§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir E. ASSHETON GROSS)
, in moving that the Bill be row read a second time, said, that the House would remember that early in 1884 a Royal Commission was appointed for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting upon the housing of the poor in the Metropolis and elsewhere; and hon. Members ought to congratulate themselves upon the fact that although a great many thorny questions were raised and separate Reports were presented by several of the Commissioners upon points of detail, upon the main points the Report of the Commissioners had been practically unanimous. At the same time, he was bound to say that they owed a great deal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Charles W. Dilke), the President of the Commission, for the part he took in the matter. This Bill had been drawn with the object of embodying most of the chief recommendations of the Commissioners. Those hon. Members who had taken the trouble to read the Report of the Commissioners, or the evidence upon which that Report was founded, would have seen that there was ample room for improvement in certain cases, and that in many cases there was an absolute necessity for further legislation. He admitted the force of the observation that the great thing was that the existing law should be firmly administered; but he thought that it was equally true that the existing law required material alteration. There were 1586 two great evils in the Metropolis—overcrowding and sanitary and structural defects in the houses. It was quite clear that the effect of the present measure would be to do much to meet those evils. With regard to over-crowding, it must be remembered that there was over-crowding of houses within a particular area, as well as over-crowding of persons in particular houses. The condition of things in the worst parts of London had grown in consequence of houses intended for residences of a better class having been split up into different tenements, while, at the same time, they had been hemmed in by houses of a smaller class. It should not be supposed that nothing had been done in the way of checking the evil of overcrowding. Lord Shaftesbury said that, bad as was the condition of London at the present time, it was a paradise compared to what it was 50 years ago. That might be going a long way, but he thought there was some truth in the statement, because a great deal had already been done under the Act which he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) had had the honour of carrying through that House some years ago. He, however, quite agreed that large sums of money had been wasted in carrying that Act into effect, in consequence of the over-valuation of the property taken under it. By the Act of 1882 a good deal had been done to check that extravagant expenditure. He was, however, glad to say that under the Act which bore his name no less than 42 acres of land had been acquired in the Metropolis, upon which houses had been built affording accommodation for 32,000 people. That, at all events, was a step in the right direction, although, of course, as contrasted with the enormous population of this Metropolis, it was a comparatively small one. He fully admitted, however, that the people who were dispossessed of their tenements under that Act were not actually transferred to the new dwellings; nevertheless, the result of the working of the measure had been that those who went to the new dwellings had left room for others elsewhere. What were the causes of the present discreditable state of things with regard to the dwellings of the working classes in London? The first was the great disproportion that existed between the incomes of the working classes and the rents which 1587 they were forced to pay in order to live near their work. The principle of supply and demand did not apply in the case of those who had to be at their work at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. Another cause was the great multiplicity of interests that were involved in this class of property, and the difficulty of getting at the real owner of the property. In 1851 Lord Shaftesbury passed an Act which, in his opinion, ought to have done much to check the evil complained of. The object of that Act was to enable Vestries to appoint Commissioners to borrow money on the security of the rates for the erection of dwelling-houses to be managed under bye-laws to be framed by the Commissioners. But, unfortunately, that Act remained a dead letter owing to the smallness of the areas which it had formed. By the first portion of the present Bill it was proposed to extend those areas and to transfer the power of putting the Act into operation from the Vestries to the Metropolitan Board of Works. Another cause why Lord Shaftesbury's Act had been unsuccessful was that it had to be worked by too elaborate a machinery, and that its provisions were rendered almost nugatory by a series of saving clauses and of safeguards. It was now proposed that the present measure should be worked in the City of London by the Commissioners of Sewers, in the Metropolis by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and in the Provinces by the rural Sanitary Authorities. It was proposed to give to the latter authorities the power to build not only large blocks of buildings, but cottages in the country, to which should be attached half-an-acre of garden ground. He thought that this portion of the Bill would effect a great improvement in the existing law, and would conduce to the comfort and health of a great number of people. The real fact was that the difficulty of the over-crowding of houses had been increased by the demolition which had taken place by railways, by street improvements, and by other works. Therefore, when they wanted to build houses for the working classes, the question was, where were they to get the sites? Now, however, an opportunity was about to be afforded of obtaining land on which to erect this class of buildings, owing to the fact that the Prison Commissioners, for purposes of prison dis- 1588 cipline, were very anxious to move the great prisons out of London and into the country. The result of such a step would be that there would be large vacant spaces of land available in different parts of London—at Clerken well, Millbank, Coldbath Fields, and Pentonville, which covered a great many acres. As they would be no longer required for prison purposes, they might well be utilized for the purpose of relieving the pressure in other parts of London. In accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, this Bill proposed to empower the Prison Commissioners to dispose of these sites to the Metropolitan Board as trustees, for the purpose of having this class of buildings erected upon them. It was not proposed that the Metropolitan Board should cover the land itself; but the Board might let it for the purpose to the Peabody trustees and bodies of that kind; and, of course, care would be taken to provide the open spaces, board schools, &c, which the population of such large areas would render necessary. There was one provision which was not in the Bill, but which might well have been included in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commission—namely, a provision giving the Metropolitan Board power to exchange these sites for sites in other parts of London which were more convenient. The next provision of the Bill was one about which there was some difference of opinion. It provided that the Prison Commissioners should, in fixing the price of these sites, have regard to the purposes for which the land was to be employed. Some of these sites would, if offered for sale to the public, probably be utilized for private residences and shops; and if the price charged was the price which the site would bring in the open market, it would be quite impossible to secure them for the purposes aimed at in this Bill. The price should be fixed at such a figure that those who secured any site might build upon it tenements for the poorer classes without incurring any loss. He did not desire to commit the House to the principle that the State was to contribute to the payment for sites for this purpose. The present was an exceptional case, and these prison sites might be regarded as an unexpected windfall—a Godsend. Nobody ever thought of having them—they came down as it were from the 1589 clouds. There was a great difficulty to be confronted for which some remedy must be found, and which would entail very grievous consequences unless provided for; and under these circumstances he hoped the House would, without pledging itself to the principle, yet accept the proposal in the clause. The fact was that the conditions under which the poor lived were deteriorating the standard of bodily strength, and this was getting worse from generation to generation. At the present time the loss of wages from ill-health would amply be sufficient in most cases to secure adequate and satisfactory dwelling accommodation for those who dwelt in dilapidated and unsanitary tenements. Another clause in the Bill dealt with the terms on which the money should be borrowed from the Public Works Loans Commissioners, and provided that if the security offered was ample the rate of interest should be the lowest possible compatible with its entailing no loss. Hitherto the Treasury proceeded on the principle that they must charge a higher rate than would actually pay for each loan, so as to cover losses in respect of other loans. But it would scarcely be fair to apply that principle to loans under this Bill, and it therefore provided that the interest should be the lowest possible that would enable such loans to be made without loss to the Exchequer, the interest in no case, however, to be less than £3 2s. 6d. per cent. This clause was only to be in force until the end of the year 1888, and was inserted so that something definite and practical might be done at once. The 4th clause, he knew, had been objected to, as one which apparently gave powers to the Local Government Board to make orders on Vestries to do certain acts. He thought, however, that the Vestries need not be very much frightened by the clause, inasmuch as it only slightly extended the powers which the Local Government Board already possessed. The Act of 1875 left matters in this unsatisfactory condition—that if the Medical Officer of Health made his Report to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and that Board considered that it was not a matter that required to be dealt with, the Secretary of State had power to appoint a special arbitrator to go and report. But the Secretary of State could not order anything to be done. The 1590 Bill proposed to give him power to invoke the assistance of the High Court of Justice to compel the Metropolitan Board to do its duty. He thought there ought to be some authority by which the Metropolitan Board, if it did not do its duty, should be compelled to do it. Dealing next with Clause 12 of the Bill, he said its object was to enable owners and corporations to deal with funds at their disposal, although they might be tied up in trusts, for this particular purpose of benefiting their estates. He did not see any objection to that clause, because it was to the benefit of the estate that they should be able to let free this money. The next clause, which was an important one, was liable to some objection. He thought, however, the building societies had been somewhat misled by the opposition they had organized against Clause 13. In the first place, he might at once say that he thought this clause was a good deal too wide as it at present stood. The Bill was intended to deal with the housing of the working classes and nothing else: therefore, he pro -posed to ask the House to allow the clause to be limited to the houses of the working classes only. Hon. Members might ask how he was to define the working classes, and in reply to that very natural question he might say that he had framed a clause, which he should bring forward on going into Committee, in which he had endeavoured to give that definition. Further, he thought the liability of the landlords should not be so wide as in the present clause; but that it should be limited to the condition of the houses at the time of letting. As to the remedy given to the tenant as expressed in the Preamble—namely, that the tenant of an unfurnished house should have the same remedy as in the case of the tenant of a furnished house, he did not see what objection could be raised. What was the case they had to meet? A number of wretched houses were run up; they were not properly drained or connected with the sewers, and generally they were in a very unsound condition as dwellings. He thought the owners should not be allowed to let such houses. They must soy that the houses should not be let in this condition; but if let in this dilapidated condition the tenant should have a remedy against the landlord. He observed that in connection with this sub- 1591 ject Lord Grey had written to The Timesa letter in which he said that they ought to punish those persons for letting houses unfit for human habitation. This, how ever, was not a Criminal Bill; it gave the tenants a civil remedy. But it must be remembered, in discussing Lord Grey's proposition, that if they to stop the letting of every house in this condition, throughout London, he did not know what would become of the people who occupied them at the present moment. He thought that the contention of the noble Earl added strength to his argument on the earlier clause for taking advantage of the prison sites in order to get rid of this evil to a very large extent. He stated the ether day that the Bill would be extended to Ireland, although the 17th clause, as it at present stood, said it should not. This provision was originally put in because the Report of the Irish Commissioners had not been presented to the public at the time the Bill was framed. He was also very wishful that the Bill should apply to Scotland. But in respect to Scotland he must put in these words, "so far as it is applicable," because there were certain clauses which required machinery to put them in operation which did not at present exist in Scotland. That machinery, however, might be created afterwards. In asking the House to give the Bill a second reading he urged hon. Members to reserve some of the disputed points for Committee. The Government would then be able to see how far they could meet the objections which might be raised to the points discussed. His excuse for bringing this Bill into the House at that period of the Session was that it was essential to do so; the need for it was so great that he did not think there was a single Member of the House who sat on the recent Commission who was not convinced that it was high time something was done, and clone promptly. Although the measure was not a very large one, and would not remedy every grievance, for men must, after all, help themselves, it would yet do something in the direction of ameliorating the condition of the people who were living in a state of degradation and poverty; and, at all events, it would show that the Legislature was willing to help the people so far as legislation could effect that object. It was on that ground that he submitted the Bill con- 1592 fidently to the favourable consideration of the House. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir R. Assheton Cross.)
MR. LYULPH STANLEY
, in rising to move—That it is inexpedient at this stage of the Session to initiate legislation involving the principle of a National subsidy towards aiding any locality in providing dwellings for the working class in such locality.said, that in placing this Notice on the Paper he did not wish to prevent useful legislation which would do good to the condition of the poor; but though in one sense he considered this a very small Bill in relation to the magnitude of the evils with which it dealt, yet it was a Bill which incidentally raised one or two important and extensive principles—principles which, in his judgment, were so dangerous that they ought to be considered very carefully, and at a time when the House of Commons was able to consider them fairly. It was, however, almost impossible at this time of the Session for a Bill of this kind to be considered carefully. The attendance of the House was thin, and hon. Members were jaded, while the Business remained practically in the hands of the Government. There had been a misapprehension about the Bill, and about its relation to the Royal Commission, which he thought it his duty to correct, because that misapprehension first found expression in some remarks made in the other House of Parliament by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord said—That the Bill had been drawn up with the unanimous consent of the Members of the Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes.So far from this being the case, the Commissioners were never consulted in any way from first to last as to this Bill in any shape or form. He believed it was true that a consultation had been held between his right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Commission (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but no consultation between two individuals, however distinguished or important, could be treated as the unanimous consent of 1593 the Commission. It was evident that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was under a similar misapprehension, because that evening he spoke of the Bill as being a Bill of the Commission; and it was only when he met with emphatic denials from three Members of the Commission present in the House that that remark was passed over. While he was desirous of passing such laws as would improve the state of things existing among the poorer classes of town and country, they ought to be free to consider this Bill on its merits; and it ought not to be supposed that the Members of the Royal Commission presented the Bill to the House as the outcome of their conclusions, much less of their unanimous conclusions. No one could doubt that there were grave evils connected with the housing of the working classes which demanded a remedy if a suitable and reasonable remedy could be found; but he trusted the Rouse would consider this question in a calmer frame of mind than they did another important social question which had recently been before the House, and which was intimately connected with the housing of the poor. He would not enter into a discussion of the application of the principles of political economy to this question; but there were certain general principles which were thoroughly applicable to the present condition of things, and if, in. the eager pursuit of some philanthropic result, those principles were violated, it was likely that more harm than good would be done. This Bill simply pottered about with a few trumpery little remedies, and he could not help viewing it as it stood with a good deal of suspicion. During the last 20 years a great improvement had taken place in the social condition of the working classes, and in existing circumstances it was not of so much importance to do something as to do the right thing. In dealing with a great question like this he thought it was far better to be willing to wait a few months, or possibly a year, and deal with the question in a thorough way rather than by touching the fringe of the question, and passing a paltry little Bill to give an excuse to those who really did not care much about anything being done to say—"Oh, your housing of the working classes was dealt with in a Bill in the Session of 1885. See how 1594 your remedies work, and do not raise the question again." He thought he should have the support of the Home Secretary for the general principle that the true remedies for the evils which existed were those which raised up the self-respect and self-reliance and self-help of the people and their administration in their local communities. The wish of almost every man in the House was to get away from centralization; and he did not believe that they could ever have satisfactory results while there was a weak or a non-representative local government. He was afraid the Home Secretary had not that faith in popular self-government which some of those on I he Liberal Benches had; for when the right hon. Gentleman was last in Office he introduced a measure, shortly before the fall of the Conservative Government, the Water Bill for London, in which he showed a very great distrust of the popular representative government of London, whatever it might be, and created a Water Trust, largely of a nominative and non-representative character. But he (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) declared most emphatically that they would never reform the great towns unless the people of those towns were largely trusted in their administration, and unless they gave the people the greatest power to bring their will to bear upon their Representatives. The Commission had recognized this, and had mentioned reform of the government of London as a condition precedent to the improvement of London. There was another important recommendation of the Commission which was really essential to any reform in these matters. The pressure of the rates was felt very severely by the poorer classes; and the Commission unanimously agreed that at the root of this question lay the question of a fairer incidence of the rates. He quite agreed that the difficulty of acquiring sites was one of the chief difficulties in providing dwellings for the poor; and unless some means could be devised of facilitating the acquisition of sites the question could not be adequately dealt with. The Commission had recommended that vacant land in the neighbourhood of towns should be rated in some relation to its capital value, and not upon what it produced yearly. Nothing would do more to bring the land into the market, and bring down the ground-rents, and so 1595 facilitate the acquisition of sites. But while the Bill took no notice of these proposed remedies, he asserted that it encouraged centralization, and especially in Clause 5, If the Local Authority did not agree with the health officer, the Bill made the Central Government the Court of Appeal in London between the health officer and the Municipal Authority, and enabled the Central Authority, if they took the side of the health officer, to order the Local Authority to carry out a scheme which might cost £100,000 or £200,000. In reference to the prison sites, he also remarked that while the Home Secretary attached importance to allocating those sites for the housing of the poor in London, he did not in his speech attach the same importance to parting with them below their real value; and he pointed out the difference made in the Bill between the Cold bath Fields, the Millbank, and the Pentonville sites. Under the Bill two of those sites were to be sold by the Treasury, and the third with the consent of the Middlesex Justices. If the Bill became law the Treasury would be bound to give effect to the recommendation of Parliament on the subject; but the Middlesex Justices were a quasi-private Corporation, not responsible to Parliament, and could do what they pleased in the matter. If political economy was to be violated, he would far rather it should be done in the case of the Cold-bath Fields site than in the case of the other sites, for if there was a pressing need anywhere it was at Coldbath Fields. The Home Secretary had afforded the House no indication of what was the amount of the subsidy which it was asked to give to the people of London. According to evidence given before the Commission, builders could afford to pay about £10,000 per aero for land for working-class dwellings; and if the sites in question were thrown away at that price, the Government might possibly, at some future date, have to purchase and clear land for national purposes in a central situation in London. The State had had to pay enormous sums for sites in the neighbourhood of Millbank for public purposes; and he asked—Were they sure that those sites, when set free from prisons, would not be useful to the State for other purposes? The present enlargement of the National Gallery had been very 1596 costly, and there must before long be another enlargement of that institution. Why should not the barracks be removed to Millbank, so as to set free space for the enlargement of the National Gallery? Again, other sites probably would have to be acquired for other public purposes. It was possible that the subsidy to be granted to the Metropolis might amount to as much as £500,000; but supposing that only £200,000 were asked for, would it not be better, while granting such a sum, to consider first of all which were the poorest parts of the country where such assistance was most required? If they now gave that large subsidy to London—the richest City in the world, which already obtained so many advantages at the expense of the State—with what face could they resist democratic pressure from other parts of the country demanding similar subsidies? If this measure were passed, with what face could they hereafter resist the democratic pressure that would be sure to be brought to bear upon them in numberless ways, and for a variety of purposes? If they were to adopt Socialism in any form, let it be local and municipal Socialism, which would be kept in sufficient restraint by the votes of the ratepayers. But if once they introduced State Socialism, there might be no end to the demands that would be made. The cry from every popular constituency would be "Give, give." A far more democratic Parliament than the present one would shortly be in existence, and they ought to be very guarded in the dying hours of the present Parliament of setting up a precedent, which he could not but regard as of the most mischievous kind. Miss Octavia Hill had said that when the State stepped in iii such a case as this to do a little, it paralyzed all private enterprize in that direction. State interference of this kind was full of danger; and if it was said that the value of the gift to London would be but small, then it was not worth while to incur that danger for the purpose of giving a miserable dole of some £50,000 to the working classes of London. The principle of this measure was the exact contrary of that which had been laid down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Bristol on Saturday last, when he protested against leading the poor to look to the State for relief from their difficulties. The Home Secretary must 1597 be very confiding when he proposed to instruct the Metropolitan Boards of Works with the power to carry out this measure after they had built blocks on the site of Newort Market, and by the side of Gray's Inn Road, so crowded that in a few years they would probably be fever nests as bad as the buildings they had superseded. The right hon. Baronet would have done better had he introduced a Bill which would have provided for the creation of a real Municipality for the Metropolis. Section 13 rather went beyond the recommendations of the Commissioners. It should be limited to the condition of the premises at the time of the letting, and should only render the landlord liable for any damage suffered by reason of his negligence or default. Where tenants were constantly changing it was impossible for the landlord to examine the state of the drains before each new tenant entered into possession; and it would be unfair to make him liable for some defects which was caused by a recent tenant. He hoped that at this period of the Session the Government would not persist with the clause relating to the Government subsidy, since it was raising a very large question for a very small object, there being much opposition to the clause, and the amount of the subsidy being only small. He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is inexpedient at this stage of the Session to initiate legislation involving the principle of a National subsidy towards aiding any locality in providing dwellings for the working class in such locality,"—(Mr. Lyulph Stanley,)
—instead there of.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) had directed the greater part of his speech against a particular clause; but inasmuch as he was not the author of that clause, and only supported it as a compromise, he did not feel called upon to reply in detail to his hon. Friend's observations. The hon. Member certainly had every right to address the House on this question, because there was no Member of the Commis- 1598 sion who gave more time and thought to its proceedings. The hon. Member said this was not the Bill of the Royal Commission. That was perfectly true, for the Members of the Commission were never consulted as to the clauses of the Bill. The Report of the Commission was given to the draftsman with those parts of it marked which he was to incorporate into the Bill, and that had been done. The hon. Member had given no illustrations as to the points in which the Bill differed from the Report of the Royal Commission. It might, no doubt, have been desirable that the clause with regard to the prison sites should follow the Report of the Commission more closely; but the Home Secretary, it appeared, was willing to meet his hon. Friend on this point. Sub-section 2 of Clause 5 also differed from the Report of the Commission; but upon this also the Home Secretary had expressed his willingness to make alterations, and he should be quite willing to assist his hon. Friend in making such modification as would make the clause agree with the terms of the Report. His hon. Friend said this was a centralizing Bill. No doubt some clauses might be so characterized; but many other clauses, on the contrary, gave greater powers to the Local Authorities. The hon. Member evidently desired that legislation on this subject should be delayed until after the reform of local government. He did not yield to the hon. Member or anyone in his desire to see the reform of local government in London, in the country, and in other portions of the United Kingdom; but he could not agree that it was desirable to wait until these reforms were carried before dealing with this subject of the housing of the poor and with the subject of public health in the Metropolis, as suggested by the Royal Commission and as attempted in the Bill introduced by Lord Salisbury. The Public Health Act which applied to England did not apply to the Metropolis, and there were in that Act many important principles which it was highly desirable should be extended to the Metropolis. The hon. Member had also spoken of the rating of vacant land. It would, however, be very difficult to carry the principle of rating vacant land without at the same time providing for the rating of vacant houses, against which there were many objections, among 1599 others this—that it would discourage building. The hon. Member spoke of the Bill of the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) dealing with leaseholds; but he had to point out that there was very strong opposition in the House and in the country to the change, and it was most undesirable to make the whole of the recommendations of the Royal Commission depend for Parliamentary sanction on the acceptance of the principles of the hon. Member. His hon. Friend went on to speak of the centralizing spirit in which the Bill had been drawn; but he took exception altogether to that statement. He wished now to point out to the House that although there were three Motions directed against the Bill, all three were Committee Motions, rather than Second Reading Motions. Each of those Motions took exception to one clause of the Bill, but they did not attack the Bill as a whole; and none of them constituted, in his opinion, reasons why the House should reject the Bill as a whole. The Motion of the hon. Member for Oldham, and the main drift of his speech in support of it, were directed against Clause 3; the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) was directed against Clause 13, and the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Hollond) was directed against the 2nd sub-section of Clauses 4 and 5. The hon. Member for Brighton had probably not quite understood the meaning of the 2nd sub-section of Clause 4; but, as some modifications had been promised with respect to Clause 5, he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Stockport would wait until the Committee stage to see what the modifications were, He should like to state to hon. Members who might wish to delay the Bill his own reasons for thinking that the general feeling on both sides of the House was in favour of the passing of the Bill. His hon. Friends put down Motions and made speeches which were directed against particular portions of the Bill; but neither the Motions nor the speeches were likely to attack or touch the great majority of the clauses of the Bill, and there were some provisions of the Bill which seemed to him ought to commend themselves specially to Members who sat on the Opposition side of the House. He thought that the main reasons why 1600 they ought to desire that this Bill should pass, even at that late period of the Session, were three. The Bill reversed the principle with regard to the rate of loans for this purpose, established in 1879, in spite of a very strong resistance from his own side of the House. He saw present his right hon. Friend the Member for Beading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) and his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), who used in 1879 exactly the same arguments and almost the same words which had been used by the Home Secretary that evening. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Heading, attacking the proposals of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Iddesleigh, said that he founded his Bill upon the fact of losses on certain loans; but he pointed out to the House that the losses were not on loans of this kind, but losses which had occurred on loans of an improvident kind, and on wholly insufficient security. One reason why they then pointed out, and why they now pointed out, that the rate of interest could be lowered on loans of this description was because only one-half of the money was advanced under the general conditions of the loan, and there had never been a case of failure to return the money, because the buildings formed ample security for the loan thus advanced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, in seconding the Motion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Beading, said that the tendency of the change made in 1879 was, to use his phrase, to kill the Artizans' Dwellings Act; and. there could be no doubt that the alterations in the rates of loans had a detrimental effect on the working of that Act. There was no difference of opinion on that point; but the action taken by his right hon. Friends in 1879 had been justified by the evidence and the Report of the Royal Commission. This was the first point on which it was of great importance that this Bill should pass. There was another point which was not mentioned by the hon. Member for Oldham in the course of his speech. It was most desirable that at the earliest possible moment they should take away the power to compel Local Authorities to purchase any property they touched under what were known as the Torrens Acts. There was almost unanimity among; the Royal Com- 1601 missioners on this point. He ventured to say that it was very important indeed that they should remove that power of compelling the Local Authorities to purchase which had so greatly hampered the working of those Acts. A third question of importance was the obtaining, for the first time, as regarded England and Scotland, under this Bill, the opportunity of giving Local Authorities power to compulsorily take land for the purpose of cottage gardens. That was an entirely new principle as regarded England, and it was one under this Bill which was not likely to be largely applied; but it was a most interesting experiment. Dealing next with the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said the first two clauses of the Bill simplified the working of Lord Shaftesbury's Act of 1851, and made it possible for that Act to come into force. If the right hon. Gentleman wished to apply this Bill to Scotland, he suggested that a clause should be inserted making it certain that Lord Shaftesbury's Act of 1851 applied to Scotland. The evidence given before the Royal Commission in Edinburgh left a doubt on the fact as to whether that Act was applicable to Scotland. It had been a dead letter so far as England was concerned; it had never been worked in a single case. It had been applied to Ireland in 1866, and there it had been enforced, which was a remarkable fact, considering that the Local Authorities in Ireland were badly constituted, and that the towns in Ireland were, as a whole, less well-governed than the towns in England. It was probable when they reached the Committee stage the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) would make an attempt to remove some of the limitations in this clause. He should support those limitations as a compromise to which he had been a party; but he trusted that if the principle was found to work they would be able to get rid of those limitations later on. The hon. Member for Oldham had directed the main portion of his remarks against Clause 3. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had already told the House that that clause was not his. At first he voted against the first proposal of the Commission and the whole principle of this clause; but he considered that the present form in which the clause came was a modification of the original proposals to which he was a party. As far 1602 as he was concerned, therefore, he should vote for the clause. The defence which occurred to him as the wisest one to make was this—that it was an equitable clause, an assertion of the same principle which an enormous majority in the House of Commons sanctioned against the strong feeling of the Government of the day in the case of the Thames Embankment. In that case the Commissioners of Woods and Forests went to the utmost length which public officials had over gone by fulminating against the majority of the House of Commons, and by publishing in the papers from day to day their reasons why the House of Commons was committing an act of spoliation and plunder. The House of Commons, on that occasion, thought it was necessary, in dealing with what the right hon. Gentleman that evening had called a windfall, to introduce principles more equitable than those strict principles of pounds, shillings, and pence. The hon. Member for Oldham expressed doubt as to interfering with private enterprize; but he must point out to the hon. Member that the whole principle of the Artizans' Dwellings Act of 1875 was, to some extent, an interference with private enterprize. The assistance which was given to the Peabody Trustees was an interference with private enterprize; and they had gone a long way in interfering with private enterprize in dealing with this question. The hon. Member also expressed doubts on the point of exorbitant rents. Witnesses had shown that the peculiar and exceptional circumstances attaching to central districts of London and Liverpool did lead to the exaction of exorbitant rents; and with that evidence before them it was not possible seriously to argue whether rents in certain portions of London and Liverpool were or were not exorbitant. His hon. Friend had extracted a promise that that clause should be made consistent with the Report of the Commission, and should not go beyond the Report. His hon. Friend had quoted the Report, and had stated the objections that were made by the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) to the proposal of the Bill; but although the right hon. Gentleman would oppose the clause in Committee, and thus give them an opportunity of considering it further, he had not made his objections to that clause a ground for opposing the second reading of the Bill. With 1603 regard to the sub-sections of Clauses 4 I and 5, the Home Secretary had shown that the 2nd sub-section of Clause 4 had been misunderstood. It was not a general power given to the Local Government Board to interfere in the way of Torrens's Act for the first time; but it was a very slight extension of the power as to obstructive buildings which they had already had. If the power given under Torrens's Act was an objectionable one, it ought to be repealed. Although no one in the House was more opposed than he was to the principle of centralization, he said they should either sweep away the whole of the provision in that Act, or make it applicable in the way now proposed to obstructive buildings. The sub-section of Clause 5 was a different matter. He agreed with the hon. Member for Oldham that that clause was not properly drawn. In his latest draft of the clause the Government draftsman had not quite followed the Report of the Commission. At pages 34 and 35 of the Report they would find the argument which justified the insertion of that sub-section. It was pointed out in a great mass of evidence that the Metropolis was altogether exceptional in the difficulties which arose between Torrens's Act and Cross's Act. In the whole of the municipal parts of England where those Acts applied, the two sets of Acts were administered by the same Bodies; but in the case of London alone they had two different sets of Authorities administering the two sets of Acts. In the Metropolis Cross's Acts were administered by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and Torrens's Acts by the Vestries. The effect of that was that each Body tried to throw the responsibility on the other. The Officer of Health, who was the officer of the Vestry, reported a scheme under Cross's Acts; that Report was sent to the Metropolitan Board of Works, who in most cases sent it back to the Vestry and said the work ought to be done by a small scheme under Torrens's Acts; and ultimately the whole thing dropped through, and nothing whatever was done. The result was that Torrens's Acts were very little applied, and Cross's Acts had ceased to be applied at all. The question was, whether they should adopt some temporary remedy, or should wait until they had a general system of municipal government for London carried out. 1604 He thought it was desirable to adopt some temporary remedy, although no one was more anxious than he was to see a general system of municipal government for London established. The Commission rather desired that the remedy should be applied by the extension of the existing provisions of the law. It was already provided under Cross's Acts that an inquiry should be held by the Home Office; but although those inquiries were held, at the present moment there was no power of calling upon either of the two Local Authorities in London to carry out the scheme. It was the suggestion of the Royal Commission that there ought to be some mode of arbitration between the Vestries and the Metropolitan Board of Works. He thought that the 2nd sub-section of Clause 45 ought to be confined to the Metropolis, and might properly be modified. The hon. Member for Oldham had referred to the letter from Lord Grey which appeared in The Times: and it was desirable to point out that Lord Grey apparently wrote in ignorance of the present state of the law and bye-laws in regard to tenement houses. Lord Grey in that letter recommended a great many of the principles which were already found in the existing law. In the Public Health Act, the Sanitary Act for the Metropolis, and in the corresponding Acts for Scotland and Ireland, there were very large powers given to Local Authorities for dealing with tenement houses. Nothing except the supineness of the Local Authorities prevented the exercise of those powers; and if they said that their hands were tied by the Central Board in respect to the adoption or application of those bye-laws, the present Bill would leave it entirely to the Local Authorities to adopt them. The hon. Member for Oldham did not object to the clause which declared it the duty of the Local Authority to enforce the provisions of the law relating to public health. That provision had not been opposed, and therefore he would say nothing on it except that he had some doubt whether it was wise or not to introduce a provision which looked like a brutum fulmen; but on taking the advice of those who were best acquainted with the working of the laws relating to public health, they all declared that a clause of that kind would do good, and that clause was introduced with their 1605 assent. Clause 13 was objected to by Motions that stood on the Paper. It was, he thought, originally suggested by Lord Salisbury; but the evidence adduced before the Committee pointed to its adoption. He admitted the desirability of confining the Bill to the housing of the working classes; but, at the same time, he supported the principle as one which might be included in the general law. As to the application of the Act to Scotland and Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman stated that it was intended that it should apply to those two countries. He would make one suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to a certain difficulty which might arise in connection with the application of the Act to Scotland. The Burgh Police and Health (Scotland) Bill—a famous Bill as to which a difficulty arose the other night—was a very bulky measure, and it stood in rather a peculiar position. It passed its second reading, and went through a very careful examination by a Select Committee of that House last year, and it had been similarly dealt with by the House of Lords in the present Session. Under those circumstances, he should be glad himself if it were possible to pass that Bill this Session; but if there was opposition to it, of course, that was out of the question. But the Royal Commission, on its Scotch investigation, most strongly recommended the passing of that Bill, and it avoided making other recommendations as to the burghs of Scotland, because they found two facts very strongly marked in regard to them. One was the extreme desire of each Scottish town to adopt bye laws of its own, dealing with its questions in its own way, which they would be able to do under the Burgh Police and Health Bill, keeping their own Acts. The second was that they found the Scotch had a very stubborn dislike to the application to them of any provisions which interfered with private enterprize. As regards the rural districts in Scotland, the Commission strongly recommended a reform of the local government, which was greatly needed. As to the application to Scotland of that portion of the Bill dealing with Lord Shaftesbury's Act, he himself had no doubt. With regard to Ireland, it should be borne in mind that the Labourers (Ireland.) Act went beyond the provisions of this Bill, Of course, this Bill 1606 would not form any bar or hindrance to the adoption of an improved system of local government. If he thought that the Bill would in the least degree stand in the way of an improved system of local government in the rural districts of this country, in the Metropolis, and in Scotland and Ireland, he should not give it his support. But he believed it would form no bar to such improvement; but that, on the contrary, its provisions would, in some respects, pave the way and inspire fresh energy in the effort to obtain better local self-government in the rural districts, because they would show the people some of the advantages which might be gained by local government. Though not a large Bill, he did not think it deserved the epithet of "paltry," which his hon. Friend had applied to it; and he could only hope that, though not such a large measure as he could wish, it would, nevertheless, be found not unworthy to grapple with some of the difficulties that surrounded this question.
wished to say a word or two upon the clauses of the Bill dealing with sanitation. In his opinion, the clause giving power to a tenant to sue his landlord for damages in the event of sickness arising from the sanitary condition of his—the tenant's—dwelling was a mockery. He was fully persuaded of the importance of promoting improved sanitary conditions in the homos of the working classes, and it was his intention to move certain Amendments in Committee, with the object of extending still further the operation of the Bill in that direction. He thought they ought to make the powers of the Local Authorities compulsory instead, of permissive, that every house should be inspected at least once in two years, and that no owner should be allowed to let a house without a certificate of its sanitary condition. He would especially advocate rendering Sanitary Inspectors independent of the Local Boards as to their appointment and dismissal, and empowering Local Authorities to charge a small fee for the inspection of houses.
§ MR. J. R. HOLLOND
observed, that while some clauses of the Bill, if properly worked, would be very beneficial, many contained somewhat objectionable principles. He objected to the centralizing tendency of the Bill, and maintained that it would be much bettor to 1607 leave the Local Authorities fully responsible to the ratepayers who elected them with respect to dealing with insanitary houses. The measure was open to the objection that by giving this power to the Central Government the Local Sanitary Authorities might be discouraged from, bringing forward schemes for the improvement of their respective areas. He hoped that the Government would give an assurance to the House that they would make some substantial concession in the way of making the ground landlords of London yield up a portion of that which they had gained by the increased prosperity of the country. He objected strongly to the Central Government applying the national funds for the benefit of a particular class in a particular locality. Such a proposal was dangerous in principle, and was, moreover, one which ought not to be adopted in the last days of a dying Parliament. He should be glad if Clause 3 was either substantially modified or dropped out of the Bill altogether.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said, that one of the reasons why he could have wished that this Bill had not been brought before the House was that it dealt only with the fringe of a great question, and. that it might be made the pretext for not dealing with the question as a whole. He doubted the policy of this "very weak-kneed dose of Socialism," on account of the difficulty which people might experience under it in obtaining the advantages which the Government proposed to give them. If this measure were to be successfully worked, the Government would have to create a new Department, which must conduct the building operations and must fix both the present and the future rent of the tenements. If this were not done, the tenants would be charged the same rack rents as their neighbours, and all the advantages to be derived under this Bill would go into the pockets of those who conducted the building operations. One of the great complaints against the management of the Peabody Fund was that the wrong people got the benefit of it. He believed, with regard to Clause 3, that if the House could have heard the arguments that led up to the passing of that clause by the Royal Commission, it would be far less popular than it appeared to be. He had made a counter proposal to the effect that, if the prisons 1608 were removed, the sites should be used as open spaces rather than let out for building purposes. But if this benefit were to be conferred upon the Metropolis, he should like to know what they were going to say to the other constituencies? What were they going to say to the population of Stoke, who, when they heard that the working classes of London had obtained these advantages, would demand that the same favour should be extended to them? Was the Government prepared to make grants of pieces of land on which to build dwellings for the working classes to every borough in the Kingdom? He contended that they should not favour one particular part of the community at the expense of the general community; at the same time, if they extended the proposed system to the community as a whole, he would not have so much to say against it. Clause 3, however, admitted a very important principle—namely, that the unearned increment of the land, belonged to the people. This was a somewhat startling admission on the part of the Head of the present Government, and would be welcomed by all land reformers; and he believed Mr. Henry George, when he read and thoroughly understood the whole import of Clause 3, would claim the Prime Minister as one of his converts, or, at any rate, as one who was going a considerable length towards his own principles with regard to land nationalization. So far as Clause 3 admitted the right of the people to the unearned increment of the land of the nation, he looked upon it as a most important one, and one which he could heartily support and endorse from that point of view. There were many points in the Report of the Royal Commission which had been left untouched by this Bill. There was, for instance, the question of Inspectors. There were Inspectors already; and the question was whether those Inspectors should be a reality or a sham—whether they should attend to the interests of the inhabitants, or to the interests of the Vestrymen, their employers. Any Bill that dealt with the question of the housing of the poor should provide that when Inspectors were appointed there should be some guarantee by certificate or examination that they possessed some kind of fitness for the duties they were called upon to discharge. Clause 13 appeared 1609 to have caused considerable alarm to a number of people. A body of gentlemen, representing themselves as a building society federation, had been interviewing the Home Secretary upon the subject; but he would like to ask the Home Secretary whether had he had any communication whatever directly from any building society on this question? There were building societies that existed for the benefit of their members, and others which, he feared, existed merely for speculation; and he ventured to say that there was no building society of the former class which had made any representation whatever against the stringency of Clause 13. The clause was really a protection to building societies, and not an injustice or injury to them. He should watch with very great jealousy any attempt to lessen the strength of that clause. He would not now enter into his reasons for thinking that the clause should rather be strengthened; but he must give the right hon. Gentleman Notice that should any considerable modification be proposed he should have seriously to oppose it. He was sorry to find that one of the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners as to the enfranchisement of leaseholds was not embodied in the Bill. That went to the whole root of the question of overcrowding in the great towns; and as the supplementary Report on that subject had been signed by Cardinal Manning, Mr. Lyulph Stanley, Mr. Samuel Morley, Mr. Torrens, Mr. Godwin, Mr. Collins, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and himself, and was as much a recommendation of the Commission as the majority Report itself, he had looked with the greatest confidence for its inclusion in the Bill. It would be far better for the victims of overcrowding if the present Bill was withdrawn, so that a more thorough and complete measure might be introduced next Session. This Bill dealt with the mere fringe of the question, and to pass it in the dying moments of a Parliament would be a most doubtful proceeding.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he believed that if there were not a General Election ahead this Bill would have been postponed till next Session. He had no objection to its passing; it would do no harm, and it would do but little good; but it contained a principle 1610 which he valued. He did not believe that such a small Bill could be the final outcome of the labours of the Royal Commission. It was acknowledged that there were ample powers for sanitary purposes conferred by the existing law, and that to carry them out we required rural municipalities and better local government in London; and yet this Bill gave more powers before the agencies were reformed. The right hon. Gentleman said the evil was very great, and that it was time to deal with it; but this Bill did not deal with that evil, and it could only be a settlement for a Session, so that it would be just as well to postpone it. It embodied a proposition signed by the Marquess of Salisbury and another Commissioner; but it ignored propositions that were signed by several Commissioners. The clause which gave a Central Authority power over a Local Authority, and so rendered it possible that a Sanitary Inspector might be independent of the Local Authority, was not calculated to produce good local government. It would lead to the abuse of municipal authority, and it would produce local resentment against compulsion exercised by the Central Authority. One would have thought that one difficulty of this sort would have been sufficient for the Government. They were engaged in a dispute with the Local Authority of Limerick, and that was but a sample of what might be anticipated if in England an attempt were made to coerce Local Authorities by the Central Authority. What he valued in the Bill was the application of the Shaftesbury Act of 1851 to rural districts. He knew it had been a dead letter; but the introduction of it into this Bill was an admission of the principle of the compulsory acquisition of land by the Local Authority. This was a principle for which he had contended for a long time, and which many others wished to see affirmed for other purposes. He did not think the principle would be very effective as it here stood, because the Public Health Act of 1875 was incorporated with the Act which required that any land acquired by the Local Authority should be under the Lands Clauses Act, making it thereby so expensive, and giving the landlord such advantages, that he did not think Local Authorities would be likely to put the law in force. 1611 Nevertheless, the principle was affirmed I in one of the clauses of the present Bill. His hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) spoke lightly of the state of things as revealed by the Commission. He would, however, ask hon. Members to read the evidence on which this Bill was based, and which showed that misery, degradation, and suffering of a kind, and to an extent that was simply disgraceful, existed in our midst. That was one reason more why this Bill should be postponed to another Session, in order that the public might know the manner in which the great bulk of the people were living. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he passed the Bill this Session, it would be but the prelude to another measure next year, because the working classes and the poorer classes who were subject to the evils which he had been describing would not consent any longer to bear the maximum of all the discomforts of this life and the minimum of all that made life worth living. He did not now say what clauses could be added to the Bill to meet this state of things; but no measure would be satisfactory which did not contain provisions to place the great mass of the people in London and in the country, as far as their dwellings and surroundings were concerned, in altogether a different position from that which they at present occupied. The Commissioners almost agreed that there were two causes of the evils they were considering. First, there was the poverty of the people, who could not afford the rents asked for superior accommodation; and, secondly, there was the cupidity of the owners of the site, who demanded the highest rents from those who wished to build on those sites, and thus rendered dearer the cost of the working man's dwelling. Neither of these points would be touched by the present Bill. He would recommend the right hon. Gentleman to consider a remedy which was discussed by the Royal Commission, and which was embodied in a Memorandum signed by six or eight Members. That remedy—and he believed it to be the only effectual one—was to find some means by which the competition rents in populous districts might be stayed. The evidence showed that the ever increasing price of land making the acquisition of sites more and more difficult was at the 1612 bottom of the evil. Yet they did not hear of any suggestion from the Government with regard to that difficulty. It was in the action of Local Municipal Authorities that the real remedy was to be found. The only solution of the difficulty was first to create a real Local Authority of a purely elective character, and then to empower it to acquire the land and the dwellings in all those districts which were scheduled as populous. If the Local Authority acquired them at a fair price, taking everything into consideration, competition rents would be stopped. The Municipal Authority would have no interest, like private individuals, in making a profit out of the degradation and the poverty of the people who were compelled to live in a populous district; or if a profit were made it would belong to the community. He hoped hon. Members would not be frightened by the word "Socialism," which simply meant the interdependence of all classes of society.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
, interposing, remarked that if they went into the general question of Socialism they would be a very long time discussing this measure.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
went on to say that the action of the Local Authority, as he understood it, simply implied the interdependence of members of society on one another. Would the right hon. Gentleman introduce a clause on the lines of the hon. Member for Stoke's Bill for the Enfranchisement of Leaseholds? That recommendation was signed by 10 out of the 17 Members of the Commission. With regard to the sale of prison sites, he was glad to find recognized the principle, that as the value of land had increased in consequence of the labour of the people, that increase ought to go back in some way to the people. That principle was not only in the Bill, but also in Lord Salisbury's Memorandum, in which he spoke of the sale at a reduced price of these sites as—The surrender of an increase caused by that very concentration which it is applied to remedy. It more closely resembles," continues the Memorandum, "the provision of compensation than the offer of a gift.Those words of Lord Salisbury had a far wider application than was given them in the Bill, and he should like to see them applied in a really efficient 1613 measure to some of the great estates of the Kingdom. Then the Bill did not deal with the evil as it existed in the rural districts, where on large estates cottages had been pulled down year after year, so that the accommodation for labourers was reduced both in quantity and kind. The Bill, in fact, did not go nearly far enough, and he would suggest to the Government that it should be read a second time, so as to affirm its principle; but it was simply ridiculous to attempt dealing with a great but imperfect measure like the present at the fag-end of the Session. He therefore hoped that, without further waste of time, it might be relegated to the new Parliament, and re-introduced in a considerably improved form.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, the Bill embodied some of the more important recommendations of the Report of the Royal Commission. It was not intended to carryall the recommendations into effect, and which could scarcely be done in a single measure; but he thought the last speaker's proposal was not characterized by even the shadow of Christian charity, for it contained in pronounced form the suggestion that the misery and vice which the Bill in some, though it might be an inadequate, degree, was designed to remedy, should be allowed to continue till another Session and till more drastic remedies could be applied. He hoped the House would read the Bill a second time, and at once consider it in Committee.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
said, he wished to express his sense of the importance of the great service which had been rendered to the country by the Royal Commission, and especially by his right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Commission, who presided so ably over its investigations. In the course of his experience he did not think there had been a Royal Commission which, during so short a time, had covered such a great extent of ground. It appeared to him to have conducted the inquiry with enormous labour, and it had completed its work in a much shorter time than it was originally possible to expect. It might be that they were not able to give full effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission; but he thought it would be unfortunate if the Session should close without giving effect to 1614 some, at least, of those recommendations. He could not, therefore, support any Amendment which would have the effect of defeating the Bill. There were some parts of the Bill which he could not altogether approve; but there were many parts of it on which all were agreed. The clause was an important one, which enabled Local Authorities in rural districts to purchase land with the view of building cottages where it was proved to the satisfaction of the Central Authority, which he believed would be the Local Government Board, that the cottages were insufficient or altogether inappropriate to the number of persons who lived in them. He thought that was a most valuable clause; but he regretted that the duties and the rights of the Local Authorities in this connection were not more clearly stated in the Bill. It was only by implication that this power was conferred on Local Authorities. He could not but think that in a Bill of this kind it was important that a main object of this kind should be clearly stated, so that the Local Authorities, in reading the Bill, should be enabled clearly to understand the provision and perceive its object. He did not know whether it was too late to make an Amendment in this respect; but he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill whether it would not be well in the 1st clause to lay down clearly and in unmistakable language the right and the duty of the Local Authorities to act in this direction. Another clause with which he most heartily agreed was that dealing with the provision in the Torrens's Acts relating to the compulsory purchase by Local Authorities of condemned buildings. He thought that provision had been the cause of the Torrens's Acts being of comparatively little effect, and the repeal of that provision was important. He approved strongly of Clause 6, which reverted to the original Act of 1875, in regard to the rates of interest charged by the State in the case of Local Authorities. In 1879 he and his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham sat through nearly a whole night for the purpose of obstructing the proposal of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer to charge a higher rate of interest. He pointed out then that the proposal of the Government of that day would have the effect of 1615 killing the Artizans' Dwellings Act, and he did his best to hinder that provision passing into law. He was gratified to find that the Royal Commission had taken his view of the matter. There was one respect in which the Bill appeared to him to be deficient. There was no provision for carrying out the recommendation of the Royal Commission, with reference to the limitation of compensation to be given under the Artizans' Dwellings Act. He did not find in the Bill any effect given to the recommendation of the Commissioners that where a tenement house was occupied by several persons compensation in respect of it should not be in respect of the number of persons, but that it should have reference to the number of persons who ought properly to be lodged in the house. That was an alteration in the law recommended by the Royal Commission, and he did not find any corresponding clause in the Bill. This, however, was a matter which he presumed would stand over to a future day, and perhaps by next year they might have further experience of the Act of 1882, which had not yet been fully tried, and with further experience it might be possible to go further in this direction. The compensation which had been awarded in respect of sites cleared under the operation of that Act had been excessive, and this had tended seriously to reduce the operation of the Act. He had some objection to Clause 13. He did not wish to pronounce dogmatically upon it. In principle he was rather in favour of that which was laid down in the clause, if it could be applied in such a way as not to cause great alarm. At the same time, it had created so much alarm among the owners of house property that he believed it would be desirable to postpone legislation on that part of the subject till next year. Another clause which he would also recommend the right hon. Gentleman to deal with in the same way was that as to the prison sites. There, again, he did not venture to speak dogmatically; there was much to be said on both sides; but the principle about to be adopted was an extremely novel one, and it might carry them much further than the particular cases now under consideration. In many parts of the country there was Crown property. The proposal made seven or eight years ago with reference 1616 to the Thames Embankment had been alluded to. There the property belonged to the Woods and Forests, and the principle adopted in that case was that the Crown in respect of property of that kind was justified in taking into account certain interests of the public, and in dealing with its property as private owners did. But it must be recollected that there was a large amount of Crown property throughout the country, and, therefore, that argument might carry them much further and lead to results of considerable importance. He would also remark that they were entirely without information as to the value of the property now proposed to be dealt with. Were the sites of Millbank and the other prisons really valuable sites or were they not? He had heard different opinions on that point. He had heard that Millbank was an extremely valuable site; that it would sell for a very large sum of money; and, if the principle proposed to be applied by the Bill were adopted, it might be that the difference between the selling value of the land and that for which it would be sold for the purposes of that Bill would probably be not less than £300,000 or £400,000. If that was the case, what they practically now asked to do was to give a subvention to the Metropolis of a sum to that amount. He could not but think that that was a very novel principle, and that it might give rise to claims on the part of other towns to be dealt with in the same way. On the other hand, if the value of the property was a small one, and the difference between the value of the site in the open market and the price to be obtained for it as a site for working class dwellings would not be considerable, the question might not be a very serious one. If that were the case, why could not the Metropolitan Board of Works—one of the most wealthy Local Authorities in the Kingdom—buy the property and give the full value far it, and not raise a question of that importance? All, however, that he said on the point at present was that it was one on which there was so much difference of opinion that he thought it would be well if the right hon. Gentleman would postpone that very contentious question till next Session. In conclusion, although the harvest at present might not be a largo one, he hoped they 1617 might be allowed to gather it; but, as there were other questions not dealt within that Bill which must come under the consideration of the Legislature at an early period, they might, he thought, leave to that period some of the contentious matter to which he had referred.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down agreed with the Mover of the Amendment in advising them to relegate at least one contentious question till next Session. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Lyulph Stanley) was anxious that they should not discuss the question of the housing of the poor until they had determined—first, the whole question of local burdens; secondly, what hon. Gentlemen called the land question; thirdly, the question of local government; and, fourthly, the question of leasehold tenure in towns. Was it to be seriously supposed that next Session would be a Session in which they would have a large amount of leisure to discuss those questions? He was quite prepared to leave to the next Parliament everything which it could most properly discuss; but if they could, by common agreement on both sides, do something material—he did not say how much—to improve the dwellings of the working classes, was it common sense to defer it until the whole catalogue of gigantic problems which the hon. Member for Oldham had desired them to discuss had been finally disposed of by the new Parliament? The hon. Member for Oldham seemed to think that everything would be put right if they only had a good system of local self-government. Now, he was as anxious for local self-government as the hon. Member; but let them constitute their Local Governing Bodies how they pleased, they would not always be ready to carry out the duties which Parliament desired to impose on them. The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) thought the remedy for the existing evil was a good Leasehold Bill. Now, individually, he had a prejudice in favour of houses being built in towns on a tenure substantially equal to a freehold site. In Scotland, and in parts of Lancashire, that had been an habitual practice; but when he was told that overcrowding, insanitary dwellings, and all the other great social diseases with which that 1618 Bill was intended to cope, had their origin in the fact that a large part of the Metropolis was held under leases from ground landlords, he reminded the House that those evils existed in towns in this country and in other countries where the question of leases never arose, and, among other places, in Edinburgh, in Glasgow, in Paris, in Berlin, and in New York. The clause of this Bill dealing with prison sites had excited more controversy of a general kind than any other provision in it. The hon. Member for Stoke asked how they could justify handing over to that Metropolis a large grant of public property unless they were equally prepared to hand over to other local bodies and other towns grants of a like character? The hon. Member, in fact, said that he objected to handing over the unearned increment of rent to the ratepayers of the Metropolis. But, having said that, he went on to say that he did, after all, approve of the clause to a certain extent, because it recognized the principle that the unearned increment belonged to the people. Both those arguments could not be sound, and, therefore, it was for the hon. Member to choose between them. But, as a matter of fact, the introduction of the question of unearned increment into the treatment of this question was utterly irrelevant, and Mr. George's theories, whatever might be their value, had no relation to the Bill. He would not go into a justification of the clause in detail; but he would urge in particular this argument—that London was the place where most injury had been done to the working classes by displacements carried out under Act of Parliament, and London was also the one town in the United Kingdom where the greatest injury had been done to the working classes by compelling them to migrate. There was something, therefore, not altogether unfair in asking Parliament to partially undo the wrong Parliament itself had inflicted. Moreover, Pentonville was a national prison, and it occupied a site which practically threw much too great a burden on the taxpayers, and, therefore, the passing of this clause might be regarded as paying off what the country owed to London. These were the pleas on which he would recommend the House to accept the clause, which, at the same time, he frankly admitted was open in some 1619 points of view to severe criticism. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) complained that the Bill did nothing whatever to diminish the pressure of rents. He altogether denied that. In the first place, the very clause he had been discussing had as its sole justification the fact that it would diminish the pressure of rents. It was grossly unfair to the framers of the Bill to say that nothing was done to diminish, to a certain extent, at all events, the pressure of rents upon those who were compelled to dwell in the neighbourhood of their work. He earnestly impressed upon the House the desirability of as soon as possible discussing the Bill in Committee. Most of the objections that had been taken to the Bill might, he thought, have been taken in Committee; and it would be a thousand pities, after the Royal Commission had reported, and a Bill had been introduced in the main in accordance with that Report, if the House were to spend any more time discussing the second reading at a period of the Session when time was doubly and trebly valuable.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, it was difficult to know whether the Bill was really the Bill of the Royal Commission or not. More Members of the Commission had spoken against the Bill than had spoken in favour of it; but, at the same time, the Bill certainly did carry out some of the recommendations of the Commission. He thought it was very necessary to get the provisions this Bill did give them. For the rest he was perfectly satisfied to wait until the next Election was over. As to the question of the unearned increment on these prison sites, it had always been the custom of Railway Companies to select the sites of the houses of working men for the purpose of laying out their lines, and to turn working men out without any sort of compensation, and the unearned increment of the prison sites was not a very large return for all that. Under the present law, where a man let an unfurnished house he was not liable for injury to health caused by bad sanitary arrangements; but that was not the ease where the house was furnished. He entirely approved the proposal in the Bill that the owner of the house should be liable in such a case whether the house was furnished or unfurnished. He should have been glad to have seen 1620 several other of the recommendations of the Royal Commission embodied in the Bill; but inasmuch as the Bill, as far as it went, did advance the question a little, he should give it his hearty support. He would only add that he thought the result of the investigation by the Royal Commission had in many respects imperatively demonstrated the necessity that existed in London for a Central Municipal Authority.
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
said, he hoped that the Bill would be read a second time; but he wished to give the Home Secretary one word of advice. Nothing was more dangerous than to overload a lifeboat, no matter what were the motives which prompted such a course. This Bill was a lifeboat, and he urged the right hon. Gentleman not to consent to the addition of any more clauses to it, as its very existence would thereby be imperilled. For himself, he would be glad if the Government could, consistently with their sense of duty, omit one or two clauses to which opposition had been offered. He desired to point out that the Royal Commissioners had steadily refused to enter into the general subject of London Government, and had confined their attention strictly to the question before them—namely, the better housing of the working classes of London. They in no way recommended that the unearned increment of the land should be given to the people, and they had not sought to deal with theoretical questions of the kind. This measure, therefore, must not be supposed to be intended as a first step towards the nationalization of the land, or towards creating a new Municipality for London. As to the proposal with respect to prison sites, of which he was the author, so far as the Commission was concerned, he should be delighted even if a brick was never laid on the sites. If there was one thing which the Metropolis required more than houses it was breathing ground for the people who had been crowded together by the action of Parliament, and he rejoiced at the prospect of those sinks of iniquity, the prisons affected by the Bill, being removed from among the people, and their sites appropriated either as open spaces or for the purpose of building dwellings for the working-classes. In this matter it was neither practicable nor equitable to deal with 1621 London like an ordinary town. London was the centre of the population and the industry of the Kingdom; it was annually attracting thousands of fresh inhabitants, and it was incumbent upon Parliament to deal with that which had become the greatest capital of the greatest Empire in the world on specific grounds and principles.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE (Sir E. ASSHETON CROSS)
said, that he had an appeal to make to the House. He trusted that they would now consent to read the Bill a second time, inasmuch as he intended to propose several Amendments in Committee to-morrow, the nature of which he would make known to the House on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair, and which he thought would meet many of the objections that had been made to the measure. They were very near the end of the Session, and there was still other Business to be got through. Hon. Members would have ample opportunity of discussing the measure to-morrow on the Motion for going into Committee.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
said, that after the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman he would not press his right to address the House upon the measure.
§ MR. GRAY
desired to state that, as a Member of the Commission, he did not object to the Bill. He was not of opinion that it would, do much good, although it could not do much harm. He certainly thought that the enormous evil of the condition of the poor in large towns could not be dealt with by a Bill of such a kind.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.