, before entering on the subject of the debate, he wished to make an explanation to his hon. Friend the Mover of the Resolution, who had accused his Department of want of diligence, want of care, and want of respect to the House of Commons. That formidable charge only related to one particular Return. He had better at once frankly state that the Return in question was overlooked. The Return was ordered, but, owing to a misunderstanding in the Statistical Department, it was not printed. The oversight was owing to the illness of the head of the Statistical Department. He thought, however, that he and the Statistical Department had cause to complain of his hon. Friend for not having informed them earlier that the Return had not been produced. He would say, at the same time, in justice to a hard-worked Department, that there was, with the exception of this Return and one other which had been moved for during the present month, no other Return which had been asked for and had not been rendered. With respect to the subject before the House, he would say that the increase of the rates which had been referred to in the debate had affected the towns much more than the country. He had attempted to show that in the course of the debate last year, and the same fact had been proved most conclusively by his hon. Friend the Mem- ber for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). As a matter of fact, in many of the rural districts the rates had rather decreased than increased. He would not venture to make such a statement on his own authority; but he relied on the statement of his Department, which had ample means of informing him of the truth on the subject. There had. However, been a terrible increase in some urban districts. But there was a question which called for more attention than the increase of rates, and that was the increase of local loans. On that subject his hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton had spoken strongly, as he had himself. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) had complained that no one kept a watch over the ratepayers' pockets. But that statement involved some injustice to the Department over which he presided, which was a very hard-worked Department, and did little else than watch the demands made on the ratepayers' pockets. The Department, however, had more control over local expenditure in some quarters than it had in others. There had been an enormous increase in the rates and loans in some municipal boroughs, and over those the Local Government Board had little control compared with that which it exorcised in rural districts. Where the Board exercised the largest control there was least increase in loans and rates. It was not true, as had been stated, that the Government had refused to grant any relief in respect of local taxation. On the contrary, relief had been most distinctly promised in the course of last year's debate. He had himself said that persons ought to contribute to local objects according to their ability and means. He had also said that relief ought to be granted to local authorities, and that it should be accompanied by a, corresponding devolution of powers and duties. The Mover of the Resolution repudiated any intention of treating this as a Parly question; but he made one of the best Party speeches ever delivered in that House. While sharing, as hon. Members generally would, the honest sympathy of the hon. Member for the poorest ratepayers, he must express strong disagreement from some of his views. The attack of the hon. Member was really directed against the principles of centralization; and it was well known how heartily he concurred with the hon. Member on this part of the subject, for he had repeatedly spoken against centralization. But his experience led him to entertain the greatest doubts as to the expediency of subventions; his impression was that they led directly to the centralization which the hon. Member deprecated. The hon. Member spoke of subventions in a wider sense than the term was usually understood to involve, for he referred to education grants. The Education Department had enormous powers compared with those of the Local Government Board; but those powers were given to the Education Department because of the very large contribution which the State gave to the cost of education, and those powers must be held and exercised for the protection of the public purse. One error which seemed to run through the speeches of those who advocated subventions seemed to be that they were a saving of money rather than a charge upon the taxes; they seemed to think that you got rid of expenditure whenever you put it upon the taxpayer. ["No, no!"] The Amendment almost amounted to this—"Never mind local government; but take care of local taxation." That was not the view of the Government. They felt the urgency of this subject; but they could not agree to divorce the subject of local taxation from the reform of local government. As, by the Forms of the House, there could be no Amendment to the Resolution, which was itself an Amendment to the Motion to go into Committee of Supply, the Government had no alternative but to vote for Supply, which was in this case equivalent to the Previous Question. It was said that the Government could give immediate relief to the local taxpayer. If it was meant by that that it was the duty of the Government to increase immediately the system of subventions, which they believed to be wasteful and to lead to centralization, without passing any general measure for the reform of local administration, that was not the view of the Government. It was not necessary to attempt to slay the slain, for there was no one who was prepared to stand up for the existing system of local government in England; it was assumed by the Mover and Seconder that it was to be dealt with sooner or later; but they said—" Temporarily, and until you have established a better system, give us more money." The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), in his non-Party speech, used strong language; he spoke of pretence, subterfuge, delay, excuse, desire to postpone, and hypocrisy; and this was a strong collection of epithets to be drawn from a single speech. In reply, he had to say that the Government had a large measure actually in existence; it was ready for introduction; if they were allowed to make that progress with their Business which they had a right to expect to do, then the measure would he introduced in that House; and if the progress of Business were facilitated, it would be passed by this House. [Mr. PELL: This Session?] It was ready for introduction now. The Government would not have given enormous labour to the details of the measure if they had not supposed that they would be able to introduce it into that House, and if they had not had some expectation of being able to pass it. He laid it down as an undoubted proposition that if Public Business were allowed to proceed at the rate at which it used to do in the years from 1869 to 1872, the Bill could be passed by the House this Session, in addition to all the large measures that were before the House and the country. Not only had ordinary care been taken to produce a measure worthy of submission to the House, but in such modifications as the measure would exhibit this year he had been greatly assisted by his Predecessor, by the Government draftsman, to whom the preparation of such a Bill was well known to be a labour of love, by the labours of the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) and the hon. Member for Bedfordshire (Mr. James Howard), as well as by the information collected by the right hon. Members for Ripon, Halifax, and North Hampshire, and others who had given time and thought to the subject. The principle on which the Government had proceeded in constructing the measure had boon that in their opinion it was essential the measure should cover the whole ground of local administration. If they chose to introduce a Bill which should cover only a portion of the ground, it might be easy, even with the other Business before the House, to pass it; it might be easy to pass a Bill dealing only with county administration; but it would not be sufficient to deal with that only. You could not change the existing financial or rating system, get rid of the operation of subventions, and intrust local authorities with the use of a portion of the taxes if you did not reform the constitution of those authorities from the top to the bottom. When the subject came to be looked into by Parliament, he doubted whether it would be thought that the Government proposed to substitute certain taxes for a portion of the Parliamentary subvention. The hon. Baronet (Sir Baldwyn Leighton) had spoken of those taxes as being probably very small, and as not supplying the place of the subventions which were to be taken away. But if the Government acted in that manner, they would break the promises which they had several times made to the House, that the measure should be one of relief to the local ratepayer; it would be a measure of relief, and in it of increase, to the local rates. The hon. Member who introduced the Motion spoke as though he agreed with the plan which was laid before the Mouse last year by the noble Lord the Member for Carmarthenshire (Viscount Emlyn) with reference to the relief to be given towards the maintenance of the indoor poor. That principle had been accepted by the Government, and it was his opinion that in any measure upon this subject it ought to be provided that relief should be given, probably to the extent of 4s. per day, for every indoor pauper over the age 16, out of the county fund, towards the maintenance of the indoor poor. Last year the Government admitted the principle of the division of the rate between the owner and the occupier, and effect would be given to it in the Bill. He quite agreed with the hon. Member in principle that a portion of the rates of which he spoke were for national charges; but he disputed some of the instances which were given. The hon. Gentleman told the House, in the course of his remarks that he would explain exactly what he meant to any hon. Member who liked to call upon him to-morrow morning. He should be glad to call on the hon. Gentleman and ascertain which were local and which were national charges. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Shropshire apparently assumed as national anything he pleased to state as such. For his part, he could not admit that the poor rate was a national charge. He must thank the hon. Member for South Leicestershire, on behalf of the House and on behalf of the Government, who had had to administer the Poor Law, for the great and persistent efforts which he had made to administer the Poor Law upon proper principles. The hon. Member was one of the best, if not the best, Poor Law administrator in the country, and it was impossible to speak upon this subject without trying to do justice to him. Local efforts might decrease the poor rate, but local extravagance would increase it. These were matters which ought to be dealt with locally. The hon. Member spoke of education as a national charge, and he was astonished to hear the kind of sneer which accompanied his remarks upon that subject. Some of the charges were of a national character, therefore he thought that personal property should, in some degree, contribute to- wards those charges. That was a principle to which the Government stood committed, and to which they would give effect when they were allowed to proceed with their measure. Of course, there would be a simplification of the areas; and, therefore, it was proposed to give power to the County Councils to alter boundaries, except those of municipal boroughs, and there was a general provision for the simplification of areas by adjustment and consolidation. He admitted that any Bill upon this subject must be a long one; it could not possibly be short and simple. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) wanted it to be introduced at once and sent to a Select Committee. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) feared that such a Bill could only, after a long debate on the second reading, be sent to a Select Committee with the general consent of the House, and he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would not give their consent. What would be its fate as to discussion when it came back from the Select Committee? He feared that its life before the Select Committee would hardly tend to shorten its life before the House. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) talked as if the Government were less desirous than he was to press forward the Bill. Taking only the meanest motive— did the hon. Member doubt their anxiety, for the sake of their Party, the Government, and themselves, to pass the Bill?


I referred to the in ability of the Government to pass it.


said, he was very glad to accept the hon. Members assurance, even at that late moment, although "cant, hypocrisy, subterfuge" did not seem to relate to in ability. But, turning from the lowest to the highest motives, did the hon. Member doubt their anxiety to remove from the country the disgrace of the present administrative chaos of English local government? Hon. Members should allow the Government to make progress if they wanted the Bill. The hon. Member had said that the Government had offered the counties a stone when they asked for bread, in the shape of a vote. In his opinion, the agricultural labourer would not regard a vote as being as useless to him as a stone and he quite agreed with the hon. Member that the rural ratepayers would use the vote as a means of pressing this matter forward. He hoped they would. It was the best use they could make of it. The hon. Member, in taking that view, was showing in advance his belief in the capacity of those who were to be en franchised, and there could not be higher praise given to the rural ratepayer, or to the measures which the Government were submitting. The Government were not afraid of the rural ratepayer, and they showed that by offering him a vote. The opinions of the Government were very similar to the Amendment of the noble Viscount (Viscount Lymington); but that Amendment was not placed on the Paper by the wish or desire of the Government. The Forms of the House would prevent the Amendment being moved; therefore, they should vote for their own Motion of Supply.


said, he must congratulate his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire on having, at all events, succeeded in eliciting from the President of the Local Government Board some indication of the measure which was in store for future Parliaments, and which the right hon. Gentleman had justly described as a large and comprehensive one. It was to be a measure dealing with the whole subject from top to bottom, and interfering with and disestablishing every existing local authority in the Kingdom. That might be a good policy or a bad one; but the put it to the House whether a measure of that kind was to be passed in one oar even in two Sessions of Parliament. To meet the urgent demand for relief by a dilatory Bill of that nature was to defer the whole question to the Greek Kalends. The future measure was no doubt part and parcel of the great change in the institutions of the country which the Chancellor of the Exchequer described as second only to the Revolution of 1688 — a revolution which began with the dethronement of a Sovereign, and ended by bringing in a new dynasty. The right hon. Gentleman had laid down the proposition that subventions led to centralization. Now, his contention was that the Poor Law Board had been established on a basis of centralization in the interest of the people at large. What schools, again, or lunatic asylums, would have been built were it not for the peremptory requirements of the Statute that the local authorities should he saddled with the expense? And the heavier those expenses had grown the stronger grew the sentiment of injustice that these charges should fall on one class of property alone. Centralization was the essence of Poor Law and similar administration. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the Government declined to divorce the subject of local taxation from the question of local government. That was the point on which they joined issue with the Government. The present ratepayer was the person who suffered from these burdens of taxation; but if reliance were placed upon the promises held out by the Government, existing ratepayers would obtain no relief whatever. It was 13 years since a Resolution similar to the one now before the House was first passed; yet during the whole of that time no chance had been found of dealing with this great and complicated question of local self-government. He denied that the system of local government as it was now working in this country deserved the imputations that had been cast upon it by the right hon. Gentleman. He did not defend the anomalies of the existing systems of local government, for the knew too well what those anomalies were; but he did press for an immediate relief from some of the burdens which now fell so heavily upon the rural taxpayer, and he believed that the system of subvention, however objectionable it might be in some points, was the only means by which that relief could be immediately given to the bitter cry of the oppressed ratepayer. That mode was found easy enough two years ago, when the Head of the Government, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to prevent a hostile Division with which he was threatened, said that he would put down £250,000 in the Estimates in relief of local burdens. A great deal might be done to mitigate the hardship and sense of injustice which now prevailed, without any of the dangerous consequences which the right hon. Gentleman opposite found it convenient to allege. They had an illustration of that in the working of that most successful Act which had been passed by the right hon. Member for Ripon, under which the Metropolitan Common Fund had been established. Something ought to be done in aid of the cost of the indoor poor and of lunatics, now a tremendous charge on the ratepayers. He had been driven to the conclusion, by a process of exhaustion, that relief in respect of that charge was at once the most reasonable, philosophic, and statesmanlike mode by which further assistance could be given to ratepayers. He had, however, never pressed for a larger subvention in aid of the police rate unless those steps were taken which would have the approval of many of his friends, but upon which he would express no opinion, of placing ail the police of England under one central authority, as was the case in Ireland. While objecting to wait until a complete scheme of local government reform was passed, his hon. Friend (Mr. Pell) and others who acted with him did not ask for complete justice or that an accurate balance should be struck. They merely asked that the Government, by pursuing a course which had been approved of by Parliament during the last 15 years, should show their sympathy and their willingness to entertain the objections which had been expressed, and in that way, rather than by a renewal of the promises which had been so frequently falsified, hold out to the present ratepayers some prospect of certain and immediate relief in their burdens, and to the ratepayers of the future the satisfaction of knowing that their case would demand the attention of Parliament when this great and complex question came to be dealt with.


said, the mere fact that local taxation had increased by 230 per cent in 40 years, as against 40 per cent for Imperial taxation during the same period, was of itself sufficient to show the hardship of the case which they now submitted. He thought it had been shown that this was a subject which should receive the immediate attention of the Government, and he believed that if hon. Members on both sides expressed their private opinions they would be in favour of the Motion. He observed that hon. Members on the Ministerial side who had spoken strongly at Chambers of Agriculture and other meetings in the country upon subjects of that kind had hitherto maintained complete silence that evening; but he trusted that before the discussion closed the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) and the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey) might, after expressing strong opinions in the Provinces in favour of immediate action on that question, now urge the Government to fulfil its promises. He, for one, did not desire to throw the whole cost or local taxation on Imperial funds, and he had a great horror of centralization; but he held that certain of those charges might be fairly transferred from local resources to the Imperial Exchequer. The management of the police should, he thought, be undertaken by the Central Government, and paid for out of Imperial resources. The maintenance of the highways and the relief of the indoor poor he did not think should be handed over to a centralized authority; but a grant in aid should be given to lessen the burden that was now imposed for the support of the indoor poor on the unfortunate occupiers and owners of real property. The house duty, the game and gun licence duty, the dog tax, and certain other taxes which were locally raised, should be handed over to local authorities. The President of the Local Government Board had stated that the Government had prepared a scheme for the reform of local administration. He should much like to see the proposal which the right hon. Gentleman intended to being forward; and he must express, on the part of his constituents, the disappointment which they felt that that measure had been left so long without being effectually dealt with.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


, continuing, said, they were informed last year, and they had again been told by the President of the Local Government Board, that they must wait for a large measure of Reform. It was a curious circumstance. However, that whenever any scheme of moderate legislation was brought forward by Gentlemen on the Conservative side of the House, or whenever any desire was expressed for legislation that was very much required by the agricultural community, they were always told to wait for a large measure of Reform. He should like to ask the House what chances there were of any large measure of Reform passing the House dealing with the question of local government? He ventured to think that, after the delay that had taken place in legislating upon this question, the agricultural community, who were led to expect so much from the promises hon. Members opposite so heedlessly gave at the last General Election, would find out that those hon. Gentlemen were not the true farmers' friends they pretended to be. Hon. Members opposite when they appeared in the country or at the Central Chamber of Agriculture were very fond of expressing affection and regard for agricultural interests; but the nearer they got to the House and to the presence of their "Whips the quicker did their convictions appear to ooze out at the soles of their feet. He trusted that on the present occasion they would support the Resolution of his hon. Friend, in which case they would earn the gratitude of their constituents.


said, he shared the regret expressed by hon. Members opposite at the delay which had taken place in the settlement of this question and the manner in which Governments on both sides of the House had treated this important question. He confessed, however, to very considerable disappointment at the speeches delivered on the opposite side of the House; and he differed very strongly from the Mover of this Resolution as to now the unfortunate ratepayer was to be best relieved. The mere transfer of taxes or rates from one pocket to the other, without a reform of local administration, would not relieve the taxpayer, while at the same time it would make future reform almost impossible. He was astonished to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who described the measure shadowed forth as revolutionary. On the contrary, he believed it was impossible for any Government to bring forward a measure more strictly and essentially Conservative, in the highest sense of the word, than the one which would effect a thorough reform of our local administration. What was the greatest danger to be feared? It was the fact that large classes of this country, who from their leisure and wealth were best enabled to take a useful share in the administration of the local affairs of the country, had withdrawn themselves more and more from active participation in local government. He could not conceive a greater or more pressing danger to be guarded against than that the people of this country should feel that the leisured and wealthy classes had no raison d'étre for usefulness in the great work of local government. He would quote a few figures to show the great danger arising from neglecting promptly to deal with this important and intricate question, and how injurious would be the attempt to deal with the subject by mere grants in aid without a reform of the system of local taxation and of the bodies who should control and direct this vast and increasing expenditure. He had heard statesmen speak as if all that was necessary was to watch the growth of Imperial expenditure and taxation; and if they did that, local expenditure and taxation might be safely left to go on. But the facts most strikingly disproved that. The local expenditure of England and Whiles had increased from £25,002,000 in 1867–8 to £50,418,000 in 1881–2. In other words, it had doubled in that short period, whereas Imperial expenditure had only risen from £71,236,000 in 1867–8 to £85,472,000 in 1881–2. Differently expressed, it had only increased by one-fifth, while local expenditure had doubled. Imperial expenditure, exclusive of charge of debt, was, in 1867–8, £44,664,000, while local expenditure was only £22,918,000, or, exclusive of repayment of debt and interest, just about half as much as Imperial expenditure; but, in 1882, when Imperial expenditure was £55,806,000, exclusive of charge of debt, local expenditure had risen to £38,791,000. Varying the terms, from being one-half, it had risen to about two-thirds the amount of Imperial expenditure; and, as it was increasing at the rate of about £1,000,000 a-year, local expenditure threatened rapidly to equal national expenditure. No doubt a large portion of the increase in local expenditure had been devoted to excellent objects, but there had, nevertheless, been much extravagance and waste, owing to the ratepayer having no supervision over the expenditure. Small subsidies alone would do no good to the ratepayer. What they wanted was the adjustment of areas and the strengthening and reform of local authorities in such a manner as to enable the ratepayer to exercise some vigilance over the expenditure. The hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) said there was no one to defend the ratepayer. Well, what they wanted to see was the formation of some elected representative body that would defend him. If all that the Motion asked were granted, it would have but small effect in relieving the ratepayer from his burdens. The subsidies in aid of local taxation that had been made in recent years had not reduced the rates. In 1873–4 the subsidies in aid of local taxation were £1,001,000; in 1879–80 they had risen to £2,732,000. But during those same years the rates had risen from £19,773,000 to £25,694,000; and they were still increasing at the rate of £1,000,000 a-year. Again, local debts during that time rose from. £59,647,000 to £107,042,000; and, in 1882, they had risen still further to £120,072,000. What sign was there here of any relief to the ratepayers? The sops which had been thrown out by previous Governments had given no real relief to the ratepayer. Until they improved the authorities by which the public funds were distributed, and made it possible for the ratepayer to exercise greater vigilance over his own affairs, any attempt at reform in the direction indicated by the Motion would be merely pouring water into a sieve. The true friends of the ratepayers were those who advocated measures that would give permanent relief rather than those who would administer palliatives which left large grievances untouched.


said, that if the local taxation party in the House had not passed any measures, they bad done negative good by opposing measures that would have increased the burdens of the ratepayers. There seemed to be a failure to appreciate the unanimity and strength of feeling on this subject that existed in the agricultural constituencies where it was believed to require attention before any other subject. But the Government preferred to postpone relief until they could rectify areas, to do which seemed to be the joy of Radicals. Until they could point to squares on a map they would put off reforms, which, to be of use, should be granted immediately. It was not everything to say that rates in rural districts had gone down. The question was whether, with the fall in the value of land and the difficulties of cultivation and occupancy, they could be paid as readily as before, and whether agriculturists did not pay more than their fair proportion of the charges that fell on rates. They were told that the difficulty should be met by a reduction of rent; but this was a remedy which had been frequently tried before, and which could not be done much further without involving dire distress. Besides, that answer was no sufficient settlement of their complaint that they were paying an unfairly high proportion of the rates of the country. What they demanded was pure and simple justice. If the Government were really anxious to pass a, Bill, it was for them to put it in a position to facilitate its being passed; but, in his opinion, it was the duty of the Government to attend to the matter without delay, instead of waiting until they could introduce a measure which might possibly give satisfaction to themselves. The burdens under which the class he referred to were suffering might be met partly by subventions and partly by taxing articles which at present were not touched. Some portion of the expense of the roads might be met by taxes locally levied and collected; and he must say he had always regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition had thought fit to remit the horse tax. That he considered a very fair tax, and he believed that if it were now levied and applied to the maintenance of roads, it would be of great advantage in relieving that branch of local taxation. The roads in his own neighbourhood were cut up and worn out almost exclusively by waggons and their horses in their traffic to and from the stone quarries, and he thought that this was an instance in which the amount of local taxation might be fairly increased. He hoped the hon. Members who signed the Memorial to the Prime Minister last year would not again put themselves in a false position.


said, that the debate would be a landmark in the history of the question, because, after the speech of the President of the Local Government Board, it was impossible to pretend to believe that it was not the serious wish of the Government to deal with local taxation and local government. The present Government had been exposed to annual debates, in which they had boon bombarded with assertions that they were playing with the question, and only desired to escape from immediate diffi- culties, without seriously intending to place any proposals before the country. It would have been as well if hon. Members opposite, before reproaching the Government which came into Office in 1880 with their neglect of that subject, had explained to the House why it was that they themselves had not dealt with it between 1874 and 1880, when they were in Offices. In 1874 the question was at least as prominent as it was in 1880, and in the former year, during the elections, the Liberal Government was much blamed for not having settled the question. After the General Election of 1874, it was universally believed that the Conservative Government would at once take the matter in hand. That belief was strengthened when the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) became a Member of the Government. But some time after the hon. Member for Norfolk disappeared from the Government; and it was only after a good deal of reminding with regard to their election speeches, and a good deal of pressure from the Liberal side of the House, that in 1877 a meagre County Government Bill was introduced, but not seriously pressed forward. In 1878 another Bill was introduced, which was of a still more meagre and unsatisfactory character. Before, therefore. Members opposite preached such long, and loud, and eloquent sermons, they had better explain why it was that they were in Office so many years and practically did nothing, except now and then give out, in a very unbusiness-like manner, a certain amount of money in the form of subventions in aid of local rates, which subventions had been shown by many—and by none more clearly than his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone)—to have no result whatever in diminishing local burdens. All that had been done was to shift the burden from the ratepayer on to the taxpayer; while the total burden of rates and taxes had gone on increasing. That statement had been questioned; but the different Returns which had been obtained, and especially those which had been procured by his hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), proved the truth of what he was saying. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) spoke with great authority as a former President of the Local Government Board. He was surprised to find the right hon. Gentleman coming forward as the defender of the present system of local administration, which, he thought, was condemned with unanimity by both Parties in that House. But, after expressing pious horror at the revolutionary opinions of his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, the right hon. Gentleman went on to advocate a number of reforms in local administration, and referred to the highway rates, the cost of relief of which, he said, ought to be partly thrown on the counties; of assimilating areas in counties, in respect of local government; and other improvements which ought to be effected in local government. The right hon. Gentleman had also theories as to valuation and county police. He thus showed himself to be a thorough Reformer. But the difference between the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend was that the right hon. Gentleman would deal with all those questions by piecemeal legislation, whereas his right hon. Friend was in favour of a large and comprehensive measure of Reform. Then the right hon Gentleman had charged the Government with a desire to cut up the country into a number of administrative squares. That was an old charge, which was most frequently introduced in connection with the question of Parliamentary Reform and of electoral districts. He had often had the pleasure of co-operating in questions of local government with his hon. Friend the Member for North Wilts (Mr. Long), and they had effected great improvements in respect of administrative areas; but they had certainly done nothing in the direction of cutting up the country into squares. The truth was, that on the opposite side of the House there was a very great unwillingness to face the magnitude of this question. It was, no doubt, easy to taunt the Government with the fact that their plan was a large one, and might take some time to pass the House; but he thought he had a right to remind the House that the necessity of dealing with the question of local government had been recognized by hon. Members opposite themselves so far back as 1879; and that being so, he ventured to ask them how they were justified in saying that now, in 1884, the Government would be justified in giving it the goby, and in merely repeating those operations of shovelling out money from the Consolidated Fund, which had had nothing but disastrous results? [Cries of "No!"] That was a matter of opinion. If hon. Members could show there had been any real relief to the ratepayers let them do so. The figures seemed to show that there had been a slight difference in the distribution between the taxpayer and the ratepayer; but there had been an increase in the burden upon both. But the very first thing to be done was to deal with this question of local government. The essential vice of the present want of system was that there was a complete separation, in many instance?, between the spending and the rating authorities; between the authorities who imposed burdens by their expenditures on the ratepayer and the authorities who had to get that money from the ratepayer. For example, in the case of highway expenditure, except in the exceptional cases where the powers of the Highway Act of 1878 had been used, and the Guardians had taken over highway powers, the Highway Board and the Guardians were distinct. The former spent the money and got it from the latter by a precept, and the Guardians in turn got it from the parochial ratepayer through the overseers. But when the ratepayer complained of the heavy incidence of the rate he found that the members of the Boards of Guardians could disclaim all responsibility for the heavy expenditure, because it was not they, but a number of Highway Boards, among whose districts the Union was divided, who were responsible for it. The same argument held good in respect of many other rating authorities, who treated the common fund of the Guardians as a sort of milch cow; and that was why the first principle of reform was the concentration of authority over both taxation and administration. Then, again, the Act of 1878 threw one-half of keeping the roads in repair upon the county rate; but the county authority had no control whatever over the expenditure of the highway authority within its area. The highway authority might spend upon the roads double what ought to be spent, but the county authority could not refuse to pay, and in that way reckless expenditure was en- couraged. He thought that was not an unfair description with which they had to deal. But it would be said—"What is the use of waiting all this time? Do you really contend that you will be able to produce a measure which will deal with these evils?" The contention of the Government was not only that they could meet them, but that the Bill was ready, and if produced to the House and the country would recommend itself both to ratepayers and taxpayers. The drift of opinion on this question had been clear for some years. The Sanitary Commission had recommended, in 1871, that the unit of area should be the same for all local purposes, "and that the larger areas should be, as far as possible, multiples or aggregates of that unit." And when the Act of the subsequent year had decided that the Union should be the chosen area of administration for the purposes of the Act, it became almost a certainty that the sanitary areas thereby constituted would become the future unit of local administration, and that the other areas would, sooner or later, have to assimilate themselves to it. Another exhaustive inquiry, in 1873, into the whole question of areas made the superiority of the Union tolerably clear: and the Education Acts of 1876 and 1879 accordingly followed the lines of the Act of 1872, and adopted the Union as the area of administration. A Committee, which sat in 1878, recommended the consolidation of the highway districts with the rural sanitary districts; and the Act of 1878 partially followed the recommendation. Another Committee, in 1879, made a similar recommendation in regard to the districts of Coroners, and embodied it in the Bill referred to it for consideration. At the same time power was given by Acts passed in 1876 and 1879 to the Local Government Board to alter and dissolve Unions, and to deal with divided parishes. The Union or rural sanitary district was the future unit of the local government and administration of the English rural districts for all the purposes compassed by the different authorities at present existing. To these purposes additions would from time to time have to be made, according to the necessities of time and place. A Committee of the House of Lords also, which sat in 1878 to inquire into the Highways Act, pointed to the fact that the rural sanitary district, or Union, was a district which must be taken as the basis of English local government. The inquiries were full and exhaustive. Therefore, it might be said that the Government had approached this question with the great advantage of having before it the accumulated experience, not only of previous Governments, but of influential and important Committees and Commissions. With that knowledge before them, and aided by, those inquiries and studies which had been made by private individuals and independent Members of the House, the Government were able to approach this question with the prospect of knowing that they could find a road out of the present difficulties. In these circumstances, he could not put this point too strongly to the House—that the Government firmly believed that if the House would only allow this Bill to be introduced and the other Business to be proceeded with as it ought to proceed, the Bill would pass into law. But there was no prospect whatever of this Bill, any more than any other Bills, being introduced, if the present condition of Public Business continued. It was not the Government who were responsible for the condition of affairs which had rendered the introduction of this Bill impossible. It was quite certain that it was so understood in the country. The country would expect the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) and the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Clare Head) to make their addresses in future to the hon. and learned Member for Bridport, and to ask him to remove all the blocks he had put down against the various Bills, and in order that time might be obtained some evening for the introduction of the Local Government and Taxation Bill. If this Bill were met by the arts of Obstruction, he would look forward with perfect satisfaction and equanimity to any county election in which he might be concerned directly or indirectly. He would hold in his right hand the Franchise Bill, introduced by the Prime Minister, and in his left hand the Bill which had been framed and with the outlines of which he was familiar, but which could not be introduced owing to the action of hon. Members among the Conservative Opposition, and would confidently appeal to the county electors to judge between the two Parties.


Sir, the noble Lord who has just addressed the House (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) began his speech by reviewing the history of this question from the year 18715; but I think it a pity that he did not go back a little further—namely, to the year 1872, because in that case he would have recalled to us the fact that the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) succeeded in carrying in this House during that year, by a majority of 100, a Resolution which formed the first step towards a relief of thy burdens of local taxation that had been taken for many years. It is, however, a curious fact that the Government of the day took not the slightest notice of the expression of opinion thus recorded by the very large majority of Members of this House who voted for that Resolution, and that it was left to the Government over which Lord Beaconsfield presided, as soon as that Government came into Office, to give to the ratepayers that relief which the Resolution sought to procure for them —namely, to double the amount of the subvention then granted out of the funds of the State towards the cost of the police, and to give a fixed sum of 4s. per head in aid of the cost of maintaining lunatics. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has informed the House that although we in the agricultural districts have had this large remission of the burden of local taxation, amounting altogether to a total of something like £2,000,000 annually, our rates have, nevertheless, increased. Well, I would ask the noble Lord who was it that increased the rates? Who passed the Education Act?—a measure which no one in this House will deny has had the effect of increasing our rates very considerably. Then there have been certain Sanitary Acts which were, no doubt, very good measures in themselves, but, at the same time, they have been placed on an unfair basis; and there has also been an augmentation of the highway rates, which has brought I about this result—that the disturnpiked roads have been thrown on real property for their maintenance. Therefore, Sir, although we are unable to say that taking our rates as a whole they have shown a decrease, yet at the same time there can be no doubt that they would have been ever so much heavier than they are at the present moment but for the remission of this-£2,000,000 per annum which we succeeded in extracting from Her Majesty's Government—I do not mean the present Government, but the Government of Lord Beacons-field. And, Sir, I should like to make a remark with reference to another point, and that is with regard to the prisons. There is a general belief in this country that the prisons cost a great deal more than they previously did, and the noble Lord (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) has said that if we have given anything to the ratepayers on the one hand, we have, on the other, made the taxpayers contribute a great deal more than they did before. I have here a Return, which was moved for by my hon. Friend the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), in which the expenditure for the different prisons throughout the country is given for a period between 1868 and 1881, both years inclusive. From this Return it appears that in 1868 the expenditure upon our gaols was £673,000. upon an average number of 18,000 prisoners, whereas in the year 1881, when entirely under Government control, there were exactly the same number of prisoners in the gaols—namely, 18,000, and the expenditure had decreased to £473,000, showing that there had boon an actual saving effected for the country of £200,000, while the prisons had decreased in number from 113 to 67. Therefore, the House will see that there has boon a very considerable saving all round. Well, Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) has told the House that the Conservative Party have done nothing whatever to check the addition to that load of local taxation which fresh legislation proposed to heap upon the ratepayers. The hon. Member for South Liecestershire said, in a speech which he delivered in this House during the last Session, that it was a useful function on the part of the Local Taxation Committee that it should have considered 93 Bills which threatened to impose increased rates; and he added that it had arrested 73 of these Bills in progress, while 15 of thorn had been amended, and only four had become law. I think, therefore, that upon tins showing the Local Taxation Committee has done something to avert an augmented load of taxation from being put upon the unfortunate British ratepayers. In the speech just delivered by the noble Lord (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) and in that also of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) we have had what has really amounted to the introductory speeches on the first reading of a Bill, which, however, is not be-fore the House. Instead of affording the House any hope or indication of a further proposal for relief of the local burdens, we have simply had a sketch of the proposed Government measure—a Bill we should certainly much like to see. In fact, so much of the noble Lord's address was devoted to the development of the intended Bill that he might very consistently have concluded his speech with the words, "I now move that this Bill be road a first time." But, Sir, it appears to mo that the unfortunate ratepayer is to be allowed to starve until such time as the great and abundant crop of local administrative reform they are now endeavouring to sow shall have been fully matured. Upon the question of Reform, Her Majesty's Government gives us merely piecemeal legislation. They offer us only a portion of what ought to be a complete measure; and yet, when we agriculturists ask for only a small modicum of relief from the pressure of the burdens of local taxation, we are told—"You cannot have any relief whatever until this great, grand, and beneficent Act of Local Government Reform shall have been passed." I am afraid, however, that we shall have to wait a good many Sessions before that Act is passed. I say this with great pain and sorrow, because, for my own part, I have always said we required a reform of our local system of administration as well as a sound and substantial relief of the burdens of local taxation. I have observed from the speeches made by hon. Members opposite that they are one and all in the habit of asserting that Government subventions lead to extravagance. I beg entirely to differ from those hon. Gentlemen. I believe, on the contrary, that these subventions really conduce to efficiency, as well as to uniformity in the administration of the affairs of local government. Let us take, for example, the case of the police. With respect to this body there has been no greater increase in the local expenditure since the Government have doubled the subvention from the Imperial Exchequer, although there have been a great many extra ditties imposed upon it. For instance, the County Constabulary have had to carry out the work necessitated by the passing of the Cattle Diseases Act, as well as of various other Acts—such as that for preventing adulteration. In many counties the Education Act has given the police a great deal of additional work to do; and we have recently been asked by the noble Marquess the Secretary for War (the Marquess of Hartington) that they should also be employed as recruiting sergeants to help in the enlistment of our soldiers. But if anybody ever does ask for an addition to the force, or an increase in their pay, I should like to know, from hon. Gentlemen who sit near me, who it is that recommends it? Is it not almost universally the Inspector of the Constabulary, and not the Chief Constable of the district or the magistrates at Quarter Sessions? I should be very sorry to see our Police Force transformed into an Imperial Force on the principle that has been adopted in regard to the Irish Constabulary; but I do say with respect to the subvention we already receive, it might be really half the whole expense of the police, instead of being only half the cost of pay and clothing; for, instead of the subvention being one-half, what we do receive is hardly two-fifths. Certainly, it would be the duty of the Government to contribute half the pensions, because they are nothing more than pay. With regard to the question relating to the maintenance of lunatics, it is sometimes said that this exhibits an increase. At any rate, the increase cannot be said to be the consequence of the subvention. There can be no doubt that the Inspectors of Workhouses, when they happen, to come upon such cases as those of troublesome idiots or mild lunatics, which have been in the workhouse for some time, naturally suggest that the proper place for such persons is not the workhouse, but the County Lunatic Asylum. But with regard to the Lunacy Commissioners, they are the men who are continually suggesting increase in the buildings, the provision of better clothing, and more amusements for the unfortunate inmates of the asylums, and, consequently, it is they, and not the local authority, who are the persons that augment the cost of maintaining these unfortunate people. Now, let us turn to the case of the Poor Law. There are some of the charges in the administration of the Poor Law which are paid, I think in one or two instances entirely, out of the Imperial Exchequer, while, in others, the Government contribute one-half. I will take, first of all, the schoolmasters and schoolmistresses employed in the different Unions. We shall, of course, be told that we wish, very naturally, to get all the money we can out of the Government; but what, I ask, has been the case in the rural districts lately? In a great many instances the Guardians have dispensed with the presence of schoolmasters and mistresses, and sent all the children to the neighbouring Board schools and elementary schools in the different districts, thus making the Government a present of the salaries they previously paid, and throwing the burden almost entirely on the shoulders of the ratepayers, think I am right in saying that the Government pays half the salaries of the Union doctors. Well, Sir, I would ask this House whether they regard the Union doctor as an over-paid official? In my humble opinion, he is about the worst paid officer we have. But the House would naturally suppose, after what it has been told of the great extravagance to which these subventions on the part of the Government have led, that we are in the habit of paying that officer an enormous salary, Half the pay of the Medical Officers of Health and half the salaries of the Inspectors of Nuisances are also paid by the Government. These officials are appointed by the Guardians of the Poor, and their salaries are fixed by those bodies; but is it not constantly the case—and on this point I appeal to hon. Gentlemen who sit near me and who are well acquainted with the way in which the Boards of Guardians perform their duties—that the Local Government Board intervenes and tells us, not that we pay those men too much, but that we do not give them sufficient salaries? They contend if you want to get the best possible men for the performance of these duties you must pay them accordingly, and it may be that such men will in the long run be found much cheaper than a lower paid official. Be that as it may; it is the Government and not the local authorities who insist upon the payment of high salaries. Now, Sir, the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board has stated that the power of the local authority is very much diminished by these Government subventions and Government interference and control. The worst of it is that we have frequently to put up with all this interference and all this Government control, without receiving any equivalent in the shape of Government pay. As an example, let us look at what happens in the case of the indoor poor. For instance, the Poor Law Inspectors regulate the diet, the clothing, and the classification of the paupers. They say how many officers we are to have; they define the services to be performed and the number of appointments; they confirm tile salaries we pay them and ratify the appointments: and it is only with their sanction that we can dismiss any of our officers. They lay down for us the sizes of the buildings we are to erect, the accommodation they are to provide, and the entire management and treatment of the poor is under their immediate supervision and control; and yet, on the other hand, the Government does not pay us anything. In my opinion, if we were to get one-half of the cost of the indoor poor, which, under the circumstances, we ought to have, from the Imperial Exchequer, we could not require any further interference and control on the part of the Government officials. I think I gathered from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board that in the new Bill which he says is to be submitted to the House it is proposed that the county rate is to be charged with a contribution towards the maintenance of the indoor poor in the different Unions. This may be all very well as far as it goes; but I am fearful that the county rate will be levied on the same basis as the poor rate. What we want is. not that we should have an increase in the burdens imposed on real property, but that personal property should be made to contribute towards the relief of the poor. Some of this latter description of property has increased during the last 20 years to the extent of something like 300 per cent, while the increase that has taken place in the value of property in land has only been about 20 per cent, and I very much doubt whether in the last few years it has not considerably decreased instead of having undergone augmentation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts (Mr. Long) has drawn our attention to the contribution made by the Government to the highways, and upon that point I must say that, as far as I am concerned, I think they give that subvention in the worst possible form to those counties which are still without the blessing of Highway Boards. For instance, in my own county—Norfolk—they give a dole to about 300 parishes; but what I contend is that it ought to be given in aid of the county rate, and not to the individual parishes. When the Highway Act of 1878 was passed, it was said it was necessitated by the almost crushing severity with which the disturnpiked roads rate fell on individual parishes, and it was considered right to make the area of contribution larger than the parochial area, and, therefore, half the expense was put on the county. In addition to this it was said that the Imperial taxation ought to contribute something—that these thoroughfares were not for the benefit of the immediate locality, and consequently an addition of £250,000 of Imperial taxes was voted two years ago by a reluctant Government. One would have thought that instead of giving the money to the individual parishes, which had already received half the expense of the maintenance of their main roads, the Government would have given it in aid of the county rates. The result is that small, out-of-the-way parishes, which are more hit by agricultural distress than any other portion of a county, have to contribute, first of all, half the expense of the maintenance of the roads which belong to great parishes and small towns that are in a more flourishing condition, and then, in addition to this, they have to pay one-fourth more as their contribution towards the general taxation of the county. This, in my opinion, is increasing the injustice we complain of three-fold. I think the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said there was a regular scramble for this money throughout the country. I do not think that this is so; but when we see that this is the only chance which these unfortunate parishes have of getting anything at all out of the county rate or out of the Government grant in aid of their rates, it would not be very surprising to find that every one of them tried to make out that it had a main road. I know that when at a meeting of the Norfolk Court of Quarter Sessions some time ago, this was suggested by an individual magistrate, Lord Kimberley jumped up and said the first time local taxation was discussed in the Cabinet he should have the pleasure of telling his Colleagues in what way the Government money was scrambled for in Norfolk. But the noble Lord ought also to have told his Colleagues that that very week he presided as Chairman of a Board of Guardians who resisted the mandate of the Local Government Board with regard to the pay of the medical officer of health, because they had the best possible man and paid him £50, instead of £80 a-year. We, in Norfolk, at an expense of £50,000, maintain 5,000 miles of road, a cost of £10 per mile, one-half the cost of the main roads being.£16,000; and I find that instead of Norfolk receiving £4,000, which it ought to have, according to the contribution offered by the Government, it only received £2.000, as stated in the Return. This, I think, is a proof the County Surveyor particularly insists on having really good roads that instead of, as one might have expected from what has been said by the noble Lord the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, the county having been extravagant in spending the money of the Government, it has only asked for the £2,000 it has received. Now, Sir, I consider that subventions from the Government constitute the only means we possess at the present time of making personal property contribute towards the local burdens; and I must add that I cannot possibly understand why it should be said that if more of these subventions are given, or if some of them were increased, they would stand in the way of a great, measure of local administrative reform. In the year 1877 I had the honour of moving in this House the following Resolution, which was carried unanimously:— That no readjustment of local administration will be satisfactory or complete which does not refer county business other than that relating to the administration of justice and the maintenance of order to a representative County Board. But I never thought for one moment that that reform of local administration need stand in the way of the relief of local taxation. I had always thought that some relief ought certainly to come first; and that after this had been achieved, we might hope for an improvement in our local administration. But, Sir, my idea of a County Board will, I fear, at the present day be regarded a old and obsolete. I have always thought it quite possible that we might have a: Board composed two-thirds of Guardians and one-third of members of the Quarter Sessions, who should manage the affairs of the county, I believed that in this way we should have an assembly of business-like, common-sense, hard-working, and slow-speaking men, who, with their practical knowledge and experience, would be a great help to the management of county affairs. But, on the other hand, I am quite sure of this—that these are not the men who would be elected on a County Board, as they are decidedly not the men who would go to the trouble, annoyance, and expense of a popular election. I understood that last year the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) was desirous of having County Boards established, not so much for the purpose of economizing the rates, or of expending the money of the ratepayers more efficiently, but because he wished to educate the agricultural labourers for the exercise of the franchise. I very much fear from what I hear and see that they are likely to get the franchise and to vote for the election of Members of Parliament without in the first instance having obtained that elevating and educating experience which they might have acquired by participating in the election of members of the County Board. I am greatly afraid that this County Parliament with which I say we are now threatened, and which is to reform us all, and bring about such a large amount of good, will prove to be a great, unwieldy, partizan Board, something like an overgrown Town Council, and composed of noisy, spouting politicians, elected and swayed by Party politics, from which, I am happy I to say, every Court of Quarter Session with which I am acquainted is entirely; free. [Ironical cheers.] The hon. Mem- ber for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) greets that statement with ironical cheers; but I can furnish for the information of the hon. Gentleman an instance from the county of Norfolk, which is, I hope, still a Conservative county. The Courts of Quarter Sessions of Norfolk were until lately presided over by three able and excellent men, all of whom, notwithstanding the preponderance of the Conservative element in the county, were Liberals. I am afraid that if this Board be, as has been sketched out by the President of the Local Government Board, elected by non-rated householders, they would be found to be composed of men who will expend very lavishly funds to which they do not contribute. It was, I believe, said in this House during the last Session that these Boards are not only to govern the county finances throughout the country, but that they will also exercise in other ways the moral and social influence that will necessarily devolve on them; and on this point I may refer to such questions as those of local option, licences, and other troublesome problems which the Government would gladly shunt, and which will probably be handed over by the Imperial Parliament to be locally decided by the County Boards. I can only say that whenever these Boards are established, and whenever there arises a question that is expensive or troublesome, that question will, if possible, be shifted from the shoulders of Parliament and sent over to the County Boards to settle, leaving us, the unfortunate ratepayers, to pay the piper. We grumble at the present day at a county rate of 2d. or;3d in the pound; but I feel assured we shall have some gigantic levies from the new County Board, which, I maintain, will be mountains when compared with the present mole-hills of our county rates. Sir, I demand, as a ratepayer, relief from present evils before I am called on to bear the heavy burdens of the future.


, who had on the Paper an Amendment—which by the Rules of the House he was prevented from moving—to the effect— That this House, while fully conscious of the urgency of legislation, recognizes the connection, which must exist between the reform of local taxation and that of local government, to be no intimate that it would be detrimental to the interests of either question to deal with the one independently of the other, after explaining that the hon. Member for South Leicestershire had misunderstood the object of the deputation to the Prime Minister to which he had referred, said, that if Parliament were to grant fresh subventions in relief of local rates, the ultimate gainer would not be the tenant farmer, but the owner of real property. He believed that real property was at the present moment unfairly taxed. Originally it was the chief source of income and the chief form of property; but personal property, owing to the steady progress, in spite of commercial depression, of large commercial fortunes, had increased far more than real property. Truly the one was dependent on the other—that was to say, the large fortunes made in commerce increased the selling value of landed estates; but the value of land itself had increased from extrinsic, and not intrinsic, qualities. He fully agreed with previous speakers as to the justice of affording relief to real property; but this was a totally distinct question from affording relief to ratepayers. Thus the Resolution, which was apparently intended to benefit one particular class, would in reality, if adopted, benefit another. There was a prevailing opinion that leaseholders in large towns suffered severely because they paid all new rates the expenditure of which increased the value of the property of the ground landlords; and many Members would be glad to see the ground landlords made to pay a portion of the rates. The chief charge brought against his own Amendment was that it would involve delay. But the interests of the ratepayers were not likely to gain as much by some immediate relief of a patchwork and piecemeal nature, as they would lose in adding fresh complications to existing anomalies, and so increasing the difficulty of effecting a satisfactory settlement of the question as a whole. The suggestions made as to education, police, and pauper lunacy would, if attempted to be carried out, raise many controversial questions. How was it that the Party opposite when in power had not been able to deal with this question? [Mr. PELL: They gave £2,000,000.] How was it they had not dealt with it so as to render this debate unnecessary? The Resolution would leave untouched a state of things which was illustrated by the fact that in the West Derby Union, Liverpool, there were 48 distinct and independent local authorities. As custodians of the public purse, Members ought to weigh very carefully the effect of adopting such a policy. By granting relief they would weaken materially their capacity to deal with the reform of local government. The complexity of our present system had helped to guard it from public condemnation. The question ought to be dealt with as a whole— first, on the ground that further subventions of public money, which were very doubtful in themselves, ought not to be handed over to be administered by a system largely irresponsible, whose very complexity baffled any effective public control; and, secondly, that it was necessary to make local relief conditional upon local reform, so that the one might give the stimulus to carry the other. Before Parliament agreed to relieve the local ratepayer at the cost of the taxpayer, it would be well if it were satisfied that the classes whose intention it was to benefit were the classes who would reap the benefit, and that the sums of money that were spent in relief were adjusted to the shoulders of those who obtained under our present system an unfair exemption. The class which would, perhaps, be the most largely affected by a measure of this kind were the tenant farmers of the several counties. But he would point out to the House that the present proposition, while purporting to benefit one class, would really benefit another; for if Parliament decided to give additional subventions towards local relief, the gainer would be, not the tenant farmer, but the landowner. The landowner fixed his rent with full consideration for the amount of the local rates, and if the latter were reduced he would find himself in a position to raise the rent, so that what the tenant did not pay directly he would have to pay indirectly. He wished to be distinctly understood in this matter. The landowner was entitled to relief through a measure specifically for that purpose; but he could not support a method such as was suggested, which could only afford a temporary relief to ratepayers, and must result, so far as it was possessed of a permanent character, in a benefit to real property, and not to ratepayers, purchased at the cost of the taxpayer in the most extravagant manner by means of a system which experience had proved to be most wasteful, and which would tend to complicate and retard a practical and efficient reform of local taxation. It was for these reasons that, while acknowledging and fully recognizing that there was much that was unfair under our present arrangements, he hoped the House would decline to regard this great and most pressing question of local government and local taxation except as a whole, based on a survey of the entire question and all its bearings.


said, he cordially supported the Resolution before the House. It was unnecessary to specify the numerous abuses incident to our local taxation; we had got a little beyond that; all were agreed, to a certain extent, that the grievance was a great one. Both sides admitted the equity of the demand, and were almost agreed as to the remedy. He did not at all object to the remedy which had been shadowed forth by the Government; it would be a very suitable remedy, and the only thing they wanted to know was when, and to what extent, that remedy would be applied. And they were the more anxious to know that, after having heard from the President of the Local Government Board that their subventions were to be taken away and local licences substituted in their place. The real controversy before the House was the question of the continuous delay of the Government in reference to this matter. The Motion was well-timed— before the introduction of the Budget. When his hon. Friend brought the subject forward last Session, he was told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he was too late because the Financial Statement had been made, and there was no surplus left. The position this Session was different, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not yet brought forward his Budget, and he hoped that the Division upon the Motion would show him that it would be absolutely necessary to make alterations in his financial proposals. Ever since 1853 the Prime Minister had been continually promising to deal with these questions; but, instead of dealing with them, he had been continually drawing bills on local taxation and always renewing them without discharging one of them. Fifteen years ago, in 1869. The Prime Minis- ter said that the question was imminent and should be taken up immediately after the Irish Church Question had been disposed of. In 1870 and 1874 also the Prime Minister promised to deal with the question of local taxation, while the President of the Local Government Board only last year had likewise promised to place the matter on an equitable basis. But, not withstanding all these promises, the Home Secretary had during the last three years introduced a Police Superannuation Bill, the effect of which would be to considerably increase the existing local burdens. They had heard much about the Franchise Bill of late; but he did not hesitate to say that Bills for the reform of local government and for the equitable readjustment of local taxation would be far more acceptable and much mere welcome to the public at large than the Franchise Bill. They would remedy greater anomalies, would redress greater grievances, and confer greater benefits upon the very class upon which you propose to confer the franchise. The poor man who paid very little Imperial taxation would, he thought, rather have his local burdens reduced than the vote which it was proposed to give him. The poor man was much more affected by local burdens than the wealthy. Take the burning question of the day—the housing of the poor. No one could deny that local burdens pressed with exceptional severity on the houses of the poor, and that the poor man who, out of his savings, built or bought a house paid more relatively in the way of taxation than his wealthier neighbour. That exceptional taxation deterred the building of better houses, and on that question depended not only the health of the poor man's family but the virtue of his daughters. The removal or diminution of such burdens would bring great moral, material, and physical benefit to the poorer classes. Then the impositions upon land tended indirectly to increase the cost of the people's food; they afforded protection to the foreigner at the expense of the home producer, and hindered the application of capital to the improvement of the soil. Agriculture was in a more depressed condition than it had ever been within living memory; and at no time would the reduction of local burdens be more welcome than at present. That result was especially seen in the case of poor land where the margin between profit and loss was very small. And in view of the increased cost of labour, much of the poor land in the country must go out of cultivation. The case was much stronger and more serious now than it was in 1872, when he had the honour of carrying a Resolution on the subject by a large majority against the Government. Then there as the cost of education, which, in 1872, was only £72,000; while in 1883 it was £2,000,000. To that were to be added sanitary rates and highway rates. Increased rates proposed for national objects had more than absorbed all remissions. During the last 40 years Liberal Ministries had generally been in Office, and all these Imperial Services—Police, Lunatics, Education, &c.—during that period had been imposed on ratepayers. Conservative Governments had never imposed such burdens. He asked hon. Members opposite to name one such burden that had been imposed by the Conservatives. In 1841 local rates amounted in the aggregate to £8,000,000; in 1882 they were £28,000,000. The poor levy was £6,300,000; while in 1882 it was £14,000,000. Local debt then amounted to £67,000,000, of which Scotland bore £6,000,000, and Ireland £4,000,000. Local debt was now £150,000,000; and during the last five years that vast amount had been increased by £49,000,000. At the present rate of increase local debt would almost rival the National Debt, and we should, indeed, bequeath a heavy burden to posterity. The present system of local taxation was indefensible, as had been admitted by the President of the Local Government Board, who had said that people ought to contribute according to their ability and means, and not only in respect of the land and houses which they occupied. The right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Groschen) had also admitted that if landlords had a claim of relief in 1872, that claim was much stronger now. The present system of local taxation was opposed to every principle of reason and justice. Its only principle seemed to be convenience of collection. There was a fatal facility about the collection of rates. As the Prime Minister said last year, it was a very difficult and delicate thing to increase Imperial taxation, but comparatively easy to increase local taxation. There was no reason why they should not get relief before they got reform. Reform was not a necessary preliminary to relief. There was no reason why the Government should not forthwith hand over local licences to local taxation if the feeling of the Government was opposed to local subventions. A vast responsibility attached to the 31 Liberal Members who last year voted against this Motion, and whose convictions were in favour of it. ["No!"] Yes; because they signed the Memorial to the Prime Minister. Had they voted for the Motion it would have been carried by a majority of 50, and the result would be that the House would be discussing at this moment local taxation reform and relief instead of the Franchise Bill. The President of the Local Government Board said that the Government would produce their Bill if the Opposition would only consent to take franchise without redistribution; but these terms could not be accepted. The Government had never been in earnest with this question. They on that side of the House wanted no more evasions and deviations from the real question at issue—no more delay and no more prevarication. The question before them was simply whether the Government should be allowed to shunt and shelve this question Session after Session, or be made to redeem their pledges by dealing promptly and efficiently with grievances which had been long admitted to be a galling anomaly and a vast injustice.


In the first place, I may say that I am not at all surprised at the zeal and anxiety with which hon. Members both on that and on this side of the House have looked to this question of local taxation and local government. With regard to local rates, the pressure of local taxation is large, and is a growing burden, and it is one which is attended with a sense of injustice because the heavy burden of local rates falls upon one particular class of property which is—though it is not quite a strictly correct definition — called real property. Not unnaturally the ratepayers on that class of property, who see what is roughly described as personal property exempt from this burden, have the strongest feeling that there should be no further delay in making personalty contribute to relieve the burden. Many hon. Gentleman, however, who have spoken on this question, fell into a confusion of ideas, for they began by asking that personalty should be made to contribute, and then before long they proceeded to ask for grants in aid from imperial funds. But this is not the same thing. Imperial funds are derived from the general Revenue of the country, which is not taken from property only, but from the wages of labour and other sources. There was also a further confusion, owing to the incidence of these local rates as between owners and occupiers being entirely lost sight of. On that subject I shall have a word or two to say presently; but I must remind the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) and the hon. Baronet who has just spoken (Sir Massey Lopes) that, in their historical review of this question, they entirely forgot the very important proposal of aid to local burdens made by a Liberal Government early in the day when the question came seriously under review. Both entirely lost sight of the fact that, in 1870 or 1871, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) introduced a Bill which proposed to give considerable relief by surrendering a tax which would have afforded very large and substantial assistance to local rates.


Yes; to the City of London.


It was not confined to the City of London.


More than one-half of it would have, gone to London.


I allude to the proposal of my right hon. Friend to surrender the house tax. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) threw out a general challenge, which I cannot but think was a rash one. He said— I challenge hon. Members on that side of the House to point to a single rate that was ever imposed by a Conservative Government. All the rates, he said, were the doing of the Liberals. But I suspect, on a close examination of our rates, it will be found that the facts are not altogether as stated in regard to several charges. ["No!"] I will at once give hon. Members an instance. One very important rate, and the first of the great modern rates, was imposed, not by a Liberal, but by a Conservative Government—the police rate.


Pardon me; the police rate was imposed by a Liberal Government.


It was imposed by Sir Robert Peel.


No; by a Liberal Government, in 1856, when the present Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer. At first it was permissive, but it was made compulsory afterwards.


Well, the precedent and principle of the rate was introduced by Sir Robert Peel and by a Conservative Government. Then the hon. Baronet proceeded to say that these local burdens affected the poor man in regard to his dwelling. Sir, I will not undertake to raise the question how far the burden of local rates is taken into account in the erection of proper dwellings for the labouring classes. Nor will I enter into a discussion of the infinitely varying cases of distribution of rates between ground landlords, owners, and occupiers of houses. But I will say this, that you would give little or no relief to the poor man as to any share of rates he may sustain, directly or indirectly, in regard to his dwelling, if that relief is to be derived from Imperial taxation contributed to by the working man himself. The hon. Baronet went further, and made a singular and a most startling statement. He said that the effect of rates was to add to the cost of the poor man's food. This is the first time I ever heard that statement made.


I said that the imposts upon land tended indirectly to increase the cost of food.


The imposts upon land indirectly increase the cost of food."It is the first time that I have heard that statement ventured upon in this House, and I should be curious to hear anyone who has ever devoted a few hours to the study of political economy attempt to prove that proposition. Rates upon land are not like a general tax upon a commodity which can be thrown off upon the consumer. Does the hon. Baronet mean to say that the price of wheat at this moment is increased by local rates even in the face of foreign competition? [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite say "Hear, hear!" But I should be very glad to hear any hon. Member get up and state a definite argument to prove the proposition that a local rate, paid in the first instance by the occupier, but which, according to all rules of common sense, must fall upon the land, is one that can be thrown upon the consumer in the market. I venture to defy any hon. Member to prove such a proposition. And now I pass on to the Motion and speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell). My hon. Friend has been exceedingly careful and guarded in the proposal which he has submitted to the House in a speech of very great tact and great good humour. I watched my hon. Friend very attentively, and I observed that he most carefully abstained throughout his speech, as he had done in his Motion, from making any definite proposal or naming any amount which he proposes to give as a contribution in aid of local rates. The hon. Baronet who seconded him has been equally cautious in his speech. He also proposed no plan, and named no definite amount. But the hon. Baronet has been very frank, for he has gone further and has told us that he would not make any suggestion as to how the money to be given in aid of the local rates was to be provided, adding that he would not do so because it might disturb the harmony of the Party. The Resolution of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), together with his own speech and the speeches of those who have supported, him are matters upon which I must congratulate them on account of the dexterity with which both have been framed in order to catch votes without holding out any definite proposal. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) was scarcely more specific than any other hon. Member on that side of the House. My right hon. Friend did, however, go as far as this—he told us the proper way of giving assistance to the local rates was in the shape of subventions, because it was so easy to give subventions; it did not require a Bill, we had only to get a Vote in Supply. Well, no doubt, that is a very easy way to give subventions in aid of the local rates. It is as easy as the descent of Avernus; but in this case it is just as difficult to retrace one's steps, and, no doubt, the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) who sits by his side, and who has tried the experiment, will tell him so. In 1874 the right hon. Baronet, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer—I think it was in the first or second year of the late Government—proposed subventions in aid of local rates; but he expressly stated then that he proposed those subventions only temporarily as a stop-gap, to give immediate relief. He added that he did not approve of the system, but he hoped shortly to be able to deal with the subject and to place contributions in aid of local rates on a more satisfactory basis. The right hon. Baronet found the same difficulty as others in carrying out his intentions. He took the easy step of giving subventions, but he was never able to retrace his steps and place the matter on a firmer and more satisfactory basis. The objections to giving subventions and to the manner in which they were given have been often stated. They tend to stimulate expenditure. [Cries of "No. no!"] Hon. Gentlemen say "No!" I submit that that is a proposition which it is very difficult to controvert. You, in effect, say to the local authorities— "Whatever you spend, we will meet you with half." Surely the Government thus contribute to encourage expenditure? [An hon. MEMBER dissented.] An hon. Member opposite shakes his head; but that is not all. The Government not only themselves thus contribute to stimulate expenditure, but they actually send round officials to encourage the local authorities indirectly, if not directly, to spend more money. That has been the case alike under a Conservative and a Liberal Government. It is certainly the case in regard to the police. The difficulty of these subventions is that nobody can find a way to give them except in proportion to local expenditure. To give them, as has been suggested, in proportion to rate able value, would be to give them, not in aid of poverty, but of wealth. There is also the objection that by subventions, as now made, you relieve real property by taxes which are levied upon articles consumed by the community. With regard to giving aid to the local authorities, the Government hold three things. We say that the aid should be so given as not to impair the incentive to economy; next, that it should be so given as not to make the local authority to whom it is given the slave of the central authority; and, thirdly, that before we give a considerable increase, such as is proposed, to the large aid that is already given, there ought to be truly representative bodies in the different districts to whom the administration of the rates and the aid could be entrusted. There is only one other point I wish to refer to before I sit down. I have referred to the statement of the hon. Baronet that local burdens add to the price of a commodity to the consumer. But we have always heard aid asked, not on the ground of injury to the consumer, but on behalf of the owner and the tenant, and more especially the agricultural tenant. Relief is asked for the occupier as well as the owner of land, each of whom is in turn represented as bearing the full weight of the rates. But if the consumer pays the rates in the price of his food, their grievance is gone. If, however, relief be asked, as it has been, to save the tenant from ruin in these times of agricultural depression, I am afraid not even the total abolition of the local rates would aid the farmer much. The distress of the farmers of late years has not been caused by the rates being 3s. or 4s in the pound, but because, owing to bad seasons, the produce of many an acre of land has been reduced in value by some £3 or £4. It is very difficult to trace the exact incidence of the rates. It has been reckoned that on an average a quarter of the rates falls on the agricultural occupier, and three quarters are paid by the owner and comes out of the rent. The agricultural rates have been differently estimated at from £7,000,000 to £10,000,000, and about one quarter of that amount—or from £1,500,000 to £2,500,000—is paid by the agricultural tenants. What would the remission of the whole of that one-fourth which falls to their share be compared with the loss of £25,000,000 or £30,000,000 which the tenants suffer by an unfavourable season? We talk of rates of 3s. or 4s. in the pound being a terrible burden; but supposing one quarter of them be actually paid out of the pocket of the agricultural tenant, the tenant's share of that would be, at most, 1s. in the pound. And what is the 3s. or 4s. in the pound levied upon? Why, upon the rateable value. And what is the rateable value? It is less than the rent. Therefore, the total rate means less than 3s. or 4s. in the pound of the actual rent; and the tenant's share really means less than 1s. in the pound upon his rent. If land in this country is, as some people think, permanently depreciated in value, and agriculture is not likely to recover, you will not sensibly relieve the tenant by taking off 3d. or 6d. or 1s in the pound, or even 3s. or 4s. from the rates. I am not speaking of the landowner; but what the tenant must look to, if this be the case for relief, is a charge eight times heavier than the whole amount of the rates, and 30 times heavier than his share of them —namely, the rent. That is the source to which he must look if the land in this country is permanently depreciated in value for adequate relief. I am not going to enter into any abstruse theory as to rent; but I may state, in the simplest form, that the farmer is content to farm for the ordinary rate of profit upon the floating capital he employs. All that is realized above that profit is rent. That is the simple way of stating it. But if there is no such margin, one of two things will happen. Either the owner of the land must allow the tenant to have it rent free, or he must farm it himself for the sake of the profit to be made on the capital employed in its cultivation, and be content to forego interest on the capital he has invested in the purchase of the land. I do not want to detain the House with I arguments upon this question; but I wish to keep two points clearly before hon. Members—That although it is quite right and proper that personalty should be brought to contribute in aid of realty to the burden of local rates, it is not desirable that taxes should be imposed upon labour for that purpose. Further, it is futile to calculate that the agricultural tenant can be kept on his legs by aid given to the local rates if the land is permanently depreciated and the agriculture of the country is doomed not to recover. I do not say that that is the case at all. I myself do not believe it. I do not think that land has depreciated in value permanently. I believe that in the natural course of affairs, with good seasons, things will come round again. With regard to the Resolution of my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), I object to it on account of its vagueness, and of the still greater vagueness of the speeches by which it has been supported. The Government are thoroughly in earnest, whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may say, in their desire to deal with the question. A Liberal Government, through my right hon. Friend the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), brought in the only Bill ever introduced which dealt comprehensively with the subject. I myself, when President of the Local Government Board, had a Bill prepared and on the eve of being introduced early in the Session of 1882; and I very much regret that the sad event, which all sides will remember, rendered it impossible that anything could be done in that year. My right hon. Friend, my Successor in that Office, now has a Bill prepared, and will introduce it as soon as the state of Business in the House will permit. Under these circumstances, I am not disposed to accept the vague Resolution of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), but I will support the Motion for going into Committee of Supply.


Sir, I do not know whether it is altogether fair to describe the proposal of any hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire, and the speech he has made in its support, as being wanting in clearness, or being vague, or uncertain; but one thing I think is perfectly clear— that if the proposal and speeches of my hon. Friend and those who support him are vague, those of the Government, as represented by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, are a hundred times more vague. The right hon. Gentleman has given us a most glowing picture of all the good intentions on this subject with which the various Cabinets with which he has been connected since 1872 have been paved. He has laid great stress upon the magnificent proposal which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon made in 1872, which he characterized as a real, great, substantial proposal for dealing with this question of local taxation. Well, I do remember that there was a proposal made in that year by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon at that time; but I really forget what became of it, and I think very few people could tell us anything about it now. It remains in our minds as the vaguest possible shadow; and, indeed, as far as I can remember, although the proposal was brought forward, it never was brought to a discussion by the Govern- ment of the day. That appears in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman to be all that is necessary to do—to make some shadowy proposal, and not to submit it for discussion at all, and then to think that the Government have done a great deal. We did a great deal more, although my noble Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) looks upon it as so simple a matter that he quite forgot it. No doubt the grant we made is, in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, a very small matter in comparison with the magnificent results of the treatment of the subject by a Liberal Government. We have had the magnificent Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon, which never came on for discussion, and then we had something even better than that. We had a Bill which was actually drawn on the subject, which was actually drawn by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. We are told that it was drawn in the year 1882, just 10 years after the measure of the right hon. Member for Ripon. That, of course, was very far superior to anything that was ever done by the Conservative Government; but, unfortunately, that Bill never saw the light at all. We are, therefore, unable to contrast it even with the plan of the right hon. Member for Ripon. We know nothing at all about it, and what its provisions were we have no knowledge whatever of. Then, tonight, we have something that is a greater advance than anything else, because we have a Bill shadowed forth in the speech of the President of the Local Government Board. That appears to me to be the way in which the present Government always conduct their Business now. When they have a difficult subject to deal with, they do not put. Their views into the form of a Bill; that would be altogether wrong; but they embody them in a speech made by some Minister who is more or less connected with the subject-matter. And, Sir, on how many occasions have they done this in the course of the present Session? Certainly this is not the first time that such a course has been adopted. It is a verification of the old saying— "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." It is in these circumstances that my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) comes forward arid says— "After all, with all these promises, are you going to do anything or nothing in the matter? Even the poor £2,000,000 which my noble Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) thought entirely beneath his notice— even that I venture to think was better than nothing. But now we are told— "You do not ask for anything. You do not come forward and say this is what we ask and propose. You are so vague in your ideas that they are not worth taking notice of." We make no proposition in the matter, because we are conscious that in this matter we are in the hands of the Government. It would be absolutely impossible for my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire, or for anybody on this side of the House, or for anyone, indeed, except Her Majesty's Government, to come forward with any practical proposal in the matter. We have no right to do so. It is a question of finance, and a question in regard to which the initatory duty must lie with Her Majesty's Government, and my hon. Friend would have been to blame if he had come forward with some cut-and-dried scheme. Her Majesty's Government would at once have said that, the proposal being absurd and impossible, they were justified in setting it aside. My hon. Friend comes forward and says—" We have been waiting a long time. We are suffering greatly, and we ask for something in the way of real and substantial relief. You tell us, as you have told us scores of times, that nothing can be done until we have a reform or alteration of the system of local government." Well, Sir. my hon. Friend and we on our part are not at all unwilling to consider any proposals for the reform of local government which Her Majesty's Government may think fit to make; but for Heaven's sake give us something! At present you do nothing at all, and your proposals are so vague, and your schemes so magnificent, that you tell us this is not the time nor the season for dealing with them. I really would ask the House what is the upshot of the proposal of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? What has he told us in the speech to which we have just listened? It is very difficult to get at his exact views of the situation. Does he propose to do anything, or does he not? Does he think anything is wanted, or does he not? Sometimes we thought he was admitting the pressure and burden, and was about to say that it was a matter the Government were prepared to relieve. At other times he seemed to say there was no burden and no pressure at all, and that it was nonsense to suppose the rates had anything to do with the depressed state of agriculture. It was not the rates, he said, but the rent. Now, that is a very easy way of getting rid of the matter; but we want to know from the Government, will they tell us that there is nothing wanted, or, if there is something wanted, are they prepared to deal with the matter, and give us the relief wanted? Let them give it to us in their own way, and let us have something to discuss. At present, they bandy a few words about the condition of agriculture; and they tell us that, after all, we do not understand political economy. That really is the upshot of what the right hon. Gentleman has said; and it brings me to the remarkable statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, that imposts upon land cannot increase the cost of food. To what extent they may increase it is one question; but that the imposts on the land have a tendency to increase the cost of the production of the land is a proposition which—we may be the "stupid Party"—but even the "stupid Party" can perceive. The hon. Member, in making his demand, has merely, I am sure, given utterance to cries of distress, which will find a response in the bosoms of the large majority of the agriculturists in this country. There can be no doubt whatever that the agriculturists are feeling strongly the pressure of these burdens upon them. They cannot help feeling the great pressure of the incidence of these burdens which are imposed upon them, not for local, but for national purposes; and they ask, in a modest and temperate manner, that some relief be given to a state of things which is fast becoming intolerable. Are we to be satisfied with the sort of answer which has been given to-night? I do not anticipate that those who are really suffering and feeling the pressure of those burdens will be satisfied with an answer of this kind. I think that my hon. Friend has done good service in calling attention, to this matter on this occasion, and in demanding to have some satisfactory assurance from Her Majesty's Government.


said, he was sorry to interpose in the debate after the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House. He would have been prepared to address the House earlier, but he had unfortunately failed to catch the Speaker's eye. As, however, no Irish Member had spoken, and as he had heard the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster broach doctrines which would be considered the vilest heresy in his part of the country, he felt that it was necessary he should say a few words upon the subject before the debate was brought to a close. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had assured the House that the occupier only paid one-fourth of the rates, while the landlord paid the remaining three-fourths. It was exactly the opposite in his part of the country; the occupier paid three-fourths of the rates and the landlord only one-fourth. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had also assured the House that any aid given to local taxation would not affect the occupier at all—that if there were any remission of rates it would exclusively benefit the owner, and would be of no use to the farmer and occupier. Now, if there was one subject which his constituents, and particularly the farmers, were continually dunning into his ears, it was the necessity of some reform in the levying of local taxation and the desirability of obtaining aid from the Imperial finances towards the new rent the farmers were now called upon to pay. If the contention of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was right, then all he (Colonel Nolan) could say was that the farmers in his part of the country and all this constituents were wrong. His own opinion, however, was that they were perfectly right. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said, among other things, that the rates imposed upon the land did not affect the: cost of food to the consumer. The right hon. Gentleman had been answered to a certain extent by the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), who; had pointed out that they could not make food cheaper by putting heavy imposts upon the occupier in the shape of local rates. In some of the baronies; with which he was acquainted rates amounting to 10s. and 12s. in the pound were of common occurrence, and the con- sequence was that the farmer's produce was deteriorated; for instance, the seed potatoes he was able to purchase were of an inferior description because he was unable to afford the extra cost of obtaining superior ones. He could point out numerous cases where the existing heavy rates had had a material effect in increasing the price of food; and he had no doubt, if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary were appealed to, he would at once say that the facts were not exaggerated. He did not think the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had got himself well up in his case, or he might have made a point against the Conservative Government when it was denied that they had imposed a new tax? What did they say about the explosives tax? That was put on by a Conservative Government, and it had to be paid for out of the very limited resources of the Irish people. The owners and occupiers of land in Ireland had not only to pay rates for the poor, but for cemeteries, and for sanitary laws, which were simply a piece of philanthropic nonsense in his part of the country. Sanitary arrangements might be suitable for large and densely populated towns; but in the country districts, where there was plenty of pure air and not always an over-abundance of food, they were in the habit of crippling the unfortunate occupier and taking away from him the means of obtaining food in order that he might improve the air. Then, in addition, the owners and occupiers of land had also to pay for the preparation of the voting lists, which was looked upon as a great grievance, and cost a good deal of money. He certainly hoped that before long the cost would be decreased, and he was of opinion that the charge itself should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer and not by the tenant. Then, again, the tenants paid heavily for doctors; but they did not object to that, because they did get advantage from the medical services rendered; but they had to pay for veterinary surgeons, for certain matters connected with emigration, and for many other purposes. In regard to emigration, he thought there were a great many charges thrown upon the rates which ought to be paid from Imperial resources. He must say that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was the only person who had attempted, in opposing the Motion, to evade the real question at issue. As a general rule all other speakers had alluded to the question, although they might not have argued it altogether fairly, and had said that they did not object to diminish the local rates. It was a fair question whether the existing charges ought to be borne by local taxation or by the Imperial Exchequer. No doubt, Imperial taxation was not named in the Resolution of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell); but it was well known to be most unpopular throughout the country to require the local rates to pay for charges which ought to be defrayed by Imperial taxation, and the President of the Local Government Board and the noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) both made assertions which might be tied up in a bundle and put aside for three or four years. They were excellent speeches in favour of the reform of local government when the proper time arrived; but they had very little to do with the question which the House had been called upon to discuss. The real question was, who was to pay for the maintenance of the poor, and the many other expenses he had enumerated which were now met by local taxation? He contended that they ought not to fall three-fourths on the occupier and one-fourth on the owner of the land, but that a certain portion of them should be paid by the fund-holders and the personalty of the country. At present tins description of property altogether escaped taxation, and he did not see why it should not be made to contribute its fair share. At the present moment the farmers, who were poor enough themselves, bore all the burden of the poor, except a very small portion of it that was contributed from Imperial taxation. A portion of it came out of the poor themselves, who had to pay a heavy duty upon the spirits they consumed, and a duty which had been raised within the last three or four years. They had also to pay a heavy duty upon tobacco, and to contribute out of their small resources to maintain an Army in Ireland, and to pay the English fund-holder, while none of the Revenue arising from these sources was given towards the relief of their own local rates. The real question was—Why should they continue to pay those charges, which ought to be borne by the entire nation, and from the payment of which the fundholder ought not to be allowed to escape? He certainly failed to see why the locality should maintain its own poor. It ought to be a national expenditure, although there was no reason why a certain proportion should not be borne by the locality. Then, again, with regard to the expenses connected with emigration and some of the sanitary fads which were continally cropping up, he saw no reason why they should be paid for out of the local rates. He looked upon the present attitude of Her Majesty's Government and upon the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple (Viscount Lymington) as a deliberate attempt to shelve the question until the middle of next Parliament. If the Resolution of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell) were not carried that night, he felt satisfied that the people of Ireland would obtain no relief for their local burdens. Probably they did not care much about the question in the boroughs; but so far as the Irish counties were concerned the matter was one of the greatest importance. He supported the Resolution, because he believed that the passing of it might have a material influence upon the forthcoming Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; whereas its rejection would only have the effect of continuing the excessive burdens now imposed in the shape of local taxation.


I think that holding the Office I do, and being in respect of that Office greatly interested in this question, the House will allow me to explain, in a few words, the course I propose to take on the Motion of the hon. Member. It appears to me that the question between us on this side of the House and the hon. Member is a simple one, and may be stated under three heads. We agree with the hon. Member upon one point, and that is, that in the readjustment of the local and Imperial burdens some relief should be given to the ratepayer. Upon that we are entirely agreed; but we differ from him on two other points—that is, we differ from him in respect of the authority to whom the relief should be given, and also in respect of the shape in which that relief should be given. Now, with respect, to the authorities to whom the relief we propose to give should be given, hon. Gentleman opposite say that it should be given to the present authorities. Hon. Members opposite say that now at the present time relief should be given to the present authorities. We, on the other hand, say that the relief should be given simultaneously with the constitution of representative local government; and We have undertaken, following a Bill for the better government of the Municipality of the Metropolis, that the next large question shall be how to deal with the better constitution of the local authorities. So much for the question as to the authorities to whom relief should be given. Next, as to the manner in which the relief should be given. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the present system of subventions should be continued. Now, we, on the other hand, say that the additional relief should be given in the shape of power to raise and administer local revenues— that the body which has the taxing power should be the same as that which has the power of administration, just as we have given taxing powers to Municipal Corporations. In one sentence, that is the only difference between us; and I will only give one figure to show how our proposals and the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite differ with respect to the administration of the sum which has been named by several Gentlemen opposite. It is extremely difficult to judge of the precise extent to which hon. Gentlemen opposite propose that relief should be given. I have heard suggestions made in the course of the debate that relief should be given to the extent of £3,500,000, £4,000,000, and £5,000,000. Well, I will assume, for the sake of argument, that additional relief to local burdens should be given to the extent of £4,000,000. It has been asserted that the objects for which it should be contributed are mainly, or to a large and growing degree, education and police. Other smaller and growing charges have been mentioned, but still to a very much less extent than the local expenditure on education and police. Now, I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just spoken that Ireland has no charge whatever thrown upon her for education or police.


The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. My county pays a police charge.


What about the Crimes Act?


Of course, under special circumstances limited charges for police are paid by the localities; but I am speaking of ordinary circumstances. I say that the ordinary police charge in Ireland is entirely paid by the Imperial Exchequer, and is not a local charge. Nor is education a local charge in Ireland, although in this country many millions are defrayed by the local school boards. Ireland, therefore, has a very small portion of those local burdens to meet. Taking the £-4,000,000, which has been suggested as a fair amount to be given in aid of local burdens, let the House consider for a moment the practical way in which it would be carried out if it had to come directly in the-shape of subventions from the State. It would add £4,000,000 to our Imperial taxation. How could that sum be raised? It would either have to be raised by a 2d. Income Tax—and I greatly doubt whether hon. Members opposite would support such a proposal; or it would have to be raised by an addition upon articles of ordinary consumption; or it might be raised one-half in one shape and one-half in the other. Taking the last assumption, half of a charge, which is now entirely a charge upon real property, either in the shape of houses or land, would in future have to fall upon articles of consumption by the people; and I say that such a change in our method of taxation would be intolerable, and would be opposed by the great mass of the people. I undertake to say that such a proposal, whether under the present system of election or under the system proposed by the Franchise Bill, would be most unpopular even with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who would find it strenously resisted by their constituents. What was done in 1874 was a very different matter. I did not then object to the relief of local burdens made by the late Government; but it must be remembered that I have never spoken against the relief of local taxation in that form. But then, if you remember, the Government at the time gave relief to the consumer, to the extent of £2,000,000, in the shape of remission of the sugar duties. It was not unreasonable for the right hon. Gentleman to propose and to carry out a transfer from the local to the Imperial taxpayer under those circumstances. But the proposal shadowed out by the opposite side is, in my opinion, one not only unjust in itself, but one which the taxpaying masses of the country can hardly be expected to agree to. Having, as I think, fairly stated the difference between the two sides of the question, I hope we shall adhere to the course we have indicated.


, who rose amid cries of "Divide!" said: My hon. Friends are aware that I am at all times very economical of words. In the present instance I wish in the fewest possible number of words to describe what appears to me the position of the question before the House. The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) has recently made a speech, in which he justified a qualified amount of obstruction, I suppose, for the sake of affording a moderate amount of education. I do not make this suggestion, but such seems to be the inference of the hon. Member for Newcastle. His speech was addressed to the Hotspur Club. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has declared that the burden of rates falls in the proportion of three-fourths upon real property, and one-fourth upon the floating capital of the tenant; but the right hon. Gentleman is about to vote for placing the control of local taxation in the hands of those who, according to his own showing, pay only one-fourth, at the expense of those who pay three-fourths of the burden. Now, it has hitherto always been the maxim that, in matters of taxation, according to the respective weight of the burden ought to be the control of those who bore it; but the principle adopted by the Government, if they accept that of the Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord (Viscount Lymington), is the reverse of that maxim; for they would sanction the principle that they who pay the least should have the largest control. Again, when the question of subventions in aid of local taxation was raised, what said the right hon. Gentleman? He said it would be impossible to give subventions out of general taxation in relief of local taxation, unless the entire control over the whole was placed in the hands of Government officials. Now, I am one of the "stupid Party." I am not enlightened like hon. Gentlemen opposite. I am supposed to be one of a minority in the United Kingdom; but I represent the financial opinions of the United States—indeed, of almost the whole world. When, however, you speak of the "stupid Party," you speak of the world at large. The French have a maxim, Toute la, monde â raison; but hon. Gentlemen opposite do not accept that maxim. You are rather isolated in your enlightenment. You have long seemed proud of your isolated position; but look at the state to which you have brought this country. Is not agriculture depressed? Is not trade depressed? Yet, when we ask you for relief, you tell the majority of the labouring classes and the owners of real property—aye, and of much floating capital—that lest you should detract from the isolation in which your enlightenment has placed you, you will do nought to relieve this distress, nothing in equity for the relief of local burdens; but that you will entrust the control of local taxation to the body of occupiers who, by the admission of your Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, only pay one-fourth of the burden, to the virtual supersession of the owners of real property, who contribute three-fourths of the burden.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 197; Noes 197; Majority 11.

Acland, Sir T. D Bright, J.
Acland, C. T. D. Brinton, T.
Agnew, W. Broadhurst, H.
Ainsworth, D. Brown, A. H.
Allen, W. S. Bruce, rt. Hon. Lord C.
Allman, R. L. Bruce, hon. R. P.
Anderson, G. Bryce, J.
Armitage, B. Buchanan, T. R.
Arnold, A. Burt, T.
Asher, A. Buxton, F. W.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Buxton, S. C.
Baldwin, E. Campbell, Sir G.
Balfour, rt. Hon. J. B. Campbell, R. F. F.
Barnes, A. Campbell-Bannerman, H.
Barran, J.
Baxter, rt. Hon. W. E. Carbutt, E. H.
Biddulph, M. Causton, R. K.
Blennerhassett, R. P. Chamberlain, rt. hn. J.
Bolton, J. C. Cheetham, J. F.
Borlase, W. C. Childers, rt. hn. H. C. E.
Brand, hon. H. R. Clark, S.
Brassey, Sir T. Clifford, C. C.
Briggs, W. E. Cohen, A.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S.
Collings, J. Lloyd, M.
Collins, E. Lubbock, Sir J.
Cotes, C. C. Lymington, Viscount
Courtney, L. H. Lyons, R. D.
Cropper, J. Mackie, R. B.
Cross, J. K. M'Arthur, Sir W.
Crum, A. M'Arthur, A.
Cunliffle, Sir R. A. M'Intyre, Æneas J.
Currie, Sir D. Maitland, W. F.
De Ferrières, Baron Mappin, F. T.
Dilke, rt. hn. Sir C. W. Marjoribanks, E.
Dillwyn, L. L. Martin, R. B.
Dodson rt. hon. J. G. Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-
Duff, R. W.
Dundas, hon. J. C. Mellor J. W.
Earp, T. Milbank, Sir F. A.
Ebrington, Viscount Monk, C. J.
Edwards, H. Morgan, rt. hon. G. O.
Edwards, P. Morley, A.
Egerton, Admiral hon. F. Morley, J.
Morley, S.
Elliot, hon. A. R. D. Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.
Farquharson, Dr. R. Noel, E.
Fawcett, rt. hon. H. Paget, T. T.
Ffolkes, Sir W. H. B. Palmer, C. M.
Firth, J. F. B. Palmer, J. H.
Fitzmaurice, Lord E. Parker, C. S.
Fitzwilliam, hn. W. J. Pease, A.
Flower, C. Pender, J.
Forster, Sir C. Pennington, F.
Fort, R. Playfair, rt. hn. Sir L.
Fowler, W. Powell, W. R. H.
Fry, T. Ralli, P.
Gladstone, H. J. Ramsay, J.
Gladstone, W. H. Rathbone, W.
Gordon, Sir A. Reed, Sir E. J.
Gordon, Lord D. Reid, R. T.
Gourley, E. T. Roberts, J.
Gower, hon. E. F. L. Robertson, H.
Grafton, F. W. Roe, T.
Grant, Sir G. M. Rogers, J. E. T.
Grant, A. Roundell, C. S.
Grey, A. H. G. Russell, Lord A.
Hamilton, J. G. C. Russell, G. W. E.
Harcourt, rt. hn. Sir W. G. V. V. Seely, C. (Lincoln)
Seely, C. (Nottingham)
Hartington, Marq. of Sellar, A. C.
Hayter, Sir A. D. Shaw, T.
Henderson, F. Shield, H.
Herschell, Sir F. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Hibbert, J. T. Slagg, J.
Hill, T. R. Smith, S.
Holden, I. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Holms, J. Stanley, hon. E. L.
Hopwood, C. H. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Howard, E. S. Stanton, W. J.
Illingworth, A. Stevenson, J. C.
Ince, H. B. Summers, W.
Inderwick, F. A. Tavistock, Marquess of
James, Sir H. Tennant, C.
James, C. Thomasson, J. P.
James, W. H. Thompson, T. C.
Jardine, R. Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-
Jenkins, Sir J. J.
Jenkins, D. J. Trevelyan, rt. hn. G.O.
Jerningham, H. E. H. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Jones-Parry, L. Vivian, Sir H. H.
Kinnear, J. Waddy, S. D.
Labouchere, H. Walker, S.
Lambton, hon. F. W. Walter, J.
Lawson, Sir W. Warterlow, Sir S.
Leatham, E. A. Waugh, E.
Webster, Dr. J. Woodall, W.
West, H. W. Woolf, S.
Whitbread, S.
Williams, S. C. E. TELLERS.
Williamson, S. Grosvenor, right hon.
Willis, W. Lord R.
Wilson, C. H. Kensington, rt. hn. Lord
Wodehouse, E. R.
Alexander, Major-Gen. Elliot, G. W.
Amherst, W. A. T. Elton, C. I.
Archdale, W. H. Emlyn, Viscount
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Ewart, W
Bailey, Sir J. R. Feilden, Lieut. -General
Balfour, A. J. Fellowes, W. H.
Barne, F. St. N. Finch, G. H.
Barry, J. Floyer, J.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Folkestone, Viscount
Bateson, Sir T. Forester, C. T. W.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks Fowler, rt. hon. R. N.
Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Beach, W. W. B. French- Brewster, R.A. B.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.
Beresford, G. De la P. Galway, Viscount
Biddell, W. Garnier, J. C.
Birkbeck, E. Gibson, right hon. E.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Giffard, Sir H. S.
Boord, T. W. Gore-Langton, W. S.
Bourke, right hon. R. Grantham, W.
Broadley, W. H. H. Gray, E. D.
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Greene, E.
Greer, T.
Brooke, Lord Gregory, G. B.
Bruce, Sir H. H. Halsey, T. F.
Bruce, hon. T. Hamilton, right hon.
Brymer, W. E. Lord G.
Bulwer, J. R. Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Burghley, Lord Hamilton, I. T.
Buxton, Sir R. J. Harvey, Sir R. B.
Cameron, D. Healy, T. M.
Campbell, J. A. Herbert, hon. S.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Hicks, E.
Chaplin, H. Hildyard, T. B. T.
Christie, W. L. Hill, Lord A. W.
Clarke, E. Hill, A. S.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Holland, Sir H. T.
Coddington, W. Home, Lt.-Col. D. M.
Collins, T. Hope, right hon. A. J. B. B.
Compton, F.
Corbet, W. J. Houldsworth, W. H.
Corry, J. P. Kennard, C. J.
Crichton, Viscount Kennaway, Sir J. H.
Cross, rt. hon. Sir R. A. Kenny, M. J.
Cubitt, right hon. G. Knight, F. W.
Curzon, Major hon. M. Knightley, Sir R.
Dalrymple, C. Lawrance, J. C.
Davenport, W. B. Lawrence, Sir T.
Dawnay, Col. hon. L. P. Leamy, E.
Dawnay, hon. G. C. Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Deasy, J. Leigh, hon. G. H. C.
De Worms, Baron H. Leighton, S.
Dickson, Major A. G Lennox, Lord H. G.
Digby, Colonel hon. E. Lever, J. O.
Donaldson-Hudson, C. Levett, T. J.
Douglas, A. Akers- Lewisham, Viscount
Dyke, rt. hn. Sir W. H. Loder, R.
Eaton, H. W. Long, W. H.
Ecroyd, W. F. Lopes, Sir M.
Egerton, hon. A. de T. Lowther, rt. hon. J.
Egerton, hon. A. F. Lowther, hon. W.
Elcho, Lord Lowther, J. W.
Macnaghten, E. Redmond, W. H. K.
M'Carthy, J. Rendlesham, Lord
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Repton, G. W.
Makins, Colonel W. T. Ridley, Sir M. W.
Manners, rt. Hon. Lord J. J. R. Ritchie, C. T.
Rolls, J. A.
March, Earl of Ross, A. H.
Marriott, W. T. Ross, C. C.
Master, T. W. C. Round, J.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. St. Aubyn, W. M.
Mayne, T. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Miles, Sir P. J. W. Scott, M. D.
Miles, C. W. Selwin- Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Mills, Sir C. H.
Milner, Sir F. Severne, J. E.
Molloy, B. C. Sexton, T.
Monckton, F. Sheil, E.
Morgan, hon. F. Smith, rt. hon. W. H.
Moss, R. Smith, A.
Mulholland, J. Stanhope, hon. E.
Newdegate, C. N. Stanley, rt. hon. Col. F.
Newport, Viscount Stanley, E. J.
Nolan, Colonel J. P. Storer, G.
North, Colonel J. S. Strutt, hon. C. H.
Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H. Sykes, C.
Talbot, J. G.
Northcote, H. S. Thomson, H.
O'Brien, W. Thornhill, A. J.
O'Connor, A. Thornhill, T.
O'Connor, T. P. Thynne, Lord H. F
O'Donnell, F. H. Tollemache, H. J.
O'Gorman Mahon, Col. Tollemache, hn. W. F.
The Tomlinson, W. E. M.
Onslow, D. R. Tottenham, A. L.
Paget, R. H. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Parnell, C. S. Warburton, P. E.
Perk, Sir H. W. Warton, C. N.
Peel, Sir R. Whitley, E.
Pemberton, E. L. Wilmot, Sir H.
Percy, rt. hon. Earl Winn, R.
Percy, Lord A. Wortley, C. B. S.
Phipps, C. N. P. Wroughton, P.
Phipps, P. Wyndham, hon. P.
Plunket, rt. Hon. D. R. Yorke, J. R.
Price, Captain G. E.
Puleston, J. H. TELLERS.
Raikes, rt. Hon. H. C. Leighton, Sir B.
Rankin, J. Pell, A.
Read, C. S.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday next.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put. Resolved, That this House, while ready to entertain any necessary reforms in local administration, deprecates the postponement of further measures of relief acknowledged to be due to ratepayers in counties and boroughs in respect of local charges imposed upon them for National services.