§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 (Election of two members instead of one).
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
I have a Motion on the Paper to omit the 1st clause, because to attempt to amend it would be rather a complicated undertaking. I take this opportunity of saying that, so far as I am concerned, I shall not be able to support the proposals of my hon. and learned Colleague (Mr. Firth), which are inconsistent with those I have placed on the Paper. The object of the Bill is to slightly increase the number of Members of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Since the adoption of the Metropolis Management Act, the parishes, or some of them, have increased very considerably in population and wealth, and some which are not represented are now much larger than others which received representation under that Act. In the Amendment I have placed on the Paper, I have proposed to increase the Board only so far as it can be done without injustice to those parishes passed over as not having sufficiently increased, and I have endeavoured to make the arrangement consistent with the scope of the Bill. My hon. and learned Friend and Colleague has proposed to largely increase the numbers. The Metropolitan Board of Works have placed their scheme before Parliament. The Government had hoped to be able to make progress with the London Government Bill; but it is, of course, impossible to do it in the present Parliament. Next Session, should they be again returned to power, they hope to be able to do it; but, in the meantime, they do not desire to see such a revolution take place in the Metropolitan Board of Works as the adoption of the Amendments of my hon. and learned Friend would involve.
§ MR. FIRTH
said, that the first Amendment of his right hon. Colleague which would decide the point now raised would come on in Clause 3; and 877 it would, therefore, be necessary for him (Mr. Firth) to make the few observations he had to make either then or now. If the Amendment the right hon. Baronet intended to propose to Clause 3 were carried, the Amendments he (Mr. Firth) had on the Paper would not be admissible. Perhaps he ought to explain those Amendments; but at '20 minutes to 3 o'clock in the morning he could not be expected to say much. The Amendments he had put down were those which embodied the Earl of Camperdown's proposal in 1877—the Bill the noble Earl introduced in that year as the result of the long conference which was held on the question. If the Metropolitan Board of Works was to be enlarged effectually, or modified at all, it seemed to him advisable that the work should be fairly well done, and the proposal he made would do it fairly well. His Amendments would not do it completely; but they would give the thing a fair start on an intelligible basis, which, at present, the Metropolitan Board of Works did not rest upon. They would increase the number of members of the Board to 100 from 45, at which number it had remained for so long, notwithstanding that since it was established the work upon it had quadrupled. He proposed, also, to make the Board directly elective, at present no one, as a mere ratepayer, having any control over it. Looking at the limited representation and the amount of money the Board had to spend, no one familiar with the working of the Body would say that it was a fair state of things as the matter stood; and he was of opinion that if anything was to be done, something should be done which was worth doing. With all deference both to the right hon. Baronet and those in charge of the Bill, he wished to say that what they proposed to do was not worth doing. If he wore asked as to the proposed separation of Plumstead and Lewisham whether it was not a good thing to do that, he should reply—"Certainly not; I do not think it is worth while patching up a broken-kneed institution in that way, especially at this hour." So far as the right hon. Baronet's Amendments wont, no doubt they were excellent; but they went a very little way—they would not amount to more than a bucketful in place of a great ocean of necessity. They could 878 not think of attempting to remodel the government of 4,000,000 of people at that hour of the morning—[Cries of "Progess!"]—but he would not enter into that matter at that hour. If Plumstead and Lewisham wished to be united let them be so.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
I beg to move, Sir, that you report Progress. I think that to begin a discussion at a quarter to 3 o'clock in the morning upon an alteration in the constitution of the Metropolitan Board of Works when the Chairman of that Board is not present is most unreasonable.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
I do not think it fair to go on with the Bill now under the circumstances the hon. and learned Member for Chelsea (Mr. Firth) has described.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Sydney Waterlow.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
With regard to the reference that has been made to the absence of the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works, I must say that he has offered no opposition to the Bill.
§ MR. WARTON
said, the two Members for Chelsea differed on matters of fact as well as on matters of policy, for whilst one stated that the Chairman of the Metropolitan Board of Works was in favour of the Bill as the Government proposed to amend it, the other declared that that Gentleman was in favour of his proposal.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he knew that extraordinary things took place in that House very frequently; but it was simply scandalous to attempt to go on with a Bill of that character at such an hour.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Aye 1; Noes 28: Majority 27.—(Div. List, No. 196.)879
§ And it appearing on the Division that 40 Members were not present in the Committee;
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair:—
§ House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at Three o'clock.