THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
I rise to fulfil a pledge I gave to the House when carrying through the Bill for giving compensation for damage done in London during the riot on the 8th of February last. The Bill I now ask leave to introduce, which is entitled a measure "To Provide Compensation for Losses by Riots," will extend to the whole of England and Wales, and is framed mainly according to the provisions of the Metropolitan Act. I will give the House one or two of the leading features of the measure, and will then ask for it a first reading. It will give compensation to the insured as well as to the uninsured—that is, it will allow the uninsured to stand in the shoes of the insured. 806 Power is given to the Secretary of State to lay down general regulations under which the claims should be submitted. The area within which the contribution is to be made will be that of the police district in which the damage is done. If, for instance, it was done in a town having a police force, then the police rate of that town would bear the expense; in the same way, if it was a county, the police rate of the county would bear it. There are, however, two exceptions. One is where the county has been divided into districts under a special Act, the only instance of which, I believe, at present, is Lancashire. There the district, and not the county, would bear the expense. The other exception is where a borough has come to an arrangement with the county, under which the county police does the police work for the borough. There the expense would be shared between the county which provided the police and the borough itself, according to the proportions agreed upon for sharing this expense. That is really the whole scope of the Bill. On other points, as I have said, it will follow the provisions of the measure which became law the other day for London. I do not propose that it shall be retrospective, although possibly some clause of a retrospective kind might be introduced of a very limited character. The Bill, however, will not be generally retrospective, any more than the London Bill was. It will be circulated in a few days, and I will ask hon. Gentlemen to postpone their criticism until they see it. In conclusion, I beg to ask leave to introduce the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to give Compensation for Losses by Riot."—(Mr. Secretary Childers.)
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I will not do more than offer a few observations on behalf of several hon. Members who sit on this side of the House, who urged this question on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, and to whom the right hon. Gentleman gave the promise to bring in the Bill as soon as it was in his power. So far as I can judge, the measure appears to carry out the ideas of those Members of the House who spoke on the previous occasion, except in one respect—and that was the last point to which the right hon. Gentleman 807 alluded—namely, that it is not to be retrospective. Amongst the strong cases that were brought forward by way of argument, and pressed on the attention of the Government, was the particular case of Nottingham. I see the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Carvell Williams) in his place, and probably he may be inclined to say a word on the matter. If the Bill is not made retrospective at all, the case of Nottingham and one or two other places will be altogether left out of the Bill. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will not refuse, on the part of the Government, to consider any cases of a retrospective character that may be properly brought within the purview of the Bill.
§ MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Nottingham, S.)
I am glad to acknowledge the promptitude with which the right hon. Gentleman has fulfilled his promise to introduce this general measure; but my satisfaction is somewhat diminished by the statement he has made, that the Bill is not to be retrospective in its character. The measure, in that respect, will be quite inconsistent with the provisions of the London Bill, in consequence of the passing of which the present Bill was promised. The Bill to give compensation to those whose property was injured through riots in London was wholly retrospective. I do not see how any distinction can be logically drawn between payments on account of occurrences that have happened in London, and payments on account of similar occurrences that have happened in the country. I still venture to press on the right hon. Gentleman the propriety and necessity of reconsidering this point. And at least I wish to express this hope, that he will provide in his Bill that wherever the Local Authority is willing to give compensation, it shall be in the power of that Local Authority to do so. I have reason to believe that that would meet the wish of the town, a division of which I have the honour to represent. The Corporation of Nottingham has funds to pay for damages. They are not unwilling to pay the compensation, but they are prevented from doing so by the present uncertain state of the law. If the authorities in that and other towns are willing to pay they should have permission to do so; and I must say I should be better pleased with the Bill if it contained a provision of even a more general 808 character, so that relief might be given to those who have suffered from riotous proceedings during the past few months.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
I do not see the use of carrying on a discussion on this Bill at the present moment. I will myself set an example—I will say no more, except that I am glad the opportunity has arrived for remedying what is really a very serious defect in the law.
I have no right of reply; but with the permission of the House I will state that the point concerning the individual case of rioting mentioned shall be considered. If this were made a generally retrospective Bill it would be found impracticable to carry it out. If I rightly understand the hon. Member, he proposes that if it is the desire of the Local Authority that compensation should be paid to persons who have suffered losses through riots within certain limits of time, power should be given them to pay it, and that the measure should be made retrospective to that extent, the proposal is one to which I will undertake to give the best attention.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Secretary CHILDERS, Mr. BROADHURST, and Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 209.]