HC Deb 12 April 1888 vol 324 cc1109-70

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Ritchie.)


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) in introducing this measure had appealed for the sympathy and assistance of the House. He stated that the subject was difficult and complex, and said that he could not hope to succeed in the conduct of the Bill, unless the House gave him that sympathy and assistance. The right hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly entirely correct in speaking of the difficulty and complexity of this question. He (Mr. Stansfeld) did not mean, and the right hon. Gentleman did not mean, that the solution of the problem was not simple; but that, though the way might be clear, there were great difficulties in the way—difficulties which it was not easy to ex- pound and render intelligible to assemblies like the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had made a special appeal to his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said that the Government needed the assistance which he had reason to believe that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) would not be unwilling to give in the furtherance of Public Business as far as this measure was concerned; and the right hon. Gentleman had added that he hoped that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian would find that his measure was based upon a broad and popular basis, such as would justify him in rendering the help in passing it which he had held out that he was ready to give. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to describe the new authorities which he proposed to create. Those authorities were to be purely elective, the ex officio element and the principle of election by two degrees having been entirely set aside. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he desired that the members of the County Councils should be elected upon the broad basis of popular suffrage, that of household and occupation suffrage of the Municipal Corporations of England defended by the principle of the Ballot. That statement of the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman as to the principles upon which he had founded this measure left nothing to be desired from a Liberal and Radical point of view, using those terms not in a Party, but in a political sense. The right hon. Gentleman had thus clearly expressed his conviction that popular bodies such as those he proposed to create in the shape of County Councils must be placed upon a popular basis, and he entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that by the creation of such bodies, the commanding influence of the country gentlemen in these County Councils of the future would not in the least be endangered if they chose to enter them. That powerful statement of the right hon. Gentleman had been received with cheers from the Opposition side of the House that were spontaneous and were unpremeditated, and hon. Members around him were disposed to assume a good deal in favour of the measure from an administrative point of view. Hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, however, were no longer quite at liberty to continue to utter expressions of their favourable prejudices with regard to the Bill, inasmuch as one higher in authority than the right hon. Gentleman—Lord Salisbury—had told them at Carnarvon, a day or two ago, that this was not a Radical measure at all, that they were entirely mistaken in that supposition, and explained to them their own mental position and their own purposes with regard to it. Lord Salisbury said the Radical Party knew that they were un-popular with the great majority of the constituencies, and that therefore, if they wished to oppose a measure, they had only to say that they liked it in order to tinge it with and obtain for it a share of their own unpopularity. Lord Salisbury said that there was a good deal of ingenuity in this Radical policy with regard to this measure; but, in his opinion, all the ingenuity lay with Lord Salisbury. The Radical Party were not an ingenious, they were an ingenuous Party. He (Mr. Stansfeld) hoped that they had not been deceived by the right hon. Gentleman; but it was not easy to express approval after such a declaration. If Lord Salisbury had expressed the real view of the Government in this matter, then the Government must not be surprised if the Radical Party were not quite so ready to look at all the provisions of this measure in the future in the favourable light they had been disposed to in the past. As evidence of the good faith of the Radical Party, and in order to relieve the Government from the fear that, by giving their approval too largely to the Bill, they might injure it, he might say that a closer investigation of the Bill, from an administrative point of view, as regarded its provisions, had led the Radical Party to discover many grave defects in the measure, which it would be their duty to expound and to endeavour to amend. But, at the same time, he felt bound to say, speaking for himself and for his hon. Friends on that Bench sitting near him, that the points to which he had alluded as those to which they took more or less exception were not of a kind that would induce or justify them in proposing any Amendments upon the second reading of the Bill, and that they would confine their efforts to amending the provissions of the measure at its Committee stage. He would assume that they were all agreed upon the great object of establishing local government, and upon its main principle; because the subject was one that had been working up in the public mind to his personal knowledge for the last 20 years, and public opinion with regard to it had been consolidated and crystallized into a certain number of distinct ideas and propositions by which the Government could be guided, and he gladly recognized that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in framing this measure, had endeavoured to embody the conclusions at which the public mind had arrived. As regarded that main principle, he would lay down three points. In the first place, what was required as the foundation of local government was simplicity, and by that he meant simplicity of areas, and thus to do away with the multiplicity and consequent confusion of areas and of Local Authorities. In the next place, it was desired to enlarge and elevate the functions of the Councils as regarded local government in those areas; and, lastly, to inform the whole system with life from the parish, which was the unit, to the county. Nothing less than those three objects would satisfy the bonâ fide Local Government Reformers, irrespective of Party. As he had already admitted, the difficulties in the way of simplicity of areas were great. To simplify the areas it was necessary to begin at the bottom, with the parish as the unit, and to build up from it. Any larger area must be constructed out of those units, which must not be divided, and they must proceed by that process until they reached the boundary of the county. That, however, the Government had not done. He need scarcely say that he was laying down a general principle which ought to be their guide, rather than asserting that there could be no exception to it. In order not only to simplify the area, but to enlarge and elevate the Local Authority as far as possible, they must seek to concentrate all Local Government functions for one area in one Governing Body, for the sake of simplicity and an elevation of the functions of the body. By that means the best men would be induced to enter those bodies. In order to put life in those bodies and into the system they must, in the first place, build upon the basis of popular franchise. That the right hon. Gentleman opposite had done, and he thanked him for so doing. And, in the second place, they should begin with the smallest area, which was generally the parish, and induce and enable the people to take part in its management and life. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman could dissent from that proposition. He had carefully studied the provisions of the Bill as to simplification of areas, and he found them upon the whole to be large, comprehensive, satisfactory, and complete. In order to explain the process of the simplification of areas, he would deal with that part of the Bill which treated of them clause by clause. By the 51st clause the present Urban Sanitary Districts, the Urban Districts of the future, were to be held to be within the boundary of that county in which the greater part of them was, and by Clause 41 the Rural Districts were to be dealt with in the same manner by County Councils and the Local Government Boards. By Clause 56 the County Council was bound to take into consideration the report of the Boundary Commissioners. By Clause 59 any requisite changes in any areas, save the borough areas—but including the parish—could be made by the County Council or the Local Government Board; and by Clause 60 the Local Government Board might sever Unions for indoor and for outdoor purposes. He desired to point out that there was absolute completeness in the clauses relating to all these boundaries, that the whole ground was covered, and that full power was taken by the Government to carry out any amount of simplification of areas which might be thought advisable; and yet, in spite of having created a perfect machinery for the purpose, their Bill stopped short and failed to deal with the parish or with the Poor Law Union. The parish was the historical unit, but it was a very variable quantity. Many parishes were absurdly too small; some were too large. But the right hon. Gentleman had taken power to deal with this area, and all that was wanting was to add some simple provisions for the popular exercise of whatever functions might be suitable to the for- mer, in order to perfect in this respect his scheme. But the greatest blot in the Bill, from the point of view of a Local Government Reformer, was the entire exclusion of the Poor Law system. And the consequence of that exclusion was that the measure was more complex than it otherwise might have been, instead of embodying the simplicity at which the right hon. Gentleman was aiming It was of no use for the Government in constructing new machinery for Local Government to half do the work. They might defer questions as to the imposition of certain responsibilities, and the conferring of certain powers, but they ought to start with as perfect a machinery as they could. In Rural Districts the rural members of the Board of Guardians were the sanitary authority, and the sanitary duties the Guardians discharged with case after the Poor Law business was disposed of. In these districts there was to be a new Body, based upon popular election. Some of them would be so small that it would be difficult, unless they were enlarged, to find a sufficient number of candidates for the new Council, and yet it was to be created side by side with the Board of Guardians who formed the present substitute for the Council. The Guardians were not elected by household or occupation franchise, or by ballot, but by a system of plural votes and voting papers, and there were ex officio Guardians. Thus there would be side by side two authorities, the old ones formed upon lines discarded on the creation of the new. The simplification of areas was not half effected if the parish and the Poor Law system were left untouched. The right hon. Gentleman had given no reason for leaving out the Poor Law system, save that the attempt to deal with it might have imperilled his Bill. But that did not seem to be a sufficient reason. The first thing to do was to construct machinery, and having done that, you might to some extent defer the devolving of responsibilities and powers. There was no question of sentiment here as there was in the case of county boundaries; they were merely questions of convenience and finance, and these questions might very well be dealt with by the Department. He was convinced that if the right hon. Gentleman determined to include the Poor Law system, there would be no insurmountable difficulty in doing it, and there were different ways in which it might be done. But let them look again at the incongruity of the situation in which the right hon. Gentleman placed matters. He left the Poor Law system untouched and Union assessment untouched; and then he created a County Council and gave it the power of levying rates for the county at large. He did nothing to ensure that the County and the Union assessment should be identical; and if a reform of the kind he advocated was not carried out there would be no unity of rating. Further, he said that the Justices in Quarter Sessions should still have the power of fixing the basis or standard of valuation. No one could deny that these were serious defects which must be made good sooner or later; and his argument was that there was no sufficient reason why it should not be done now. There were some minor points in the Bill which he thought in certain respects were objectionable, and on which the propositions of the right hon. Gentleman were not consistent with the principles he himself had laid down in reference to popular control. The right hon. Gentleman laid down the principle of popular election, of establishing a direct relation between the County Councils and those who elected them, and of trusting the County Councils. He believed that the country gentlemen instead of being swamped would hold their own, and more than their own, in the County Councils. The County Council would have to be held in the county town, and for a county councillor to do his duty, he must be able to attend the session there; and it was clear that there would be a very limited number of persons competing with the class out of which the magistrates had been hitherto chosen for the performance of those functions in the county town. But the right hon. Gentleman would not even trust them to elect their own chairman. They could not elect a man as chairman unless he was qualified to be a justice of the peace for the county. Why should they not be allowed to choose their own chairman, without having such a restriction as that laid upon them? It would be far better to say that the Lord Lieutenant should not select as magistrates men who were not members of the County Council. He was not recommending that; but it might, at any rate, be an inducement for men to join the Council who might not otherwise be disposed to do so. He had, however, a suspicion that the right hon. Gentleman did not care much about that restriction, and when they came to discuss it, perhaps the House would not care much about it either. Then the right hon. Gentleman declined to give the County Council the control over the police. The Quarter Sessions were to appoint the Chief Constable, and the Police Force was to be under the control of a Joint Committee of Quarter Sessions and the County Council. The right hon. Gentleman gave rather a curious reason for that extraordinary provision. He said that the inhabitants of boroughs had been for many years accustomed to municipal government, and had become educated to it to a degree that it would take the counties some years to attain. He (Mr. Stansfeld) did not know what the country gentlemen, the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman, said to the proposition; but, for himself, he was not prepared to endorse it at all. First of all, people must learn. The municipalities had learnt how to administer their police, and the county magistrates, who would largely compose those Councils, had been accustomed from time immemorial to control and regulate the police in the county in which they acted. Lastly, there was the question as to the selected members, as to which everybody knew that the clause in regard to Aldermen in Municipal Councils was introduced in the House of Lords on the Motion of Lord Lyndhurst, and there was a general consensus of opinion, he thought, on that (the Opposition) side of the House—he did not know how it might be on the other side—that that clause had not operated by any means beneficially. He would show how unreasonably it might operate in the County Council. Suppose that they had some Party spirit in a County Council consisting of 41 Members, and that they had a division on the question of the Selected Members, in which there were 21 on one side and 20 on the other. The 21 by a bare majority would be enabled to appoint all the selected members. Evidently, that would give an unfair opportunity and chance to those who happened to be in a majority, and would be a source of difference and irritation, as had sometimes been the case in the Municipal Corporations in the country. Why should the right hon. Gentleman, who was in favour of the principle of popular election, insist on an arrangement of that kind? Then by Clause 8 it was proposed to transfer, by Order of the Queen in Council to the County Council, the powers of certain Government Departments, such as the Local Government Board, the Board of Trade, and the Home Office.


Subject to submission to Parliament.


said, They knew by their experience in the case of Provisional Orders and the like that this condition was of small practical value, and that those things were generally passed sub silentio in that House. He did not want to express a positive opinion upon that point; but it was certainly rather a serious matter to authorize such an unlimited transfer of powers as the clause contemplated. Then, if he correctly read the Bill, the Local Government Board would have power to settle the number of representatives in the County Councils. That was a large power to be exercised simply by a Department of the Government. He did not doubt the impartiality or the ability with which they would perform that task; but, after all, the determination, within some limits, at any rate, of the number of Councillors to be elected to the County Councils was a function which Parliament ought to be able to exercise. Whether the number ought to be very large, or very limited, was a question of political importance, and some conclusions might be arrived at by the House and laid down in the Bill for the guidance of the Local Government Board. He did not propose now to enter into the contentious question as to the licensing system, which would, no doubt, in due course, be discussed by those who were well able to deal with it. As to the subject of finance, he confessed that he had heard with regret the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to a Question put to him by his right hon. Friend the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre)—namely, that it was quite out of his power to put on the Table of the House any financial statement or explanation such as that question suggested, A very large sum was now going to be handed over from Imperial taxation to the local Governing Bodies, and yet the right hon. Gentleman said he could give the House no idea as to how that sum was going to be distributed. He (Mr. Stansfeld) thought the House ought, to some extent at least, to be in possession of the facts. Clause 22 was calculated to suggest that some of the Local Governing Bodies would suddenly find themselves in possession of an unexpected income, which would be larger than their expenses; and all those Bodies would have to consider how far they would have a share in this largesse. The House and the country, he thought, ought to have some general idea as to how this part of the Bill would operate. After detailing certain purposes to which the income of the Councils was to be devoted, the same clause also referred to a surplus, a remainder, a residue, and a balance. In fact, the clause seemed to be specially constructed so as to tantalize the District and County Councils throughout the country, and it would seem that they would not be satisfied until they got an insight into its probable working and effect. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would admit that it was due to the House that some fair estimate of the financial consequences of so large a measure should be given, and they were fairly entitled to some further explanation of the matter. The sole remaining question on which he wished to speak was that of the transference of powers. He found that by Section 8, and by the First Schedule, many of the powers of the Local Government Board were made over to the County Councils; but some of those powers were practically retained under Section 23, in connection with the distribution of grants. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that, by virtue of those sections, the Local Government Board retained the power over grants, and might insist on certain conditions. Besides this, there was a long list of restrictions and exceptions, and there was nothing to show which powers were transferred and which were retained, so that the House had nothing before it to enable it to measure the amount of decentralization which would be accomplished by the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had based his Bill largely on the idea of decentralization, and the House should understand exactly how far it would effect that object. The Bill was drafted in a peculiar way, and it was owing to that, that a great deal of its difficulties originated. It was largely drafted by reference to former Acts and special clauses, and it was, therefore, exceedingly difficult to understand. His right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board could not hope to pass his measure, and he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman did not wish to do so without making it intelligible to Members of that House. That, however, could not be done without some further information in the shape of official statements being laid on the Table of the House to be studied at leisure. The Local Government Board was an exceedingly able and hard-working Department. He (Mr. Stansfeld) knew it well, and he undertook to say that there was no more hard-working Government Department in this country, and that its staff was by no means over-paid. Perhaps, it had one besetting sin, and he did not know that it stood alone in that respect. It was, like all other Departments, too fond of paper; but it did not shirk its work. H hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would do what he could to remedy that defect. If the right hon. Gentleman succeeded in taking from the Board any considerable exercise of its power and responsibility, that reduction would be shown in a subsequent reduction of its staff. He was quite sure, however, that no portion of its staff could be reduced without a reduction of the work which it had to perform. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman could tell the House what reduction of the staff he contemplated as the consequence of his measure, that would be the best possible evidence of his having succeeded in the policy of decentralization. He (Mr. Stansfeld) was interested in the passing of the Bill with certain Amendments. It was not a Bill which could be forced or hurried on. It was not a Bill to the discussion of which they could with ad- vantage apply the Closure. The Government could not hope to pass such a measure without addressing themselves successfully to the understanding of the House, without persuading and convincing the House. In order to do that, ample time must be allowed for discussion in the House, and they could not pass the Bill without convincing the country. Ample time must be allowed for the country to master the subject, which it was only just beginning to understand. He would suggest that, in this case, as in some others, the most haste might be the worst speed. The best policy, as well as the right course, was for the Government to treat the House as it deserved, by taking it into its confidence on this question, not to restrict the time of discussion, but to trust to the general feeling of the House to press some such measure as this to a successful completion.

MR. FELLOWES (Huntingdonshire, Ramsey)

said, that as one of the latest elected Members of the House, he desired to be allowed to say how heartily he approved of the principle of this Bill. He was extremely glad that the great question of Local Government, which had been before the country for so many years, and promised by successive Governments, was at last going to be treated in a fair manner, and in a manner in which he believed would be permanent. The House would agree that if this Bill had been of a tinkering nature, it would not have received the approval of the House or the country; but, on the contrary, would have been received with disdain and contempt. He believed that the Bill was approved of by all parties in the country. He had consulted with many of those whom he had the honour to represent, and he was in a position to say that they were of opinion that the principle of the Bill was sound; that, of course, there were certain details in it which wanted alteration, and that there were certain matters requiring attention which were not altogether dealt with in the Bill. The most satisfactory point in the Bill was that there was to be no great alteration in the boundaries of our counties. They would all remember the excitement there was during the Autumn and Winter when the Boundary Commission went out to inquire into the boundaries of the counties. The President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), in his speech in introducing the Bill, said that this was a question of sentiment, and so he (Mr. Fellowes) believed it was, and he was very grateful to the Government for not having made any great alteration in the boundaries. He felt certain that if there had been any great alteration in the boundaries, there would have been much discontent and great heart-burning, which might possibly have largely impeded the progress of the measure in the House. They were told that in the future County Councils were to arrange their own boundaries. He had not the slightest fear on that point, because the men who would be elected on the County Councils would take good care of their own interests, and also of the ancient landmarks of the counties. Now, as to the formation of the Councils, there were some people in the country—and he believed there were certain Members of the House of Commons—who feared that those who had in the past done good work in Quarter Sessions, and who had done their work in a fair and economical way, would be swamped. He, personally, did not believe a word of it. He firmly believed that if those gentlemen who had in the past done such good work in the different counties would only consent to allow themselves to be put up for the County Councils, in nine times out of ten they would be elected to those Councils. Judging from the remarks which had been made lately in Quarter Sessions, county magistrates were determined to come forward for the County Councils, and he strongly hoped they would stick to that resolve. The only thing he feared in the County Councils was that it might come to pass, as it happened in the present time in our Municipal Councils, that there would be one side Conservative and the other side Liberal. He trusted earnestly that this would not come to pass, because if it did it could only be detrimental to the proper transaction of county business, in regard to which all Party feeling ought to be put aside. They were told that the elections for the County Councils were to take place every three years. He noticed that those who ought to know something about this matter thought that a man ought to be elected for a longer period—for five years. Personally, he was greatly in favour of a longer period, because he thought that at the present time we had plenty of elections going on. Besides, he thought that if the elections were, say, every five years, it would conduce more to the stability of the Councils, and would be much more economical. Now, as to finance, they were told that large sums were to be handed over to the County Councils for them to use, and also that the Councils were to be given large powers for borrowing, for emigration, and for other matters. He thought that some check ought to be placed on the County Council, so that no Council could run the ratepayers into any extraordinary extravagance. Moreover, he did not like at all the proposal to hand over the County Police to a Joint Committee of the County Councils and Quarter Sessions for many reasons. One reason especially was that the handing over of the police to this Joint Committee would lead to great friction between the County Councils and the Quarter Sessions, and that was a matter which ought to be avoided as much as possible. There were some people who wished that the police could be handed over wholly to the County Councils. He did not agree with that suggestion, because the County Councils under the Bill were to have no judicial administration at all. As the Bill gave the Quarter Sessions power over the Chief Constable, both of dismissal and of appointment, and also kept the magistrates in their judicial positions, he would much rather see the police put under the Quarter Sessions also. He knew there were some people who thought that the police ought to be wholly under the Home Office in London. The Home Office had plenty of work to do at the present time, and, therefore, he did not think that such a suggestion would meet with much favour. The chief reason why he rose was to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) in respect to occupation roads, of which the right hon. Gentleman made no mention in his speech. In many parts of the country there were roads called occupation roads. In his own constituency there were many roads, fen roads, which were bad at almost every period of the year. Indeed, he could not help thinking that the Members of the House of Commons who invaded his constituency last August must have felt that the roads were in a very bad condition. Certainly there ought to be something done with regard to these occupation roads, and he begged the right hon. Gentleman to take into his serious consideration the great importance of making some provision for the systematic repair of these roads, which were of the greatest public benefit. He thanked the House for having listened to his remarks with so much patience.

MR. HOBHOHSE (Somerset, E.)

said, he must congratulate the Government upon the boldness and foresight they had shown in dealing with the difficult and complicated subject of Local Government Reform in a broad and liberal spirit. He assured them they had already increased their credit in the country, and added to the respect with which many hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House regarded their legislative efforts. Of course there were great omissions from the Bill, many of which had been criticized—and he thought very fairly criticized—in the very able and moderate speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld). But all hon. Members who had studied the difficult and complicated subject of Local Government must feel that there must necessarily be great omissions from any one Bill which was brought in to deal with the subject. Having given his best attention, however, to the main lines on which this Bill was drawn, he was fully convinced that within those lines there was plenty of room for supplying all the omissions, and also for correcting all defects. Indeed, he felt confident, if the main lines of the Bill were adopted by the House, as he felt sure they would be, that within a few years, whatever Government might be in power, we should have a comprehensive and well-organized system of County Government built up on a broad and popular basis. Having said this much, he would not be misunderstood if he went on to make some rather adverse criticisms upon some of the leading provisions of the measure. In the first place, he confessed he was sorry that the Government had not seen their way to adopt the County Parliamentary Franchise rather than the Municipal Borough Franchise. He could fully appreciate the strong reasons the Government had for adopting the Municipal Borough Franchise. There, no doubt, was a specious uniformity, a uniformity more apparent, he thought, than real, in putting country districts under the same franchise and the same constitution as the municipal boroughs were already. He quite admitted there was a certain attractive simplicity about the Municipal Borough Franchise, but he thought the Government would have been wiser to have withstood the temptation, and to have adopted the franchise which already regulated the election of Members of Parliament throughout the country districts. In the first place, there would then have been a single system of election both for Parliamentary and for local purposes, and that simplicity would have commended itself to the minds, not only of Local Government Reformers, but of every elector in the country. In the second place—and this was the point he wished more especially to urge on the Government—by the adoption of the County Parliamentary Franchise, they would have avoided defects which certainly existed in the Bill; they would have avoided inflicting serious injustice on several classes directly concerned in Local Government and Local Taxation. He did not know whether it was within the knowledge of every Member of the House, but it certainly was not within the knowledge of everybody interested in the Bill throughout the country, that under the Bill no owner of land would have a vote for the County or District Council unless he occupied a building within the county or district, and resided within a certain distance of the county or district. There were a large number of gentlemen very deeply interested in Local Government, and in the incidence of local taxation, who owned large properties in districts within which they did not occupy land or reside. He supposed it was not disputed in the House that these gentlemen paid a large proportion of the local rates. If any argument were needed to convince the House and the country that owners were ratepayers to a very large extent, he would only refer hon. Members to that admirable Report written by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in the year 1870, which dealt with all the complicated questions that surrounded the reform of local rating. If, as that Report showed, an owner might be a large ratepayer, it was not evident, to his (Mr. Hob-house's) mind, why an owner should be disfranchised for the purposes of this Bill. He reminded the Government that the case of towns was very different from that of country districts in this respect. There were comparatively few owners of property who did not reside within, or within a short distance of, the municipal boroughs in which they were interested, and if they were non-resident their buildings and property were usually let for such terms of years, and under such conditions, that they had scarcely any interest themselves in the rise or fall of the local rates. It was very different in country districts, where farms were usually held for very short terms, and where in these days of falling rents any increase of rates must necessarily fall on the owners of those farms. He had no doubt he would be met in this matter by the old cry of 'One man One vote'; but he must point out that this cry had nothing to do with the disfranchisement of the owners of property. The question he was arguing was not a question of dual voting or faggot voting, but a question of the total disfranchisement and disqualification of a certain class for purposes in which they were most directly interested. There was no doubt that many men who were owners of property might be doubly represented in the House by voting in more than one constituency, but that had nothing to do with the present question, because what he complained of was that if a man owned property in two counties, and only occupied premises in one, he might be totally without representation in the Council of the county in which he did not reside, and totally without representation in districts of a county in which he owned property, and not only unrepresented, but disqualified by law from sitting on the County Council or on the District Council. This was not only unjust and unjustifiable, but it was also objectionable from other points of view. There was an argument which he thought would commend itself to hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, bearing, as it did, directly on the present question. If they, by this Bill, denied the interest of an owner in the incidence of rating, which they did; if they disfranchised him as a county voter, if they disqualified him from sitting on the County Council, they would raise a great obstacle to any proposal which might be made in the future for placing certain portions of the rates directly on that class of men. He supposed there was no principle of reform which was more generally accepted in this House than the principle—the equitable principle—of dividing rates between owner and occupier. That was a principle which he was anxious to see adopted, but he confessed the present Government were raising an almost insurmountable obstacle in the way of that reform by denying hereafter the right of the owner to be represented on those Bodies which dealt with the local rates. How could they deny this right and then proceed to throw upon that very class whom they disfranchised the direct payment of a considerable portion of the local rates? The Committee of 1870, to which he had already referred, reported that the present system of local taxation under which the exclusive charge of almost all local rates was placed by law on the occupier was contrary to sound policy. He (Mr. Hobhouse) urged upon the Government that if they looked forward at no very distant period to a reform of the law of rating, they should think seriously before they disfranchised one of the classes who would have to bear the burden of the rates. There were other anomalies which arose from applying the borough franchise, which was distinctly a town franchise, to country districts. For instance, an occupier of land without buildings would have no vote under the present Bill. The occupiers of land of £10 and upwards were a class especially enfranchised for Parliamentary purposes within boroughs in 1884, and now it was proposed to give them no power whatever for local purposes in country districts. He had heard within the last few days of large graziers who occupied large tracts of land, but who did not occupy any building within the district, and who, though they contributed greatly to the local rates, would have no voice whatever under this Bill. There was another question which would be raised on the borough franchise, and that was whether the occupier, who could only claim under the service franchise of the Parliamentary Register, would have any power to vote under the Bill, and that was a question which he hoped would be cleared up by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie). The right hon. Gentleman said, in his very able speech in introducing the Bill, that it would give a qualification to all ratepapers. But whom did the right hon. Gentleman consider a ratepayer? Did he consider a labourer who lived in a cottage of the rent of 1s. 6d. a-week, and to whom it did not make the slightest difference whether the rates were high or low, a ratepayer? Again, did he consider the landowner who, as he (Mr. Hobhouse) had shown, paid heavy rates, but who did not occupy in the district, a ratepayer? Was it right to admit the first man and exclude the second? He was strongly in favour of admitting the whole class of labourers, as he believed there were other than pecuniary considerations involved in their admission, but he was also strongly against excluding any class who had a real interest, especially those who had a large interest in matters of local taxation and local government, from the benefits which it was proposed to confer by this Bill. He had no doubt that a proposal providing for the separate representation of owners on the Councils would commend itself to many hon. Members present, but he did not go so far as that. He only urged that owners should not be entirely disfranchised under the Bill. He quite admitted that there might not be very many men who would suffer, but there would be cases of glaring hardship, and he thought the interests of local government might seriously suffer in country districts from excluding these men, not only from the right to vote, but from the right to sit on the Councils. It was easy to remedy this defect without upsetting the framework of the measure. The Government need not in any way give up the principle they had adopted of the Municipal Borough Franchise, but they could put a provision in the Registration Bill that in making up every roll of county electors there should be added to the list of occupation voters the Parliamentary list of owners. There would be no hardship and no inconvenience in that, and he trusted the Government would take his suggestion into consideration before the Bill reached the Committee stage. He now desired to make a few remarks on the cognate subject of registration. In the first place, he would impress on the Government the great importance of making some new provision for effecting registration in country districts. At present in many parishes where there were only unpaid overseers—men without any special training, and changed regularly every year—they were already charged with the exceedingly burdensome and troublesome duty of making up the List of Parliamentary Voters. This Bill would throw upon them a still greater burden—namely, the duty of making up at the same time a List of Municipal Voters, and he was sure any hon. Member of the House who had studied, as he had had occasion to study, those remarkable documents called "precepts," which were issued every year by the Clerk of the Peace to the county overseers, would easily understand how unfair it was to call upon men, without proper training, to master the duties of overseers under those precepts, and to perform the work of preparing the Register of Voters, and to do this without any remuneration, perhaps, at the time of the year when they were busiest with their private work. The present defective system for which some remedy ought certainly to be found led to most unsatisfactory results. It was within his knowledge that three years ago, when the new Register of Parliamentary Voters had to be made up, there were whole parishes and large portions of parishes actually disfranchised by the very natural neglect of the parish overseers. Such a state of things ought not to occur. If it did occur under this Bill it would be a public scandal, and he hoped the Government, if they could not at once provide some proper machinery for keeping a Register of both Parliamentary and Municipal Voters in country districts, would make some temporary provision for this purpose. He intended to submit a clause in Committee providing for some temporary provision being made for the registration being performed at a slight expense in the country districts by officers who were qualified for the duty. Now, if the House would allow him, he would address a few words to them upon the subject of areas. This Bill, as had already been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), did very little to simplify areas directly, but he must say it did a great deal indirectly to simplify areas. He was sure the extensive powers obtained in Clause 59 of the Bill would in the future do very much to reduce our local government areas to a much simpler form. He believed the Government were, on the whole, well advised to omit from the present Bill the question of making the Unions conterminous with the counties. He saw nothing in the Bill to prevent them in some very short time bringing the Union as well as the sanitary district under the control of the new district authorities. He was confident if this Bill was adopted in its present shape we should not have long to wait before some proposal of the kind was made, and he believed that in the 60th clause of the Bill, which provided for contributory Unions, would be found the real key for the settlement of union and county boundaries. He believed that in adopting that plan the Government had certainly adopted the line of least resistance, and that it would in the end bring satisfaction both to the inhabitants of Unions and of counties, But he earnestly urged on the Government to think twice and thrice before they created any new areas under this Bill. They already suffered from a surplusage of areas. There were three new classes of areas proposed to be created—two for the purpose of elections alone—the electoral divisions of counties and the wards of districts, and, on the whole, he thought the provision made for preventing these new areas as far as possible from overlapping the areas of administration were satisfactory. But there was a third new area which was the area for the purposes of administration—namely, the licensing division. He did not intend to say anything to-night on the general question of licensing, but he asked the Government if it was necessary for their purposes to create a new area at all, and if the new licensing division would give satisfaction to the class for whose benefit the Government wished to create it? Surely it would be better to choose boldly one of the existing areas for the purpose of licensing. They could choose, of course, the whole county; but he saw great objections to that if they were really going in for what was called the principle of Local Option. But they had another alternative; they had the existing sanitary districts, the districts that they themselves proposed to make the administrative unit under the county, and he seriously asked them whether they would not give more satisfaction, from a popular point of view, if they adopted this district as the new district for licensing? It was quite possible to adopt the District Council as the Licensing Authority, and yet, if they thought it necessary, have an appeal to the County Council. He did not think that would be more complicated than giving the Licensing Committee in the first instance the right of hearing applications, and then giving the right of appeal to the County Councils. Let him point out the advantages of this course. In the first place, the Rural Sanitary Division more nearly coincided than any other existing area with the Petty Sessional Division, which was the present licensing unit; and although, no doubt, there were a great many small urban sanitary districts which it would be difficult to deal with, yet there would be no more hardship in grouping them into a reasonable district than there was at present in grouping a large number of electoral divisions into an entirely new district. There would also be in the plan he suggested this advantage—that they would avoid what seemed to many Members most interested in the reform of county local government the great danger of the elections for the County Council turning too much on the one question of licensing. If the District Council were the first licensing body, that would remove the danger from the County Council, and it would give the District Council some more and very important duties to perform. He was bound to say that, under the Bill, at all events, the District Council did not seem likely to die of overwork. He had now to speak of the election and constitution of these Coun- cils; and here, again, he wished to make an appeal to the Government in favour of more simplicity. The Government proposed in their Bill two different systems for the election of County Councils and District Councils. County Councils were to be elected every three years in single-membered districts, and the District Councils were to be elected, a third every year, in plural-membered constituencies. Surely one system could be chosen for both Councils. There were advantages and disadvantages in both these plans; but surely the Government ought to make up their minds which of the plans was best, and to adopt it for the two sets of elections. There was nothing that would confuse the mind of the ordinary elector more than having to elect two Bodies in different ways, and to some extent at different times, and in different proportions; and he suggested to the Government, especially in view of the fact that the experience of municipal boroughs had shown that annual elections were somewhat too frequent, that the better plan would be to elect half the Council in both cases for two years. With regard to the selected members, he must say, speaking on behalf of an agricultural district, he considered they would be very valuable elements in both Councils; but there was no doubt that care ought to be taken that the addition of the selected members should not be a means of turning the majority elected by the popular vote into a minority. There were two dangers which had to be guarded against, and both, he believed, had been felt in the Town Councils of municipal boroughs. In the first place, as had already been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, there was a great danger that at the first election a very small majority might elect the whole of the selected members, and that the results of that election might be felt for years, and even for generations. He suggested to the Government a simple plan—he had no doubt it would be suggested by other Members on the Opposition side of the House—for meeting this difficulty, and that was that every elected member of a now Council should only have the power of voting for one selected member. Then there was another danger, and that, he believed, had grown into an abuse—namely, that outgoing selected members, as Aldermen were in boroughs, had the power of taking part in the election of their successors. It was not at all clear that the selected members ought to vote at all.


The outgoing selected members do not vote.


said, he ought to have stated that the continuing selected members voted for the next batch of selected members. That was a danger which ought to be guarded against, for he was sure Selected Members would not give satisfaction if they did anything that would turn a popular majority into a minority. If they did not do that, they would certainly be found a very valuable element in the constitution of both County and District Councils. There was one very important subject with regard to the constitution of these Councils which he desired to press on the serious attention of the Government. They would have, when this Bill was passed, a series of popularly elected bodies. First of all, there would be the Imperial Parliament, then the County Councils, and, lastly, the District Councils; and between such bodies there ought certainly to be connecting links. No such links were provided, and he asked the Government whether they did not think it would serve the public interest and form a more complete system of government throughout the country if there were permanent links between these bodies? For instance, hon. Members could have no doubt, when they came to consider the matter, that the County Councillors ought to have the right of sitting on the District Council of their own district. They would be comparatively few in number; they would be elected by the same franchise as the District Councillors; and they would form a very useful link between the District Council and the County Council. Of course, there was another plan—which, to his mind, did not seem so satisfactory—and that was that the Chairman of every District Council should be ex-officio a member of the County Council. He thought there were much more serious objections to that plan; but, in his opinion, the Government would be well advised to take one course or the other. Thou there was the further suggestion, which he saw had already been made by a high authority, and that was that the Members of Parliament for the county and boroughs in the county should have a seat on their own County Council. That he should not urge in the interests of Members of Parliament themselves, for he was sure they had plenty of other ditties, but he should urge it most strongly in the public interest, because he believed it would give them a most valuable opportunity of forming a natural link between this popularly elected Assembly and the popularly elected local assemblies in their constituencies. He would not weary the House by entering into the financial arrangements of the Bill; but there was one thing he wished to say. It seemed to him, as it must to other Members who represented agricultural constituencies, that the new provisions for maintaining main roads would be a vast improvement. For the last 10 years the management of main roads had been financially in a state of chaos in the country districts, and it was a great improvement for the ratepayers to be relieved from what had been the most unjust burden of having to maintain all the main roads for the benefit of the other classes who did not contribute in proportion to their capacity to the maintenance of those roads. The new Wheel Tax he regarded as a simple act of justice to the country districts, which should have been imposed 10 years ago, when the turnpike system was abolished. He implored the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) not to abandon the tax simply because the largo towns were crying out against it. The case of the country districts was quite different from the case of towns. The towns might have a great deal to say for themselves in this matter. They parted with their turnpikes long ago, and they had not large districts of land which contributed to the maintenance of the roads, whether there were buildings on them or not. He urged the Government, if they were obliged in the last resort, as he did not believe they would be, to abandon the Wheel Tax for the large towns, to devise some other means for enabling the country districts to get proper contributions for the maintenance of main roads from all the classes who used those roads. With regard to the omissions from the Bill, they were, no doubt, very large; but he confidently looked forward to the Government dealing with some of them, if not in this Bill, in some measure which would be introduced this Session or the next. There was no doubt that if we were to have a satisfactory system of Local Government at all, we must have unity of rating and unity of assessment. The present system of assessment was perfectly indefensible, and great advantage and efficiency would accrue by an alteration in the mode of levying rates. Then there were certain powers which he would confess he should have thought the Government would not have hesitated to transfer to the District Council, and those were powers under the School Attendance Act, which were only conferred on Guardians because there was no other authority in the country districts upon which they could be conferred. He trusted that before the Bill left Committee the powers under that Act would be added to the powers of the District Councils. With regard to the government of small towns, there was a very valuable clause in the Bill—Clause 47. He hoped the Government would consider the advisability of extending that clause, which provided for the appointment of local committees in certain parishes—mostly town parishes—for what he might call purely town purposes. He thought that great satisfaction might be afforded to many small towns, that did not wish, at present, to have all the powers of urban sanitary districts, by providing some simple machinery such as a local committee by which they could manage the town's affairs, instead of leaving them to the management of the rural Guardians, who had not much interest in them. He was sorry to have detained the House at such length. He sincerely trusted, and he felt confident, after the very re-assuring speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), that this great national question would be treated by all sections of the House, not as a Party question, but as a question which all Parties had a great interest in seeing settled. He trusted that the Bill when passed, with such Amendments as might prove to be necessary, would reflect as much credit on the Government, its authors, and on Parliament, as the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 reflected on the Government and Parliament of that day.


said, he had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax with great satisfaction. He had had a great many dealings with the right hon. Gentleman in regard to matters closely connected with some of the subjects under discussion in this Bill, and he would venture to say, with all sincerity, that the speech which the right hon. Gentleman had made to-night only embodied that which had universally characterized his conduct and action—that was to say, courtesy and consideration for all with whom he had dealings. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would state—and state most honestly and frankly—that when the right hon. Gentleman was at the Local Government Board they had always received from him, as, indeed, they had received from most Presidents of the Local Government Board, that courtesy and consideration which they welcomed from Gentlemen in whatever part of the House they might sit. The right hon. Gentleman had added a most valuable contribution to the discussion of the important Bill before the House. There were many portions of the right hon. Gentleman's speech with which he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) quite agreed. Many of the right hon. Gentleman's statements would have a most beneficial effect on the mind of the President of the Local Government Board, for they would show him many considerations which ought to guide him to a great extent on many of the details of the measure, For instance, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) thought the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) would not deny that it would be most useful to the House that they should get some general statement—he knew no statement could be absolutely correct—as to the finances, how they were to be applied, and who were to receive them. It was desirable that they should know what would be the difference between the towns and the country, and what they might expect and hope for in the rural districts. There was another point in the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) which was a highly important and most valuable one. They did not know now the enormous powers which might be transferred from the Government Departments—the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade—to the County Council. He thought they ought to have that carefully stated. He quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that all the powers which had been conferred on the Board of Trade and on the Local Government Board by Act of Parliament, if they were transferred from either or from both those Departments, ought to be transferred by Act of Parliament, in order that the matter might come before the House. It would not be satisfactory, in his humble judgment, that these transfers should be carried out by Provisional Orders, which would lie on the Table of the House, and that then within 40 days, or whatever the time might be, would be transferred to the County Council, without Parliament knowing anything about what those powers might contain. He thought these were important questions, which deserved their most serious consideration. He had listened most attentively to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to commencing with parishes, and he had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would recollect the controversy they had had over this very question of parishes. He had stated—and the right hon. Gentleman could not get out of it, because it was absolutely true and correct—that if they had to deal with parishes, they would have to add several small parishes together to make a proper area, and they would also have to divide large parishes for the same purpose. They thought that so objectionable that, if he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) recollected aright, one of the main reasons why the Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer failed was because of the proposal to put numbers of small parishes together. He thought the right hon. Gentleman wanted to see parishes of less than 200 inhabitants amalgamated with other parishes, which would have brought about a greater revolution than the Bill before the House. At any rate, objection was taken to the Bill on that ground, and that was the reason why it was not adopted. There might be other reasons why the scheme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not accepted; but he would not go into that Bill, nor would he go into the reasons why the scheme of Lord Basing then Mr. Sclater-Booth, was not adopted. He would simply say that, under the first measure, half the Central Council were to come from the heads of the different parishes, and the other half from the magistrates ex-officio; and under the second, or Mr. Sclater-Booth's scheme, one-third were to come from the magistrates, one-third from the Boards of Guardians, and one-third were to be elected by popular suffrage. That, he thought, was the last proposal made. Now the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board went upon a totally different principle. If he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) were asked about that great question, he should say it was a revolution—the greatest revolution with regard to County Government which they had had during the century. No doubt—and he was not going to deny it—both sides of the House, and especially both Front Benches, had pledged themselves that some alteration of this kind should take place. When he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had spoken on the question in the country, he had warned his friends that it might seem in theory an excellent thing to do; but the question was, how would it work in practice? Did they think, when it came to practice, that they would get a better or a more economical system than they had at present? That was what he had always stated, and what he stated at the present moment. But things had now gone too far; he admitted it fully. They had now to deal with a different state of affairs altogether. Lord Salisbury, in the year 1885, when he laid down the programme which was to guide the Conservative Party, stated distinctly that one portion of the programme was a County Government Bill, and, if he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) recollected aright, the Councils were to be elected on popular suffrage. And if he remembered aright, also, the authorized programme coming from the opposite side of the House—from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—was very much in the same direction; therefore, there were both Parties stating distinctly that if a County Government Bill was brought in, that County Government Bill must be based upon popular suffrage and popular representation. Well, the right hon. Gen- tleman the President of the Local Government Board—and time would show whether in so doing he was right or wrong—had followed out the principle which had been laid down, and the result was the Bill now before the House. Whether the measure would answer all the expectations of those who introduced it, whether it would answer all the expectations of the country, time alone could prove; but this much he could say for his right hon. Friend at the head of the Local Government Board—that the Bill was an honest endeavour to meet the views and opinions of those who had stated those views and opinions previously, and to meet the general view and general opinion which many hon. Members in different parts of the country had promised their constituents that they were prepared to support. Well, he should now like to say a word upon a point which he thought deserved some small consideration—and it would be very small—from him. His right hon. Friend had stated that those who had had to administer county affairs up to the present time had done it satisfactorily and economically. He could bring two witnesses before the House that he thought hon. Members—especially hon. Members on the opposite side—would not dispute or deny. He recollected perfectly well, years ago, when his hon. and most lamented Friend Mr. Cobden came to reside down in the Western Division of the County of Sussex, that gentleman, after he had been there some time, saying—"The one thing that strikes me of all others is the way in which the County Magistrates do their duty. The care and attention which they pay to their work, especially to matters of finance, entitles them to all credit." He would call another witness—namely, a newspaper which on the opposite side of the House they all respected—he meant The Daily News. The Daily News, years ago, wrote in this way. It said— Look at London; see how London is governed. Hundreds of men can be added to the police force"— he was not sure that the statement was not— thousands of men can be added to the police force, and no one in London is consulted and is able to make a remark; but what happens in West Sussex? The hon. and gallant Member for that Division, when it was proposed to add one single man to the county police of Sussex, was able to get up and dispute the appointment, and declare that no addition to the police was necessary. Here we are not able to say what should be done; but the Quarter Sessions are able to criticize these things, and say whether or not one single policeman is required. He mentioned these things to show that although the County Magistrates might not have done all they ought to have done, yet their great and their earnest desire had been to do that which they believed to be not only in the interest of the country generally, but in the interest of the ratepayers especially. He ventured to express a hope that they had failed very little, or had not failed at all, in that which they had undertaken, and had tried and were still trying to perform. He should like to say a word upon another question which had been raised by many people as to what was to happen to the County Magistrates in the future. He had read, and read most attentively, the speech of Lord Spencer down in Northamptonshire the other day, and he ventured to say that no better advice could be given to them as a body than had been given by that noble Lord. He had said as much to the Quarter Sessions with which he was connected. He had said that if they thought their services were of any use to the county they should offer those services freely and honestly, and he ventured to believe that in the future as in the past, if they only endeavoured to do their duty, they might be found useful and necessary in the carrying out of those multifarious and difficult duties which they had had for so many years to perform. He would now, for just one moment, address himself to one or two points in the Bill, and the first point he would raise—and it was one which his right hon. Friend should consider—was whether the right hon. Gentleman did not think there was some danger of over-weighting the Central Councils by imposing upon them all the duties which the Bill proposed to cast upon them? The duties were multifarious and difficult, and it might so happen that a large number of men might be elected on the Councils who had never been accustomed to deal with these questions; and seeing that the questions would all have to be carefully dealt with, it was a matter for consideration whether they were not going too fast in giving such people all the powers contained in the Bill. It was a question whether all these responsibilities should be placed on the members of the Councils at once, and whether they should not wait until they were sure these persons could walk before they expected them to run. As he understood it, the first members of the Central County Councils were to be elected for three years. Why should that not be a tentative time? Why should they not consider the subject in the light of growing experience during that time, and by degrees impose upon the Councils those various duties which they would have to perform? Then he had heard it said—he did not know what the opinion of the House would be on the matter, and he only threw it out for what it was worth—that if, after the first three years, things should be found to go well, and it should be found that they had good Councils, they should increase the interval and have elections only once in five years instead of once in three years. Hon. Members must remember how costly these elections would be. They must remember the people they would deter from coming forward if a heavy cost were imposed upon them. They must remember, also, that when a man had once got into his work and knew the duties he had to perform, how much more useful and how much better he was than an inexperienced man; and when the people got accustomed to a man and found that he was doing his work well, they would be very 10th to displace him. Therefore, in his humble judgment, it would be better that the Councils should last for five rather than for three years. He would now go to the next point which he thought a very important one, although he had no doubt a great many hon. Members would not agree with what he was going to say. The question was that of police. In the county with which he was connected he had been Chairman of the Police Committee for many years, and from his experience in that capacity he could say that it took a long time to understand all the various bearings of the police question. He would admit he was sorry to see, in a speech the Marquess of Salisbury made at Carnarvon the other night, he rather depreciated the services of the magistrates, and said he should think it would be well to take away from them the management of of police. The noble Lord pointed out that the gaols had been taken away from them. That they all knew perfectly well. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was one of those who differed from the Conservative Government which took away the management of the gaols from the magistrates, and he voted against the Government on that occasion, because he thought that the local magistrates and the localities themselves could control these gaols quite as well, if not better, than a central authority could do. But what had the magistrates done? Because they had had the gaols taken away from them they had not neglected the great duty that still remained to them of visiting the gaols and the people who might happen to be confined in them. It was precisely the same with the lunatic asylums—with regard to which question he should like to say a few words in a moment. With regard to the police, he would ask his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board whether he thought a divided authority was a good thing? If the magistrates were to have all the judicial authority, if they were to be responsible more or less for law and order, and if they were to see that the police were in an effective condition, he maintained that they ought to have the sole control of the force. Many hon. Members might shake their heads and say "No;" but that was his deliberate opinion—that it would be better in every sense for the interests of the country that the magistrates should still retain the police as they dealt with them at present. And his view was the same with regard to the lunatic asylums. That was a very difficult class of business to deal with. They had built asylums and had done all they could to place the persons confined within them in a good position, and it was now proposed to throw the buildings and their inmates over to another authority though ignorant as to the manner in which that authority would deal with them. The magistrates had Commissioners of Lunacy over them, no doubt; but had they neglected their duty because of that? On the contrary, they had been most anxious to agree with all the recommendations which the Commissioners might have made; and this, again, was one of those questions which might very well be left in the hands of those who had dealt with it so successfully up to the present moment. He now came to another subject which was one of great importance. He should like to ask his right hon. Friend—and this, no doubt, was a matter which would cause a great difference of opinion—how he proposed to deal with the counties, certain portions of which had a very sparse rural population, and in which there were a large number of towns of considerable size. He should like to know how the right hon. Gentleman intended to deal with these? Were the towns absolutely to override the rural population? He would not say how it was to be done, but if they took the test of population alone the rural districts would be absolutely so out-voted that they would have no part in that management which was established, it was said, entirely for their benefit. On the second reading of a Bill like this they could not go too closely into all these questions. This was a very important matter which deserved the very serious attention and consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. There was another question which came immediately after that, and one that, perhaps, might be of more importance than that, especially to the poorer inhabitants of the district—he meant the question of expenditure. He did not see in the Bill those safeguards which were necessary to prevent extravagant expenditure. Whatever anyone said, they knew perfectly well that complaints were made day by day of the enormous increase which took place in the rates in towns managed by those very authorities which were now held up to the admiration of the House. In some towns local affairs were admirably managed; but in other towns, as hon. Members knew, they were recklessly managed, and what was wanted was to stop this extravagance, and to put a check upon the borrowing powers which the Local Authorities now possessed. Those were points which, he maintained, deserved the most grave and serious consideration of the House. When they came to hand over deliberately such enormous powers to any body of men, all depended on the men who had to administer them. When they had in the management of local affairs men of a certain position who did not wish to make their names known, and did not desire to say—"Oh, I helped to erect that magnificent building!" they would do very well; but when they had men whose great object was self-glorification—and he hoped the powers contained in the Bill would never descend to that class of men—the state of things would be reversed. Unless there was some means of checking extravagant outlay, directly they had the class of men such as he described in power a condition of things would be brought about which would give a death-blow to the Bill. He would go for one moment to another very interesting subject—namely, the question of licensing. There had been various meetings on that subject. A Committee of County Chairmen had met and had passed a resolution, he believed, unanimously—he did not know that it was unanimously; but the newspapers had stated that it was—that these clauses should be expunged from the Bill. All the communications which he had had on this question, by letter or otherwise, had been from gentlemen connected with the Temperance Party. They were all for taking these clauses out of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] He heard one "Hear, hear!" but that was not the view of the majority of hon. Members sitting in the House; but, be that as it might, the House must not forget that they had had Bills and Motions on the licensing question brought before them for years and years past. They had carried a Local Option scheme in that House, though he had always voted against such proposals. They had carried a Local Option Resolution; but that was a very different thing from carrying a Bill. They had carried Bills for dealing with Sunday Closing in various counties. The Motions as to Local Option had been confined to the House of Commons; but the Bills for closing public-houses on Sundays had been, most of them, thrown out in the other House. Why was this? Because it had been stated that before dealing with this question they ought to have prepared a general scheme. He did not say that his right hon. Friend's scheme was the best that could be devised; but it was an honest attempt to steer amongst the most difficult shoals which beset their path—to steer between the Scylla on the one side and the Charybdis on the other, and to show that there was some viâ media by which they could settle in some way this terribly difficult question. He should be perfectly content to see the question settled, though he should not have objected to allow it to remain as it was at present administered. But the proposal of his right hon. Friend was an endeavour to settle it, and they knew that perfectly well. He thought he might here say something which came to his notice only the other day, as it was most interesting, and did great credit to the Licensing Justices of Essex. In Essex, as he understood, and as it had been told to him, when a man came asking for a fresh licence, stating that it was for some populous place where he alleged another public-house was required, the answer of the Justices was this—"What are you going to give us for the licence? How many licences are you going to give up?" In that way, as he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) understood it, an arrangement was come to, and it was agreed that two or more licences should be given up in less populous places in order that one should be given for a district in which it was required. He commended that system to the House. He commended it especially to his right hon. Friend, because here was a way of doing business without, in such cases, any compensation whatever being paid. But when he came to the question of payment, he did not think there was a man who, if he carefully considered this question—and it was a very difficult one—would not say that if public-houses were suppressed in the country and an examination were made into the circumstances of the districts in order to see whore the public-houses were wanted and where they were situated, it would be found that the public-houses suppressed were not those of the strong men, but those of the poorer men. He should like this matter to be fairly considered. If a man had saved his money and invested it in a public-house on the faith that his licence would not be taken away from him unless he committed some act which was against the law and against common decency, the man believing that his licence was as safe as it possibly could be, it would be unfair to turn him out of his occupation without compensation. He might have a beer-shop or a small public-house, and were they going to tell him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) that it would be right, under the circumstances, to deprive such a man of his house, and of the living which he had piled up for himself, without giving him some compensation? It would be a downright breach of faith to do so, though he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) was not pleading for great compensation. At any rate, compensation of some sort or kind ought to be given to all those who were arbitrarily deprived of their means of living through no fault of their own. He had thought it right to make these remarks, and he believed that if these questions were fairly considered—and he said it in the interest of his right hon. Friend especially, because he and his hon. Colleague, who had taken so much trouble and pains with the Bill, knew and felt the difficulty of the question—they would find it possible to arrive at a settlement. It was a question which, if possible, they ought to settle, because, if they did not settle it, they would have to deal with it piecemeal year by year, to the great disadvantage and detriment not only of the trade, but also of the country, and particularly to the great disadvantage of the House of Commons. There was another question upon which he should like to say a word or two, and that was the question of the main roads. If his right hon. Friend would take the trouble to look through a map of the main roads running through each county in England he would see how some parishes got all the benefits of the main roads while others got none. He did not think that the powers given in the Bill on account of main roads were half sufficient. This was one of those questions which interested the people in the country more almost than anything else, and he would, therefore, ask the right hon. Gentleman to see whether he could not give them some better definition of what ought to be done. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had been asked to go down into the country next week to speak at a meeting on the subject of roads, and especially main roads. One thing they wanted dealt with was all roads leading from one village to another village, or from one town to another town. They were of opinion that wherever there was a road with a village or a town at each end of it that road, for the purposes of this Bill, ought to be made a main road. He did not say whether or not it would be wise to do this; but it showed the prevailing opinion amongst a large number of people who were most interested in this question. They thought that their roads should be properly kept up, and that the expense should be thrown upon those who used the roads most, and not upon those who used them very little. There was another question in connection with this matter—namely, his right hon. Friend's proposal that all parish roads should be thrown upon the District Councils. He would ask his right hon. Friend to give this matter his most careful consideration. He could take the right hon. Gentleman into the country and show him at this moment many parishes in which the roads were most admirably kept and were in most perfect order, and he could take him down into other parishes and show him roads which were in a most disgraceful state. There was also the ratione tenurœ roads, which the public could go through, but which had gates on them. All these roads which were not in a state of repair—and this was the point to which he wished to draw attention—that these particular roads ought not to be taken over by the localities, and he concluded that would be the case till they were placed in a fair state of repair. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider that point, and he would also ask him to consider whether every parish, before it was taken over by the District Council, should not have its roads examined to see that they were not in first-class order, but that they were in a fair state of repair. Would it be fair or honest to say that parishes which had kept their roads in good order, immediately this Bill passed and District Councils were formed, should be called on to pay a tax to place in order the roads of other parishes, which roads had been neglected? No one would say that that was the right way of proceeding, but they would say that when the roads in that parish were put into a fair condition the District Council then would take them over, and then that the whole of the roads would be subject to one general scheme. He had spoken generally on these subjects because it would not do at this stage of the Bill to go into detail. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax in one thing. The right hon. Gentleman had said that there was too much "paper" in the Local Government Office—and he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) did not think the Local Government Office was as bad as many other offices in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman meant what some people called "red tape." The sooner they got out of that red tape system in connection with the Army and Navy, or whatever Department it might be, the better the Department would be served. This was a question which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would, no doubt, carefully consider, because, seeing that he was handing over so much of the business of his Department to the rural authorities, he had been invited to say how many clerks he was going to reduce in the office. Into that question he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) did not wish to enter. He desired to say that they had begun this debate, as he thought the House would admit, without a particle of Party feeling. They had, he hoped, started upon a new line which they would do well to follow. When the matters concerned in connection with a Bill of this sort were the welfare and interest of a great country, and they saw and knew that if it became a Party question Party feeling would run high and many portions of the Bill might be lost or disfigured, he ventured to hope and pray that they might continue discussing the Bill in the peaceful spirit in which they had begun. Let this be The star by which we steer, Above ourselves our country shall be dear. They had done well in this country in days gone by, they had now got into a groove in which he hoped they would continue, and they had been held up as the most honourable and the best and most efficient Representative Assembly in the world. They had lost a little of the varnish which was accorded to them in days gone by. Let them recover that and show to the world that when they came to great questions of this kind, great questions that affected the interest and welfare and well-being of the masses of the people, they could do as they had done before, and maintain in the future that ascendancy which they had earned in the past.

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said, he did not propose to follow the hon. and gallant Baronet either into the general criticism he had made on the Bill or into his dis- cussion of some of its details. He would only say that he re-echoed the views which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had expressed in the closing part of his speech. If ever there was a measure brought before the House which it seemed to him ought to be discussed apart from all Party considerations, this was the one. The Bill was one in which they were aiming to improve the local self-government of the whole country; and, although differences of opinion might occasionally arise in the discussion of a measure of the kind, seeing that a great many conflicting interests were raised, whilst they fairly argued out their respective views, he saw no necessity for imparting into any of those views what his hon. and gallant Friend had so strongly deprecated. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) did not intend to follow the hon. and gallant Baronet into a discussion of the question of licences or the question of main roads, or even into the discussion of a question which, perhaps, he might feel a little more strongly upon at the present moment—namely, the expenditure in towns. He would say, in passing, that there was one remark of the hon. and gallant Member's with which he agreed—namely, the undesirability of the police being placed under a divided authority. In the municipal boroughs they had no divided authority. They placed the police under the control of the elected representatives of the people, and, without disparagement to the management of the police elsewhere, he submitted that the police in the large municipal boroughs were managed as efficiently, as economically, and as wisely as in either the Metropolis or the counties. When they came to the discussion of that part of the Bill dealing with the police, he should be quite ready to defend the management of the police by the elected authority in the municipalities, and to express a hope that the ultimate decision of the House would be to trust the County Council at once. Let them trust it. It would be found quite competent, he thought, to discharge the duty of administering the affairs of the police. Passing from that he might say that he thought it would be a great calamity to the country if it were to be deprived of the services of those who, like the hon. and gallant Member himself, had for so many years devoted themselves gratuitously and with the greatest efficiency and economy to the administration of local affairs. Now, the observations he was going to make, he gave the House fair notice, would be of a very dry nature. He was about to deal with the figures of the proposal. If they were going to look at this question and discuss it in what he might call the dry light of its administration, they should be, as far as possible, clear in the figures they used. He thought further statistical information was required; but, at any rate, they had some information as to which he should like to say a word or two to the House. He took it that the object of the Bill was two-fold; they wanted to reform their local self-government and they wanted to relieve their local taxation. These subjects were inter-dependent, and they were so mixed up the one with the other, that he thought the Government had done rightly in dealing with them together—finding it impossible to deal with local self-government without dealing also with the relief of local taxation. He congratulated the Government that they had at this particular crisis, and in dealing with this great branch of the great question the advantage of the assistance and advice of the statesman who had written the ablest work on the subject, who was one of the greatest living authorities upon it, and who had now added to his knowledge his more recent experience of Chancellor of the Exchequer. He should be very sorry, and should very much doubt his own opinion on this question, if he found himself going in opposition to the views of the right hon. Gentleman as contained in the work to which he referred. In the figures he was going to submit to the House he was very much guided by the principles and calculations which the right hon. Gentleman had laid before the House and the public. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) was not going to-night to deal with the question of the reform of local self-government. That had been dealt with by his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), and would be dealt with, no doubt, by a great many other speakers in the course of the debate. He wished to confine himself entirely to the question of figures as affecting the relationship to the new scheme of the municipal boroughs. He thought he might say he was speaking as the first Member who had taken part in the debate as a Member representing the municipal boroughs affected by the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, no doubt, represented the borough of Halifax, and in that way was a Representative of municipal boroughs; but as the right hon. Gentleman had been President of the Local Government Board, he had been obliged to take a broader view of the question altogether than he would have done had he been merely a Representative of municipal boroughs. What was the present amount of local taxation with which this Bill was going to deal, and with respect to which a large measure of relief was required? The gross receipts for local taxation, excluding gas, water, tolls, and markets levied upon the ratepayers in 1866, was £26,142,000, which for purposes of this debate and for simplicity he would call £26,000,000. That, of course, did not include all local expenditure. It appeared much larger in the local returns and statistics, and amounted to £44,000,000, but that included matters outside the purview of rates, and so far as the rates were concerned the figure was as he had stated. The first question was, how was that sum made up, where was it levied, and for what purpose? The first great item was the poor rate, and in speaking of that he dealt exclusively with what he would call the poor rate proper. Local Members would know that a large number of rates were levied in the poor rate, and that nominally the poor rate was something like £14,000,000. He was in that dealing with that which related exclusively to the poor, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had described as an hereditary burden on land. He should deal with round figures, and in this case the poor rate was practically £8,500,000. The next item in the calculation was the Metropolis, and, excluding the poor rate and the school board rate, it accounted for £3,500,000; the municipal boroughs and the Urban Sanitary Authorities accounted for £7,500,000; the school board rates for £2,300,000; County Authorities for £2,000,000; Rural Sanitary Authorities, including highways, for under £2,000,000; and the miscellaneous rates arising from Burial Boards, drainage, and other local matters made up the balance of £26,000,000. Before asking the House to form any judgment as to how that sum was to be divided and whence it came, they must divide the education rate. The school beard rate, last year, was £2⅓ millions; £1,000,000 of that sum was paid in London, £650,000 in the municipal boroughs, and £700,000 in the rural and partly rural districts. Thus the calculation, irrespective of the poor rate, would show a total of local taxation £17,500,000, of which £12,750,000 was the urban and £4,750,000 the rural rate, or, in other words, 72½ per cent of the local taxation of the country, irrespective of poor rate, was urban taxation, and 27½ per cent rural taxation. Then a very difficult question arose as to the apportionment of the poor rate, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he made that apportionment of local rates, had dealt with the rural and urban rates on their own separate bases. It would be unjust to attempt any adjustment of the respective incidence of rural and urban taxation unless they dealt with the poor rate. The poor rate proper was, in round figures, £8,500,000, from which £2,250,000 must be deducted for the Metropolis, thus leaving £6,250,000 to be apportioned between urban and rural districts. The rateable value on which this is assessed is £118,000,000, which, at the average rate of 1s. 1d. in the £, produced that amount. The rateable value of the municipal boroughs acting as Urban Sanitary Authorities is £35,500,000, the rateable value of the boroughs not acting as such is about £3,000,000, and the rateable value of the counties assessed to the police rate is about £80,000,000, and those are the figures composing the £118,000,000 which would show £80,000,000 rural and £38,000,000 urban. But from the £80,000,000 we have to deduct the rateable value of the Urban Sanitary Authorities other than municipal boroughs. There are 736 of these authorities with a rateable value of £20,500,000. No doubt a portion of these authorities cover rural districts. He would allow £5,000,000 for this, and the result would be that of the £118,000,000 assessed for poor rate, £65,000,000 were rural and £53,000,000 were urban. The amount of rate of £6,250,000 would be apportioned—£3,500,000 to the rural districts and £2,750,000 to the urban. The final result of these apportionments would be—

Do. Poor
Do. School 1
Municipal and Urban
Do. do. Poor
Do. do. School ¾
Total Urban 17¾
County 2
Rural Authorities 2
School ¾
Total Rural
That showed a percentage of 68½ for town taxation and 31½ for rural taxation. Hon. Members were all aware that there had been an enormous increase in this taxation. When the Report of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to which he had alluded was presented in 1871, the right hon. Gentleman calculated that the entire local taxation of the country was £16,500,000. If the right hon. Gentleman would allow him to say so, he thought that was rather in excess of the real amount, because there were the amounts to be taken into account for gas and water. However that might he, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had classified that £16,500,000, by assigning £5,000,000 to the urban, £3,000,000 to the rural, £8,000,000 to the poor, and £1,000,000 to miscellaneous items. He would now inquire if there had been any increase in the poor rate in the rural districts, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had described as the ancient hereditary burden on land, and which in times gone by had been a heavy and intolerable burden? That rate had been steadily decreasing. In 1856 the poor rate was 1s. 8d. in the pound; in 1866, 1s.d.; 1876, 1s. 2d.; and in 1886, 1s. 1d. There had, in fact, been a steady decrease in the burden of the poor rate, not only during the last 30 years, but during the century. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that in 1803 it was 3s.d. in the pound; in 1827 2s.d.; in 1868 it was 1s. 8d. in the pound, and at the present day it was a fraction over 1s. 1d. in the pound. Therefore, there had been no increase in the hereditary burden of poor rate. It had been steadily decreasing, and that was one of the happiest signs which they could discern in the financial condition of the country, and it reflected very satisfactorily upon the administration of the Poor Law, which, upon the whole, he believed to have been sound and financially good during the last 30 years. The Local Government Board, in their Report, said that in 1874 the entire local taxation was nearly £19,000,000, and that in 1885 it was between £25,000,000 and £26,000,000, which showed an increase of nearly £7,000,000 in 10 years. Now, he asked, where had that increase occurred? These were the figures of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade—they were in his last Report, and the Local Government Board divided this increase in the following way:—Increase in Metropolitan rates £2,600,000; in exclusively urban districts, £2,700,000; partly urban and partly rural districts, £1,100,000; and the exclusively rural districts, £213,000. He wanted the House to appreciate the force of these figures. The rates of the Metropolis had increased 67 per cent; the great towns and municipal boroughs, 59 per cent; the partly rural and partly urban districts, 13 per cent; and the purely rural districts only 12 per cent. Now, there could be no difference of opinion that with such an increase the time had arrived for some relief to be given to local taxation. The right hon. Gentleman the other night had very properly called the attention of the House to the excessive manner in which the farmer was rated; he said he was rated upon the whole of his rent and, practically, upon his capital. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) entirely agreed with that statement, and he had always contended against the injustice of the present mode by which the agricultural interest was rated. But the same injustice applied to the inhabitants in towns, where you had brokers and bankers and professional men in offices and chambers paying £40 or £50 a-year rent, whereas the draper and grocer was rented at £200 or £300 a-year. It was a great injustice that the whole burden should fall on one description of property, and that it should be so unfairly assessed among those who represented it. He thought that the scheme of the Govern- ment in reference to local taxation was wise and generous on the whole; but he was going to ask the House to see that the sum given in relief was fairly apportioned—that was to say, that those who suffered most should benefit most, and that those who suffered least should benefit least. What was the sum which Government were going to give in aid of local taxation? He rejected at once from consideration on both sides of the account the grants discontinued on one side and re-granted on the other—that was to say, the grants in aid of Poor Law purposes, which were in future to be met by local funds and paid out of the Imperial taxation. Taking no account of this, he found that the total amount which the President of the Local Government Board proposed to appropriate was £2,969,873, from which had to be deducted for grants £2,582,434, leaving a balance of old taxes to be handed over to the Local Authorities for local purposes of £387,439. That would be the amount received of the first grant of the old taxes. Then there were the new taxes, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer estimated at £826,000. He was aware that the right hon. Gentleman was a very sound and careful financier; but he thought that perhaps a larger sum than this would be realized. The right hon. Gentleman then proposed to give in aid of local taxation £1,800,000 Probate Duty, which made the total amount to £3,013,439. The House would remember that the amount of local taxation was £26,000,000, so that this relief amounted to 2s.d. in the pound, or, roughly speaking, one-ninth of local taxation proposed to be relieved out of the Imperial purse. He submitted, in the first instance, that this principle of one-ninth must pervade all classes of taxation. The urban taxation amounted to £17,750,000; the rural to £8,250,000. Then, he said, on every principle of fairness, that the urban taxation should receive about £2,000,000 and the rural taxation about £1,000,000 of this relief, which would then be in equal ratio with the burden, which, as between the two classes of districts, was two to one. Now, what did the Government propose with reference to this apportionment; and that was the first criticism to which he asked the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade? By this Bill it was proposed not only to hand over these funds to the Local Authorities, but it also appropriated them. They had, first, £1,800,000 Probate Duty, which was handed over to the various counties on the basis of the number of indoor paupers. But that would only account for £1,200,000, so that there remained a margin of £600,000. One hon. Gentleman in the course of that debate had said that he should like to know how this sum would ultimately be apportioned. He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) thought there would be great disappointment in some quarters, and a great deal of surprise in others, at the way in which this would work out. There was no doubt that the Metropolis would get the lion's share. The number of indoor paupers in the Metropolis was 28 per cent of the total number in the Kingdom, and, therefore, it would have 28 per cent of the grant. He had calculated this, taking the number of indoor paupers as 200,000, and, if that figure were correct, he found that Middlesex, Surrey, Kent, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, five counties, would take £984,000, or more than one-half of the grant. Then he found that five other counties, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Northamptonshire—fairly representative counties—would only receive £89,000. Now, he made no criticism as to whether or not this was the wisest mode of appropriation. But something might be said as to whether it would tend to increase or decrease the expense of Poor Law administration—whether it would offer an inducement to increase the number of indoor paupers and reduce the amount of outdoor relief. He did not wish the Government to think that he was dissenting from this mode of apportionment, but he wished the House to know how it would be distributed. There would then remain £1,800,000 for general local relief. The next subject he had to refer to was that of the maintenance of main roads. There was a little difficulty in the financial scheme of the Bill in this respect. The Bill said, first, that the main roads should be a general county expenditure, and, having made that provision, it said that this £1,800,000 should be applied first in discharge of the general county expenditure. But the Financial Scheme contemplated that the first contribution should be for the maintenance of main roads. He presumed the Government would make it clear whether or not the County Authorities were to have any option as to the application of the funds to the main roads. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated that the cost of maintenance of the main roads would be £1,040,000. How was this money to be allocated? They had the statement in the Government Returns that the grant of last year of £234,000 represented about a quarter of the cost of the main roads. Of this sum, £152,000 was allocated to the rural authorities and £74,000 to the urban authorities, and the Quarter Session boroughs only received £7,827. Thus the boroughs for which he was going specifically to plead in that House, and which were directly affected by this Bill—the Quarter Session boroughs—received the magnificent sum of £7,827. The towns received 35 per cent and the rural districts 65 per cent of this subvention. If they were to appropriate the £1,040,000 on the same ratio, they would have the country receiving £676,000 and the towns £364,060, while the smaller Quarter Session boroughs would be practically excluded from the grant. But that did not appropriate the whole of the £1,800,000; the rest of it was to be appropriated to the general county expenditure, to which all the country, including the municipal boroughs, was assessed; and in this general county fund, of course, was included the general county expenditure defrayed by the county rates. That would give something like £800,000 to the counties.


said, that in the debtor and creditor account which the right hon. Gentleman had given of these grants he had forgotten the £254,000 for main roads which was discontinued.


said, that was the difference between the discontinued grants and the new grants. The general county expenditure in boroughs, after deducting the police and main roads, which had been disposed of, was only £1,500,000, and the balance of the grant would go in relief of this expenditure. His right hon. Friend was perfectly accurate in saying that this abolition would relieve all the ratepayers in the counties, including, of course, the ratepayers who lived in the boroughs; and those hon. Members who were familiar with the relations between the boroughs and counties would know that the urban districts were rated for general county purposes. There were certain expenses for which the whole boroughs were liable, and his right hon. Friend would say that these were going to be relieved to that extent. But with reference to this matter he must use a legal phrase, and say that they must marshal the burdens of local taxation to which the ratepayer was subject, and then they must marshal the burdens in respect of which they were to be relieved. The lowest county rate in England was three-eighths of a penny in the pound and the highest 5¼d., the average being about 3d. in the pound. The average urban rate was 2s. 6d. in the pound, and he would point out that a 1d. in 2s. 6d. was a very different thing from a 1d. in 3d. For instance he was paying 2s. 6d. in the pound to local taxation, 1d of which went to the county; his neighbour at a short distance was paying 3d. in the pound, and if they were both going to be relieved by 1d.in the pound, one would be relieved to the extent of 33 per cent, and the other of 3 per cent. He maintained, therefore, that if relief was intended it must be proportional; it was the minimum of justice to allot the relief in precisely the same proportion to the same classes of rates, and therefore the municipal burden was entitled to be relieved in the same proportion as the rural burden was relieved. His next question was as to whence the funds came from which the right hon. Gentleman was going to make the appropriation. The right hon Gentleman was not going to take this sum of £1,800,000 from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or from Imperial taxation; he was going to take it from certain taxes paid in certain localities. If the county was to have the benefit of taxation raised in the county, were not the municipal boroughs to have the benefit of the taxation raised in the boroughs? He said that the municipal boroughs deserved well of the country; they had done their duty, they had developed the whole principle of local government, and the county government proposal was merely based on the desire to adopt and extend the system which had worked so satisfactorily in the boroughs; and if certain taxes paid by them into the Exchequer were to be considered, then he said that the taxes paid in them should go to the boroughs direct. They were raised in and belonged to the boroughs, and the latter had fully discharged their duties of local administration; they were fully taxed, and he put it to the Government as a matter of justice to say why it was that Birmingham should have these local taxes in aid of local rates, and Wolverhampton be compelled to hand them over to a county 50 miles long and 30 miles wide, with which it had no connection whatever. The right hon. Gentleman had said in reply to him that he could not give figures to show how this taxation scheme would work out, but he was going to give the House some figures which had been supplied to him by the courtesy of the Local Authorities in Wolverhampton, and would show exactly how the scheme would work as between Wolverhampton and the county of Stafford. Hon. Gentlemen would know that a Quarter Sessions borough with 80,000 inhabitants was a very fair type of an English borough. The county of Stafford had a rateable value of £4,260,000, and its county and police rates were between 5d. and 6d. in the pound, leaving the poor rate entirely out of the calculation. The municipal and sanitary rates of Wolverhampton amounted to 4s.d.; the school board and library rate was 7¾d; making a total of 4s. 10d. What was the case of the county? Twenty years ago in the county of Stafford the county rate was 3d. in the pound, in 1884 2½d., to-day 3⅛d., and might practically be said to be stationary. The average for Wolverhampton for many years, including poor rate, had been 5s. 9d., and he regretted to say that this year they were 7s. 3d. in the pound. The right hon. Gentleman said he could not tell what sum the localities would get, but he had in his hand a statement prepared by the Authorities of the Inland Revenue in Wolverhampton which would give figures with regard to that borough.


said, the right hon. Gentleman was not taking into account the rates of the other areas within the county; he was comparing the rates in municipal boroughs with the county rates alone.


said, he perfectly understood the distinction; but the whole of the Government subvention would go to the county rate.




said, his case was that, no matter how the other areas were affected, the municipal taxation was going to be taken out of the municipal borough and applied elsewhere. In Wolverhampton, the Inland Revenue Authorities estimated that the transferred licences would produce £5,334, and that the local taxes to be transferred to the County Councils would yield £2,933, making a total of £8,267 from all licences. He agreed that it was impossible to calculate what the new licences would produce; but here again the Inland Revenue Authorities estimated that the Horse and Wheel Taxes would produce £1,680, which would raise the total to £9,947. Adding 20 per cent for licences would raise the total to £11,000. The grants in aid now received amounted to £5,650, and that left a balance of £5,358, which would be paid to the county authority. The right hon. Gentleman would say he was not calculating the Probate Duty contribution for indoor paupers. It was impossible to calculate what the Probate Duty paid in the borough would be. In the whole county of Stafford there were 6,872 indoor paupers, which would entitle it to receive a grant of about £62,000, of which sum the Unions would get £42,000, and there would be a profit of £20,000. The estimated grant in respect of Wolverhampton would be about £4,000, which would give the county a profit of £1,600 upon paupers alone.


said, he did not understand how the right hon. Gentleman calculated the amount which Wolverhampton would receive for paupers.


said, he had only taken the paupers of the borough. The Union included other townships. His authority was the clerk to the Poor Law Guardians. If he was right, the House would see that there was about £6,000 of Wolverhampton taxation to be handed over to the county of Stafford. Wolverhampton was now, for the first time, to be brought into the county of Stafford for the purpose of assessment for main roads. There were in the county 688 miles of main roads. In Wolverhampton there were only two miles. Its present taxation for county purposes was 1d. in the pound. Municipal boroughs in counties ought to be self contained, and in that case the borough of Wolverhampton would receive between £5,000 and £6,000 in aid of its local taxation.


Am I right in un-standing the right hon. Gentleman to say that Wolverhampton ought to receive £5,700 in addition to the sum allowed?


Yes; irrespective of the sum on account of paupers. What was the practical bearing of his statement? His point was this—they were all agreed that this relief should be granted to local taxation, and they were, he felt sure, also agreed that it should be fairly apportioned. He fully admitted that unless the right hon. Gentleman were omniscient and infallible, he could not draw a Bill of this magnitude and complexity without its being open to criticism in some of its details. And consequently he implied no blame or censure when he said that the same measure of justice which was dealt out to the 10 great boroughs, and to the nine boroughs with their populations of 100,000, should be dealt out also to the middle class boroughs which had discharged their municipal duties, which were bearing the burden of taxation, and which were entitled to be relieved. Unless those boroughs were made independent of the counties, grave injustice would be done to them. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that so far as the boroughs were concerned there was no desire in any way to impede the work or throw any difficulties in the way of this scheme. They believed in Local Government, they desired to see it extended, but they, at the same time, asked him not to put upon the face of the Bill a taint of injustice or to give them a standing grievance. Wolverhampton was anxious that the county of Stafford should enjoy the same benefits which the inhabitants believed they had derived from an improved system of Local Government, but they urged that the borough should not be fined £5,000 to enable the county to receive that benefit. He merely asked that they should be given their own, and the grievance being removed, so far as the rural and urban districts were concerned, he thought there would be little ground for complaint. He admitted the difficulties with which the right hon. Gentleman had to contend, but he asked him that the boroughs having their own Quarter Sessions and police, discharging all their municipal duties, and with populations approaching 80,000 or 90,000 inhabitants, should be put upon the same footing as the other boroughs. If the right hon. Gentleman would concede this point, he believed he would then remove the only sense of injustice which, so far as he was aware, had arisen with respect to the Bill. There might be some difference of opinion as to the wisdom of some of the provisions of the Bill, but, on the whole, he thought the scheme was a good one, and they wished to see it carried.


said, he was quite sure that no one who had listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had found it in the least dull or dry. It was quite beyond his (Sir Richard Webster's) province to reply to what he might call the detailed financial argument so clearly put before the House by the right hon. Gentleman. If all other boroughs found as able an advocate as the right hon. Gentleman, he was sure the House would have no reason to regret the spirit in which the debate was conducted. The right hon. Gentleman would agree with him, however, that the figures which he had quoted ought to be checked and tested by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), or by some one who had to conduct the financial policy of the Bill. He should like to remind the House of one or two matters which ought to be considered by any hon. Member who intended to approach the question from the same point of view as that of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had drawn a comparison between the amount of rates paid in urban and rural districts. But it must be clearly borne in mind that there was a broad distinction between the purposes for which the money had to be spent in each case. There were some general considerations which ought not to be lost sight of. Birmingham had been referred to. He knew a good deal about the expenditure in Birmingham, and he did not take Birmingham as a typical borough. Although the Municipal Authority had done its work most admirably, he doubted whether it would be prudent for all municipalities to spend money on the same lavish scale and with the same magnificence as Birmingham. What was the reason why the rates were so high in urban as compared with country districts? Drainage and sewage works had been carried out to a much greater extent in the urban districts than in the rural districts. The expenses of paving, kerbing, and channelling the streets were infinitely more heavy per mile of road in the urban than in the rural districts. The borough buildings, too, which had to be erected were, as a rule, magnificent, and the ratepayers had still to bear the cost of them. There were also baths and washhouses, parks, and free libraries. Although, therefore, it might be true that the borough ratepayer had to pay 2s. 6d. or 4s. 6d., it had to be remembered that he received practical value for his money, because he was gathering around his dwelling improved streets, which heightened the value of his property. The same observation applied to free libraries, parks, and other buildings. It would, therefore, be most unwise to base any division of contribution to be paid in aid of local rates on a mere comparison of the amount paid by the urban authorities as compared with the rural authorities. While estimating burdens, they also must estimate the benefits. Passing to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), he (Sir Richard Webster) must say he had heard with pleasure the tone of the criticisms which it contained. They all recognized the great authority with which the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to speak on those questions. One of the most important of his criticisms upon the Bill was that it excluded from its scope the Poor Law system, but should the House consider what must have been the result of including in that measure—which was already a measure of enormous magnitude, branching out into a great variety of most difficult subjects—the great question of the Poor Law system. He was not arguing that that system was not one which required examination and amendment, but he maintained that if it had been taken up in connection with this Bill the Poor Law system either could not have received one-tenth of the discussion in the House which would be necessary or satisfactory to the country, or it would have occupied by itself far more time than it would have been practicable to devote to it consistently with the passing of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had alluded to the question of the incidence of the poor rate and Poor Law assessment; and no doubt nothing was more unjust than the way in which that burden often fell. For example, they had a stockbroker carrying on a large business in an office in the City of London, and paying, it might be, £150 or £200 a-year as rent for his office, while he was making perhaps £10,000 or £15,000 of annual profits; and yet he, practically speaking, paid scarcely anything to the poor rate, his contribution being based only on the value of the rooms he occupied; whereas the tradesman in a town, who must have large premises, and had, perhaps, a large capital in his business, and who was only making, it might be, a return of a few hundreds a-year, was heavily assessed to the poor rate. The Government felt as strongly as anyone that if they dealt with the Poor Law system, one of the questions which must present themselves was how to adapt the basis on which the poor rate rested under the Statute of Elizabeth to the way in which in modern times incomes were earned and property was held, and it would be impossible to deal with the Poor Law system and yet to shelve that question which, if fairly handled, would itself involve probably three or four nights' discussion. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the necessity of unity of rating, and pointed out the anomalies which existed, mentioning that, for the purpose of county rate and poor rate, there were even now differences of assessment in some counties. It was quite necessary that those anomalies should ultimately be, if not all removed, at least greatly remedied; but let them consider what that involved. Scarcely a Session passed without a Bill being brought in by some Member of experience dealing with the questions of what was rateable property, whether machinery should be included, and matters of that kind; and if the Poor Law system was to be dealt with at all it must be dealt with as a whole. It would thus be impossible to include the question of the Poor Law system in this Bill without endangering the whole measure. They were now constituting a County Council, and they did not know how it would prove itself capable to do the work put upon it. It would be well to allow the County Council to gain a little experience before burdening it with all those difficult questions connected with the Poor Law. He, therefore, could not help thinking that Ins right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board had exercised a wise judgment and discretion in not overloading his ship in such a manner as might endanger its prospects of safely reaching port. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax said they were setting up on one side the Assessment Committee, and on the other side the authority of the Board of Guardians. That, however, was only another incident of the compulsory exclusion of the Poor Law system from the Bill; and it would be of no use removing the question of the poor rate and Poor Law administration from the Guardians and the Assessment Committees unless they were prepared to deal with the question as a whole. With regard to the control of the police, he submitted that it would have been impossible for the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to have gone farther than he had in the present Bill. It was not possible for him to transfer at once to a new body not yet created the whole of the powers over the police. It had been said—"Why not trust the County Councils at once, and hand over to them the control of the police?" It seemed to him that such a step as that ought to be taken only after great care and deliberation, and when it was quite certain that there would be men on the Councils who were best fitted, from their experience in the past, to deal with such a matter. It would at least be prudent for a time to continue the control of the police in the hands of those who had so efficiently discharged the duty in the past. Nobody would deny that the county magistrates had managed the police with perfect prudence and judgment, and with very great economy. They had to remember that the judicial duties were not to be transferred to the new Councils, and it would be unwise at once to take away from the county magistrates the control over the police, when they were leaving most important functions still to be exercised by the magistrates which would involve their being brought into contact with the force. As to the question of selected members, it was not necessary, on the Motion for the Second Reading, to go into details which would be better left for the Committee stage. But he would ask hon. Members to be very careful not to impair the efficiency of the County Councils, which were likely, in his opinion, to be very materially improved by the presence upon them of selected members. He doubted whether the criticism was quite just which said that, speaking generally, selected members in boroughs had failed. He should have thought that there was not much fault to be found with the aldermanic system, although, no doubt, mistakes were to be found under all systems. One of the most pleasant things about the discussions on this Bill was that those who had served their counties well in the past had expressed themselves as willing to continue their services on the new Councils in the future. But it did not always follow that men of experience and ability were popular and would always be elected, and it was very desirable that it should be in the power of the elected members to secure the services of men of experience who were likely to be of value in the Council. If they once accepted that principle the fixing of a period during which they should serve was a minor matter. He submitted that there was an efficient and effective amount of control over the transfer to the County Councils of the increased duties which it was in contemplation to impose upon them. With respect to the point raised by the hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), he (Sir Richard Webster) did not think it was of any great importance, as he could not imagine anything worse than a Member of Parliament elected to a County Council being called upon to vote upon some burning question with respect to the business of the Council when he would have to decide the matter in the House. The same observation applied to the suggestion that members of the District Councils should also be members of the County Council. The better the selection of members for the County Councils, the better for the ratepayers; but he hoped that no proposal would be accepted by the House by which the Members of Parliament for a particular county were to be regarded as ex officio members of the County Council. The question as to whether owners should be allowed to vote was worth consideration; but it must not be thought that owners of property would be excluded from the franchise under the Municipal Corporations Act. The qualification of occupation of a house, shop, or building had been hold to include the occupation of even a wooden erection used for storing potatoes, and it would be a very exceptional case in which land was without some building in respect of which the occupation franchise could be claimed. He had now ventured to reply to all the objections taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax. The object of the Government had been so to start an improved system of local government as to remove from the question, not only in the present Session, but in future Sessions, the possibility of hostile discussion. They desired to create bodies capable of development for useful work, and on which the capacity of members for doing the county work would be likely to be cultivated and improved. If there was one thing which augured the success of the proposals it was the criticism which had been applied to the Bill, which showed that on this particular matter there was one opinion and desire in all parts of the House that the scheme should be—so far as Parliament could make it—entirely efficient and successful.

MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)

said, for more than 20 years past he had sought to gain in all parts of the Kingdom, and in other countries where free institutions existed, all the information he could collect bearing on the question of Local Government; and, with the aid of the best literary and legal assistance he could enlist in the cause, he had sought to bring the results before statesmen, Members of Parliament, and all those interested in the subject. With the experience he had gained he was afraid he could not take quite the same sanguine view as had been so generally expressed of the Bill as it now stood, though he hoped that, with Amendments that might be made in Committee, it would not fail, as it otherwise would fail, to carry out the objects so clearly stated by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. He listened with great attention to the very able speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), with whom, or rather under whom, he had long worked upon this question, and he was afraid his right hon. Friend assumed too sanguinely that all men were actuated by the same strong sense of duty and indomitable courage that had always guided his right hon. Friend in his own public life. His right hon. Friend assumed, more than it was safe to assume, that where duties were permitted they would be performed, however difficult, unpopular, and disagreeable those duties might be. He did not think the House should assume, in dealing with the Bill, that all the duties that were permitted would be carried out with the same efficiency as those which were enacted. In what he proposed to bring before the House he would try to state the effect of the Bill, what it would produce by its positive enactments, and not assume, as they could not reasonably do, that all it permitted would be equally effective. He thought all would agree that no Ministry in modern times had ever occupied a position so commanding, to enable it to carry out a really efficient reform of local self-government, as the present Ministry. As a Conservative Ministry, they were fully assured that their measure would not be destroyed or mutilated in the House of Lords. They were allowed by their supporters to promise the widest possible extension of popular franchise. They had a Chancellor of the Exchequer who could offer £3,000,000 to the relief of local taxation from the Imperial Exchequer; a statesman who, 17 years ago, criticized in the most powerful manner our system of local administration as "chaos as regards authorities, chaos as regards rates, and the greatest chaos of all in regard to areas," and who denounced the system of rating as unfair to the weaker and less wealthy part of the community. From that time Liberal statesmen, and especially the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen), had enforced in the strongest manner the danger of giving relief to local rates from the Imperial Exchequer, so long as the system of local administration was so confused and complicated that it was impossible for the ratepayers to exercise any efficient control or take any intelligent interest in local taxation or administration; they could not know who was taxing or governing them. It would be merely like pouring water into a sieve, leaving local affairs less satisfactory than before, and the burden of maladministration would be aggravated. He must say, looking at the position of the Government, he was disappointed when the Bill was introduced, and when, after the most careful consideration, he had sought in vain for reform in the direction of simplification and consolidation of Local Government, that as a pupil of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he had so long laboured to promote it.

He would give his reasons for supposing that the Bill would not do its work.

He joined heartily in acknowledging the able and clear manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had introduced the measure, and admitted that it contained many valuable provisions. All Liberals would rejoice that the vivifying and energetic influences of free institutions were to be applied to rural districts; and no doubt it would be found that, as in municipal life, active participation in public affairs would not only promote interest in public matters, but stimulate energy and enterprize in their own country. He thought the proposal for the publication annually of a Local Budget would be a most valuable provision, enabling inhabitants of a locality to understand what had been done and what was proposed to be done for them. He also thought that it was most judicious to give relief at the rate of 2s. 4d. a-week for each indoor pauper. He believed that the cost of indoor paupers was about 3s. 6d. per week per head, and the ordinary relief to outdoor paupers about 1s. per week per head; so the provision in the Bill would equalize the apparent cost of indoor and outdoor relief, and leave the minds of the Guardians unbiassed by any idea of mistaken economy, and they would not be induced to give unwise outdoor relief, to the injury of the self-reliance and independence of the people. It was also a wise proposal to remedy the injustice by which personal property did not contribute towards the expenditure of localities at all in proportion to the advantages the owners of personal property derived from that expenditure. To show that he was right in his contention that the Bill did not effect the reforms required in the simplification of authorities, areas, and rating, he would endeavour to explain the results of applying the provisions of the Bill to different parts of the country. First, he would take a Northern populous Union, that of West Derby, one with which he was best acquainted. In 1881 the population was 355,000, and it was rapidly increasing. It had 10 Local Boards; one borough, that of Bootle; one Board of Guardians, three Burial Boards, one School Board, one Highway Board; in all, 17 Local Authorities within the boundaries of the Union. Ten Local Boards would remain under the Bill, but they would become local districts. The borough of Bootle would remain, so would the School Board, and the Board of Guardians, but shorn of their sanitary authority. The three Burial Boards would seem to be disestablished by the Bill. But there was no provision in the Bill for forming District Councils in large boroughs, such as Liverpool, and two of these Burial Boards were within the boundaries of Liverpool, the other partially so, so that only half a Burial Board would be disestablished. But there would be still 13 of the existing Local Authorities, though some of them under different names, and a new District Council being added would make 14, instead of 17, all in the Union of West Derby. When they examined whether these Local Districts and Councils which were perpetuated were of a size to do good work or attract able men, they found that in one of the local districts there were only 197 inhabitants; in another, 553; another, 830; and another, 2,486. In the County of the City of Liverpool, as the Bill stood, there would be hardly any change. There were 10 Governing Bodies there now; but he presumed the provisions of the Bill would disestablish five Burial Boards, but that was all the simplification the Bill would effect in Liverpool. He supposed this meant that the President of the Local Government Board considered the arrangements there as perfect as they need be.

It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.