§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.] [THIRD NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [12th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
Sir, I think it may be said that the debate upon this Bill, as far as it has gone, has been marked by a very striking absence of Party feeling. All hon. Members, as far as I know, who have approached the subject, have done so without any perceptible bias either for or against the Bill, on the ground that it is introduced by the present Government. They have approached the subject on its merits, and have come to the discussion apparently with minds entirely free from predilection. And yet it will be allowed that no Bill of greater scope and importance has of late years been presented to this House, or is likely to be soon again presented to it. The Bill itself is the commencement of a recasting of the organization of the rural public life of England. We are putting forth new forms through which that life must act, and the importance of the renewing of this machinery will be more and more appreciated, I think, the more the matter is studied. The whole 1332 machinery, of course, cannot be at once recast. It is hoped—perhaps the hope may be realized—that a large proportion of the personnel which has hitherto been engaged in the administration of county affairs will continue to have a prominent part in that administration. But whether that hope be realized or not, it is perfectly clear that what we are about to begin must be carried forward. Even should it be proved upon trial that a different order of men and a different kind of senator is brought to the discussion of affairs of the county, it will be impossible to restrict the operations of the new Council now about to be created to the particular functions you are proposing to allot to it. The Council must grow for good or for evil, and its functions must increase. As far as I have discovered from the discussion which has taken place, the question is whether or not those functions should be immediately increased. You are making a start, a beginning, and, as my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General said, I think very fairly, the other night in answer to some criticisms from this side of the House, the object of the Government is to make a good start in this matter of reforming Local Government. That is a most important object. Are you going to make a good start? It is to that question that I shall almost entirely address myself. I do not share the feelings of hon. Members who have criticized the comparatively limited number of subjects which are to be committed to the care of the County Councils. Many hon. Members have urged that we should go further at once. I cannot say that I share that opinion. I am not anxious that we should begin immediately on a larger scale than is now proposed; but what I am anxious for is that we should begin in a way that will admit of an easy and safe enlargement in the future, and in the near future. That enlargement must come, and it depends on the form in which we make a beginning now whether the enlargement will go further and be a source of increasing good, or the reverse. If we make a false start now, although we must go onwards in the path we have chosen, there will be no security that the future development of Local Government will be productive of increased good. I do not for a moment maintain that what is in the Bill is 1333 sufficient or necessary if we regard the reconstruction of Local Government as a whole; so viewed, it cannot be satisfactory. I do so far agree with the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk (Mr. Stevenson) who has given Notice of an Amendment to that effect; but what may not be satisfactory as a complete solution, if offered as such, may be fairly accepted as a satisfactory beginning. I notice that only on Saturday last a gentleman who was formerly a very respected Member of this House, and whose name will be received with respect and esteem by every hon. Member, Mr. Hibbert, speaking in Lancashire about the administration of the Poor Law, said he regretted the omission of the Poor Law system from the Bill; but he added that he did not see how it could be introduced on this stage. That is an opinion expressed by a gentleman of much experience and authority. I do not know whether the hon. Member for the Eye Division intends to press his Motion to a Division. I confess that I should feel compelled to vote against it. I do not regard the Bill as complete; nobody regards it as complete; and the only question is whether you are beginning well, and whether the Bill is sufficient to begin with. I have said that the Bill is of the greatest importance. It will not only recast the local public life of England; but it will have an effect on the House of Commons itself. Whatever may be the future of our local organization, it will affect the composition of this Assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), speaking on the first night of the debate, threw out a suggestion that the Members for the several divisions of the counties should be, ex officio, members of the County Council. That suggestion was made originally by an ex-Member of the House who is well acquainted with the whole question of Local Government. I do not think it will be necessary to adopt that suggestion; because, in any case, there must be an intimate connection between the County Councils and the House. The experience of the past has been that able, practised, and sagacious Chairmen of Quarter Sessions have always had the House open to them. Among the occupants of the County Bench have been men who have distinguished themselves there as able administrators in local 1334 matters, and possessing the highest re-commendations for Members of the House of Commons; and when the choice of County Members practically lay with the occupants of the County Bench, such men were naturally sent here. So, also, there can be no doubt that, in the future, men who take a prominent part in the County Councils—men of experience and observation, whose qualifications have been tested in the public life of the county—will be the men sent to this House. Therefore, the character of the construction of the County Councils to-day will inevitably affect the House of Commons in the future. More or less, there will be insensibly a reaction, and an important reaction; because it will be found that men of distinction and importance chosen to administer the affairs of the County Councils, and so tried, will be sent to represent the counties in this House; and it, therefore, becomes desirable to see on what lines you are beginning, and whether they give a promise that you will get the best assembly you can devise. Before I address myself to the main question I wish to bring before the House, I should like to say a word or two with regard to the financial part of the scheme. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in speaking upon this question, not in connection with this Bill, but on another matter, expressed much satisfaction in regard to what has been done with reference to finance. I confess that I do not quite share the satisfaction of my right hon. Friend. What is it that is proposed by this Bill? The financial arrangements suggested do not by any means realize my expectations, or give promise of doing so. I had hoped for something of this kind—that having cast your County Councils it would be possible to place under the control of such Councils the right to develop, increase, or reduce certain taxes hitherto under the care of this House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There should be a revenue capable of being increased by the County Councils, and, of course, a revenue capable of being decreased. That increase or decrease should be largely, if not altogether, under the control of the County Council. The expenditure in the same way should be under their responsibility and control, and in future should be subjected to their supervision. This 1335 Bill, however, does not give anything like a right. The revenue assigned to the County Councils is, except one item, wholly independent of the power of the County Councils. You give to the Council power to collect certain taxes; other taxes are collected for them; they are to have a certain allotment of the Probate Duty; but only in one respect do you give the Council itself the power of taxing, and that is the right of increasing the Licensing Duties by 20 per cent. Whether that power will eventually be given to the County Councils or not I do not know. Ii is, however, the only case in which the Bill gives the County Councils that power of husbanding the resources of the country which I hoped would have been the desire of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I had always understood to be the wish of the reformers of Local Government. This Bill, however, does not do that, and, with the exception I have pointed out which may never be brought into operation, it gives no independent control over the county finances. The County Councils are to have a share of the Probate Duties, but they are not under the control of the Councils, and are not elastic, but may go up and down just as it is scrambled for by the Boards of Guardians.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain that the proportion of the amount to be distributed for local purposes is absolutely fixed.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Quite so; the absolute amount to be distributed is to be distributed among all the Boards of Guardians which are to receive it; but I contend that the amount received by any one Council will depend upon the energy with which the Board of Guardians, within the area of the Council, have scrambled for the money. The more indoor paupers the Guardians can create, the greater will be the County Council's share, and I fear there will be a competition for the multiplication of indoor paupers. In that way there may be a certain amount of elasticity; but its security will be of a very feeble kind. As the money is received in one hand it goes out in the other. That does not seem to me to give any promise of real economy and good financial management in the future, because you do not give to the Council the benefits of eco- 1336 nomy and the responsibility of management. Two-thirds of what they receive will be paid automatically, and they will not be able to reap the benefit of economy any more than an individual would derive an advantage by transfer-ring his account from one bank to another. The only change is that the distributing authority is made the County Authority, instead of the Imperial Exchequer. That is all. You give them no power in respect of economy; and I confess that this is a matter which has greatly disappointed me, because, in my opinion, the Bill altogether fails to recognize the ideal which the reformers of local taxation have had before them. The only effect of the scheme, as far as I can see, is this—that there will be a great multiplication of indoor paupers, and whether that is good or not is a matter which is open to the gravest doubt. I do not think that anybody will be prepared to say that the extension of indoor pauperism is an object which Boards of Guardians should in this way carry out, or that they should enter into competition with one another for a share of the public money on the sole ground of the number of paupers they bring into their Unions. Indeed, the desirability of such action is a matter of such extreme doubt that I think any hon. Member will hesitate to avow his opinion as to what the effect may be on the future social condition of the country. This inelasticity of the financial system, the want of control you are really giving to the County Councils over the finances of the future, arises mainly from this fact—that the Poor Law administration is kept apart from the County Councils. If you had the Poor Law administration under the County Councils you might, to some extent—perhaps not completely—entrust the expenditure and receipt of money to the Council, and animate it with the feeling of responsibility and economy we desire to secure. But you have not done so; the Bill does not put the administration of the Poor Law into the hands of the County Council, and, as I have already stated, Mr. Hibbert hesitates to suggest that it should be at once brought under the control of the County Council. In fact, that gentleman says that he does not see the way in which it could be done. My right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax, although he objected in his 1337 speech to the exclusion of Poor Law administration from the Bill, spoke in an hesitating way as to the possibility of bringing it within it. He spoke rather as if he were expressing an opinion which had been conveyed to him by other persons than expressing a conviction which he most seriously entertained. It is very doubtful whether the Poor Law administration could be brought under the Bill without involving considerable change, and entirely remodelling the principle on which the scheme proceeds. I think it is doubtful, to say the least, whether there is any hon. Member of this House who, looking at the matter seriously and quietly, would come to the conclusion that it is clearly desirable to place the Poor Law administration of the country under such a body as that which you are about to create. And now, Sir, I desire hon. Members to give me their attention to this question. You are creating a County Council on certain particular lines; I want you to consider what confidence you can have in the administration of the Poor Law if you entrust that administration to a body constructed as the County Council is to be, or to any similar authority. How is the County Council to be constructed? Mainly by the election of a certain number of members without a full and free franchise, elected from single-membered districts into which the county will be divided. The first embodiment of the County Council is to be the election by the occupying ratepayers of the county of a certain number of members, one member from each division. That is the way in which you propose to elect your County Council. That is the principle on which you proceed, and I would ask hon. Members who are listening to me whether they can, with any satisfaction or any assurance of 'good results, entrust the administration of the Poor Law to a body elected in that way, or in any fashion nearly akin to it? We have as yet had absolutely no experience of a local Governing Body elected in this fashion. We cannot refer to any precedent for it. Town Councils are elected in a different way, and we are now, for the first time, proposing to elect Local Bodies on the principle of on member for each district into which the county is divided. I may be told that the House of Commons is at the present moment elected in that way, but for the manage- 1338 ment of local affairs there is no precedent. But let me ask the President of the Local Government Board this question—Does he consider that this House, in its history in connection with the Poor Law, has been very encouraging since the establishment of single-membered seats? I remember how a question of Poor Law administration, which involved a most important principle, was raised on the eve of the General Election which immediately preceded the last. I do not think it is possible to overstate the importance of the principle involved. I refer to the Bill relating to the disqualification of voters who had been in the receipt of medical relief. That question was raised immediately before the Election of 1885. The Government deprecated the introduction of the Bill, and expressed their fears in regard to it. Some most prominent occupants of the Bench behind me also deprecated its introduction. [Mr. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham W.): No.] My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) is certainly one of the most prominent occupants of the Bench behind me, but he is not the only prominent Member who sits on those Benches, and it is no breach of confidence to say that the Leader of the Opposition disliked the proposal as much as the Government disliked it. But a General Election was coming on, and although the Government deprecated the introduction of the question they found themselves obliged at length to bring in a Bill. It was brought in and carried with considerable rapidity, and the discussions upon it were marked by the absence of many of the leading Members of the House who did not like to commit themselves to an expression of an opinion on the question. The Bill was fought by two excellent Members, who, however, announced that they did not intend to seek re-election—namely, Mr. Clare Read and Mr. Albert Pell. Those hon. Gentlemen were thus in an independent position, and they fought the battle most gallantly. Now, whether this relaxation of the stringency of the Poor Law was a good or an evil thing, here was an instance of the power of popular feeling at the time of a General Election upon the House of Commons. I would ask you to carry your minds from the question of Members of this House, who, after all, are controlled by very much 1339 graver questions than this comparatively minor one—I ask you to carry your minds to the question of the election of County Councils and the question of administration of the Poor Law being raised on the eve of an Election. I would ask you whether you could trust to get men elected to the County Council to whom with confidence and satisfaction you could safely confide the future management of the Poor Law? I challenge anyone to say that he would see with satisfaction and without apprehension what the consequence might be of entrusting the administration of the Poor Law to a Council so elected. I think every hon. Member will admit that he could not with satisfaction regard the future administration of the Poor Law by such a body. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian has said, with perfect historic accuracy, that no change in the law in our time has been so important and so pregnant with consequences as the institution of the new Poor Law. It was introduced by a powerful Liberal Ministry and supported by the Duke of Wellington; but even though brought in by the Ministry and supported by the Leader of the Opposition it was only carried with difficulty. It has never been a popular law, and it never can be, and if you entrust the administration of this law to a popularly elected body, elected in the fashion I have described, you will entrust it to a body which cannot be regarded with satisfaction as the safe depository of such a power. I heard, in the course of this discussion, the observations which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst.) They were vigorous and interesting remarks, and I heard them not without sympathy. My hon. Friend said—"You are creating a Council to which you are giving no power with respect to the administration of the Poor Law. You are, on the one hand, professing to enfranchise every ratepayer of the county, poor and rich; but on that subject in which the poor are most interested—namely, the question how the poor are to be treated in their destitution—the question of the conditions of the relief and the treatment in old age of men who have worked hard and honourably in their youth, you will allow the working man, through his representative, not 1340 to have a word to say." I share the feeling of my hon. Friend. I think it is impossible to debar the representatives of the poor man and the representatives of the working man from a voice in these questions, and an important voice too. At the same time it does not follow that the administration of the Poor Law can possibly or safely be entrusted to a body such as a County Council would be. The Poor Law administration never will or can be popular. You see distress and misery around you, and there is a strong temptation to assist the distressed, and to alleviate the misery, and to make the poor wretched sufferers happy and comfortable for the remaining years of their life. That is what you do see, but you do not also see the consequences of such action not only on the man relieved, but on the whole body of the labouring population. Those consequences are often unseen and unthought of. It is too frequently forgotten that the Poor Law, which is often styled harsh and even inhuman, has done much to relieve the poor and reduce pauperism and the Poor Rate. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) expatiated the other night upon the reduction of pauperism and the reduction of the Poor Rate. If you yield to the impression of the moment you will add to the relief given and will swell the Poor Rate; indeed, you will come within measurable distance of a return to the system which prevailed before the passing of the Poor Law Act, when many parishes were absolutely eaten up with Poor Rates, and many persons left when finding there was nothing to be made out of them, thanks to the extravagant administration of the Poor Law. If you are entering now, as you must feel you are entering, upon a course of reconstruction as regards the local administration of the country, although you cannot deal with the Poor Law in this Bill, you know the time must come when that must follow; and can you have any confidence that the Poor Law, with all its severity of aspect, but all its benevolence in operation, will be maintained by such Councils as you now propose to create? You can have no such guarantee; on the contrary, there will be every peril before you of reproducing the evils of former times. There is now as much as thou a mass of ignorant, though 1341 honest sentiment about, which occasionally finds expression in this House, which I, for one, regard as one of the greatest dangers besetting our social system. I find in the Bill as it stands, although it does not entrust to the County Council the administration of the Poor Law, that a subject of the highest importance in regard to the social condition of the mass of the people is about to be entrusted to this Council—namely, that of emigration. Well, nothing is more popular than the remedy of emigration as a means of relieving distress, and yet nothing is more certain than that the carrying out of a vast system of emigration would make our distress perpetual. You take out the poor and send them away, and you leave those behind influenced by no kind of feeling or motive to prevent the gap so created from being speedily refilled. On the contrary, you encourage it being refilled, because it would be known that as soon as misery reaches a sufficient height the State would interfere to relieve those who suffer; and thus you would continue in the old vicious circle. In your attempt to relieve the pauper you would, on the one hand, be relieving distress, and, on the other, be multiplying it. This power in regard to emigration is to be given to the County Council. Suppose that an industrial crisis arises, such as some persons imagine to be not far off, and supposing that just as mining in my native county has declined owing to competition with more lucrative fields of mining enterprize—supposing that employment in the crowded counties of the North diminished, you would have to face a similar necessity for reducing the population. Then, instead of relying on spontaneous and self-sustained efforts in the direction of emigration, you would rely on the development of emigration by the County Council, and would appeal to them for means. What kind of social future is to be looked forward to if such a crisis should arise? Surely, then, you should pause, when you are beginning to construct such machinery as this, in order to see the task you are undertaking, and the machinery you are making to cope with, and, if possible, to solve the problem. I believe that the Government must have felt, as the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) also seemed to feel, that the Poor Law ad- 1342 ministration cannot without much consideration be brought into this Bill, and yet you are preparing to bring it in. Ought you not rather to take thought, while there yet is time, whether, instead of creating such a body as you propose to create, you should not rather create some body in which the voice of caution, of thought, and of experience would be heard, as well as the voice of sentiment, of feeling, and of emotion. And now, Sir, I turn to another question which is partly excluded from the operation of this Bill—namely, the question of the police. A good deal of agitation has been going on with respect of the control of the county police. We know that at present, it is to a large extent in the hands of the county magistrates, and the proposal of the Government is to put it in the hands of a Joint Committee of the County Council and the magistrates. A demand has been made to entrust the control of the police entirely to the County Council; and I observe that in some parts of the country, where a great disposition has not been generally found in favour of vast changes of machinery—such as those of certain Chambers of Agriculture—resolutions have been carried by small majorities in favour of transferring the control of the police entirely to the County Council. The hon. and learned Member for North West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton), in a speech of great ability, argued in favour of the control of the police being taken back and placed entirely under the Home Secretary. The real issue before the House in respect of this matter of police lies, however, between the proposal of the Government and the proposal to hand over their control entirely to a Committee of the County Council, and, in my opinion, the argument in favour of the latter course is so strong, that I confess I think the Government will find very great difficulty in meeting and defeating it. You have some experience to go upon, because you have your municipalities. You have not been able to entrust the Municipal Corporations with the management of the Poor Law, but you have been able to entrust them with the management of the police; and those bodies have organized and managed the police almost without reflection upon the excellence and adequacy of their management. I cannot recollect an in- 1343 stance of any considerable borough ever having been made the subject of censure in respect of the unsatisfactory management of its police. Hitherto it has been managed through the Watch Committee and the Council of the borough. If that be so, the Government will have extreme difficulty in saying that they cannot trust a Watch Committee of the 'County Council as they had hitherto trusted the Watch Committees of municipal boroughs. Yet I think there is reason for saying that such a body cannot be trusted as well as a Town Council, and that reason arises from the fact that the County Council will be elected in a totally different manner from a Municipal Corporation. You must remember that the County Council will be unique in its method of election. You are going to have those members elected for single-member seats, and all are to be elected together every three years, not, as in Town Councils, by thirds every year; they are all to be elected to single-membered seats and at the same time. Therefore, the experience of Town Councils cannot, without much qualification and hesitation, be made to apply to the forecast of what the County Councils will do. We have seen of late what a little agitation and excitement about the action of the police might do. I believe that the agitation which took place a short time ago has had an important bearing on the return of a Member to this House. There was a vacancy in a Midland city, and a well-known Member went down to speak in favour of the Liberal candidate. On his return, he was asked what the people of the locality appeared to be most interested in. "Well," he replied, "I do not know; I did not go into general subjects; I only talked of Miss Cass." At any rate, a Liberal candidate was returned where a Conservative Member held the seat before. There must at times be imprudence, sometimes worse than imprudence, on the part of police; and I would ask the House to consider what would be the position of the County Council, who would have the police under their control, if every member of it, on a particular day, had to go to his constituents for re-election—with a question raging in the constituency as to the conduct of the police? They might all be turned out in a body. I am not disposed to regard with satisfaction 1344 the sweeping clean of all the elected members at once, thus getting rid of all the experienced authority, administrative policy, and skill which had been got together. All the good done by the constitution of the Council would be undone, simply because there had been a miscarriage of some particular instance—perhaps, something worse than a miscarriage on the part of the police. Let the popular will in the election of members of the Council be considered by all means; but, if the popular will sweep the County Council away from end to end, it will surely warrant reflection and reconstruction as to whether, after all, the control of the police should be entrusted to a body so composed. The experience of Town Councils does not warrant the conclusion that the County Councils can be trusted, because never more than one-third of the members of a Town Council go out at one time. The elections to Town Councils are bye-elections on a large scale—one-third goes out and two-thirds are left, so that you still have the element of permanent bodies. On the other hand the County Councils would be elected en bloc, in such a fashion that the whole strength of any agitation might be brought to bear upon a particular contest. In the contest for every single seat the particular issue agitating the public mind would be brought in, and every seat might be affected by its introduction. The danger of emotional elections is a danger anywhere, but do not aggravate it, do not let the wave of opinion and the current of feeling flowing at the moment through the constituency be omnipotent, so as to be able to sweep the deck clean and put in an entirely new crew to displace those who held seats on the Council before. I have refurred to the matter of the police, but there are other questions which might be raised in the same way, and which might control and influence the elections. The Bill proposes to create a County of London, and it proposes to entrust to that County the whole functions of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Now I approve entirely of the creation of a County of London, and I think it should exercise the functions of the Metropolitan Board of Works; but here, again, can we regard with equanimity and complete assurance what would be the effect on the composition of a 1345 County Council for London, if in an excitable constituency like London there arose immediately before a General Election some questions which stirred the newspapers and animated the public mind. I might go on to other subjects, the importance of which as soon as realized must impress hon. Members with the necessity of taking care that the County Council should have in it some element of stability, experience, knowledge, and independence. You are going, not by this Bill, but in the future, to give to the County Councils great powers in respect of education—it may not be in respect of primary education, but intermediate education, which has been awaiting the construction of a new system of Local Government. The Endowed School Commissioners, who instituted their inquiry 20 years ago, said in their Report—"With respect to the future administration of these endowments we look to the creation of a County Body which shall supervise and direct their administration." If that be so, what sort of element must you have in your County Council? We know how in this House the course of educational reform has been diverted and changed of recent years by submitting to the House questions, more or less exactly and accurately stated, as to the rights of the poor, and their share in endowments set apart for higher education. Can you then be certain of having County Councils as you propose to elect them, that will be able to administer these endowments. Is it not likely that if the administration of these trusts is put in the hands of the County Body such as this Bill proposes to constitute, it will become the sport of elections, of accidents, and of any cry that may be raised on the eve of the General Election. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) spoke of other questions, such as that of health and the sanitary requirements of the people; but there is a question which has been often of more pressing importance at the present moment, and which hon. Members may be surprised that I have not mentioned already. It is a question which in most minds will put aside all others when the election of members of the County Councils comes to be a matter of immediate necessity—I mean the question of temperance. What would be the position when an election is 1346 about to take place if the question of temperance is, above all others, animating and exciting the electorate? In every division there will be a struggle between the temperance man and the brewer. In some places the temperance man will be the victor, and in other places the brewer. Counties are frequently homogeneous; so that the same feeling rules there from and to end. In one county all the divisions would return temperance men, and in another the friends of the brewer would be returned. I think this would be a very bad mode of settling this very important question, whichever form proved to be the result in the County Council when it assembles. I hope and trust that whenever this question of temperance and temperance reform is brought before the Council there will be found some men on it who are neither brewers' nominees nor members of the United Kingdom Alliance—members who will be able to bring to a solution of this most difficult question, considerations, feelings, and thoughts, uncontrolled by one or the other of those great competing bodies. I consider that there can be nothing worse for the permanent settlement of the matter than entrusting it to Councils constituted as the Councils are proposed to be constituted under this Bill, in which complete predominance may be given to one party or the other, and in which every member elected may owe his election to the view he takes upon a particular question. I dare say that several Members who have been listening to me will have said—"But you have left out altogether the selected members; you forget that we are going to ally with the elected members another body of members; we associate them with the elected members as a necessary element, and these are the persons who will bring to the County Councils the elements which you insist upon and which may not be afforded by the result of a popular election." Now, I have not forgotten this matter of the selected members. The hon. and learned Attorney General, in his speech the other night, drew a pretty picture of the way in which they are to be chosen and taken on to the Board. He conceived a body of pure patriots, whose minds would be free from beer or temperance, who would collect together and look through their own ranks and note their own deficiencies, and then, searching out- 1347 side, say—"This is the man" and "that is the man" necessary to complete the assembled wisdom of the country. It is a very pretty picture, but it is not in the least warranted in experience. We have got selected members already, and I am surprised that attention has not already been drawn to the fact. In the Town Councils there are selected members after an election has taken place, selected by the simple process of a majority vote. Most frequently, when the members of the Council proceed to elect aldermen, they are willing to do a good turn to some members of their own body and give them an extended tenure of place. That is what they do under the present system; but what is proposed under this Bill is something which partly agrees with that proceeding, but in a very material degree it differs from it altogether. It may be said that a Town Council having been popularly elected, proceeds to the election of aldermen; and it is not necessary that a town councillor should be nominated, nor was it intended that he should be so. As a matter of fact, however, that practice is followed. Perhaps, better things are expected from the County Councils, and that, as the hon. and learned Attorney General said, they will go outside and bring in outsiders. When the election of a Town Council has taken place, as a general rule, they elect as aldermen members of their own body. What follows? Certain vacancies are created, and they are filled up by popular elections; but, according to this Bill, that will not be the process. You are going to give the elected members power, first of all, to take one-fourth of their own body and make them selected members, and then they are to have the power of filling up the vacant places from outside. That is a most extraordinary proposition—a proposition which, once stated, can scarcely, I think, be seriously maintained. I agree that there may be some convenience in it in regard to the filling up of casual vacancies. The experience of the London School Board shows that. There vacancies were filled, in the first instance, by popular election; but it was found that the method was expensive, and the inexpensive system of co-option was introduced, and it is a remarkable fact, as showing the fairness with which elections at a London School Board, and, I believe, at most school boards through- 1348 out the country, are controlled, that although the remaining members are able to fill up a casual vacancy and may be of a different opinion from the person who has vacated the seat, yet the majority has invariably selected a member of the minority when a vacancy was caused in the minority. [Cries of "No!"] That is the case in London. ["No!"]
§ MR. COURTNEY
Well, it is my observation as to London. Of course, it may be different in Nottingham.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
I may point out that, although that might have been formerly the case in regard to the London School Board, yet the practice has been departed from this year.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I am sorry to hear it. It was a somewhat remarkable fact that when casual vacancies arose, the majority chose for the vacancy a man of the same feelings, although he might belong to the minority. I did not know that there had been a departure from that rule. If there has been, I regret it; and I hope that a better system will be followed in future by returning to the system which originally prevailed. And now let me call attention to the extraordinary result which has followed from the adoption of the single member system in reference to the election of Members of the House of Commons. I dare say that one hon. Member present, my hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock), will feel some surprise that, in speaking of the results of elections of single membered seats, I have not pointed out this consequence, that it may easily happen that a majority of the electors may secure a minority of seats. That is a very remarkable fact, which I hope hon. Members will endeavour to realize. Let me suppose that there are three seats—three wards, side by side. In Ward A, the Liberals may have a majority of 3,000; in Ward B, the Conservatives may have a majority of 1,000; and in Ward C, the Conservatives may also have a majority of 1,000; yet for the three wards two Conservatives would be elected, and one Liberal, although, on the whole three seats, the Liberals would have a majority of 1,000 electors. That is not a fancy picture, but what 1349 has really happened in the representation of certain large towns in this Parment under the operation of single seats. The very first Election which took place to this Parliament resulted in the return for Leeds of three Conservatives against two Liberals, although the Liberal vote was much larger than the other. This might easily happen under the plan of this Bill. Well, we start from that. There are, say, 48 members returned, and they may be 25 on one side, and 23 on the other, the 25 really representing the minority. We give the 25 power to add 12—that is possible—and that is the result, as everyone knows, from the experience of municipal elections, and that result obtained by mere chance, in the first instance, may be secured so as to give the minority a predominance for years and years to come. This has happened in Town Councils, although the operation of this method of selection is much less powerful in those Councils than it would be under the proposed County Councils; but although it is much less powerful and is worked under much greater restrictions, I may appeal to experience, where, in some half-a-dozen municipalities in the country—Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol, Exeter, and others—the minority, as the result of one victory so obtained at an earlier election, had been able to maintain a Conservative or a Liberal majority unbroken down to the present time. As soon as you have selected 12 members, six of whom remain permanently, you secure a majority, because the six members will be there to turn the balance, and to proceed to the election of another six. This is what will be secured under the present plan. I will not enlarge further on this point of the possibility of the majority of a Council being generally in conflict with popular opinion; because the experience we have makes me doubt very much whether the system could be maintained. Let me appeal to a case which will probably happen more frequently. Take the case of 48 elected members, 28 of whom represented the majority and 20 the minority. The 28 would elect 12 others, which would at once give them 40. According to popular election the majority was seven to five, but by introducing the present system, the majority is increased to two to one. There is this immense distinction between these 1350 elections and Town Council elections—that here you will have the whole body of elected members returned at once, and the conflict between the elected and the remaining members is presented in the most aggravated form possible. You will have the selected members able to turn the scale; the consequence is that you are creating a machinery which will be subjected to considerable abuse, whenever it is brought into operation, and will be subjected to considerable attack wherever it does anything except increase the power of the majority. If the machinery is to be left part of the organization at all, you must at least take care that the selected members shall be so selected as to represent and correspond with the conditions of the elected members, so that, instead of 12 being altogether elected by the 28 who compose the majority of the 48 elected members, the 28 may be able to secure seven of them, and the 20 forming the minority five. Introduce proportional representation in connection with the selected members and you may possibly keep the selected members; but according to the present system selected members constitute an outrage of an intolerable character when they turn the scale, and they are of little use if they do not turn the scale. This House is a House which may be said to be elected by single membered constituencies. Just consider what would have been said in regard to this House in 1868, when the Liberal Party were in a great majority, or in 1874, when the Conservative Party were in a majority; what would have been the feeling if, when the election was completed and the elected Members appeared at the door, they were confronted by a number of Members numerous enough to turn the scale? Why it would be intolerable. The Conservative Majority of 1874 was upset in 1880. What would have been the feelings of the victors of 1880 if they had come to the House and found in it a number of remaining Members able to turn the balance against what was the popular verdict? Yet this is the inevitable risk you run of thus upsetting the balance of popular judgment by keeping to this system of selected members. That is the mischief you produce. If you are going to keep it at all, I think that under certain safeguards it might be rendered useful. For instance, it 1351 might be the means of enabling men to be brought in who, through some lack of temperament, the failings of age, or some other disability, found themselves unequal to the tumults and the anxieties, the worry and the toil of a popular election. If they could be brought in by those who are elected in the same proportion, it might give a useful addition to the body so constituted, but in order that it might be proved useful, you must not alter the balance of Parties; they must be supplementary members introduced in due proportion to those already there. By that means you would not alter the proportion of the Bodies, but would secure the presence of persons who might add wisdom and power to the Governing Council. Is it not plain that the plan of election you propose to set up is a plan which would be insufficient to afford materials for grappling with all the problems of the future. You confess that by the introduction of selected members, because you confess that the elected members are not persons on whom you can rely. You know that the system of election, the new body of single membered seats, will not give you what you want, and you try to make up their defects by other machinery. Why do you not revert to the simpler plan which is open to your adoption—a plan which in principle has already been incorporated in the educational machinery of the country, and a plan which would secure in the first connection the real representation of the people? You have all the elements at hand. Bring all of them you can into the body you are going to construct as the County Council. Do not excise any of them. They are all there, they can be brought in, and will give all the stability and experience you want for the County Council. Under such a plan you will have men capable of doing an unpopular thing, or of saying an unpopular thing; because they would know that they were sustained by outside voters who, if they were not a majority of the whole electorate, would yet be able to secure their election, and on whom they might rely on being sent back again to do their duty in the County Council. If I could impress hon. Members with any sense not only of the importance, but of the necessity and simplicity of the system I advocate, if I could convince them that what they 1352 more or less searching for lies at their door, I am sure they would not hesitate to receive it with open minds and even be glad that it has been brought before them. As far as I have known, wherever I have gone in town or country, among the most popular and miscellaneous audiences, I have recommended this method of securing in the Governing Bodies of the future, whether it be in the House of Commons or the County Council, representatives of all forms of thought, of experience, of reflection, as well as of character and independence, and it has been received as a real solution of a difficulty which had oppressed many minds, and as a real salvation from dangers which many had apprehended. Mr. John Stuart Mill, in speaking of this subject, after a life spent in public affairs and devoted to the examination of public questions, declared that it opened up to him a new promise for the future. In the work of reconstructing our local life, out of which our public life must grow and develop, let the Government and the House be not afraid to open their minds to processes which will secure beyond all doubt in the future the maintenance of the best elements that have been at work in the past. People are alarmed about the disestablishment of the squirearchy and the advantages which will be given to democracy. I admit the democratic principle of this Bill; but at the same time I object to the Bill, not because it is too democratic, but because it is not democratic enough. The system I plead for secures for everyone an interest in the government of the country to which he belongs; it secures the majority in their power, and does not deprive the minority of their just influence. You would be guarding against the danger of sudden and unreflecting waves of opinion, and you might be secured in the possession of wisdom, experience, and knowledge. The democracy would be supreme, but it would be a democracy reflecting the whole community; and small and great, rich and poor, the squire and farmer, and the labourer may all expect to be thrown in. If this is of importance in respect of the problem to which I have been addressing myself, is it not of infinitely greater importance in connection with that other problem which can never be far off from the minds of hon. Members when they are considering 1353 this Bill? This is a Bill dealing with Local Government in England and Wales. Have you thought what would be the future of Local Government in Ireland? You must be prepared for that. If you think you are going to put it off indefinitely, I, for one, would strenuously oppose its indefinite postponement. We must and shall give some form of Local Government to the Sister Isle. It depends on the lines on which you are going to proceed for the Local Government Bill for England and Wales, how you are to proceed in relation to Ireland. And if the question is of importance here, where the people have from long traditions been trained in habits of self-government, and where there is a consciousness on the whole of unison of feeling and thought as between the governing and governed; if here we are in danger of losing, as I fear we are in the future, the maintenance of those elements of stability and strength on which we have had to rely in the past, what does the Government expect will be the result in Ireland if they proceed to legislate for Ireland on similar lines? It is not difficult to make the alternative. The Bill which is before us can easily be reconstructed so as to be drawn on the lines I have suggested. A few alterations may be made, or one or two clauses to provide that instead of dividing the county area into single-membered seats, the county should be divided into divisions returning three or more. Introduce that provision, and provide further that in such divisions each elector shall have one vote and one vote only. You would then have secured all I have ventured to suggest. Let not the Government resist or be guilty of this great refusal. The remedy is at their hand if they have the strength and courage to seize it, and they will then be able to say in passing the Bill that they have, indeed, done something to reconstruct upon safe and promising lines the rural public life of England.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I propose, with the favour of the House, to make a few remarks upon the general features of this Bill, and in these circumstances I will not attempt to follow at any length the very eloquent and interesting speech to which we have just listened. My hon.
1354 Friend is an advocate of proportional representation, and he advocates his views with a courage which I venture to think is worthy of a better cause. I confess, for myself, I have never been able to treat his proposal as very serious. It has appeared to me that the various schemes which he has suggested might be extremely interesting scientific experiments to be carried out by the Fellows of the Royal Society, but that they are totally unfitted for the rough and tumble of our political and municipal life. I confess I could not follow with acquiescence some of the illustrations which he gave in support of his views. My hon. Friend gave a history, which I think is of very apocryphal value, of the proceedings in connection with the Medical Relief Bill, and he said that many prominent Members on this (the Front Opposition Bench) voted in favour of that Bill, although their inclinations—
§ MR. COURTNEY
No, no! What I said was that on that occasion prominent Members of the Opposition Bench kept away whose inclinations would have led them to vote against the Bill.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I accept the explanation, or rather the correction, of my hon. Friend. I understand him to say that on that occasion prominent Members of the Front Opposition Bench kept away whose inclination would have led them to vote against the Bill. But that is not altogether an exceptional fact. I think the House will recollect other occasions on which prominent Members have stayed away, or even voted for a Bill against which they had strong objections. But my hon. Friend will not alter that by any system of proportional representation. In the particular case to which he alludes, however, I think he is mistaken in saying that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was against the principle of the Bill; as a matter of fact, I think the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of the Bill, and supported it and voted for it. But the real facts of this case were that the great majority of this House was in favour of the Bill, and so also was the great majority of the people outside, and what my hon. Friend wishes to introduce is a system by which the views of the majority shall not be put into practice. But we are told that we are 1355 creating a new and special difficulty in the present instance, in that the system of voting introduced by this measure is a unique system, because the members of the Council will be elected by single-member districts, and all at once. I think my hon. Friend is mistaken with respect to the first point. Practically, election to municipal councils is also by single-member districts. Birmingham, for instance, is divided into wards, each of which returns three members, but only one at a time, who is voted for by all the voters in the ward; it is, therefore, as if the town were divided into single-member districts. The other point is an important one, and if it be raised in Committee I think that attention might well be given to it. For my own part, I should prefer that in the case of the counties, as in the towns, one-third of the members should go out each year. I believe that by that means continuity of work and opinion is preserved; I believe that the system has worked extremely well in the Town Councils, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will give the question his favourable consideration when it is raised in Committee. But the complaint I make against the speech of my hon. Friend is that it is not so much a speech in favour of proportional or any other form of representation, as a speech against the principle on which the whole of our popular representative government is based. The speech is one that might with great propriety have been made before the Reform Bill of 1832. My hon. Friend is always in the belief that the majority of the people are inclined to go wrong—that the majority of the people do not know what is best for them—and, in these circumstances, he wants to secure some plan by which superior persons of prominence and ability—who are not popular enough to get elected—shall get upon the Council. In the course of previous discussions a great deal has been said about the necessity for the prolongation of this debate in order to enlighten the constituencies. Well, I confess I cannot help thinking that the anxiety to enlighten the constituencies is quite unnecessary; in my opinion, the constituencies have already formed a very clear opinion as to the merits and the general scope of this Bill, and are prepared to give to it a hearty and warm 1356 reception. I confess, when I look at the reports of this discussion now appearing in the provincial newspapers, that I do not see that the minute and at the same time rather vague and inconsistent criticism to which this Bill is subjected, is calculated to afford much instruction or enlightenment to the country. Before the Bill was introduced there was one point upon which public opinion was clearly concentrated; people wished to know what was to be the constitution of the new Authorities which were about to be created. It was upon this rock that previous Bills had split; they had been considered totally inadequate and insufficient in this respect, and the question in everybody's mind was whether the new Local Authorities were to be fully, frankly, and completely popular and representative. That is the main point. I think that now there is no doubt as to the answer which will be given to this question. There was a feeling that since we had equalized the franchise in counties and boroughs, and secured to the counties identity of political rights, we were also bound to secure to them, as far as possible, identity of municipal privileges; and the desire of the great majority of those who wished to see a reform in Local Government was that the system which by common consent had worked so admirably in the towns, and which was so greatly directed to promoting local patriotism, should be extended to the counties. There can be no doubt that that has now been done—in this Bill the rights and privileges which are enjoyed in the boroughs are frankly and freely conceded to the counties; and, in these circumstances, I have no hesitation in saying that I welcome the Bill as fulfilling most amply the pledges which the Government has given, and as laying the foundation of a great reform which I believe will be fraught with great and beneficial consequences. Three years ago it was my duty to prepare a Bill upon the same subject. It was never completed or submitted to the House, because the Government of the day thought it right to throw aside that measure, with all the other items of the programme upon which they had been elected, in order to take up a new programme upon which the country had not been consulted. But my experience, at any rate, enabled 1357 me to appreciate the complexity of the subject, and I most cordially add my congratulations to those which have come from every quarter to the rights hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for the skill, the ability, and the courage with which he has dealt with the matter. If I were able to place my own draft side by side with the present Bill, I think it would be found that in the main principles there was an entire agreement; no doubt, there are notable differences on some rather important points of detail, but I am not perfectly certain that the advantage is always on the side of my draft. In those circumstances, then, I rejoice to see the introduction of this Bill; I wish it well, and I will do nothing to protract its discussion or delay it. I was anxious to know the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman who leads what is called the legitimate Opposition with regard to the matter. I confess I have been amused—and I hope edified—by recent disclosures. When the Bill was first introduced it was met with a chorus of congratulation. It was acknowledged to be comprehensive, and by many admitted to be a thoroughly radical measure. But the lapse of time, it appears, has somewhat modified this favourable impression. I wonder whether it was the lapse of time, or whether it was certain proceedings to which some publicity has been given, which took place in one of the Committee Rooms of this House? It would be very interesting to see the private communications which have passed between the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), who was president of this meeting of followers who aspired to lead and supporters who were very unwilling to support. It appears that hitherto these communications have not resulted in a perfect agreement. I find that in the meeting to which I have referred this Bill was described as perilous, as invidious, a Tory measure with a democratic veneer, faulty in its structure, and perfectly worthless to the agricultural labourer. But if that be a true description of the Bill, it is the bounden duty of those hon. Members who hold that view to meet it frankly with undoubted hostility, without further hesitation, and they ought to do all that is in their 1358 power to cause its rejection. I will do them the justice to say that they are doing a good deal against the Bill. They do not frankly move that it be read this day six months, but they meet it with an Amendment which shows that if afraid to strike they are willing to wound, and which would be equally fatal to the Bill if it were passed by the House. But, at all events, the opposition of these irreconcilables is intelligible and fairly consistent. But I find that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) the other night, in a most moderate speech and one which must have been gratifying to the Government, although he made some fair criticisms upon it, yet said that he was in favour of its principles, and admitted that it was a broad and comprehensive measure, and that, as far as he and his immediate Friends were concerned, they did not intend to propose any Amendment to the second reading which would be fatal to the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) takes the same view; but when he comes to speak will the right hon. Gentleman say whether they are going to support the Amendment which has been proposed behind them—that of the hon. Member for the Eye Division of Suffolk (Mr. F. Stevenson)? Because, if so, they are going to do their best to destroy a Bill to which they have not proposed any second reading Amendments, and of principles of which they express complete approval. If they do that, then all I can say is that we shall know perfectly well where is the motive power of the legitimate Opposition; we shall look for it below the Gangway, and we shall know at last that the tail has effectually wagged the dog. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax will be too consistent to take any such course. I expect, therefore, to see that Amendment supported only by the Gentlemen who attended the meeting presided over by the hon. Member for West Bradford; but I must point out that the course he himself proposes to take is almost as fatal to the Bill, because my right hon. Friend proposes not to meet the Bill with direct opposition, but to smother it with kindness. My right hon. Friend has told us that the Bill involves a most comprehensive and drastic re- 1359 form, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian said it was the largest measure of reform which had been brought in by any Government for a long time. We have been told again and again that the consideration of this complex measure in its present stage demands weeks of discussion; that there are in it proposals which amount to several Bills. My right hon. Friend proposed, however, that we should add to it the consolidation of rates, the simplification of boundaries, the organization of parishes, and the administration of the Poor Laws, each in itself sufficient to occupy a considerable time in a Session. I agree with my right hon. Friend that no scheme of Local Government would be complete which did not deal satisfactorily with all these subjects; but I say they are outside this Bill, they are independent of this Bill, they can be just as well dealt with after this Bill has been passed. The House is not committed to any opinion on either of these subjects; and, therefore, I think the Government have been very wise in not overloading the ship, which has already a very heavy burden to carry. As regards the question of the consolidation of rates, I believe that to be a most important and desirable thing; it produces economy, and is likely to produce greater efficiency. But I understand the President of the Local Government Board to say that the Government are prepared to bring in a separate Bill to deal with this matter. [Mr. RITCHIE: Hear, hear!] I think it would be desirable that such a Bill should be brought in while we are dealing with the measure before us. But I do not think it should form part of the measure. Then there is the question of the simplification of boundaries, and I do not know that I agree with my right hon. Friend's view of the matter. It is a question which raises more local feeling than any other, and it would be very unwise to attempt to deal with it in this Bill. It would, in my opinion, be better to leave the matter to the County Councils when you have established them. They will have the local knowledge, they will understand local feeling, and will be able to deal with the subject in such a manner as to be satisfactory to the parties concerned; whereas, if an unwieldly body like the House of Commons, necessarily ignorant of local cir- 1360 cumstances, were to take the question up there would be endless heartburning and dissatisfaction. Then we come to the question of the administration of the Poor Law. That is the most important of all the omissions to which reference has been made. I think there is a great deal to be said for the inclusion of Poor Law administration in the work to be given to the new County Councils, otherwise you will have a state of things anomalous in a high degree, which no one can look upon as permanent, You will have, on the one hand, thoroughly representative popular Councils dealing with local government, sanitation, and other important matters, and their work would constantly increase—for, of course, there will be a tendency to throw all now work on the Councils—and, on the other hand, you will have a body elected by an antiquated process dealing with a considerable expenditure and an important branch of local administration. Therefore, very shortly after the passing of this Bill, I think there will be an over-whelming demand for greater simplicity and unification. I should have been very glad had the Government seen their way to include the administration of the Poor Law in the Bill; but, after all, we must admit that all that the Government have undertaken to do in this Bill is to assimilate county to borough government, and though we have had borough government of a very satisfactory nature for more than 50 years, yet the work of the Poor Law had been during all that time kept separate from ordinary municipal work. Therefore, though I believe it would be a good thing in both cases to unify the work, I cannot condemn this Bill because it does not do more in this respect for county than has been done for borough government. There is one little matter to which I would call the attention of the President of the Local Government Board with reference to Poor Law administration. At present the Guardians pay the school fees for the children of parents who are unable to pay, and great objection was taken to it at the time when it was proposed. It was felt to be bad in every way to connect education with the Poor Law. Parents who have learnt their way to the Board of Guardians for the education of their children are pretty apt to hind their way there for other purposes; and, therefore, I think it would be a 1361 very good thing if at this time the Government could see their way to hand this matter over to the local Councils. Then, as to the question of the organization of the parish. My right hon. Friend went so far as to say that, in his opinion, the parish ought to be the first unit of Local Government. If that is his view, I do not agree with him, and it is inconsistent with what the Liberal Party have done in the past, and with the valuable legislation which we owe to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) himself. My right hon. Friend was the author of the measure which has given us our urban and rural sanitary authorities. Therefore it would be a retrograde step to give to the parish what a few years ago we felt the parish would be unfit to perform. What are the duties which my right hon. Friend would propose that parish councils should perform? Does he mean to give them the sanitary work? Then, if he does, he would come into conflict with the right hon. Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) who criticized what was done, and complained that the sanitary work was not sufficiently centralized and not sufficiently under control, and pointed out that the parish authorities were only too content with their nuisances. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Leeds that nothing could be more certain to bring about in-efficient sanitary government than to make the parish the first unit in the new local sanitary system. In some cases the areas are too vast, in the majority of cases they are too small, for any efficient local authority; and if the view of my right hon. Friend is to be taken the first thing the House would have to do is to cut the parishes into pieces, and of the old parochial system, which the House is called upon to respect, nothing would remain but the name. But, though I do not go so far as my right hon. Friend, I think there are reasons for wishing that something should be done to give some sort of organization even to the existing parishes. I would urge that, not because I think there is a very important work which they have to do, but because it would be a political education for those who had to take part in the work. I do not agree with gentlemen who have said that the labourer would take no interest in the matter. I be- 1362 lieve he would take the greatest possible interest both in the election of the local District Council and the County Council. But, no doubt, if you could give him something nearer home, something more local and direct, it would be materially to his advantage, and I confess I think it might be possible to give some better organization to the Vestry—some more popular organization. If in one or two respects the organization of the Vestry were changed, you might very safely entrust such a body with the management of purely parochial charities and parochial allotments, with the duty of protecting the footpaths in the parish, open spaces, and waste commons. I believe if work of that kind could be found the labourers would most gladly undertake it, and that it would be a beneficial education to all concerned. I have now gone through the principal sins of omission charged against the Bill, and I have only to repeat that it must be a matter for the Government to consider how far any one of them can properly be added to the enormous bulk of this Bill. They certainly do not, in my opinion, in any way touch its merits. The absence from the Bill of proposals for the consolidation of the rates, the simplification of boundaries, and the rest ought not, therefore, to be an excuse for destroying it. But now I come to certain alleged sins of commission. The first point is the proposal for selected councillors. I have been perfectly astonished at the opposition to the proposal. Some of the critics do not appear to be aware of the existence of aldermen. I lay it down that the Bill is to be tested by this, how far it does really and practically assimilate the new county to the old borough system. The institution of aldermen has given great satisfaction. [Cries of "No, no!" and "Hear, hear!"] Well, I am a tolerably impartial witness, because personally I am opposed to the system, and, if it were proposed to be changed, I would support the change. At the same time, there is a great difference of opinion on the subject, and there are many who seem quite prepared to believe that this provision is a most important one and will work extremely well, although, like many other things, it may be liable to abuse. But it cannot be denied that, in the vast majority of cases, the election of alder- 1363 men does secure the presence of experienced men in the Council, and of many men who, having done a great deal of public work, are unwilling to undergo the continual fatigue and annoyance of public election. But whether the system is good or bad, it seems to me that it should be dealt with as a whole. The first thing we have to do is to assimilate the two systems, and then, if there is any point in which they can be improved, let us make the improvement in both at the same time. I should like, however, to make one representation on this point to Her Majesty's Government. I dislike very much the name of selected Councillors. The name "selected" is an invidious one, and will have a tendency to create opposition between selected and elected Councillors. I therefore beg to suggest that the old name of alderman should be preserved, and that there should be county aldermen as well as borough aldermen. Then comes the question of the control of the police. The arrangement which the Government has proposed is admittedly a compromise, and, like most compromises, I doubt whether it will satisfy either Party. I say frankly that certainly it does not satisfy me. Again, applying to this proposal the test I have applied to all the other proposals I have been considering, the Government have been creating a difference in this case, and it is the only important difference in the Bill, to the disadvantage of the County Councils as opposed to those of the boroughs. The borough Councils have administered the police with signal efficiency, and I believe that no serious complaint has ever been made against that administration. I cannot, therefore, understand why we cannot safely entrust to bodies, which would be so dignified and so important as the new County Councils, the power which has been entrusted to the boroughs for more than 50 years without a single complaint being raised with regard to it. There is, I know, one objection to my proposal on this point which I do not like to pass over—namely, that if we give the control of the police to the County Councils in England we shall have to give it hereafter to the County Councils in Ireland. I say frankly that that is not a prospect that greatly alarms me. I am in favour of giving the control of the police to all popularly elected bodies 1364 in Ireland as well as in England, and I believe that the adoption of such a course would have a good effect. I believe that the responsibility which we should thereby throw upon the elected bodies would conduce to good order and to peace in Ireland. I do not say that we might not be compelled, perhaps, in the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, to have for a while an Imperial police in Ireland for Imperial purposes, but I am speaking now of police for purely municipal work, the control of which I think might safely be entrusted to local bodies both in Ireland and England. What I wish to point out to those who object to this view is that there is no logical ground for saying that we are bound to have identity of legislation for the three countries. That has never been contended for by even the most extreme of the Irish Members. [Mr. MUNDELIA: "Oh, oh!"] My right hon. Friend says "Oh, oh!" but I will go further and say that there is not one of the most extreme of the Irish Members who will not repudiate the idea of identity of legislation for the three countries with contempt. I do not say that I think that it would be a bad thing to have such identity of legislation, but until Irish Members are willing to have identical land legislation, idential educational legislation, and identical financial legislation, I do not think they are at all likely to consider it to be essential that there should be identity of legislation with regard to Local Government. I hope when we come to discuss the subject of the control of the police in Committee, the Government may be willing to concede something in the direction I have indicated. If, however, they do not sec their way to do this, but feel it necessary to hold firm to the compromise they now have acted upon, then no doubt it will be my duty to vote against them on this point, but certainly I do not think it is one which seriously detracts from the other merits of the Bill. The last question is that of the licensing clauses; and I should like to ask the Government what is their intention with regard to these clauses. Do they intend to stand by them? I ask this question because I noticed in the speech of the President of the Local Government Board that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to put forward these clauses 1365 as an offer made by the Government to the Temperance Party, and to indicate that it was possible if that Party did not accept them the Government would wash their hands of all responsibility and would be inclined to withdraw them. If that is the position of the Government with regard to these clauses, the House ought to know it. The House ought to know for certain whether the Government regard these clauses as essential, and whether or not they propose to stand by them. I will assume that the Government do intend to stand by them, and upon that assumption I will ask the hon. Baronet the Member for Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and his Friends to reconsider the attitude which the organization with which they are connected have taken up in reference to these clauses. It has been objected, in the first place, that the transfer of the licences from the Imperial to the Local Authority would give the latter an interest in a traffic which is injurious and objectionable. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Baronet and those who think with him have not really the courage of their opinions and sufficient faith in their cause when they put forward such an argument. If this traffic is, as they say, an evil traffic, if to get rid of it is an advantage to the district concerned, if they are satisfied that they will at once convince the majority in many districts of these facts, and probably in the long run the majority in all districts, why should they be afraid of these clauses? Surely, if this is an immoral traffic, it is immoral to take any pecuniary benefit from it, and nothing can be more immoral than that a local district should get rid of the traffic within its area and at the same time get from Imperial taxation a benefit from that traffic. What the hon. Baronet and those who agree with him appear to urge is that, in fact, a bribe should be given to the people of a district in order to induce them to get rid of the traffic. The second objection to these clauses is, perhaps, a more serious one. It is contained in the Amendment of which the hon. Baronet has given Notice, and it is taken to the compensation proposed to be given to the publicans the renewal of whose licences is to be refused. I understand that the hon. Baronet maintains that, according to legal decisions, a licence does not imply a vested interest, 1366 and therefore that a publican whose licence is refused has no legal claim to compensation. That view is undoubtedly disputed by considerable legal authority, and I believe that it will be found on inquiry that the highest legal authorities have been consulted by more than one Government, and that their opinion has been that there is an undoubted vested right in a licence. But, be that as it may, there is certainly great doubt upon the point, and for my own part I do not see my way to dispute the equitable claim to compensation which the publicans have. The publicans hold a property which has a marketable value and in which they have invested a considerable sum. They are, at all events, conducting a legal traffic over which the Legislature has, to a certain extent, thrown its shield and protection, and they cannot be fairly and properly deprived of their means of livelihood without giving them compensation. All precedent would be against our adopting such a course. Parliament has compensated almost every other conceivable interest, many of which had less claims to compensation than the publicans have. Thus Parliament awarded compensation in the case of Army Purchase, in which the vested interest set up was distinctly illegal and which had grown up in defiance of the law. I do not believe that the hon. Baronet will ever persuade the majority of the people of this country that it will be fair to deprive publicans of their property and their livelihood without giving them compensation. I want the hon. Baronet to understand the advantages which he and his Friends would gain if this Bill were passed. In the first place, the principle of Local Option, which he has so long and so unselfishly contended for, would be accepted and practically applied under this Bill. There is no doubt in my mind that under this Bill the majority of the inhabitants of any licensing district who will elect representatives to the County Council will have the power to do away with every licence in the district if they think fit. It is true that there are conditions in the Bill; but I am satisfied that in the vast majority of instances the licensing district will have the power I have indicated. That is a most important advance, such as I think no Government has ever proposed in the direction of the hon. Baronet's contention, and I do not 1367 think that it ought to be rejected without very grave consideration. The second point is that the County Council under this Bill can, if so minded, close public-houses on Sundays and holidays. That is a most important thing in itself, and as it deals with a matter continually agitated in this country it is important as a precedent; and I have no doubt that if the exercise of this power is found to work well, still greater power will be given to County Councils in the future to deal with other occasions on which they might see fit either to shorten the hours or to close public-houses altogether. Thirdly, under this Bill no new vested interest can arise. The holder of any licence granted after this Bill is passed will have no claim to compensation in respect to it. Fourthly, compensation, if there is to be compensation, is fixed on a very fair and moderate basis. I venture to think that anyone who has a practical acquaintance with the subject will say that to give compensation based on the present value of the licence, or upon the difference between the value of the house as used for ordinary purposes and with its licence attached, is an extremely fair proposal, and one which will give a more moderate sum to the publican than would be awarded him by any other method. And, lastly, there is a point of extreme importance. The compensation which would have to be paid in the Bill would largely come out of the pockets of the publicans themselves. The County Councils would have the power to add 20 per cent to the licences. That would bring in if generally applied £300,000 per annum, which might be used for the purpose of decreasing the number of licences; and the only suggestion I make to the Government is that it might be well that this money should be earmarked—[Mr. RITCHIE: Hear, hear!]—that it should be distinctly applied to the purpose of reducing licences, and that any sum obtained by the County Council should be carried to the County Council Fund and used for this desirable reduction. If that was done, then an enormous change would take place with reference to this subject, and I am not certain that all would not be done that reasonable and fair-minded men could wish for. In conclusion, I beg my hon. Friend to consider the experience of the Temper- 1368 ance Party in reference to the measure introduced by Lord Aberdare, then Mr. Bruce. The Temperance Party—I was one of them, and I take blame to myself—opposed the Bill and secured its rejection. I believe they made a great mistake; they would have done well to have accepted that Bill. The only result of its rejection has been that for 15 years no step in advance has been taken; and now, if you reject those clauses, I believe it would have the same result, and that for another 15 or 20 years, perhaps, no improvement or amendment would be forthcoming in the direction in which my hon. Friend has so long and so consistently struggled. There are many other questions which I, at all events, shall reserve for dissension in Committee. There is the financial portion of the Bill, dealt with so ably by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). I confess I think he made out a strong primâ facie case for the smaller boroughs, and I await with interest the answer which the President of the Local Government Board will make on that subject. But I do not propose to enter into what is really a very complex matter of detail at the present stage. As far as the second reading of the measure is concerned, I give it my hearty support, and I shall vote against any Amendment for the purpose of destroying the Bill and delaying this Reform. There are so many of my hon. Friends who claim to be Representatives of the agricultural labourers that I have some diffidence in speaking in their name; yet I should not hesitate to confidently predict that my hon. Friends will find it very difficult to enlighten the agricultural labourers as to the wisdom of their policy in opposing this Bill. On the other hand, I am convinced that those who support the measure will find their position in the country enormously strengthened by the evidence which the Bill gives that a Unionist Government is both able and willing to deal with great practical questions of legislation which are earnestly desired by the majority of the people, who have been assured again and again that they must be indefinitely delayed to await the introduction of an already discredited and impossible solution of the Irish Question.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, he must decline to deal with 1369 the proposals of the hon. Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney) as he considered the Bill already largo enough. The Bill naturally divided itself into two parts—the constitution of the new governing bodies and the functions to be entrusted to them. The main and substantial principle of the measure was that the now governing bodies were to be elected on the basis of purely popular representation. He frankly accepted that principle for the reason that, as far as he was aware, or had any knowledge on the subject, it simply gave effect to the policy accepted by the Tory Party as a whole at least three years ago. He was aware that there had been grave complaints—more commonly, he thought, outside the walls of Parliament than in thems—against the sweeping and radical changes which were effected by the Bill, and which some hon. Members of the Party regarded as a complete repudiation and renunciation of all the principles hitherto professed by the Tory Party on this subject. It had been said that the duties of Local Government were ably performed by the existing authorities, that it was questionable wisdom to abandon a system which was known to be good and which worked satisfactorily in favour of another system with regard to which it was absolutely impossible to predict; that doubts were entertained whether much was to be gained in point either of efficiency or economy in the now arrangements; that the alteration was more likely to load to a large increase of expense in future; and that it was doubtful whether we should be able to secure that scrupulous honesty and absolute freedom from anything in the nature of a taint of jobbery or corruption which had been the unquestioned feature in Local Government up to the present time. With regard to all these objections, he had to say that it was too late for any of his hon. Friends to urge them now. If the objections had ever been thought of sufficient weight, their voices ought to have been raised in 1885, because it was in that year that Lord Salisbury, as Prime Minister, announced as a part of the programme of the Tory Party that measures for the reform of Local Government would be introduced on a purely popular basis. Some hon. Gentlemen, himself among them, openly endorsed and supported that principle; 1370 others tacitly acquiesced in it and accepted it by their silence; and he did not recollect an instance in which a single Member of the Party openly proclaimed opposition to the views of that time, and which he contended represented the policy of the Party as a whole. He thought, therefore, that it was a little unreasonable and unfair to complain of the extremely radical and revolutionary character of the Bill because a Conservative Government had now come forward three years after the pledge had been given and when they had an opportunity of legislating on the question. He had dwelt on this point because he thought it well that some of those who were loudest in their complaints outside this House should be reminded by an independent Member of the Party of what had actually occurred in reference to this question in the past. He might, however, say that he was glad that the responsibility for the introduction of this Bill had fallen to the lot of the right hon. Gentleman rather than to his own, and he was glad of it for two reasons, In the first place, he was not vain enough to suppose that in dealing with this difficult and complex questions—the most complex, perhaps, that he over recollecteds—he could have brought to the discharge of that duty anything approaching to the ability which had been displayed by the right hon. Gentleman, and to which he would wish to add his tribute of admiration; and, secondly, if he had been, the operation would have been too much in the nature of what is known as "The Happy Despatch" to be pleasing to him, and he should have felt compunction in putting possibly an extinguisher upon too many of the class with which he was associated himselfs—namely, the country gentlemen of England. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had expressed a hope that the country gentlemen would come forward in the future and be largely represented on the Councils. He shared the hope of his right hon. Friend to the full. He considered that it would be the greatest possible misfortune to the country if the services of those gentlemen were to be lost to the counties in the future. It would be more wise, however, not to legislate too much on that assumption, although he could not 1371 help thinking that there had been too great a tendency shown in that direction throughout the course of the speeches delivered. He had never doubted that the country gentlemen would be perfectly ready to come forward and give their services to the cause of county government in the future as they had done in the past. But whether they would be largely and permanently represented on those Councils depended, in his opinion, very greatly on two things. Would those new electoral divisions be keenly and habitually contested in future, and would a constant canvass be requisite to maintain a seat? If so, he was bound to say that it was probable, while many a country gentleman would be found to shrink from no amount of labour in the performance of his duty, he might not care to undergo the intolerable annoyance of a contested election every three years, with something in the nature of a continual canvass during the period intervening between each election. Now, judging from what they knew of municipal elections up to the present time, he thought it was exceedingly probable that a very large amount of political spirit would be infused into all those contests and elections; and if that was so, then he repeated that he thought it would be most unwise on their part if they were to legislate largely on the assumption that a great number of magistrates and country gentlemen would be returned, as a matter of course, to those County Councils. That question, to his mind, became more important still when they considered how the newly-elected Councillors were to be apportioned between the county divisions and the boroughs; and that was the first point of detail to which he was anxious to call the attention of the Government. If he understood the Bill aright, what was going to happen was this—first of all, the Local Government Board was to settle the number of Councillors for each county. He should be glad to have some more information on that point from his right hon. Friend. He did not know whether it was possible to give it at present; but, if possible, it would be very desirable. In the second place, it was to apportion them between the boroughs that had sufficient population to return one Councillor and the rest of the county; and the divisions were to be, as nearly as possible, equal in 1372 population. Under those circumstances, it appeared to him that it might well happen that in counties where the boroughs were both numerous and populous, as, for instance, in Staffordshire, Lancashire, and parts of Yorskshire, it might be perfectly possible that what he called the county business proper might be absolutely dominated and governed by a large majority on the Council of the representatives of the towns. He did not think that would be either desirable or right; and if that was really going to happen it would, in his opinion, be a great objection to the Bill. On the other hand, he should be told there was the danger of the counties losing the large contributions to be obtained from the towns. For himself, however, he should prefer to see county business managed and controlled by those who were principally concerned, even at the risk of losing some of the contributions to which he had alluded. That was a somewhat serious difficulty in connection with the constitution of those new Councils, and he hoped that the Government would afford them some further information on that point. He now came to the functions to be committed to the new Councils; and, first, as to the police, he was hound to say that the opinion he had formed was not weakened by what had fallen from the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) in the course of that debate, more particularly in reference to Ireland. In the matter of the police he agreed entirely in what fell the other night from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). He wished to see the police entirely remaining under the control of the Quarter Sessions as at present. He saw no object in the proposed change, and he greatly doubted whether dual control would prove a business-like arrangement or one that would work satisfactorily in the future. Indeed, it was not a dual but a treble control that was proposed. In the first place, the appointment and control of the Chief Constable—perhaps the most important thing of all—was to be left entirely to the Quarter Sessions. In the second place, the County Council, as well as the Quarter Sessions, were to be entrusted with powers which at present were vested in the Quarter Sessions. The powers to which he was 1373 referring would enable the Quarter Sessions at present to direct constables to perform any duty they liked, in addition to their ordinary duties under the Act of 1856, called the County and Borough Police Act. And, thirdly, the Joint Committee were to exercise and discharge all the remaining duties, powers, and responsibilities at present vested in the Quarter Sessions. There they had three separate and distinct authorities at once having more or less control over the police; and, on the face of it, he asked the House, as men of business, whether that was likely to prove a very business-like or practical arrangement? How were those objections met the other night by the Secretary of the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), speaking on behalf of the Government? His hon. Friend said he hoped to be elected a member of a County Council, and if he was elected he should greatly resent being called upon to meet demands from the magistrates to pay certain sums of money for a certain object over which he had no control whatever. That was his answer to the objections of his hon. and gallant Friend as to the police. Of all men in the world, probably the Secretary of the Local Government Board was the one most likely and even certain to be elected for any County Council, because he possessed many charming and amiable qualities, and was blessed with youth, health, energy, courage, and great ability, combined, moreover, with a very well deserved popularity both in private and public life. His hon. Friend's return, therefore, for any division of his county might be taken as a foregone conclusion; and if all his brother magistrates were like himself, he would be ready to-morrow to transfer all the power over the police from the Quarter Sessions to the County Council. But his hon. Friend was hardly consistent in saying he would resent a demand for some object over which he had no control. If that argument was good for anything, it was good for more than his hon. Friend intended, because, under the Bill as it stood, for the Chief Constable, over whom the Quarter Sessions were to remain the sole and supreme authority, the County Council would be called upon to pay without having any control over him or his appointment. For himself, he thought the police ought to be managed and controlled by 1374 one authority; and, inasmuch as the present managers were the people re-sponsible for peace and order and the maintenance of law throughout the country, that authority ought to be the Quarter Sessions. Almost any single control, however, that, for instance, of the Home Office, which had been mentioned, would be preferable, in his opinion, to the plan provided in the Bill. He came next to the transfer of departmental power contemplated by Clause 8 of the Bill. He frankly confessed that he did not at present know exactly what those departmental powers included. It was all done by reference to a great number of Acts of Parliament, which he owned he had not yet had time to master. There were four Acts relating to the transfer of powers from the Secretary of State; seven Acts relating to the transfer of powers from the Board of Trade; and 12 Acts relating to the transfer of powers from the Local Government Board. There were 23 different Acts altogether relating to the transfer of powers to the now County Council. His right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board said very little indeed on that subject at the introduction of the Bill, and his hon. Friend the Secretary of that Board the other night, as far as he remembered, said nothing. But before the debate closed he hoped that the House would receive some further information on that point. It seemed to him that there was no necessity whatever for any hurry in transferring or giving to the County Councils any such large additional powers as those contemplated by the clause. For example, one of the Acts of Parliament referred to was an Act as to making orders for the creation of harbours and piers. He did not see the object of giving to the Council of a purely inland county, say such as Rutland, the power to make an order either for a harbour or a pier. That appeared to him to be totally unnecessary. What they wanted to do more than anything was to perfect the machinery and the constitution of the new Authorities, leaving those powers to be transferred to them hereafter when they were found to be actually necessary, wherever they found a County Council to be working well and to be worthy of being entrusted with those powers which it was proposed to 1375 give them all at once. Moreover, such a postponement of the bestowal of those powers as he suggested might probably do something to lighten the Bill and facilitate its passing, as he hoped it would, this Session. He would now say a few words on the question of finance. He could not think that the very large borrowing powers given by Clause 62 were either necessary or right. The counties were already, he believed, adequately supplied with bridges, lunatic asylums, police stations, and various other buildings of this kind, and it seemed hardly possible to imagine that there could be any reasonable objects for the purposes of which it would be necessary to borrow to so great an extent as two years' rateable value of the county. He should like to see the borrowing powers very largely reduced, and he would certainly advise that the two years' rateable value should be reduced to one year, and that the period for repayment of the loans should be brought down from 60 years to 30 years. That, he hoped, was the least that would be done. He should like the Government to give the House some information as to the amount of relief which the counties were to receive with regard to land. He was greatly afraid, when all was said and done, it would be found that land would got very much less relief than was commonly expected. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) pointed out the other day that five counties, of which Lincolnshire was one, would receive not more than £89,000 altogether.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I do not think he said that. The reference was made to one particular branch of the distribution—the Probate Duties.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, that the right hon. Gentleman's explanation relieved his mind very considerably; and he hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman was able to deal more fully with the subject he would show that a real measure of relief was to be given to land. With regard to the Registration Bill, he was informed that at a meeting of Clerks of the Peace held in London on Friday last it was decided that the Bill in its present form could not be worked without immense trouble and expense, and it was suggested that instead of the list proposed in the Bill, the Parlia- 1376 mentary Register should be taken with the addition of a list to include the ladies who were entitled to vote. If all that was said at the meeting was true, the matter was one which required careful consideration. He hoped that the questions to which he had referred would be thought deserving of the attention of the Government, and that his observations would not be looked upon as hostile criticism of the Local Government measure, which he regarded as a genuine and honest attempt on the part of a Conservative Government to carry out to the letter the pledges which they had frequently given to the constituencies and the country.
§ MR. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
said, he thought it would be agreed that Members on that side of the House had offered no vexatious opposition to this Bill, and he trusted that the same treatment would be extended to any legislation with which it might be the fate of the Liberal Party hereafter to promote. With regard to what had been said as to the action of the Liberal Party at certain meetings which had been held, he had only to say that if there was any vexation at a Conservative and not a Liberal Government having introduced this Bill, he did not share that feeling. Nor did he join in any feeling that because the Bill did not give them all that they wanted they would have none of it. The Reform Bill of 1867 contained a great principle, overlaid with fancy devices of all kinds; but the Liberal Party cleared those devices away, and it would be the duty of that Party now to see that all the enfeebling clauses of the present measure were removed. He admitted that the position of affairs was at the time he referred to very different, because the Tory Party, which was then weak, was now strong; but for his own part, he would give the Government credit for the same honesty of purpose as hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House would claim for themselves; still he thought they must all remember that the natural leaning of the Conservative Party was not more in a democratic direction. The late Lord Beaconsfield directed the attention of the Tory Party to the necessity of democratic legislation. It might, perhaps, remain for the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) to edu- 1377 cate them to like it; but it was the duty of the Liberal Party, at any rate, to separate the principles of the Bill from those matters which encumbered them. A great measure of reform such as this should contain three principles. Two of those principles—decentralization and election by simple franchise—were recognized in the Bill. The third was the principle of consolidation, which must follow as a natural result, as a matter of course, on the legislation on which they were now engaged. He felt that the value of the Bill had been greatly diminished by the exclusion from its provisions of the Poor Law system. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) might have thought that a formidable provision to introduce, and, no doubt, he was unwilling to overload his Bill; but he (Mr. Paulton) could not help thinking, if the Government were strongly pressed, they might not be unwilling to consider the matter, and he felt that if they could be induced to do so the right hon. Gentleman would find no difficulty in providing for this great reform. The omission of the Poor Law system was; in his opinion, sure to weaken one of the powers of the County Councils. He would point out that, just when the new County Councils had got into working order, there would be a great disorganization by the introduction of the principle in question, which might now be introduced, and by which all the confusion which must otherwise ensue would be avoided. He regretted that one of the Members for Suffolk had seen fit to complicate his Amendment by introducing the question of the parish. The Government could not accept that Amendment, because it would strike at the framework of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) had said that the Government had begun at the wrong end. If that were so, he could not understand how hon. Members on that side of the House could possibly vote for the Bill in any shape or form. If the measure were bad ab initio they ought to oppose it; but for his part he did not hold that opinion, and he considered the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board was quite right when he said, in commenting on it, that he had not been able to arrive at any clear idea of what hon. Gentlemen wished to be done. If 1378 the parish were adopted as the unit of area, it would be inevitable, in many cases, that the squire and the parson would be able to regulate matters exactly as they liked. The Ballot was a very small protection, and, moreover, he thought it would be most difficult to galvanize into life the parish and vestry, which was now in a moribund condition. A parish had been defined as a place which possessed a police-constable; but it was replied that one could not be sure of this, because the policeman could never be found. He thought that great difficulty would arise from local jealousy and inharmonious co-operation in a district of so small an area as a parish, and there would also be considerable difficulty in many cases of finding competent men to do the important work which would attach to the new authorities. It was important that the agricultural labourers should have full and free representation, and that was one reason why he was strongly opposed to what were called selected Councillors. He could not see any kind of advantage in them. He did not see what purpose they would serve, except of insuring the over-representation of the majority on the Boards. They had very small proof that the country gentlemen were going to abjure the County Councils, or shrink from the work which naturally fell upon them; and, that being so, there was no need fur these selected Councillors. The right men would come forward—men who were competent, and whom it was most desirable to elect to serve on the County Councils. If they were fit men they would be elected, and, if not, they ought to be rejected. Therefore, he failed to see why they should encumber the great principle laid down with regard to the election of the Council with this old machinery. It was well known that on Local Boards the elected members were regarded by the ex officio members with suspicion, and in many cases they had ceased to attend. He thought the same thing would happen in the case of County Councils. With regard to the question of licensing, he did not wish to go into details, but simply to say that the parts of the Bill to which he strongly objected were the Licensing Clauses; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman with what object the Government had touched this question at all? Was it to enable the people 1379 to diminish the number of public-houses? If not, then he failed to see why they should trouble to interfere with the present system in any way; if that was the object, he did not think that the Bill would assist in diminishing the number of public-houses; on the contrary, he thought it placed a great hindrance in the way of those sober localities where there was a desire to lessen the facilities for drinking. He thought that the constitution of licensing committees would add very considerable complication to a system already complicated, and he suggested as a compromise that their powers should instead be placed in the hands of the District Councils. That plan would, to a great extent, obviate the objection which he had to the clauses in their present form. The District Councils would have plenty of time to do the work, and they would, at the same time, represent more correctly than the proposed committees the views of the rural classes. In spite of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) he could not see either the justice or necessity for compensation. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had to-day stated, in answer to a Question, that one-seventh of the Licence Duty would be remitted to publicans who closed their houses on Sunday. If that principle were good as applied to Sunday Closing, why should it not be applied to the rest of the week? If it were proposed to give the publican the value of his licence fee, he should have no objection to that being done; but he did object very strongly to the clause which provided compensation; and he thought it would be found that there was in the country an exceedingly strong feeling against it. With regard to the financial question, he regretted that the Government had not seen fit to divide the rates between the owner and occupier, and he thought it would be much more difficult to do this in the future than now. He regarded the emigration proposals in the Bill as exceedingly valuable. He had never believed much in agencies in London and elsewhere for the purpose of facilitating emigration, because they were not able to get hold of the right people to send abroad; but the District Council would be able to do this, and he thought that in the manner 1380 proposed a great deal of good would be done. He believed, notwithstanding the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney), that the judicious selection of persons fitted for emigration would sooner or later assist those who remained, and that it would not in any way increase the misery which had induced certain members of their families to seek their fortunes in another land. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's remarks on the grant in respect of paupers under this Bill, it seemed to him that he had somewhat confused indoor and outdoor relief; he appeared to think that the Guardians would be very anxious to increase the number of indoor paupers. If that were so, which he did not believe, it was not quite as easy as the hon. Gentleman imagined to induce people to go into the workhouse, even if it were desirable to do so. He thought that this provision would merely enforce the workhouse test, which, in his opinion, was the best test of pauperism. He could net see that the State had any real duty in the matter beyond preserving the poor from starvation. That was the principle of the Poor Law, and he thought that this grant to workhouses would only make the workhouse test more stringent, and do nothing in the way of producing competition amongst Boards of Guardians to secure indoor paupers. Speaking on behalf of his own constituency, he expressed his great regret that the Government had not seen their way to impose a tax upon royalties, which acted so much to the prejudice of the people there in the matter of wages. These royalties amounted to something like £6,000,000 sterling a-year, and upon them the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer might easily have raised an annual revenue of £300,000 without injuring anyone. He pointed out that in South Africa the Government was receiving a revenue of £600,000 a-year from mining licences; and, seeing that £150,000 was received from royalties by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners alone in the county of Durham, he thought that the people were thoroughly justified in feeling very sore that nothing had been done in this direction. Finally, in spite of the objections to, and the omissions from, the Bill, he thought that the Li- 1381 beral Party would do wisely in accepting it, not as a complete measure, but as a very valuable instalment, of local government reform.
§ SIR WILLIAM HOULDSWORTH (Manchester, N.W.)
said, he did not desire to enter at length into the many complicated questions that would arise under this Bill, some of which had been considered that evening, but should confine his remarks to one part of the measure—namely, that which contained the Licensing Clauses. But before proceeding, he might be allowed to congratulate the Government and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) upon the very favourable reception which the Bill had met with, the main reason of which he thought was the boldness and breadth of the lines upon which the Bill was drawn. He was glad to find that the elective system was the main principle and basis of the measure, and also that the Government had resisted the temptation, if it were one, to introduce other elements such as ex officio or nominated members of Council. He had, however, considerable doubt as to the wisdom of introducing selected Councillors. He did not think that one could give a definite opinion against that system, as they had had experience of it in the boroughs, and he was bound to say that as far as his knowledge went no great evil had resulted from the appointment of aldermen in boroughs. At the same time, no one could doubt that very great danger lurked in the principle of selection of councillors and aldermen. It had been pointed out that evening, and he wished to emphasize it, that it was exceedingly possible and even probable that in many cases the majority of an elected Council on a Town or County Council might use their power to intensify that majority, and make it overwhelming, when it did not fairly represent the opinions of the electors. Still he thought they might adopt the proposal in the Bill, because the main argument for or against the system would apply both in boroughs and in counties, and he was disposed to agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) that they might wait, and if at a later period it should be thought desirable to make a change, they would be in a better position to make it in 1382 counties and boroughs at the same time. With respect to the Licensing Clauses, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had been charged with not being honest in his desire to see some settlement of the question. If any such opinion was really held he thought it was entirely unjustifiable. He believed this was an honest attempt, perhaps not in the best form—he did not think it was—to put the Licensing Question on a better footing than it had hitherto been. But while he thought it was an honest attempt on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, he did not think it was a sufficiently bold one. No doubt the elective system was contained in these clauses—no doubt popular local control was found in them—but he thought the system adopted only confused the issues, and did not make popular control as efficient or as strong as it ought to be. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing this measure, said—It may be asked whether we do not propose some means whereby the locality shall have some voice in the decision of such an important question as that of licensing. We propose a new means by which local interests will have full force.He (Sir William Houldsworth) thought that those interests had not full force in the measure now proposed. There were two separate issues placed before the electors. In the first place, the elector would have to consider the bearing of his vote upon the composition of the County Council; he would also have to consider the effect of his vote with regard to the Licensing Law and the licensing policy to be adopted. Now he ventured to think that those two issues ought to be kept separate and distinct, if they were to have the full expression of popular opinion. It was idle to suppose that they would be able to keep the Licensing Question out of the elections for the County Councils; it would not only creep in, but, in the majority of cases, it would be a dominant consideration, because they had to consider that although the electors would probably take some interest in the man they elected for the County Council, still that interest would be of a general character, and the electors would not be able to go into the particulars of county administration and decide for themselves as to whether this or that particular course was the 1383 one which it was best to adopt. But on the Licensing Question they would have a very definite opinion of their own either on one side or the other. That question would come home to them in a very personal form; it was a question in which they took the greatest interest, and on which they felt themselves capable of giving an opinion, both with regard to the question itself, and also with regard to the candidates. They would, therefore, wish to make known their Opinions on this subject, and to elect the Councillor who would best represent and share those opinions. With regard to the election of the County Council, he presumed that the ordinary course would be to choose a man of position, a popular man, one who had experience in the administration of affairs, and one in whom general confidence Was reposed. But when they came to choose a member to act for them on the Licensing Committee they would feel that they must go very much further, and they would not be content to choose a man of merely good business capacity, but a man who held their own views on a question in which they took so deep an interest. He ventured to urge this upon the Government from the point of view of the candidates. It was said that the country gentleman should form part of the Council, and with that they all agreed; but if they admitted the burning question of licensing into elections for the County Councils, what with the temperance people on one side and the publicans and their friends on the other, they would frighten country gentlemen, and deter men of position from allowing themselves to be nominated for election on these Councils. That view had been urged by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham (Mr. Forrest Fulton) in connection with the Sunday Closing Clause, and he believed it applied to the whole Licensing Question. He was of opinion that unless they separated the Licensing Committee from the County Council they would endanger to a great extent the success of the County Council, because the voters would be in this position—they would either have to sacrifice the best County Councillor and put an inferior man in his place, or they would have to vote for the man they considered the best candidate for the County Council, though feeling at the same time 1384 that he did not fairly represent their views on the licensing Question. He would, therefore, urge upon the Government to consider whether they could not altogether eliminate from the election of County Councils the question of licensing. Now that proposal was not a very strange or novel one. It was actually in operation at the present moment, and when the Bill was passed it would be so still with regard to Boards of Guardians. In that case it might be said to be only temporary, but the principle was also in force in school board elections, and he thought the history of the school board controversy was a justification of the proposal he ventured to make. The House would remember that when the Education Bill was introduced, it was proposed that the matter should be placed in the hands of Town Councils, and, in the case of counties, in the hands of the Vestry; but the opposition was so great that it was ultimately agreed there should be separate elections for school boards. No one who remembered how burning a question this was could avoid the conclusion that it would be wise to eliminate the question of licensing from County Council elections. There would not be any difficulty in electing Licensing Committees separately, and enabling them to represent popular opinion on this question. He had endeavoured to follow the Bill as it stood at present, and he saw no difficulty in arranging that the Licensing Committee should be elected contemporaneously with the County Council; it would be nothing more than what the Bill provided should take place in the case of the election of Borough Councils, which was to be contemporaneous with that of County Councils, and therefore he thought there was no possible difficulty in the way of his suggestion. He was also following the Bill closely when he said that if these Committees were elected independently of the County Councils, their decisions should nevertheless be subject to the confirmation of the County Councils. What he thought would be gained by the introduction of this principle of separate election in the case of Licensing Committees was that, in the first place, popular feeling would be satisfied on a great question in a manner which he did not think it would be satis- 1385 fied under the existing proposal. They would then have popular opinion expressed—roughly perhaps, but explicitly—on this particular question; they would understand the direction in which a particular district wished to go, and they would have all the various questions likely to come before the Licensing Committee discussed by men elected for that special purpose. As he had pointed out, the County Councils would have full power of declining to confirm the decision arrived at by the Committee, and thus there would be a protection and safeguard against extreme legislation on one side or the other, while, at the same time, they would secure the great advantage of eliminating from the County Councils an element which would be one of danger and difficulty in those elections. He hoped the Government would fairly consider this proposal, which he believed offered the only means by which they could give full force to public opinion. He, for one, would be sorry to embrace the doctrine of Local Option, which had many grave defects. At the same time, he thought that the temperance question ought to be settled by the people of the country, and that it should be submitted to an authority which was elected to deal with it. With regard to the question of compensation, he had no hesitation in saying that he felt very strongly there must be compensation. He did not think for one moment that the country would tolerate any measure so utterly unjust to the trade as would put it in the power of any authority to withdraw a publican's licence without giving compensation. At the same time, they must remember that it was very doubtful whether there was any legal claim on the part of the publicans. He himself believed they had no vested interest. He had before him the decisions of three or four eminent Judges on this subject. The late Chief Justice Cockburn, in 1878, said that the Justices had the same discretion to refuse the renewal of a licence as they had in granting a new licence. Mr. Justice Stephen said that they did not renew a licence, but granted a new licence. Mr. Justice Field said that the Legislature recognized no right at all in holding a licence; it did not treat it as a question of vested interest 1386 in any way; and, finally, Mr. Baron Pollock said that the notion that there was property in a licence was, in his opinion, unsound in law. He (Sir William Houldsworth) would not venture to decide the question, but thought it proper to point out that there was at least doubt in this matter. But, whether there was a vested interest or not, there was certainly an equitable claim for compensation. Of course, there was the important consideration whether that equitable claim which he ventured to put forward was, or ought to be, considered perpetual and indefinite. He felt, although there was an equitable claim, that it mainly arose from the sudden loss or damage which might be sustained in consequence of the licence being withdrawn. He considered that this claim would be fairly satisfied if a period of seven or 10 years were fixed during which it might exist, either in a diminishing or in its original form, but that at the end of some period it ought absolutely to cease. This was an important matter, inasmuch as new licences were to be granted without compensation; there would then be two sets of licences, one carrying compensation to a very large amount, and others not carrying any compensation at all. In his opinion, if any favour were shown, compensation ought to be given to the men who had had short licences rather than to those who had held them for a longer term. The Government, in dealing with the Licensing Question, ought to do justice to the parties concerned, But, on the other hand, there was no doubt that, considering the miseries which had arisen from neglect, bad legislation, and worse administration in the past, they ought to encourage any movement towards temperance on the part of the people of this country. There was a very great movement in this direction, not solely amongst temperance enthusiasts, but among the work in the classes in the large communities; and, after all, it was they, and not the enthusiasts, who felt the miseries, the sorrows, the troubles, and the dangers to which excessive drinking led. He believed there would be no more popular measure among the working classes as a whole than one which, while it did justice to the trade, at the same time encouraged, the temperance which was 1387 growing up amongst us, by removing the excessive temptations to drink placed before the people of the country. Finally, he would urge upon the Government to take a large view of this question. They had a great opportunity of solving it at the present moment; all parties desired some settlement, and there were many in the country coming forward and urging on the movement towards temperance, who had never played such a part in our previous history. There were, no doubt, difficulties in the way, but they were not insurmountable. He trusted the Government would not think of abandoning the Licensing Clauses without a struggle, either under stress of the opposition they might meet with, or by becoming disheartened by the difficulties surrounding the question. Those clauses, he believed, afforded a good foundation upon which a good superstructure might be raised; and if the Government succeeded in dealing with this question on the lines of their own Bill—with such modifications as might be suggested—he believed these clauses would not be the least valuable part of the great measure which had been proposed.
§ SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said, no one could turn over the pages of this Bill without finding upon it every mark of very great care, and every mark of an endeavour to deal broadly with an extremely difficult and complicated subject. Perhaps those hon. Members who had had some experience of local government could best appreciate the difficulties which arose on so many points when they considered the interwoven and complicated nature of the subject. He wished to give the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) great credit for the pains they had taken to lay before the House a Bill which could be so readily accepted in principle by the House, but on which there would arise in the course of discussion in Committee innumerable points which would require the gravest attention of the House. Now, he (Sir Joseph Pease) asked himself, in looking at the Bill, what were the objects in regard to local government which they 1388 most desired to carry out? What did they desire to effect? They required a methodical system of local government—a more systematic policy than they at present possessed. They wanted it to be as simple as possible as regarded its construction and as regarded its arrangement; they wanted direct representation of those who paid the expenses of local government; they asked for economy in administration; they asked for division of local burdens between owners and occupiers; they asked for one standard of value for local and Imperial purposes, and they asked that there should be, if possible, one means of collecting the poor rate and other charges, Imperial and local, which it was necessary to levy in the various parishes; but, above all, they wanted to destroy the multiplicity of Local Authorities and the multiplicity of elections, and that which troubled all ratepayers—namely, the consequent high expenditure on officials. For these propositions it was necessary to secure larger areas, and to secure superior persons for their management and superior officials to carry out the instructions of those vested with authority. Looking at the Bill, he must say that those who drafted and organized it in a great many instances came up to the standard which he had thus endeavoured to sketch and lay down. But he was not one of those who said—"Take this Bill as an instalment." He did not think much of instalments in measures of this character. He believed that if they were only to take this Bill as an instalment, they would be sowing for themselves the seeds of a crop which would constantly keep them at work and produce unsettlement in the country. What he desired to do in the few short sentences he was about to utter, and in which he was about to criticize the Bill—he hoped in a friendly criticism, and by no means hostile to Her Majesty's Government—he hoped to put before the House the desirability of passing the measure, not as an instalment, but as, so far as it went, a complete scheme, which would give satisfaction to the country and bring credit to the Government and the House. He might say of the District Councils he thought that they did come very much up to the standard which he had laid down. They would absorb a large number of Local Boards, 1389 and he should be very glad indeed that that absorption should take place. These District Councils, which he hoped would be of sufficient size and quality to manage local affairs, would do away with a number of local elections and existing Local Boards. But, unfortunately, the Bill left them rather at sea as to the size of the districts and the number of representatives that each local District Council ought to have on it. Information upon this point had not been supplied to the House and the country by the Local Government Department. The complaint which he heard in the country was that although those local District Councils were to absorb Local Boards in so many districts, they had another new authority in the new County Councils laid alongside, as it were, of the Quarter Sessions; and that County Council would be, no doubt, an expensive Council. They could not hide from themselves that it would be so. He did not suppose they desired to hide the fact from themselves. There would necessarily be very expensive elections, because if there was any ambition left in the English country people, it would be to become members of these Boards—there would be still more expensive registration. There would be a desire to keep the corrupt element out, but there would be the expenses of the candidates coming forward every three years, and he was very much afraid that unless they could arrive at some economical method of proceeding in this direction the District and County Councils would prove very expensive, and the elections and registration would eat very much into the money that the districts and county hoped to receive from the Government in the proposed alteration of the system of Imperial and local taxation. He should like to see Boards of Guardians absorbed very rapidly, if not at once, into the local District Councils. The Board of Guardians was of course one of the largest money spending Departments of the country, and he could not help thinking that a very little further ingenuity on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board could devise means by which the local District Coun- 1390 cils could very speedily absorb all the duties now performed by Boards of Guardians in the different counties. If he might suggest a plan, it would be that the District Councils should appoint representatives according to their rateable values in the Unions of which they formed a part to take the place of the Board of Guardians until a better arrangement could be devised. He thought then that these representatives might issue the precepts now issued by the Boards of Guardians over the same areas. Boards of Guardians might be thus absorbed into the District Councils without any great or immediate change except in those who had to administer it being elected on the District Council instead of on the Board of Guardians. In this way one election—and a very important election—would be done away with, and a very great economy would in that way be brought about. The question of the school board, he owned, was a much more delicate and complicated one. The school boards had, under the present system, been a great success; but he could not help feeling—having watched pretty attentively the action of the school boards, and having seen one party uppermost and then another—that there was very little difference in the practical administration of the Boards, whether they were in the hands of the Church Party or the Dissenters, the Radicals or the Conservatives. The Act regulated equally all who had the management of the Boards, and he hoped the day was fast coming when that curious kind of election which was neither one thing nor the other, which now characterized the election to the school board, would be done away with by general consent, and the duties of the Boards would be taken up by the District Councils, and in this way save the necessity for another election. It seemed to him that Her Majesty's Government had fallen away a good deal from the high principle which was laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board when he introduced his Bill. They had fallen away, he thought, on a very important point from the very sound doctrine which the right hon. Gentleman had laid down of direct representation—of the District Councils and County Councils, both being subjects of direct 1391 representation. He, for one, could not see any advantage whatever in what were called "selected" Councillors. They came, he thought, very spuriously across the sound doctrine of direct representation. The hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester (Sir William Houldsworth) thought the action of aldermen in boroughs, looking at it as a whole, had been very good; but he (Sir Joseph Pease) did not think aldermen on the County Councils would be of any service—there were different opinions upon the matter as regards boroughs, and perhaps it was difficult to express an opinion worth having on so complicated a subject; but he would remind the House that aldermen in boroughs at the present time were almost wholly elected, not from the outside, as the Government proposed the County Select Councillors should be elected, but from amongst those who had served as Councillors and selected Councillors. He thought the same remark would, in the end, apply in regard to County Councils. They would only damage their Councils by these co-optative governors. Another reason why he thought that this would do damage was this. Men who thought, and perhaps rightly, that they were popular in their counties, and thoroughly fit to serve on Councils, might stand aside and say—"If I do not go to the trouble and expense of an election, I shall be elected by my neighbours without the trouble;" and probably these were the very men who ought to have stood for election, and who whilst waiting to be elected in this way would be left out in the cold. He must ask Her Majesty's Government to look over these Select Councilmen Clauses. He believed they would operate unfavourably to the proper action of the Councillors and very much impair the Bill. Was it to be supposed, for instance, that these selected Councillors, through the method of their selection, would be wiser and better men than the elected Councillors? It seemed to him that the co-optative plan, whilst in some cases it might have its advantages would in this instance be attended by several serious disadvantages when they came to the formation of these Boards. There was another clause which he trusted would be remedied. Whenever there was a vacancy in an elected Council that was to be filled co-optatively. He thought that 1392 whenever there was a vacancy the district would naturally desire to elect its member rather than to allow the District or County Council to fill up the vacancy from amongst its own members. Now, it had been said that county gentlemen would do their duty in regard to this Bill—that had been said over and over again. He believed they would do their duty; and he trusted his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board, who offered himself to go on one of the Boards, would, if not employed here in the House of Commons, be readily chosen as a member of one of the Boards. He had heard of a very distinguished nobleman having offered to take the Chairmanship of one of the Boards, and he (Sir Joseph Pease) trusted that he might do so, and that it would be a matter of ambition amongst gentlemen who had hitherto been identified with Quarter Sessions to become members of these new Bodies. They knew what enormous powers the new Boards would have entrusted to them. The Quarter Sessions had enjoyed extensive powers, and no one bad ever accused those who had been associated with Quarter Sessions of acting in anything but a businesslike manner. County gentlemen were going to do their duty; and they must also face the fact that the glory of Quarter Sessions passed away with this Bill. There would be little left to Quarter Sessions but the trial of a few prisoners; the question of the police, if left with them; the trial of rating, bastardy, and other appeals. The gentlemen who took the position of Chairmen of these new Councils would not only have almost the entire business now entrusted to the Chairmen of the Magistrates at Quarter Sessions to perform, but would also have to discharge those still more important duties which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had described in his speech. He, with his counsel, would have to take upon himself the issue of the Provisional Orders now issued by the Board of Trade and other Departments. He would also have to take charge of the indoor poor provisions and of emigration, and he would also have the very important and distinguished power as Chairman of his Board of lending money for local purposes to other localities. He would ask hon. Gentlemen 1393 opposite, therefore, who would be the greater man, the Chairman of the County Council or the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions? Certainly, the Chairman of the County Council would be the greater man, and he (Sir Joseph Pease) trusted that the person selected would be the leading man in the county. Many of those gentlemen who had filled the post of Chairmen of Quarter Sessions would naturally come to be Chairman of these County Councils. That being the case, if the new duties to be discharged were greater and more responsible, surely the best of the magistracy and the best of the county gentlemen would flock to the standard which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had raised. He believed that they would prove effective representatives, and that they would secure the confidence of their neighbours and of the electors. When they came to look at the question of police, his (Sir Joseph Pease's) views went very much with the views which had been enunciated on both sides of the House, that the duties would have to fall on that body in the county which, having been elected, had the confidence of the people, and which comprised the best men of the county. But it was said that the Chairmen of these Bodies should have the qualification of Justices of the Peace. They all knew that the county qualification was not a very heavy or a very great one; but he thought that if a man was elected in the first place for one of these districts, and was elected to the County Council, and then was taken by his peers on that Council to be Chairman, they could have no better qualification, and he trusted when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board came to the clause bearing upon this matter he would not insist upon the Chairman of the County Council going through the form of proving the qualification of so much rental or so much property. The eldest son of the knight of the shire was already qualified to be a Justice of the Peace, therefore he hoped the provision as to qualification in the Bill would not be insisted upon. It would add to the difficulty of obtaining a good Chairman, and could not possibly be of any service in promoting the objects of the measure. With regard to the 1394 police arrangements, he thought there had almost been a consensus of opinion on both sides of the House on one or two points. There were some hon. Gentlemen who had urged, and strongly urged, that it would be a good plan to place the whole police of the country in the hands of the Home Office. From that view he entirely dissented, but he did assent to the view that a divided authority would never work, and that if the magistrates were to supply the Chief Constable of the County there were sure to be dissensions arising between them and the County Council, because the County Council would have had no hearing in the appointment of the Chief Constable. The County Council, if anything went wrong, would naturally say,—"No wonder we are in this plight; you appointed the Chief Constable, and we had nothing to do with it." He very much agreed with the view that the Chief Constable would have to be appointed by the body that had charge of the police, and in his opinion the body that ought to have charge of the police was the body that had the sanction of the ratepayers, and which had within its ranks, as he had already endeavoured to prove, the leading spirits and the best informed men, and the most able men of the county. Now, having got over this police argument, he should like to say a word or two with regard to some remarks which had fallen from his noble Friend the Member for the South Molten Division of Devonshire (Viscount Lymington). The noble Viscount said—Surely it is better that the magistrates should have this under their charge, because there might be cases of popular riot in connection with which public feeling was excited, where there would be difficulty placed in the way of the Chief Constable in obtaining his expenses, or carrying out his views in the matter of putting down these émentes with the police force under his charge.He (Sir Joseph Pease) thought his noble Friend had not had much experience in borough local matters. He himself had seen a good deal of them, and he could safely say that he had never known an instance in which the Watch Committee in a borough, however radical the members might have been, had refused to put the police at the service of the Chief Constable when requested; in fact, he might 1395 say that the more radical the man was the more he was in favour of establishing that authority which the Watch Committee had conferred upon him. The noble Viscount had said that by the power which would be placed in the hands of the Watch Committees policemen might be sent out for the collection of the taxes which the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended to place at the disposal of the Local Councils; but if the noble Viscount believed that the county gentlemen would act on these Councils, it would be necessary for him to have faith in the doctrine that such proceedings would receive the assent of such gentlemen as now formed the Quarter Sessions. They would take part in the Watch Committees, and he (Sir Joseph Pease) must say that in his observations of borough life he had never known a policeman employed on a duty which had not appertained to his rightful calling, and the duties which he was enrolled to perform. These fears were utterly groundless, and they had been shown to be utterly groundless by the experience of those boroughs which had a police force of their own. There might be cases—and those cases the Government had dealt with by taking their police away from them—where the boroughs were so small that it would be absurd to give them a police of their own. Some of the larger boroughs were very proud, and justly proud, of their police force and their Chief Constable, and the way they had done their duties. He thought if the police were handed over bodily to the County Councils, the county would be just as safe and public order would be better promoted than it would be by leaving the police in the hands of the few magistrates who would still adhere to what he might call the glories of the past in the Court of Quarter Sessions. There was another reason why he should wish to leave the police in the hands of the Local Councils. The greater the responsibility they could impose upon the Councils the more would the best men of the counties try to be members of those Councils; and if there were no other reason than that, he should ask Her Majesty's Government to reconsider this proposal, and to leave the police in the hands of the Councils, which ought to be made as responsible as possible. There 1396 was another point upon which he should like to say something, and that was the question of the election for three years. It was proposed that Councils should be elected every three years, and he must confess that, though it might not be a very radical view, he thought that was a very short time. He believed they would get a better class of men on their Councils if the elections were for four or five years. Frequent elections were a great trouble in the county, and were a great expense, and would, he thought, too often prevent the best men coming forward, either because they wished to save their purses or did not like the trouble of standing for an election every three years. If they took away co-optative members from those Councils, he thought they would have a general consensus of opinion that a longer term of office than that at present proposed would be an advantage to the Councils. There were one or two other points, also, to which he should like to refer. For instance, he saw in the Bill no Chiltern Hundreds—no means for retirement. It seemed to him that they did require some plan by which any person who, either from ill-health or feeling an inclination to retire, should have the opportunity of doing so, and that the vacancy so caused should be filled up by another election. Then as to the question of the division of rates. He was in hopes when the Bill was brought forward that the old and very excellent idea promulgated in this House a number of years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) of the division of rates between owners and occupiers would be enforced in this Bill. He believed that was very desirable. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), when speaking the other night, laid great stress on this, and he would give him credit for having studied very efficiently the question of local government. He argued with force that if the rates were once to be divided the owners of property would look far more assiduously after the expenditure of the occupiers than they did at present. The hon. Member laid great stress on that, because he had come to the conclusion, after long investigation, that a great deal of what they called extravagant expenditure was occupier's expenditure, which ultimately fell upon the owners, but which the owners did not look after, because it did not touch them in the 1397 pocket at the time that it occurred. He did not ask Her Majesty's Government all of a sudden to make some very important fiscal change—a change which necessarily involved questions of re-arrangement between landlord and tenant—but he thought it was one of those things which ought to be looked at, because it bore upon another very important point, which was the voting to the Councils by owners as well as occupiers in the counties. The borough franchise, as they knew, was an occupier's franchise only; and by this Bill the franchise was only an occupier's franchise. Then there was another point involved, and that was the question of registration, and he was glad to see the Chairman of the Durham Quarter Sessions in the House at this moment. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would speak of his knowledge on this question of registration. He (Sir Joseph Pease) was told in the county he had the honour to represent a Division of, it would add very largely to their expenditure to have the Register prepared by the District Councils and by the County Councils, in addition to the Parliamentary Register for boroughs and for counties; and, of course, if that was the case in the County of Durham, other larger counties would be affected more seriously. He would appeal to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board whether he could not devise some moans—and he believed. that moans might very easily be devised—by which the Parliamentary Register might be adapted for the Councils—provision, of course, being made for a schedule of ladies and a schedule of Peers? The borough franchise and the Parliamentary franchise had never yet been on exactly the same footing; but he saw no reason why, in order to save the great expense of a complicated system of registration, they should not take the Borough Register for those boroughs that voted for District and County Councils, and the Parliamentary Register for the county elections to the Councils—why, in fact, they should not so far assimilate the Borough, the County Council, and the Parliamentary franchise, scheduling the ladies and Peers. That would save a great deal of expense, and, far more than that, it would be a plan which everyone would understand, Under the system laid down in the Bill a great deal of confusion would arise through people 1398 not knowing what Register they were on. He believed the municipal and county officers would be saved an enormous amount of trouble in answering the inquiries of the people by this system. He did not intend to go into the question of the Licensing Authorities, because he thought that a question which would deserve a discussion for itself later on in Committee; but he very much agreed with the remarks which fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester, who spoke just now, when he laid down very positively his view that no publican was entitled to compensation if his licence was not renewed to him. The publicans had been very safe in the hands of the Justices. He (Sir Joseph Pease) had never known—and no hon. Gentleman sitting in the House had ever known—a licence taken away from a worthy man because the Justices thought the public-houses too numerous in the district. He certainly thought the Bill would be better if it could carry forward a good deal of the temperance legislation; but on no point could the people of this country be more opposed than they were to giving publicans a vested interest in their licence. He had always thought that if compensation was given it ought to be taken, not out of the ratepayers' pockets, but out of the businesses improved for the publicans by having the number of competitors around them reduced. Some plan of that kind should commend itself to the judgment of every Member of the House. These were not the days, as the hon. Baronet the Member for North-West Manchester had said, when the temperance agitation was carried on by paid advocates, but was an agitation on the part of thousands of the best of our working classes. It could never be admitted that the publicans had vested interests in their licences, a thing to which the working classes of the country were utterly opposed, and a point which they believed even the publicans would never contest. One subject more. He was disappointed because there was no provision in the Bill for the establishment of one standard of valuation for Imperial and county and local purposes. It would be a desirable thing to arrive at that standard—and there, again, he took his lesson from the right hon. Gentleman 1399 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who he recollected speaking many years ago plainly and distinctly on that point. Such a plan would save an enormous amount of local trouble, and would enable every taxpayer and ratepayer to know exactly annually what he had to pay. It would be a simplification of local and Imperial matters relating to taxation, and would be a great benefit to the community. He, however, had to desire for Her Majesty's Government a happy passage for the Bill. He hoped the remarks he had made would be listened to by the House. He had endeavoured to point out the difficulties and dangers of the Bill, and he had done so with the view that these points might be thoroughly threshed out here on second reading and in Committee, in order that they might not have an inoperative measure, but one that would satisfy the wants and desires of the people.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, he only refrained from congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board and the Ministry on the introduction of this Bill, because congratulation had become so general that it was superfluous. The House seemed to assent to the general principles of the Bill, and recognized the obligation it was under to the Government for the introduction of the measure. It was true that in some quarters there had been second thoughts which had not been quite in accordance with the original expressions made in reference to the Bill; but when he compared the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill, and the Bill itself, as they had been asked to do from the Front Bench opposite, they both seemed to him to express those broad principles of which he (Sir Albert Rollit) was speaking, and to be in accord in all material particulars. He was also glad that the general assent of the House had been given to the principle of the Bill, because it enabled them to go on to discuss points of detail in which the measure might be materially improved. The main principles on which the Bill was based were those which were now generally, and he thought happily, accepted in this country. The representative principle was one carried out in its entirety. The principle of direct voting was also applied. They heard nothing of plural voting, and certainly there 1400 was no resort to that ex officio nomination which, if it had been proposed, would not in any way have commended itself to the House. And in the application of the principles he was ennunciating, there was ample concession made, he thought, to the reforming principles of the age. One point upon which criticism seemed to centre itself was this—that if the Bill had any shortcomings those were in the direction of what it did not accomplish, rather than what it did accomplish. Several hon. Members had said, and said with truth, that they would have liked to see the Bill dealing with the question of the Poor Law, education, including school attendance—powers as to which were now vested in the Guardians—and the matter of allotments; and inasmuch as allotments could, under the Act of 1887, be obtained in boroughs as well as in counties, that was one subject which might well have been dealt with in the measure. Then, with regard to the question of public libraries, and other measures of social improvement, there was much scope, if the opportunity had been favourable, for extending the work of local government. He should hope that these matters would be dealt with in the course of a short time; but so much was done by the Bill that it would be extremely unwise to jeopardize its passing by over-burdening it in other directions. It was thought better and wiser to limit the scope of the measure as had been done. It was said, too, that the Local Government Board was too much associated with masses of paper. Well, the Bill itself was, in all conscience, a mass of paper. It was sufficiently long already, and if any attempt had been made to deal with the numerous questions to which he had referred, it would have been much more formidable and much more difficult to deal with than it was. In one respect there was a matter of criticism supplied by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) in which there appeared to be a diversity of opinion, and it was as to whether the unit of local government should have been the county, as proposed by the Bill, or the parish, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other hon. Gentlemen who previously dealt with this matter. He (Sir Albert Rollit) would venture to observe on that point that, in speaking 1401 of the unit, the very word itself implied matters of similar denomination, and when they attempted to treat the parish as the unit for local government they were at once involved in complexities and anomalies of all descriptions. He did not know anything that could be more diverse as a unit than the parish for the purposes of local government. He found that there were 788 parishes containing less than 50 inhabitants, some consisting of only four houses; there were 6,000 parishes with less than 300 inhabitants; and 726 parishes partly within and partly without urban sanitary districts. Other parishes cut the boundaries of no less than 227 boroughs, 688 local government districts, and 49 improvement districts. He thought that in working down from the county to the parish, and ultimately giving to the parochial authorities an opportunity of remodelling their own parochial organization by the light of their own experience, the Government had grasped by far the most practical idea, and one which he hoped would commend itself to the House. So much for the principles of the Bill which had been discussed. He now ventured to ask the attention of the House while he referred to one or two points which he might call major details in the clauses of the measure, and he hoped that in regard to some of them, they would be allowed an opportunity, not only of expressing their opinions, but of freedom of judgment in carrying them out, in order, if possible, to improve the Bill in Committee. He agreed with the idea that the proposal for the appointment of selected Councillors was not a very wise one. The object of it was one in which they must all sympathize. Sufficient recognition had been already paid to the services, the very experienced and skilful services, which had been rendered by Quarter Sessions in the matter of county government and in the economical administration of local affairs. He took it that this proposal, based upon the principle of the appointment of aldermen in the case of Corporations, was designed in some measure, at any rate, to retain the benefit of those experienced services in the new local centres. He hoped that such a result would be attained if this provision were kept in the Bill. But his own opinion was that they would be much more likely 1402 to attain what they all desired if they opened no second door to gentlemen of that position, but induced them, to use the words of the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), to enter by the one door which was opened by the Bill. The hon. Member for the Ramsey Division of Huntingdonshire (Mr. Fellowes) said that in nine cases out of 10, if those gentlemen of experience and position stood for election, they would all be returned. He hoped such would be the case; but he maintained that if they left them to the hops that they would be selected, they would be offering to them that which would only be misleading, and they would only be depriving the Councils of the benefit of those services they were most anxious to retain. He asked the House to consider what would be the probable working of the Bill in reference to the election of the Councils. There would be, as many hon. Members had said, a very large amount of partizan opinion, and inasmuch as, for instance, licensing would be one of the prominent parts of the business of the Councils, there would always be an incentive to that strong feeling which would give rise to a very large amount of, perhaps not unfriendly, but still strong, faction. One party or other would prevail, and he did not hesitate to say that if the majority desired to carry its principles out in practice, it would be better, instead of nominating those who had not presented themselves for election, to elect from among themselves those who had actively sympathized with the views which had become predominant. The method of electing aldermen had been appealed to, and, speaking from the experience of one borough, he asserted that the practice of electing aldermen from within the Council itself was general; he did not think he misstated the experience of every hon. Member when he said that such a practice was universal. Though he himself occupied the position of alderman, he thought there was some ground for the belief that, after all, direct and frequent election was the best mode of keeping the Council in touch with the people, and carrying out what were the views of the public from time to time, and, apart from that, there was no doubt that there was some ground, as a general rule, for the election of aldermen from within the Council. It was a principle 1403 upon which he had always acted in voting for aldermen. Members of Councils had undergone the ordeal of election; they had not shrunk from going through that education which an election involved; their services, their abilities, their practical abilities, had all been ascertained by actual contact with them in the Council, and their public services were also known to the borough, which would endorse the action taken. As in the case of aldermen, so it would be in the case of selected members of County Councils. On the grounds of Party principle, as well as on the ground of general practice, it would be found that such stops as he had described would be taken, and those whom everyone desired to see on the Councils, and who, judging from the statements made in the House, were supposed to be men of essentially moderate and modifying opinions, would not be likely to be chosen. On the contrary, partizanship would select men by way of additions to its own ranks. He, therefore, hoped that as a result of this discussion the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) would consent to omit from the Bill that portion which referred to selected Councillors. If that was impossible, he ventured to make another suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, and it was that he should reduce the term of election, at least for the selected Councillors, to three years. The reason he made that suggestion was that the change would remove one inducement to elect from within the Council by giving no advantage in the retention of office. That being so, there would be a greater disposition to go outside, and there would thus be a better opportunity for the introduction of those gentlemen whose services had been spoken of, and whose services would, he hoped, be retained. Again, he hoped that in passing this measure they would remove those features of it, or most of them, which led to the belief that there was anything not really popular about that which was a very great Bill. It had been suggested that there was a sham popularity about the Bill. That was based on such provisions as he was speaking of. He did not see, for instance, any principle upon which the Chairman of the Council should necessarily be a qualified Justice of the Peace, for now the days of property qualifications were passing away. What property qualifications 1404 could compare with the qualification of election by a Council of a County such as they had been speaking of? The respect and the regard of his fellow-Councillors and the trust reposed in a man was far higher than the mere possession of £100 a-year in land, or being assessed to the inhabited house duty to the amount of £100. These were not the days in which the mere possession of land, moreover, was the only qualification. A man might be Goschened up to the chin as well as acred up to the lips, and yet not possess the qualifications for the Chairmanship of a County Council, though no personal property qualification, such as Consols, was anticipated. The position of Chairman of a Council would be one of great trust and dignity. No one would be elected who was not fitted for the position, and the qualification given by the approbation of his fellow-Councillors would be greater than the mere possession of property in land. In a borough the Mayor was not required to have any property qualification; he acted also as Justice of the Peace for the borough; and therefore he (Sir Albert Rollit) saw no necessity for, or advantage in, applying to a similar office in a county that which was not required in the case of a borough. There was another point on which he thought popular opinion should prevail, and that was the appointment of the Chief Constable and the management of the police. In his experience of county matters he had noticed that if there was one fault to be found with the County Justices it was that they had been not very unfrequently in conflict with their own Chief Constable. That was one defect he knew of in county administration. On the other hand, in boroughs, he knew of very few cases—he would not say none—in which the Chief Constable had not been in accord with his Council, or in which the Chief Constable had not been supported by the strong feeling of the Council in reference to the performance of his duties. In the boroughs, in which the appointment of the Chief Constable rested with the Council, and in which the Council managed the police through its watch committee, he did not think any fault could be found with the administration hitherto. If it were said, as it had been said, he believed from the Treasury Bench, that the Councils of boroughs were educated in the performance of 1405 their duties so far as the police were concerned, he would remind the House that they have been self-educated. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) said that this was a compromise, and he added that compromises were not generally desirable. He (Sir Albert Rollit) ventured to say that this was a bad compromise. He know nothing that was more undesirable than a joint administration which might affect the performance of executive duties. There had been times,—speaking from the experience of Mayor of a large borough—there had been times when it had been necessary to deal promptly with the police, he referred especially to a year or two ago, when the dynamite scare overspread the country. It was necessary at that time to take great precautions, and if it had been necessary to communicate with the Justices of the Peace, and if there had been the slightest paralysis arising from a division of opinion with reference to the employment of the police, the good results obtained would not have been secured. He thought it might be said he had dealt candidly with some of the main provisions of the Bill. He thought it a duty, when they had a good Bill before them, as he regarded this to be, to endeavour by candid criticism to make it the best Bill they possibly could. He believed that if the Bill were passed, amended on some of the lines pointed out by speakers on both sides of the House, it would be a work which would not only be useful to the country, but permanently honourable and creditable to the reputation of the Gentlemen on the Ministerial Bench. He had only to say, in conclusion, that there were some points of the Bill which recommended it in the strongest manner to all practical Local Government Reformers. Some of the restrictions which were put upon the borrowing powers, for instance, though they might be wisely increased, were most eminently desirable. The local indebtedness of this country was, as was pointed out in Professor Fawcett's work on Political Economy, advancing in most rapid and dangerous stages. The counties, perhaps, were not nearly so heavily indebted as boroughs at present; but the maximum—the amount of two years' rateable value—prescribed by the Bill was one which would be very large so far as some of the counties were con- 1406 cerned. There were two other matters pre-eminently valuable. One was the compulsory official audit of the accounts of counties which was required by Bill. He hoped that in dealing with this matter the Government contemplated the application of these powers to the boroughs which were scheduled in Schedule 4. He did not know whether that was so or not, because in certain parts of that portion of the Bill certain sections were applied to the scheduled boroughs, and in other cases such was not the case, and he could not find that a compulsory audit was prescribed by the Bill in the case of the large boroughs. There had been great defalcations in the case of some boroughs, and, therefore, he trusted that if there were any doubt as to the audit at present, there would be none when the Bill passed the House, but that all boroughs as well as counties would be compelled to undertake a periodical audit, which was so essential to the safety of the funds of the citizens. Finally, there was something which he thought was very desirable indeed; he meant the local budget. Such had been the complexity of local administration, such had been the various areas which had been affected, such had been the multiplicity of offices, and so on, that it had been impossible for anyone who took an interest in local accounts to give a satisfactory opinion as to the indebtedness of the Local Authorities, or as to their future probable receipts and expenditure. In some cases a proper budget had been presented; but in the majority of cases such had not been done, and all the works one could consult upon local administration pointed to this as a great defect, not only in itself, but because it had prevented anyone obtaining any reliable information as to local expenditure. He trusted that the Bill would pass, amended in some respects in Committee, and that it would be a lasting benefit to the country which they governed.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
said, he shared in the hope expressed by the hon. Member (Sir Albert Rollit) in his last sentence, that the Bill would prove a great benefit to the country. He had observed that in the political language of the day the proper thing was to call it a frankly democratic Bill, and as such he treated it. He desired, in the remarks he in- 1407 tended to make to the House, to deal only with one question involved in the Bill, and he thought it was a question which had excited a great deal of interest in the country, a question which had excited quite as much interest as that of proportional representation, or of the unit of the parish, or of the creation of county aldermen, and that was the question of licensing. He believed that for every one person who was interested in the general provisions of the Bill there were, at any rate among the working classes of the population, 10 persons who took a much greater interest in how the liquor traffic was going to be dealt with. With the view of having the debate confined within proper limits and to prevent it rambling generally over the Bill, he put down a Notice of an Amendment to the second reading, not with the object of dividing against the second reading, but with the object, as he had said, of getting a fair discussion on the Licensing Clauses of the Bill. The Speaker, however, very kindly told him that it was not exactly the orthodox manner of dealing with the question. He would, however, read the Amendment to the House, because it showed what he intended, and would help to restrain the discussion within proper bounds. The Amendment he put on the Paper ran as follows:—That no measure for the reform of Local Government will be just or satisfactory which imposes additional financial burdens on the public as compensation for the withdrawal from liquor sellers of privileges obtained by the grant of annual licences.He was not able to move that as an Amendment, but, at any rate, it would be his text, and on that text he meant to preach against the new departure which had been initiated in the Bill. He should endeavour to define what he meant by a new departure. This Bill was an attempt to subsidize one class of traders in this country at the public expense; it was an attempt to fine local communities for efforts to purify themselves, and improve their own position; it was an attempt to strengthen, fortify, and perpetuate a system against which public opinion was steadily rising and would rise still higher; and what was that system? That system was the licensing system, the system that had stimulated the people of this country to 1408 consume those intoxicating drinks which produced so much harm to the community. He was justified in using this language. He remembered the late Lord Iddesleigh saying, when speaking several years ago on this question, that the national conscience was at length fairly aroused. When the national conscience was aroused, it was unjust to fortify and strengthen the system on which the drinking of intoxicating liquors was based, and to establish a vested interest in that in which a vested interest had never existed before. What was the House to understand by this Bill? Why, that beyond any doubt, it was establishing a new vested interest. He took his proof of that from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie). When the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill, he said—We say to the trade—'We recognize your claim to compensation, and we give you practically a vested interest by the Bill.'"—(3 Hansard,  1670).Now, that was as clear as anything possibly could be; there was not a vested interest before, but the right hon. Gentleman stated that he himself, by his Bill, proposed to give the publicans a vested interest. It was perfectly true that there had been no vested interest in the licence before. He did not want to tire the House with quotations, but really in the speech he had to make he should have to read several quotations, because it was of very little consequence what his opinion was, but it was of great consequence that he should produce the facts on which he based his suggestions. Allow him to take, in the first place, one statement made by Mr. Justice Field in the Court of Queen's Bench in November, 1882. The learned Judge stated then, in so many words, that—The Legislature recognizes no vested right at all in any holder of a licence—it does not treat the interest as a vested one in any way.And he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) challenged any lawyer in the House, no matter where he sat or to what Party he belonged—any lawyer who had any reputation to lose at all, to rise in his place and to say that Mr. Justice Field was wrong in what he said. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) said that that position was disputed. Who 1409 disputes it? Nobody but the right hon. Gentleman himself, as far as he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was aware of; but if it was disputed, he would read a somewhat longer quotation. It was so important that he could not skip a word of it, and the House would see why he quoted it when he told them from whom he quoted. The quotation was from a letter written by the late Mr. Thomas Nash, barrister-at-law, and counsel to the Licensed Victuallers' Association. He always liked to go to his opponent for his facts. Writing to The Morning Advertiser, a very influential paper, on the 5th of September, 1883—it was just after the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) had been indulging in the little legislation which he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) would have to allude to by-and-bye—Mr. Nash said—A still more unfortunate result of the Darwen case was, that it promulgated and divulged what had hitherto been more or less of a professional secret—namely, that, subject to appeal, the licensing magistrate can refuse to renew the licence of any and every holder of an on-licence. Till then it had always been popularly supposed that the holder of an on-licence, certainly a full licence, had a vested interest, and even the teetotallers always spoke as if they recognized such an interest.—that was a mistake, because if teetotallers said so, they must have been drunk—Now, I am sorry to say, having looked into this question most exhaustively, and compared notes with many of my brethren well versed in these matters, that there cannot be the smallest doubt that, in the strict sense, no such thing as a vested interest exists, and that, subject to appeal, the magistrates can refuse to renew the licence of the largest, roost useful, and best conducted hotel in England. I daresay this will stagger many owners."—He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had no doubt it did—But it is high time that the trade fully realized their position, and did not remain an instant in a sense of false security. More than this, as a matter of policy, the mere mention of the term vested interests should be avoided, as it infuriates every Court from the Queen's Bench downwards.That was a very long quotation, and he would only now quote a very short one, which was the latest. He believed that his legal Friends would admit that The Justice of the Peace was one of the best authorities on legal matters, and what did it say in the last issue but one? It said there was no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman's plan— 1410Recognizes for the first time a vested interest in a licence.He thought he had proved his case; but there was plenty more proof if hon. Gentlemen desire him to adduce it. He had proved his case, and he should really be surprised if anybody got up and said there was a legal right to a renewal of a licence in any of these cases. The legal case was gone; so far as he was concerned, he had overthrown it, but he knew perfectly well what line would be taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his speech disputed the legal case, though he gave no grounds for doing so, and then he went on to the question of equity, and that was of course arguable ground. He would argue the question on the ground of equity. Let them consider the case of precedents. He had often heard the Slave Trade talked about as a precedent. The Slave Trade was abolished in 1807, and he had often heard it talked of as a precedent. The slave dealers in that day reckoned their vested interest in the Slave Trade at £100,000,000. They never got a single penny of compensation. Of course, he knew someone would get up and say—"But we paid £20,000,000 to the slave owners when the Slave Trade was abolished." Yes, so we did in the year 1833; but he wondered what we would have done in the year 1888 with a Democratic Parliament representing the people. He did not think the slave owners would have got any compensation; if compensation had been paid it would have been to the slaves; indeed, in the year 1833, the compensation was only tolerated as a means of greasing the wheels. The promoters of the Bill never would have thought of admitting the grant but as a means of ensuring the passing of the Bill. What did Lord Brougham say about the Slave Trade? He said—Trade is honest, it is innocent, it is useful, it is humanizing, it is immensely beneficial. Whereas this infernal traffic is exactly the reverse, and can only be called a crime.Why did he quote that case? The Archbishop of Canterbury said the other day that the liquor trade, as carried on among the native races, was worse than the Slave Trade. He agreed with what was stated by the Archbishop of Canterbury; but he went further, and applied the remark to the English. Then he 1411 had heard it, said sometimes—"Oh, but when you indulge in the compulsory acquisition of land, you pay heavy compensation." So they did; but his answer was that they acquired nothing here—they took nothing away from anybody. The licence emanates from the Legislature; it emanates from the people themselves; the people granted the licence; and when the people chose they had the right to say—"We will withhold that licence." There was no acquiring of any property of the publican. The Irish Church was quoted. Well, but the Irish clergy were licensed to preach for their lives; but the publican had never been given a licence for his life—he was only given it for one single year. Then they heard talk of the Abolition of Purchase in the Army; but officers were entitled to serve, under their commissions, until a given age, and then they were entitled to a pension; but a publican's "commission" was only for one year, and it could be taken away. He said again that this was an absolutely new departure, and he kept repeating this because it was important. [Mr. RITCHIE dissented.] His right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie), who, he noticed, was going to answer him, shook his head. He thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman would have great difficulty in proving that this was not a new departure. Take the case of the liquor traffic itself. Whenever had they compensated it when they had taken away its privileges? Over and over again that House had taken away an hour here and an hour there, but it had never thought of giving compensation. Look at Scotland, look at Ireland, look at Wales. In each of these countries they had taken away a seventh part of the trade from the publicans. He remembered that the late Mr. P. J. Smyth, a very eloquent Irish Member, proposing that there should be some compensation given when the public-houses were closed on Sundays in Ireland, but the proposition was laughed out of the House. The hon. Member did got some 15 or 16 Irish Members to vote with him, but the rest of the House voted against him. Let them now go back to the year 1877, when the publicans' friends—the Tory Party—were in Office. Mr. Meldon, an Irish Member, passed a Bill through the House providing that the rateable 1412 value for beerhouses should be reduced, and, at one fell swoop, 557 Dublin beer-houses were deprived of their licences. No one gave them a penny, and it was not even called an Irish grievance. Take the case of England itself. In the last century, distillation was absolutely prohibited, with the best effects to the country. No one, however, got any compensation. In Ireland, in the present century, a prohibition was enacted for a time with regard to distillation, and no one was compensated. Go from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to our Colonies and to America, or wherever the English language was spoken—in all of these places licences had been, over and over and over again, taken away from liquor sellers, but the holders never got a penny of compensation. In Canada, our own country, had the publicans ever got compensation when they had been deprived of their licences? He remembered asking Lord Lorne what was the effect of stopping licences in Canada—what was the effect of prohibition in Canada? He answered—"Oh, it makes the whole difference between civilization and barbarism." Why should they compensate people for promoting barbarism? To come nearer home, what did the right hon. Gentleman propose to do in this very Bill? He proposed to put it in the power of the Local Authorities to shut up public-houses in England on Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day, and he did not give a penny of compensation. Surely, if robbery was right, it was right on every day of the week; if it was wrong, it did not make it better to do it on a good day. The right hon. Gentleman said—"I will rob them on Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day; but if the hon. Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland tries to rob them on week-days, he is a notorious villain." Now, he came to the case which the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well he would come to. It so happened that, in the year 1882, when the Liberals were in Office and the right hon. Gentleman sat upon the Opposition Benches, he brought in a capital Bill. There was at that time a certain class of liquor dealers who were able to get their licences irrespective of the will of the magistrates, but his right hon. Friend, by the Bill he brought in, put these men on the same footing as ordinary pub- 1413 licans. The right hon. Gentleman carried his Bill through the House, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) remembered complimenting the right hon. Gentleman upon his successful effort. The men who were thus dealt with came up to get their licences. It was at a place called Darwen, and when they came before the bench, the magistrates said—"No; a Bill has been passed which gives us the same power over you as we have over the ordinary publican," and they refused 34 licences. The holders of those licences went away without 1d. of compensation, and probably they were now rotting in workhouses and cursing the name of his right hon. Friend. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham talked as if it were a system to compensate people when they altered the laws. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) said it was not a system, and no one had ever treated it so. That House was full of landlords and persons who held land; many of them were alive in the days before Free Trade. What was their position then? There was a law in that country by which the produce of their lands was artificially made dearer, and their land the more valuable. Popular opinion changed, Free Trade was passed, the artificial price of the produce of the land was done away with by legislation, and the landlords said they were going to be ruined. No one, however, gave them a penny of compensation, and why should the landlords of public-houses get any compensation? And then there were the Irish landlords—poor fellows, they were always being got at in some way or other. In 1881, Parliament commenced with them, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had not many bowels of compassion for them in those days. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had now; but this was the way he talked about the landlords in 1881. Let the House remember how he talked now about compensation, and contrast that picture with this, contrast the former days with these days. In 1881, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) speaking about Irish landlords, said—I cannot conceive that they have any right to claim compensation for the restriction and limitation of powers which they ought never to have been permitted to enjoy. In our English Legislation there are numberless precedents in which legal rights have been found to be in conflict with public morality and public interest, 1414 and have been restricted and limited, and I am not aware of any such cases in which compensation has been given to those who have been thus treated.That was pretty good, considering the speech the right hon. Gentleman had made to-night. Well, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) hoped he had proved to the House, first of all, that no legal right to compensation existed; and, secondly, that there was no precedent for it. Now he came to argue the point as well as he could on the ground of equity. When they took public money, and gave it to certain persons, he presumed they gave it to them for some services rendered by them; if they did not, they were wronging the public. Now, what national services had these drink sellers done that they should be endowed with a sum of national money? Soldiers were given large sums of money when they had risked their lives in killing other people for the good of their country. It might, perhaps, be said that there was some similarity between publicans and soldiers. He admitted that publicans were engaged in a most deadly trade. If they looked at the returns of mortality, they found that there was no more dangerous trade than that of the publican; the death rate among those who dealt in alcohol was higher than that of any other trade. Therefore, they ought to be obliged to the publicans for their services, but still they were not on the same footing as soldiers, for they had not done anything to defend the country. On the contrary, Sir William Gull said that the article which they were licensed to deal in was the most destructive agent known to the faculty, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) once said, and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) supposed the expression had been quoted three or four times a night ever since at public meetings, but not-withstanding that he should quote it again—"that greater calamities are inflicted on mankind by intemperance than by the three great historical scourges—war, pestilence, and famine." He did not want to use strong language himself, but he liked to quote it. There was once a great brewer, the late Charles Buxton, who had a seat in that House, and surely he was a competent authority, who wrote an article in which he said—"that the struggle of 1415 the Church, the library, and the school house with the public-house and the gin shop was one development of the war between heaven and hell." Why they should compensate those who carried on that war against their fellow-countrymen exceeded his comprehension. What had the publicans done? Were they great discoverers? The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) two or three years ago discovered Ireland, and had been made Leader of the House. These publicans had discovered a way of getting £120,000,000 a-year out of the pockets of their fellow - countrymen. Had they done anything for art and literature? Was the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) going to reward them, because they were, as Lord Chesterfield in the last century described them, "artists in human slaughter?" Let him ask any of the clergymen of the Church of England, friends of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Conservative Party, whether they believed that the liquor trade had done any good in their district. Let the right hon. Gentleman produce a single man who would say—"a publican came into my parish, and the people have become more moral and sober than they were before." The right hon. Gentleman knew that such a thing was absurd; he knew that every clergyman, Poor Law Guardian, and schoolmaster would say, if asked, that the places where liquor was sold were the curses of the community in which they were placed. Yet the dealers in intoxicating liquor were the people the right hon. Gentleman was going to compensate out of the hard earnings of the people of the country. In making these remarks he was not finding fault with the men but only with their trade. He had no right to find fault with the men; they acted under the law, and they in the House of Commons were responsible for what the publicans did. The publicans were answerable to the law, if they broke the law; but so long as they conformed to the law, and Parliament did not alter it, Parliament was responsible, and it would be a cowardly thing to blame the drink sellers. Many of them were doing a great deal of good. He did not know whether the House had ever heard the story of an American who went to Dublin? This man was shown over all the great works of 1416 Guinness. First of all, he was taken to a church, a splendid church; he was next taken to a school, also a splendid school; then he was taken to the brewery where the money was made. The American then said—"He appears to me to be a most remarkable man, for he seems to run education, salvation, and damnation." Talk about ruining these men, they would find some channel for usefulness and profit. Hon. Members need not be afraid on that score. Now, he wanted to know why the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) had meddled with these people at all? Why, because he was obliged to do it; he would not have touched a hair of their heads if he could have helped it, but he had meddled with this question because he knew there was a demand from public opinion outside. What did public opinion demand? Why, for the last generation, more or less, there had been a demand; the demand was ever growing for power for the people to protect themselves from the establishment of drinking shops among them. They wanted to be protected from nuisances. Now, there again was a strong thing to say, but he would give his proof—he did not say it himself. It had been stated in The, Edinburgh Review, that the liquor trade was a nuisance, "physically, socially, morally, and politically," and the people felt it in consequence, and had sent innumerable Petitions to that House of Commons. Three times that House had declared by solemn vote, that the people of that country in their own localities ought to have the right to protect themselves from these places. He must quote again to make the matter sure, but he would only quote one of the Resolutions—namely, the last. He succeeded in getting the House to pass the Resolutions twice, and as nothing was done, he got a third one passed, and this time the House said the matter was urgent. Since then the House had done nothing. The last Resolution was—That the best interests of the nation urgently require some efficient measure of legislation, by which, in accordance with the Resolution already passed and re-affirmed by the House, a legal power of restricting the issue of licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors may be placed in the hands of persons most deeply interested and affected—namely, the inhabitants themselvesHe was happy to say that the Resolu- 1417 tion was supported by six Members of the Cabinet of that day—April 27th, 1883—and that one of those persons who supported it was the great compensator the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. Now, that was what the people wanted, that was what they asked for, and there was no great demand for anything else regarding the licensing system. There were Gentlemen, like the hon. Gentlemen who spoke that night, who were anxious for the reform of the licensing laws. He gave them all honour, they represented a number of persons outside the House, and those persons were trying to make the best of a bad thing; but there was no great popular demand for such a reform of the licensing system. What was demanded was power for the people to protect themselves against the licensing system, whatever it might be. They simply said—"Leave the system as you please, or alter it as you please; but, whether it remains as it is now or whether it is altered, all we want is one little clause which shall say no licensing authority shall place these drink shops in a district where the people by a large majority say they do not want them." That was the whole thing. People seemed to think sometimes that he advocated something that was in opposition to other people. Nothing of the sort. His little clause would fit into anybody's Bill. All they objected to was living in England under a Coercion Act by which licensing authorities were able to force liquor shops on places where they were not wanted. ["No, no!"] Yes; the House knew well enough that he was speaking the truth when he said that that was really what the people of England wanted. As he had said, the House had passed three Resolutions; but they had always been told to await the carrying of them out until the Local Government Bill was introduced. Really, it was like the old story of a man who was brought up for breach of promise of marriage, and he said it would be very hard to punish him, because he was perfectly willing to fulfil his promise in the year 1980. It looked to him like that; they never seemed to get forward when waiting for a Local Government Bill. That Bill, however, came at last, and they heard the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local 1418 Government Board (Mr. Ritchie). He was sure that, wicked Radical that he was, the right hon. Gentleman would not be angry if he complimented him upon the ability he displayed on the introduction of the Bill. The Bill came at last, and when he heard the sentence fall from the right hon. Gentleman's lips—"We transfer the licensing power from the magistrates to the elected authorities," he was awfully pleased. He knew, directly he said that, that the corner stone was out of the old rotten edifice, and that it was only a question of time when the edifice would tumble about their ears. He was pleased with the right hon. Gentleman for taking the first step in advance in a path on which he was ready to extend the helping hand of fellowship to the right hon. Gentleman. But the President of the Local Government Board had spoiled it all. If he had stopped there, and simply said—"We transfer the licensing powers from the magistrates to the local bodies," he would have done a good thing, he would have taken a long step; but he took a most extraordinary course, and also fell foul of him (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). The right hon. Gentleman, he said, was a greater democrat than he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) was. He said, speaking for the Government—"We have more confidence in the elected bodies than the hon. Member for Cumberland." Well, perhaps he might have more confidence in the elected bodies, but he had not so much confidence in the people who elected them. What he meant by him not having confidence in them was this. He knew, as he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) knew, that if they gave power to do evil to any set of men, elected, or selected, or born, or bred, or anybody else, they would do that evil. That was all he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) meant by saying he had no great confidence in them. Why should he have? There were a great many of his Scotch fellow-Members sitting here, and they knew as well as he that, for generations past, elected bodies upon Councils had had power of licensing; and they knew as well as he that the demand for local veto against even these Local Authorities was as great in Scotland as it was in England. But if the right hon. Gentleman had this confidence in the people of which he boasted, and which he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) hoped the right hon. 1419 Gentleman really felt, he asked him why did he block, hamper, thwart, and obstruct these bodies, after he had got them constructed? He made it more difficult than ever to get rid of a licence by his system, and when he talked of trusting people, it was a regular farce. Time would not allow him to go minutely into the machinery the right hon. Gentleman proposed; but he might say that it was elaborate machinery, and was like the Registration Laws which were intended to prevent people getting on the register. This machinery was intended to prevent people from getting rid of public-houses. He saw it stated somewhere that the "option of the electoral division is non-existent as against the will of the licensing division, and the option of the licensing division is nonexistent as against that of the County Councils." What chance would they have with these County Councils, far away from the people, and not knowing the people of the locality? Imagine the people going up to one of them, and coming before Alderman Chaplin or Alderman Barttelot. Why, they would never get rid of a public-house at all. The right hon. Gentleman knew very well that the great nuisance which had hitherto existed, under the licensing system, was that there was an appear from the people who knew something about the matter, to the people who know nothing about it. It appeared that the right hon. Gentleman wished the matter to be passed through one sieve after another, in the hope that at last a sieve would be found too small to let it get through. He wished the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) were there, because he had something to say about him. The noble Lord said that the temperance people—he was a great authority with the temperance people—ought to take this Bill, because Local Option was embalmed and enshrined in the Bill. It was indeed. It was embalmed, it was enshrined, and it was dead and buried. It was only fit to be kept in a Tory Museum as a specimen of "how not to do it." No; he got a resolution this morning which seemed to him to put the position with regard to this Bill very clearly. It was a resolution passed by the North of England Temperance League—by men who had spent their lives in trying to benefit their fellow- 1420 creatures by getting rid of intoxicating drinking, and who getting even as much about the matter as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. Mr. Arthur Pease was in the chair, a staunch supporter, a fanatical supporter of the present Government, and what did the resolution declare? It declared that "the Government proposals were calculated to delay, distract, and prevent just and righteous legislation on the matter, and merited hearty condemnation." Now, he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) said, and he said it deliberately, that this scheme for thwarting local opinion and for endowing decayed liquor sellers was a deliberately devised plan to hoodwink and rob the nation. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Ritchie) would have to answer that. He (sir Wilfrid Lawson) would give his proof. First of all, he would call the Prime Minister. What did Lord Salisbury say at Newport, a good while ago? He found it necessary when he got to Wales to talk about drink—everybody must talk about drink when they went to Wales. Talking about this Bill, for the Bill was on the stocks even then, Lord Salisbury said—One reason why the Local Authority would be a good authority to manage the licensing question is that if any unfair encroachment is made en the industry of the publicans or others, fair compensation undoubtedly must be given, and the Local Authority would have to provide that fair compensation, and I believe that the terror of having to provide that fair compensation would furnish no inconsiderable motive to induce it to be very chary of withdrawing such licencesThe noble Marquess would give the people an instrument with which to defend themselves, but tine them if they used it. That was statesmanlike was it not? When he read that scheme for hoodwinking the people, he said to himself—"Mr. James Lowther was not very far wrong when he said at York last winter that there was as much honour on the turf as there was in statesmanship." Now, he came again to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who was even more frank, if possible, than the Prime Minister. The noble Lord went to Sunderland, and made there a very remarkable speech, perhaps the most remarkable political speech of the Recess. He said—I have had great and peculiar opportunities of ascertaining what I may well believe to he 1421 the general prevailing tendency and disposition of the mind of the Tory Party in Parliament and in the country, and, though possibly here and there I may go a little beyond it, still I do not think I shall be very far out.He made a splendid speech in one sense. He made one of the grandest indictments against the liquor traffic he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had ever read, and he said—"Oh! I only wish I could speak like that at Alliance meetings." The noble Lord told his audience how a police magistrate told him—"That at least two-thirds of all the crime which came before him arose from the unrestrained sale of drink"—he was wrong there, because there was no unrestrained sale of drink—"what I may call the fatal facility of recourse to the public-house and the gin shop." It was that fatal facility they sanctioned by their legislation, and which the right hon. Gentleman was doing very much to perpetuate. He was told it was one of the finest spectacles ever seen. The platform from which the noble Lord spoke was filled with liquor people, and their faces were studies. He heard a rumour—he did not know whether it was true—that one man had a fit. The noble Tory Democrat was very severe on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who, he said, had voted for the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland, and yet had done nothing. He said there was no reason why—Legislation which affects the health, the lives, and the morals of millions of individuals in the country ought to be retarded or delayed on account of Constitutional organic changes in the relations between Ireland and Great Britain. But although Mr. Gladstone was vague, I will, with your permission, not be vague.There was laughter and cheers, and a few sentences further on the noble Lord said—But up to this point I am still vague, and you may say—'Would you give to the Local Authority power to prohibit totally all sorts of drink within their district?' Well, I would, and I would not—There was again laughter, and a cry—" Let's have it out"—In theory I would, and in practice I would not.There was more laughter and loud cheers from the licensed victuallers on the platform. Was there ever such a speech as that? It reminded him of the Yankee, who, when he was asked 1422 if he was in favour of the Maine Law, said—"Yes, I am in favour of the Maine Law, but I am agin its enforcement." The noble Lord went on to reveal the whole plot, and to throw a ray of light on the whole policy of the Government. He said—If you deal genuinely with the question, I do not think you could withhold from the Local Authority practically unlimited powers with regard to the drink question; but I would introduce two very salutary checks upon any impulsive or fanatic or harsh action, and they would be checks connected with the pocket.And his checks were the transferring of all licence revenue to Local Authorities, and compensation for vested interests. That was his scheme, a scheme of robbery and jobbery and bribery all round. Well, now the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had played a melancholy part. He had a grand opportunity, an opportunity such as seldom fell to the lot of a statesman. For generations his poorer fellow-countrymen had asked for this power of protection. He might have given it them; he might have made the question his own, and done what the Liberal Government, for some reason or other, had so far refrained from doing. He might have taken away a great political grievance. a grievance which was always troubling them in their political fights wherever they took place. He might have done that, and thus have made an everlasting name, and earned the gratitude of his fellow-countrymen. Instead of that, what had he done? The people had asked for bread, and he had given them a stone. Instead of taking the manly course of trusting his fellow-countrymen, he had preferred to be the humble instrument of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, the great apostle of sham. Instead of having done anything for the benefit of his fellow-countrymen, he would be known through history as the first man who in the British House of Commons attempted to legalize blackmail. He (Sir. Wilfrid Lawson) did not know whether this House would pass this scheme or not. Of course, it might be passed by the aid of recreant Radicals, who would vote for anything; but if it was passed, the Government should have the responsibility and the Government should have the shame. Al- 1423 though they might succeed now, if there be a spark of Liberalism left, the Liberal Party would never rest until it reversed a policy like that, a policy, in his opinion, never exceeded in the meanness of its conception, in the injustice of its scope, and in the cruelty of its bearing upon the struggling and industrious masses of this country.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCIHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
The House always listens with a considerable amount of pleasure to the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cocker-mouth Division of Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), because what he has to say is always spoken in a kindly and humorous way, and they believe thoroughly in his sincerity when advancing opinions on questions of this kind. I do not think the House will feel that the hon. Baronet on this occasion has greatly advanced the cause he advocates by the position which he has taken up upon this occasion. He has used very much the same arguments to which we have been accustomed now for a great many years; and it would seem that no proposal could possibly be made short of that which he has always advocated which is likely to be in any shape or form acceptable to him. I am, therefore, glad to think that in dealing with this question we have others to consider besides the hon. Baronet. All those who are advocates of temperance reform do not belong to the extreme school of which the hon. Baronet is the leader, and if we, in attempting to deal with this question, can hardly expect to be able to satisfy the hon. Baronet, we do hope that the proposals we are making with this measure connected with the Liquor Question—which are of a more advanced character than any proposals which have been made by any Government on the point—will be acceptable to the great body of reasonable men. After all, it is they whom we hope and desire to satisfy, and if we were to attempt to satisfy the hon. Baronet, I am sure we should have the great majority of reasonable men against us. I do not propose to enter at any great length into the arguments of the hon. Baronet. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) will, I have no doubt, be able to deal satisfactorily with the question raised by the 1424 hon. Baronet as far as its legal aspects are concerned; but there are one or two points to which I would briefly refer. The hon. Baronet has offered to extend to me the right hand of fellowship if I will only embrace the doctrines which he has propounded to-night. I have had enough of the right hand of fellowship from the hon. Baronet. He reminded me that with reference to a measure which I passed through the House dealing with off-licences he extended to me the right hand of fellowship. Where has it landed me? I dissent altogether from the hon. Baronet in his interpretation of the result of that legislation. But the hon. Baronet finds fault with the two main provisions of our measure with respect to licensing—our authority and compensation. He tells the House that it has more than once committed itself to Resolutions which he proposed embodying the doctrines which he preaches. It is hardly necessary for me to remind the House that although the House of Commons has passed on more than one occasion Resolutions on this subject initiated by the hon. Baronet, they have never passed any Resolution at all approaching to the proposals which he has so often made in the country. The hon. Baronet has said that nothing short of giving the people the power of voting whether or not the liquor traffic shall be carried on will be satisfactory to him; but he knows very well that, although he was able to obtain a majority in the House on more than one occasion for the Resolution he proposed, yet five out of six Members who spoke in favour of his Resolution, denounced the proposal he had made.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Yes, truly; they voted for an abstract proposition of temperance reform and of some kind of Local Option; but nearly every Member who spoke on that occasion—among others the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), who was at the time Home Secretary—entirely dissented from the principle of Local Option and from a Local Authority being elected ad hoc. His idea of the mode of proceeding on the liquor traffic was to entrust the Local Authorities properly elected for all local purposes, with the power of dealing 1425 with that question along with other questions. We also propose that those bodies shall be elected for all purposes—shall deal with that question along with other questions; but we take especial pains in the majority of elections of this Authority, to secure that those who are elected from the licensing division, shall have the practical decision of the question in their hands. The hon. Baronet said we had surrounded that question with safeguards; so it ought to be. The hon. Baronet objects to the safeguards, but he knows that we lay on the County Council the obligation of assenting to the proceedings of the Licensing Committee, except for certain reasons. Further than this it is impossible for us to go. The hon. Baronet objects also to paying compensation. He was very severe on those whom he called "the recreant Radicals," for their attitude on this question; but I do not know whether he will apply the same language to the right hon. Gentleman whom I am now about to quote on the subject of compensation. That right hon. Gentleman said—I should have been better pleased with the matter of the Resolution, if my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had included in it some reference to the principle of equitable compensation, I do not want my hon. Friend to commit himself upon that point, but I want a frank recognition of the principle that we are not to deny to publicans, as a class, the benefits of equal treatment, because we think their trade is at so many points in contact with, and even sometimes productive of, great public mischief. Considering the legislative title they have acquired, and the recognition of their position in the proceedings of this House for a long series of years, they ought not to be placed at a disadvantage on account of the particular impression we may entertain—in many cases but too justly—in relation to the mischiefs connected with the present licensing system." (3 Hansard,  363.)The speaker of those words was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), so that, although I would not attempt for a moment to quote to the hon. Baronet the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) in support of the theory of compensation, yet I think I may fairly and with reason quote his great Leader in support of the principle. But further than that, the hon. Baronet speaks about wringing this compensation out of the hard earnings of the poor. Now, what is the fact? We say to the licensed 1426 victuallers—"We undoubtedly place you in a position of greater advantage than you now occupy." Their position is that their interest in this matter is being constantly attacked by the hon. Baronet and those who are associated with him; and we say to the licensed victuallers—"Placing you, as we do, in a stronger position for resisting attack, we call on you to pay for the improved position that we have given you, and we provide for the raising of a sum from yourselves amounting to £300,000 a-year, out of which compensation may be paid." There never was a more fair or reasonable proposal on the subject put before this House; and whatever may be the views of the hon. Baronet and those who are associated with him, I believe that the proposals which we make in this Bill will commend themselves as reasonable proposals to reasonable men, and more than that we cannot undertake to do. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, in the course of his speech, asked us what we intended to do in regard to the licensing proposals; and he seemed to think, from words that had fallen from me, that the Government, having made these proposals, would rest content with having made them, and would not be desirous of unduly pressing them; and he asked what are the intentions of the Government in the matter. Well, the intentions of the Government are—as they ever have been—to ask the House to come to a decision on this point upon the basis which we have suggested. The Government intend to adhere to the Licensing Clauses of their Bill, and they will ask the House to come to a decision upon them; and in this, I believe, we shall be doing that which the large body of those who support us wish to have done. I am also happy to think that my hon. Friend the Member for North - West Manchester (Sir William Houldsworth)—who has long been known as one of the leaders of the Church of England Temperance Association—is satisfied that, on the whole, the basis of our proposal is a sound and equitable one, and one which he desires us to maintain. Now, passing away from the question of licensing, I have to say to the House that I feel it is somewhat unusual for a Minister in charge of a great Bill like this to rise to address the House upon it until towards 1427 the close of the debate; but there are many circumstances in connection with this debate which seem to suggest that it would be convenient for me on this occasion to depart somewhat from that course. In the first place, as the House is aware, there is more than one Amendment on the Paper, and it is impossible to know or to make sure that an Amendment may not at any time be moved to the second reading. If it were moved, then the debate must necessarily become somewhat restricted, and one could hardly enter into questions which one would desire to enter into, and which, indeed, it is necessary that one should enter into; and another reason is that there are one or two extremely important matters that have been dealt with in the course of the debate which I think it desirable that I should speak upon, and which only the Minister in charge of the Bill can adequately deal with. Before passing on to them, however, I desire to say one or two words in reference to the speech of my hon, Friend the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney). No one who heard that speech could fail to be greatly struck with its ability or to be filled with admiration at the eloquent manner in which my hon. Friend put his views before the House. And I must say that as he went on with his speech I felt more and more my great regret at being unable to adopt the plan that he advocated with so much earnestness, sincerity of conviction, and eloquence. I was very much struck with almost the last remark which he made, and which is really an answer to the whole case that he presented—namely, that public opinion was not sufficiently advanced to have justified us in introducing the proposal which he advocated into our Bill. That, I think, he must admit was an objection which is fatal to his whole scheme. But I will go further, and say that if we had proposed in our Bill such a scheme as that which he advocates, I am satisfied that the House of Commons would never have assented to it. The hon. Gentleman advanced much in support of his scheme; but surely every argument that he used was an argument in favour, not of its partial adoption by the authorities that we are about to institute, but in favour of its adoption in all elections throughout the country. The hon. Gentleman had 1428 an opportunity of making a similar appeal to the House of Commons when the last Reform Bill was passing through the House, and he met with no encouragement from the right hon. Gentleman, who was then the Leader of the House; and I am sure that he will expect from me what I am about to say—namely, that the encouragement that was then withheld from him must again be withheld by Her Majesty's present Advisers. I do not believe, whatever may be the merits of the scheme—and its merits are undoubted—I do not believe that the country is ripe for any such scheme; and I think that the hon. Gentleman himself knows that that is the case. He said that our single-member areas are objectionable, and he quoted the Bill which was passed through the House on the subject of medical relief as an argument against our plan. Now I want to ask him—Does he believe for a single moment that if the system of election, instead of being single-member seats, had been the old system, it would have made the smallest difference in the action or the opinions of the Members of this House, or would have in any degree altered the result that had taken place? [Mr. COURTNEY: Yes.] The hon. Gentleman says he does. I venture to say he is almost singular in this House in that belief. I would say for myself, in the most unqualified manner, that I do not believe the result would have been in any degree different if Parliament had been elected under the old rather than the proposed new system. The hon. Member insists on the advantage of three-member areas. I acknowledge that there are great advantages in this system, but there are also great disadvantages, and not the least of the latter is the enormous additional expense that would be involved in the Election. Many questions have been asked in the House of me as to what would be the probable expense of the elections under the Bill, and I have given such information as I had at hand; but there can be no doubt whatever that, both with reference to the individuals standing for election and the cost that would be placed on the rates, if we were to adopt the system which the hon. Gentleman advocates, the expense would be very largely increased. The hon. Member says that 1429 by our system we shall have great turmoil and excitement going on through-out the country at every election. Well, but would not that be greatly increased if we adopted his system—the three-member system—by which an election would take place every year; instead of having the turmoil throughout the country every third year, we should have it every year? [Mr. COURTNEY: No, no!] I understood the hon. Gentleman to argue that the three-member area of the Town Councils was greatly preferable to ours; and while, of course, arguing in support of his own proposal, he yet argued in support of that system, even without his proposal, in preference to ours. Surely, the hon. Gentleman did in the course of his argument deprecate the Council being changed every three years, and support the mode by which an annual election would take place. I understood him to say that he preferred a system by which one-third should retire every year in preference to ours. ("Hear, hear!") I find that I am confirmed in that impression by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Whatever my opinion nifty be of the greater merits of the system of one-third retiring every year, I never argued in favour of it. I do not consider that is worth much attention. My idea was that the whole Council should be elected, as proposed, every third year; that the elections should not be multiplied; but that when elected the councillors should be in batches.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I am perfectly well aware that the hon. Gentleman advocated that, and I am sorry if I misunderstood him; but I thought that he advocated as a better system than ours the present system of election to Town Councils which takes place each year. But I will say no more on that point. The hon. Gentleman made some remarks on selected members, and objection has been raised in more than one part of the House, but especially on the other side, to our proposal in this direction. A curious anomaly would exist if we did not adopt the provision of the Municipal Corporations Act with reference to this matter. We propose that certain large boroughs shall be counties in themselves; and if we had not adopted the system of selection, the large boroughs which will be made 1430 counties would have selected members in the Council while the Council for the county proper would not. I think the system of selection is a good system. It secures continuity, and enables a Council to select men who would not otherwise come forward—men of eminence who could bring to the Council special knowledge on many matters relating to Local Government. But whether good or bad, the answer has been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. We do not propose in this Bill to amend the Municipal Corporations Act, but to extend its provisions throughout the country, and in doing that we believe that we have taken the best course we could. I would say a word of warning here. This Bill is not put forward with any idea of remedying defects in the existing law. We propose to set up an authority, to transfer powers, and to make use of existing legislation; but if we attempted to remedy the defects which some people think exist in the laws which are on the Statute Book, and which relate to Local Government, I am certain we should never pass this Bill in one or in half-a-dozen Sessions. I would therefore appeal to those who are interested in the passage of this great Bill not to attempt to defeat it by proposing Amendments to existing laws. That can be done afterwards. All we do is to apply existing laws, and we ask the House to take those laws without Amendment, and at the same time without prejudice to what may occur in the future. When the Municipal Corporations Act was passed, so far as I remember, no single voice was raised against selected Councillors. The hon. Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall urged that more freedom should be given to the County Council in relation to the licence duties—more freedom for raising and lowering them. We quite feel the force of the arguments he used, but we find it impossible to meet those arguments. The licences taken out in one county are to run throughout the whole country. The liquor licence is only one of the licences, and curiously enough the hon. Gentleman has fixed upon that one licence in regard to which we do give power.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I was speaking of other modes of taxation besides licences. My speech would have been intolerably 1431 long if I had entered into detail throughout; but I may say now, that what I had in my mind as the tax to be handed over to the County Council, and to form the mainstay of county finance, was a greatly reformed and extended House Duty.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I understood the hon. Gentleman to refer to the whole of the duties which we transfer. We would gladly have given some amount of elasticity in the rise and fall of those duties, but it was impossible for us to do so, because it is essential that they should be the same throughout the whole country. The hon. Gentleman spoke about the scramble which would be made for indoor paupers. What is the inducement for a scramble? He is aware that a somewhat similar system to that proposed has been in operation in the Metropolis, but I do not know that the inducement of 4d. for indoor paupers is sufficiently great to make the authorities scramble to create indoor paupers. As long as the expenditure is greater there is no inducement for them to scramble by making indoor paupers to obtain a larger share of the grant than they otherwise would. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made a speech for which we are extremely grateful to him—[Ironical Cheers]—I do not know what those derisive cheers, especially from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) mean. I undertake to say, grateful as we are for the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has made in support of us, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield would be ten times more grateful for a speech from the right hon. Gentleman in support of himself and his friends. I say again, we are very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, because I know that there are some provisions of this Bill which he would desire to amend, but he sees that the principle is of such enormous importance that he is not disposed to sacrifice it. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the payment of school fees for non-pauper children. These fees are now paid by Boards of Guardians, and I agree with him that it is by no means 1432 desirable that the parents of these children should be brought into contact with the Poor Law administration. We shall, therefore, gladly adopt his suggestion that the powers given to Boards of Guardians in this direction should be transferred to the District Councils. With regard to parish administration, I quite agree that there should be some reform in these matters. There is plenty of scope for it. But that is a very different thing from the point taken up now as the great cardinal object of this Bill. Some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite desire to set up a parish council with considerable powers of authority to do—they do not know quite what. But they think that this parish cry is a very good cry. Some hon. Gentlemen say that unless the parish council is sot up the labourer will have no voice in the local government, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) said that the labourer in the rural districts should have the same powers of Local Government as the labourer in the towns. That is precisely what we propose to give him, and he surely does not demand more than that. We give the labourer the same individual power in the election as will be possessed by any other ratepayer, and to say that we give him nothing is absurd. We shall create, I believe, a new feeling of municipal life throughout the county districts by this Bill, and we propose to set up a body altogether apart from questions of Poor Law administration, in the election of which body the labourer will have a vote. I acknowledge that something should be done in reference to parish matters, but you must deal with parishes by way of consultation and division. We shrink from such an undertaking as is suggested, when the Local Government Board knows that again and again the strongest objections have been made to the alteration of parish boundaries. To have overloaded our Bill with the reform of this comparatively insignificant matter would have hampered the passage of the Bill too much. Besides, the County Councils are eminently qualified to deal with the matter; we preferred to leave it in the hands of County Authorities representing the people in the parishes; and we believe that the duty is one which they will 1433 willingly undertake. If it is imagined that we ought to set up anything like parish councils to do sanitary work, I say at once that that would be a retrograde step; it would not tend to good administration, but it would greatly retard it. In support of that opinion I have only to refer to the report of the Sanitary Commission who were appointed in 1869, to conduct a most exhaustive inquiry into the whole subject. In their report the Commissioners say—The powers under the Sewage Utilization Acts given to Vestries as sewer authorities have been productive of little but disappointment, and there is no reason to hope that new and amended powers will be more efficiently exercised than the old. To set up Vestries as authorities under the new Statute would involve a rare combination of inconvenience. For any practical purposes of administration they cannot be said to exist in very many places. To set them up would, therefore, be in effect, though not in name, the unnecessary constitution of a new authority, or the permanent establishment of one already condemned by experience. These objections, which appeared to us conclusive against Vestries, apply also to committees of Vestries.Although we do believe that there is a possibility of doing something to invigorate parish life with reference to small matters, we do not believe there is any prospect of setting up with advantage a parish Council charged with such important duties as the administration of sanitary matters. With reference to the police, a good deal has been said about dual control. I am sorry that our proposals are not such as to obtain the support of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, He says—You are giving the County Councils the powers possessed by municipal Bodies. Why do you withhold the power of managing the police? I do not think the analogy is quite as complete as the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is. In the first place, if we were to carry out the analogy, it would not be to the County Councils we should give the control of the police, but it would be to the District Councils. But out of 895 urban districts there are 828 with a population of of under 20,000, and if we were setting up Municipal Corporations in these districts we should not give them charge of the police. The law does not allow any place under 20,000 population to have the control of its own police. Then the right hon. Gentleman says—Why not give it to the County Council? He 1434 must be aware that the analogy is incomplete there. What is a borough? What is a county? A borough is a homogeneous area with a population long accustomed to municipal life; it is almost under the eye of those who are charged with its administration. A county is a very different thing; it is a mere aggregation of small areas; it has none of that homogeneity which exists in the borough, and which is so essential to the maintenance of the efficiency of a police force. Some hon. Members object to the proposal of a Joint Committee because they say friction will arise. But where is it likely to arise? I do not disguise the fact that, by giving the power of the appointment of the Chief Constable into the hands of Quarter Sessions, we practically give them the control of the police. But we say, with reference to the pay, clothing, and general administration of the police it is impossible for us logically to exclude the representatives of the ratepayers, who are charged with raising the funds, from a share in the administration. Therefore, we confer the administration of the police, other than the appointment of the Chief Constable, to the Joint Committee. What is to be the composition of the Joint Committee? One-half are to be Justices; the other is to be appointed by the Council, and is it likely that it will be composed altogether of those who will have no desire to support the Justices is the administration of the police? I cannot conceive that such a thing is at all likely to arise; nor do I believe there is the least likelihood of any friction. We value very highly the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and I thank him for the kind manner in which he spoke of my part in this matter. Although there are many things in this Bill which are not at first agreeable to those who have been so long and honourably associated with the management of county affairs, we are glad to see that the Justices throughout the country recognize that the Bill is a fair and reasonable Bill, and are prepared to take their part in the future administration of those affairs with which they are so familiar. I think that forms the best guarantee we can possibly desire that in the future the affairs of the counties will not be very differently managed from what they 1435 have been in the past. I am satisfied that the country gentlemen will have their influence not diminished, but increased, if they will only take the trouble to enlist the sympathy of the ratepayers themselves. One or two questions have been asked with reference to the franchise. We have proposed that the franchise shall be precisely the same as the municipal franchise, but suggestions have been made that there should be a combination of Parliamentary and municipal franchises, and I can only say that we shall gladly consider any suggestions which may be made in Committee for dealing with the ratepayers in some such way. I think it would probably be a more efficient register if some of the suggestions made are adopted, and it certainly would be simpler. Some very natural anxiety has been felt with regard to the effect of our financial proposals. I may allude shortly to the principle which we have adopted. First of all, there is the principle that grants in aid must cease. It is one which has met with universal assent. Then I think that our proposal to transfer certain licence duties is a proposal which has, on the whole, been acceptable. The question then arose—How should we deal with the duties we propose to give up? Should the proceeds of the duties which are raised in each county go to the revenue of the county, or should the amount be collected in one common purse and thence distributed? If we had adopted the latter system, the question would have at once arisen—Upon what system should they be distributed? No one would contend that the rateable value was the proper mode, because it would very often give to the district that least required it the largest amount of money. And population would not have been a desirable guide either, because the result would be to give large and prosperous communities like Manchester the largest share of the grant. In our opinion neither rateable value nor population was the proper basis. Then there is the proposal that the money should be distributed in exact proportion to the grants which we now receive. That, I think, would also be highly objectionable, because it would stereotype a condition of things which has never been regarded as embodying any principle of abstract justice. Any part of the country which had been specially extravagant in ad- 1436 ministration would get a larger share than the area which had been economical. We considered that obviously the best plan was to allow every county to have the licence duties collected within its own area. On the face of it every county has a claim to the taxation so raised. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) I think goes further, and contends that the towns should have what they collect. It seems to me that there are strong objections to that. The towns are, of course, the large collecting areas for the licence duties. Now, if we had adopted a system which allows boroughs to appropriate the revenue collected within their respective areas, what would have become of the taxation of the counties? We should have this ridiculous anomaly—namely, that the counties would have had to maintain the roads surrounding those towns, and would have derived hardly any benefit from the revenue collected for the maintenance of the roads within the boroughs, and, therefore, I hardly think that my right hon. Friend can contend that that is a proper mode of dealing with the question. With reference again to the Probate Duty, we were once more confronted with the problem of what was the most equitable mode of distribution; and here again the objection which I have already stated to distributing it according to rateable value or to population holds equally good. We considered that the best test of the needs of the locality was the test of indoor pauperism. I will just show to the House by two or three figures what would be the result of the three systems in some of our districts of London. Chelsea, according to population, would be entitled to £6,000, according to rateable value £7,000, and according to pauperism £15,000. St. Pancras, according to population, would be entitled to £16,000, rateable value £19,000, and pauperism £37,000. St. George's-in-the-East, my own constituency, and one of the poorest in London, would, according to population, be entitled to £3,268, rateable value £2,209, and pauperism £13,817. It will thus be seen that if we had taken population or rateable value instead of pauperism those localities upon which the greatest amount of burden devolves, and which are least able to bear that burden, would have got the smallest grant from the Probate Duty. I am satisfied, 1437 that, although there are many objections which may fairly be raised to the system we have adopted, it is unquestionably the best system that we know, and I should be glad if any better system can be suggested. Now there has been a great demand made upon us, and a very natural demand, for some statement in connection with finance as to how the different localities would have been affected. I will state what are the difficulties in our way. The areas not being those of the geographical counties at all, there is a difficulty in making any calculation as to the amount in relation to Probate Duty, but it is a difficulty which we might have got over by calculations connected with the overlapping areas. So far as the licence duties are concerned we can ascertain the amounts which are now collected, but with reference to the new licences we cannot calculate the amount at all. It must be evident that under the new system, when the interest of localities is so great, the collection of the licensing duties within their own areas would disclose a great amount of shifting with respect to these licensing duties. But, even if we were to get a good deal of the information which I have named, still more information is wanted; not only with reference to the counties, but to all the boroughs in the counties and all the urban and rural districts. It is, therefore, impossible for us to say how each district will be affected. Take the varying circumstances of the boroughs; you have the ordinary borough which contributes to county rates for all purposes, the Quarter Sessions boroughs, and the boroughs which contribute to some only or hardly any county purposes. Then there are overlapping areas, urban districts in two or three Unions, and Unions in two or three counties. All this shows the enormous difficulties we should get into if we attempted to place before the House the financial position of the various areas in the counties. The case of Wolverhampton is successfully solved, about which the right hon. Gentleman gave us some figures the other day. But those figures were singularly inaccurate, notwithstanding the fact that there were exceptional advantages connected with Wolverhampton. It is a Quarter Sessions borough, and in one Union only. There is the fact that the right hon. Gentleman 1438 has made inquiries on the spot, yet I shall prove before I sit down that the statistics of the right hon. Gentleman are singularly inaccurate. First of all, I must demur to certain of my right hon. Friend's assumptions. He compared the urban and rural rates, and said that the average county rate was 3d. and the average urban rate was 2s. 6d. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman must have been aware when he gave these comparisons that he was comparing two things which are quite dissimilar. He was comparing the county rate, which is only for general county purposes, and which includes neither highway rate nor sanitary rate, with the rate of 2s. 6d. in urban districts, which includes both. Therefore the right hon. Gentleman must admit that his comparison was fallacious.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I have taken the case of the borough ratepayers paying 2s. 6d. in the £, and contributing in that sum 1d. in the £ to the county, and I contend that the borough ratepayer gets no relief for his borough rate, but only for his contribution to the county.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I understood that he drew this conclusion. If we give relief to the county ratepayer and the urban ratepayer by a similar sum, the relief to the county ratepayer will be 1d. or 33 per cent, and in urban districts 1d. in 2s. 6d, or 3 per cent. I say it is perfectly evident that the comparison is fallacious, because the one includes many things which the other does not. There was another fallacy in the right hon. Gentleman's argument. He spoke about the increase of the urban and rural rates in 10 years, and said that this increase, exclusive of the Metropolis, had been £2,700,000 in the urban and only £1,200,000 in the rural districts. But there is a fundamental error in this statement; and if the right hon. Gentleman had gone further he would have seen that during the same time there had been 156 new urban areas carved out of rural areas, and that 114 urban areas had been enlarged. The natural result of that operation is evident. It involves great diminution of rural rates and a great increase of urban rates, and the right hon. Gentleman will admit that this comparison is entirely fallacious. The right hon. Gentleman also contended that of the £3,000,000 of this addi- 1439 tional grant in aid, if I may so call it, urban and rural districts ought to get relief to the extent of one-ninth of the total rates. I entirely demur to any such proposal. I consider it is unjust for two reasons. First, because of the vast difference between the purposes for which the rural and urban rates are levied. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that the great bulk of urban rates are spent for purposes which add greatly to the comfort, happiness, and wellbeing and health of the community, and that they not only greatly improve and add to the letting value of property in the towns, but add materially to the general prosperity of the towns. But none, or hardly any, of these advantages apply to rural rates. Hardly any of these things are caused with reference to the rural districts. Instead of adding to the value of the property, the rates often diminish the value of landed property. It is recognized, indeed, by the Legislature that land does not partake of the benefits of the money spent in this way nearly to the same extent as houses do, because it is enacted that lands shall not be assessed for more than one-fourth of the rateable value in towns. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is a direct and palpable premium on extravagance. He says—"The more you spend the more you shall have, and the more economical you have been the less you shall have." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton says that the licences in Wolverhampton produce £5,334; the Local taxes, £2,933; and that the Horse and Wheel taxes are estimated to produce £1,680; making a total of £9,947. To this he adds 20 per cent for additional licences, making a total of £11,000. The existing grants amount to £5,650; leaving a balance of £5,350, which will, he says, be paid to the county authority. Of the Probate grant he says Wolverhampton should receive £4,860; but that it will only receive £3,260, making an additional £1,600 which will be paid to the county. Adding this to the £5,350, he calculates that £7,000 of Wolverhampton taxation will be paid to the county. He also says that Wolverhampton will have to pay £2,000 additional taxation for main roads in the county, equal to a rate of 2d. in the pound. The right hon. Gentleman therefore calculates that £9,000 of Wol- 1440 verhampton taxation will be paid to the county, and he apparently considers that the only return which the borough will receive for this payment will be £400 for main roads, leaving a loss to Wolverhampton of £8,600. His claim is that, on the broad basis of receiving one-ninth of its local taxation, Wolverhampton's share of the Probate grant, transferred duties, and additional taxation, after payment of the existing grants, should be £5,700 over and above the £3,260 which he estimates that the borough will receive from the pauper grant of 4d. a-head per day for its indoor paupers. The total claim which he makes for Wolverhampton out of the Probate grant and licences, over and above the existing grants, is therefore £8,960. He also mentioned that the annual gain to Birmingham under the Bill, according to the estimate given in a local newspaper, would be about £40,000, and that, if this estimate were correct, Wolverhampton, in order to be in as good a position as Birmingham, ought to receive about one-sixth of this amount, which would be £6,666. According to our estimate the amount which Wolverhampton will receive over and above the existing grants will be made up of three items—first, 4d. a-head per day on indoor paupers, including boarded-out children—see Clauses 21 and 25 of the Bill; secondly, the share of the borough in the Exchequer contribution account of the county; and, thirdly, additional payments in respect of the main roads of the borough. The first of these items—namely, the 4d. a-day in respect of indoor paupers—we estimate at £4,336. This amount is arrived at as follows:—Mean number of indoor paupers, including boarded-out children, chargeable to the Wolverhampton Union for the year ended at Lady Day, 1888, 1,046; annual grant in respect of this number at 4d. per head per day, £6,363. This amount, divided between the borough and the Union in proportion to the rateable value at Lady Day, 1887, gives £4,336 to the borough. The second item—namely, the share of Wolverhampton from the Exchequer contribution account of the county, we estimate at £4,728, which is thus arrived at—Total Licence Duties and other taxes transferred to County Council, £104,251; 20 per cent additional licence 1441 duties on intoxicating liquors, £11,940; share of probate grant paid to County Council, £58,575; Wheel and Horse Taxes estimated to produce £26,000, making a total of £200,766. Deducting existing grants (including £8,386 in respect of main roads), £64,901, a balance of £135,865 is left. Of this sum the grant on indoor paupers in the borough and county will amount to £37,735, leaving a balance of £98,130. Out of this amount will have to be defrayed the cost of main roads in the county, £33,544, less the amount included above as paid from existing grants, £8,386—that is to say, less £25,158, leaving a balance of £72,972. Deducting the estimated cost of elections, £600, and sundries, £1,000, a surplus of £71,372 is left to be divided between the county and borough in proportion to rateable value. Taking the rateable value of the borough at £265,000 and that of the county at £4,000,000, the share of Wolverhampton in the £71,372 will be £4,728. Out of this sum the amount which the borough will have to contribute to the county on account of general county expenses—which, according to the latest Returns, was £1,186—will be applied for general county purposes, and the residue, estimated at £3,542, will be paid over to the Corporation. The third item which Wolverhampton will receive will be the additional payment in respect of main roads in the borough. This we estimate at £200. The total gain which we estimate that Wolverhampton will receive under the Bill will therefore be—(1) 4d. a-day for indoor paupers, £4,336; (2) share of borough in the Exchequer contribution account of the county, £4,728; (3) additional payments in respect of main roads, £200; making a total of £9,264, which is more by £304 than the £8,960 which the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton claims for the borough on the broad basis of receiving one-ninth of its local taxation, and £2,598 more than the amount which he estimates that the borough should receive if it were paid one-sixth of the £40,000, the amount estimated by a local paper as the gain to Birmingham under the Bill. I hope I may have further opportunities of dealing with several other points which are of great importance, and I am sure that I may appeal to the House not unduly to prolong this debate. There 1442 is no real conflict on the principle of the measure, and as for the desire of obtaining information in regard to the details of the Bill, there will be far better opportunities in Committee than in the course of any debate that can take place on the second reading. The measure which we have submitted to the House deals with a large and complicated matter, and though I know it does not meet the wishes of all, and leaves many matters to be settled in the future—although it does not profess to amend several of the laws which many people would like to see amended—yet, such as it is, it is the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government to pass it into law this Session. We are determined to leave nothing untried and to spare no sacrifice in order to effect this object. Her Majesty's Government feel that it would be disastrous if this question, after being raised as it has been, were left over for settlement to another Session, and they believe that though it is not a Bill that everyone may desire, yet that most unprejudiced persons will admit—what, indeed, has been largely admitted in the course of the present debate—that it is a great and valuable measure of enfranchisement, and a great and valuable measure in relief of local taxation. We acknowledge its incompleteness, but we say that this is inevitable, and we hope and trust that the House will give us every assistance in its power to pass the Bill into law. I am sure that the country will not regard with equanimity the efforts of those who may by indirect attacks endeavour to destroy it, or the efforts of so-called friends who may try to smother it by ill-advised assistance.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Caine,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow, at Two of the clock.