§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
Sir, in rising to move that this Bill be read a second time I may mention that on the Motion for its introduction I explained its provisions fairly to the House; and it is, therefore, unnecessary for me to make any further statement as to its nature. I was, however, asked one question, as to whether the Bill would be made retrospective; and, after full consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it would be right and proper to make the Bill retrospective to a certain extent. The clause which my hon. Friend has put down is one which I think we can adopt in its entirety, and I propose to accept it in Committee. The effect will be that if the Police Authorities outside the Metropolis think it right that compensation should be given in respect of riots that have occurred during the last 12 months they may make an order to that effect, so that persons who have suffered from such riots shall be allowed to claim compensation.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Childers.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
Sir, I do not at all wish to delay this legislation; but I confess that, so far as my own county is concerned, I do not think there is any necessity for it. We had in Gloucestershire some little trouble at the last Election. A riot arose and some damage was done; but there was no difficulty whatever in assessing and paying such compensation as was found to be due. But I think the area of compensation was confined to the Hundreds; and I must say that I think it much fairer that compensation should be paid by a limited district than by the county at large. At present, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the area of Parliamentary divisions is much smaller than that of the counties, especially in the 1613 larger counties of England. The county area of compensation provided for in this Bill would, therefore, be very much larger than the area interested in an election riot, which does not seem to me to afford a very fair solution of this question. I think that the area in which the riot occurs should be the area to pay for the damage done, and not a district beyond, which has had nothing whatever to do with the matter. It is certainly hardly fair to levy the charge for compensation on the whole county. I merely throw out this now as my impression; but the matter is one which I think will have to be dealt with in Committee.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir CHARLES RUSSELL) (Hackney, S.)
The difficulty as to adopting the old Hundred as the area of liability is that, for any practical purposes, it is almost obsolete. Moreover, it corresponds with no police rating areas; and as the principle of the Bill is to recognize liability for defective police protection resulting in damage by riot, it has been thought better to make the area of liability correspond with the area of separate police districts. Further, the Hundred frequently cuts up towns and even villages, and suggests no practical basis. The suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman will, however, be carefully considered.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
Sir, speaking of my own county only, I may say that the Hundreds there are perfectly distinct and recognized divisions of the county, and we have Hundred rates there for various purposes—for gaols and for damage. In Lancashire we have never had any difficulty in assessing damage so far as the Hundreds are concerned. But with regard to this Bill, I see that the damage is all to be paid for out of the police rate. You are going to take the whole of this enormous county of Lancashire, which consists practically of several counties, and make it liable for the consequences of a riot that may occur in any part of it. Well, Sir, all I can say is that there will be a very great objection to the arrangement; and I cannot but think that the course which the right hon. Gentleman proposes will lead to considerable disturbance. However, I feel that the question is one which will have to be decided in Committee; and I only rise because I think 1614 the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department will have to give a little more attention to the point raised by my right hon. Friend before we go into Committee than he seems to have done already.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
Sir, I doubt whether the wording in the Bill is in all cases quite distinct enough. The words "house, shop, or building" do not seem to me sufficiently comprehensive; because, for instance, a garden may be very much damaged in a variety of ways, and it would not be included in the words "house, shop, or building."
§ MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Nottingham, S.)
I have to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department for accepting the clause which will render the Bill in some respects retrospective in its character. I observe that the Bill requires the sending in of claims; but in the case of the borough which I represent the claims have been sent in already, and it would be a pity to impose upon the people concerned the necessity of going over the ground again. I hope that the clause will be so framed as to render that unnecessary.
The question raised by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Assheton Cross) is one of great importance, and I will look into it. One of the difficulties which will be found in carrying out the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion is that in some counties the Hundreds are altogether obsolete, and do not correspond with anything. With regard to the question of sending in claims afresh, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham (Mr. Carvell Williams), I propose to take power to relax the Rule in case of need.
§ Motion agreed, to.