HC Deb 10 August 1888 vol 330 cc339-56

Amendments, as far as page 2, line 34, agreed to. (6.) The county council may from time to time appoint a member of the council to be vice-chairman, to hold office during the term of office of the chairman, and, subject to any rules made from time to time by the county council, anything authorised or required to be done by, to, or before the chairman may be done by, to, or before such vice-chairman,") —the next Amendment, read a second time.

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

asked what necessity there was for such an Amendment? The Chairman of the County Council had the power to appoint a deputy.


said, the Government were of the same opinion as the right hon. Gentleman, and they urged that view in the House of Lords. A noble Earl—he believed Earl Kimberley—insisted very strongly that it was extremely desirable to have it expressly enacted that there should be a Vice Chairman, and the Government consented.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments to page 11, line 41, after ("last,") insert ("published,") agreed to.

Line 41, at end insert— Or has before the passing of this Act been for not less than three years a medical officer or inspector of the Local Government Board, —the next Amendment, read a second time.


said, he had no objection to the Amendment; but he thought it was covered by the Amendment he had inserted at a former stage.


said, it had not been expressly included, and therefore it was thought desirable to put it right in the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)

, in opposing the Amendment which retained for the Corporation of London the right to appoint the Recorder of the City, said, when the Bill was in Committee in that House he had moved an Amendment which proposed to transfer the right of appointing the Recorder, the Common Serjeant, and the Judge of the City of London Court from the Corporation to the Crown. The Government had at first opposed the Amendment, but eventually they yielded, and the Amendment was carried nem. con.


said, that he had not assented to the Amendment. He had said "No" to it.


said, he did not doubt that one or two hon. Members had objected to the Amendment; but substantially there had been no opposition to it. There were two courses which were open to the Corporation in relation to his Amendment—they might either have accepted it in its entirety, or they might have opposed it. The Corporation, however, did not adopt either of those courses, but they adopted the rather ignominious policy of throwing over the Common Serjeant and the Judge of the City of Loudon Court in order to retain their right to appoint the Recorder. The House of Lords now asked Parliament to accept a divided responsibility which, in regard to an appointment of this kind, might be productive of the most disastrous results. The ground upon which the Lords' Amendment had been introduced was that the Recorder discharged duties other than those of a Law Officer; but, as a matter of fact, so did the Common Serjeant. He contended that the argument in favour of excepting the Recorder, which was based on the ground that he had certain functions to perform which were not judicial, was absurd. Great as was the disparity between the judicial functions of the Recorder and the non-judicial functions in 1837, when a Commission inquired into the subject, that disparity had become infinitely greater in the half-century which had passed since the Commission reported and condemned the method of appointing the Recorder by the Corporation. The Recorder would not be one whit less qualified to perform his non-judicial functions if he ceased to be elected by the Corporation. The other Recorders of the country were not elected by the Corporations whose officers they were, and they had also to perform duties which were non-judicial. He thought they had a right to complain of the conduct of the Government in this matter. Nearly a fortnight elapsed between the acceptance of his Amendment by the Government and the Report stage of the Bill. If the Government had changed their minds about the Recordership, it would have been more respectful to the House if they had proposed this Amendment on Report, rather than have left it to be inserted in the House of Lords. But scarcely a month ago the House abolished a scandal which, outside a select circle of the Corporation, had been looked upon as absolutely indefensible; and he now appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) to say whether he could now in honour draw back from the expressions he had formerly made use of when the question last came before the House?


said, that he did not think the House would agree with the opinion that the Government had in any way broken faith in this matter. What he wished to point out was that when the Bill was in Committee it was decided that, so for as particular officers of the Corporation were concerned, they should no longer be appointed by the Common Council, but be nominated by the Crown; and, although the Amendment was a considerable interference with the ancient privileges of the City, it was found to be impossible for the Government to defend the election of judicial officers by an elective Body. As far as he understood the decision of the House, therefore, it was to the effect that the appointment of judicial officers by an elective Body was not a thing which Parliament ought to continue to assent to. It was not proposed by this Amendment in any way to interfere with the decision then arrived at with reference to the Common Serjeant and the Commissioner of the City of London Court. The duties of the Commissioner were wholly judicial, and the Common Serjeant had so few administrative duties as to be almost entirely a judicial officer. But it was different with the Recorder. For centuries the occupant of that office had two distinct functions to perform, the one judicial and the other administrative. The Government did not propose, as far as the judicial functions were concerned, that the Recorder should be appointed by the Corporation; but would the House seriously say, with reference to the administrative part of the work discharged by the Recorder in the interests of the Corporation, that there was good reason why the power should be taken away from that Body of appointing a Corporation officer for work which was non-judicial in its character? It was said that the Recorders throughout the country were appointed by the Crown, but there was no instance in any part of the country where a Recorder had to perform administrative functions akin to those of the City Recorder. All the Lords' Amendment did was to confirm the decision at which the House had already arrived. They proposed to leave to the Corporation a right which they had exercised for many centuries of appointing a high officer, who was known by the name of Recorder, to discharge Municipal duties. He could not believe that the House would assent to the proposal of the hon. Member. He, therefore, asked the House to agree with the Lords' Amendment.

SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

in supporting the Motion to disagree with the Lords' Amendment, said, he admitted that they ought to care very little as to who elected the Recorder for the purpose of administrative duty, which, in his case, was very slight. The Recorder was the legal adviser of the Corporation of London; but so was the Recorder the legal adviser of every borough like Manchester and Liverpool. The Corporation of London was in a happier position than most other towns with respect to good advice for the purposes of administrative work. The Corporation had officials like the Town Clerk, the Remembrancer, the City Chamberlain, and certainly it could not be denied that it had better opportunities of obtaining advice for administrative purposes than any other borough in England. He would remind the House that the three elective Judges of the Corporation sat at the Central Criminal Court, which tried one-fourth of the indictable offences in England. In two years these three Judges had sentenced prisoners to upwards of 2,000 years' of penal servitude. In that way they certainly performed more onerous duties than the Judges of the High Court. Therefore, the House had wisely determined that the scandal of appointing Judges who might not be qualified for their office ought to be put an end to. If they appointed this officer for administrative purposes, practically the Amendment, if carried, would have the effect of appointing him for judicial purposes as well. The Recorder was put in the position by virtue of his Office of trying prisoners at the Central Criminal Court. If the Recorder did not sit, there was no other person to take his place. The Corporation elected the Recorder because he had to discharge administrative duties, but as soon as he was elected he was charged with onerous judicial functions. The Corporation might elect for administrative purposes and say—"What have we to do with judicial functions?" Therefore, they would leave with the Crown the responsibility of seeing whether the Recorder who had been chosen was a person fitted to exercise judicial functions. The man chosen, while otherwise eminent, might not be qualified for the discharge of judicial duties, and the Crown would have to say to the public and to the Corporation of London that such a man was unfit to be Recorder, and it must veto his appointment. What would then happen? The Corporation could only appoint one Recorder by Charter; it could not appoint a second Recorder, and thus the bad and discredited Recorder would remain in Office, although the Crown had vetoed his appointment as a judicial officer. Having assented to the principle that a judicial officer ought not to be elected, how could the Government justify such a state of things? He confessed that for himself, he would rather have the old system, faulty though it was, than the proposal contained in the Bill as it had been altered in the House of Lords. It was the duty of the House to take on itself the full responsibility in dealing with that matter with the object of securing that the man to be appointed to try prisoners, very many of whom did not belong to the City of London, should be appointed with the fullest knowledge of his judicial capabilities. He maintained that the Judge who was to try those persons ought to be appointed by the Crown like every other Judge in the country.

MR. FIRTH (Dundee)

said, he wished to point out that, although the Recorder of the City of London was elected by the Court of Aldermen, yet the Court of Common Council practically had the election of the Recorder in its hands, because it elected the Common Serjeant, who afterwards almost invariably became the Recorder. He hoped that the House would not now go back from its previous decision on that question. The duties of the Recorder outside his judicial functions were very few, and mostly social and ornamental. He had to present the Lord Mayor to the Judges, which he usually did with an excellent and interesting oration; but that ceremony could be equally well performed by the City Chamberlain. The principle had been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that the appointment of a judicial officer ought not to be left to the accidental decision of a Public Body, but should be made under the responsibility of the Crown itself; and he hoped that the Amendment of the Lords would not be accepted.


said, he thought that nothing could have been more unfortunate than the way in which the House had dealt with that matter when in Committee on the Bill. The Amendment then made in the Bill ought to have been made deliberately and with ample notice; but that was not the case, and the result was that a plan was laid down which was unworkable from a different point of view from that indicated by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). The House had taken away the right of the Corporation to appoint the Recorder, and had not provided any salary for that officer. There was no provision in the Bill securing to the Recorder any payment for his services, and in the Municipal Corporations Act it was thought necessary to provide that the power to appoint should be accompanied by an obligation to pay. The Town Clerk was not the legal adviser of the Corpo- ration, and the rejection of the Lords' Amendment would take away from the Corporation the power to have for important matters a legal adviser of their own selection. The Corporation had to entertain the potentates of the world, and had also to take part in important ceremonials, in which they ought to be represented by an officer of their own choosing. In the past the office had been filled by Lord Denman, Mr. Russell Gurney, and Mr. J. Stuart-Wortley, who had certainly conferred upon it more dignity than they received from it.

MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

said, he denied that there had been undue haste, for the subject had been fully discussed on adequate notice on the earlier stages of the Bill, and that the Corporation had plenty of officials to discharge all the ceremonial functions which were attached to the office. The Corporation could not save the office of Common Serjeant as well as that of Recorder, so they wanted to save the richer bit of patronage. He could not help thinking that the Government had gone away from their position.


said, what the Corporation asked was that they should be able to elect an officer of high legal eminence, to whom they could appeal on any important question. The House of Lords had granted that request, and he trusted the House of Commons would adopt the Amendment. He denied that the Common Serjeant succeeded the Recorder in due course, as was asserted by some. This was shown by the case of Mr. Stuart-Wortley, father of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State, who never was Common Serjeant. It would always be the object of the Corportion to elect a person on whose legal knowledge they could thoroughly depend.


said, he thought the quarrel was one of words; the matter was conceded, and the point at issue was one of form. He intended to vote for the Lords' Amendment. The Amendment was merely a concession to the sentiment of the Corporation. He maintained that the House had got all that it really wanted. The Crown would have the right to appoint the Common Serjeant in future, and as it was customary for the Common Serjeant to succeed to the position of Recorder in time, the object of hon. Members who were opponents of the Corporation, to have as Recorder a nominee of the Crown, would be attained. The Corporation would be sure to select a person capable of performing the very high judicial functions entrusted to the Recorder. It was but natural that the governing body of the greatest City of the Empire should desire to have a part in the appointment of an officer whose duty it was to act as their mouthpiece before the world. The object of many hon. Members opposite was clear. They wanted to do the Corporation an ill turn. They could not help their action; it was the outcome of their nature. Scratch a Radical and one found a tyrant.

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

said, what was desired by those who disapproved of the Lords' Amendment was that the highest judicial functionary of the City should be appointed by the responsible officers of the Crown, and not elected by any body of men, however competent, and however high their character for integrity and independence might stand. He would far sooner go back to the old state of things than create a sort of twin functionary—part administrative and part judicial. One point that had been made by the supporters of the Lords' Amendment was that, if a change were made in the mode of electing the Recorder, the funds which had hitherto been available for the payment of his salary would no longer be available. Those who used that argument seemed to be under the impression that the revenues of the City of London were the private property of the gentlemen forming the Corporation, whereas they were only trustees, like all other Municipal Corporations. The City was at present paying out of public funds the salary of a public official, and it must continue to do so. Another argument was that the Recorder had administrative as well as judicial functions to discharge. But in this respect his position was not exceptional, the position of the Recorder of any large town being almost identically the same. The clause as it had come down from the Lords was not workable. He would suggest that the Government should let the clause to which the House of Commons agreed, and which contained the great principle of the abolition of election of judicial functionaries, stand, and undertake next year to bring in a short Bill which, while duly conserving the rights of the Corporation in respect to its legal officers, would provide for the appointment by the Crown of judicial officers in the City.


said, he felt bound to deny that this would be an unworkable arrangement, and would ask on what ground it was alleged that the Bill with the proposed Amendment was not workable? The only way in which it could possibly become so was by the Corporation appointing men to the Recordership who were unfitted for the office, and whose appointment would be vetoed by the Crown. But the experience of the past showed that there was no ground for such an apprehension. During the present century the Corporation had appointed as Recorder Lord Denman, Mr. Stuart-Wortley, Mr. Russell Gurney—all men eminently qualified for the highest judicial office, and those who had watched the manner in which the present Recorder had done his work for the past 20 years must admit that he was a not unworthy successor to those men. The only way, then, in which it could be contended that this clause was not workable was for the House to shut its eyes to what had been done in the past. If the Corporation had in the past, and when wholly unfettered, selected fit and proper people, and shown by the choice they had made that they had regard to the importance of having really distinguished men to fill the office of Recorder, why should they cease to do so because their action was going to be approved by the Crown? He believed that under the Amendment the Coporation would exercise still greater caution in the future, and so far from this being an unworkable arrangement, he believed it would lead to greater efficiency and to an exercise of greater caution in making these appointments. As to the point of remuneration, the City had to give remuneration not only to a Recorder like the Recorder of Birmingham, but also to a Judge, so there was no parallel.


said, he thought the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General really amounted to an argument against any change whatever in the system under which judicial officers of the City of London had hitherto been appointed. The hon. and learned Attorney General argued that since the Corporation had made excellent appointments in the past, it should be allowed to make those appointments in the future, but this very clause and the decision of both Houses of Parliament were to the effect that the present arrangement should not be continued, and that appointments which involved the discharge of judicial duties should be made by the responsible Advisers of the Crown. What was to happen in the event of an appointment being made which the Crown would not approve? That was a point on which the hon. and learned Attorney General had not touched. It was quite evident that anyone appointed by the Crown and considered fit to discharge the judicial functions of the office would be well able to discharge what had been termed the administrative or ornamental duties, whereas the converse was by no means the case. There was ample machinery in the regulations of the Corporation to make such arrangements as they might think right with regard to the secondary duties of the office of Recorder. He did not believe the clause as it stood to be unworkable, and did not think the question of salary was a difficulty. It was true that the Corporation required as adviser an eminent lawyer; and since the judicial functions were the main and essential duties of the office, the appointment ought to rest with those who were competent to form a correct opinion on the ability to discharge such judicial functions; but who was the best judge in the matter, the Corporation or the responsible advisers of the Crown, in this case probably the Lord Chancellor? He submitted that the position was in no way altered from that in which it stood when the matter was decided in Committee, some weeks ago, after a prolonged debate. The decision of the Government had been distinct and emphatic.


said, he spoke in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green when it was under discussion in Committee, and would have voted for it had it gone to a Division. But he entirely agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for West Newing- ton (Mr. Radcliffe Cooke) that they had obtained in this Amendment practically all they had asked for. They had been challenged by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) to state exactly what it was they had demanded; well, he would tell the right hon. Gentleman. What was wanted by those on his side of the House, when the Bill was in Committee, was, that a person who might be called upon to execute important judicial functions should not as such be subjected to popular election. It was provided by the Lords' Amendment that the appointment to the office of Recorder should be made by the Corporation, so far as related to its functions as one of its consultative officers, but that if it was a question of his being appointed to the exercise of judicial functions, he must obtain his appointment from the responsible officers of the Crown. It had been asked by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir Charles Russell) what would happen if the Corporation appointed a person whom the Crown could not appoint to the exercise of judicial functions. He thought that the Corporation, knowing that if it became necessary for this officer to take up judicial functions he would have to go to the Crown for his appointment, would take good care not to appoint anyone who was not thoroughly qualified. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) had assured the House that he had no wish to inflict any humiliation on the ancient Corporation of the great City of London. Of course, he entirely accepted the assurance; but he could not help saying that some of the speeches on the other side seemed to be inspired by this unworthy motive. He (Sir Roper Lethbridge), at the time of the discussion in Committee, had warmly repudiated any intention of supporting such a policy, and as a fair and reasonable compromise had been arrived at in the Lords' Amendment, he hoped the House would accept it.

MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)

wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke) what would happen in case the Crown objected to confer judicial functions on a Recorder appointed by the Corporation? It seemed to him that such a state of things would, practically, cause a deadlock.


said, the question was an extremely unpractical one. He thought it was impossible that the case put should occur. If the clause were allowed to stand as the House of Lords had amended it, the practical result would be this—that, inasmuch as the Recorder would have no right to exercise judicial functions, unless his appointment was approved by the Crown, it would simply be an appointment by the Crown of a worthy person nominated by the Corporation of the City of London. There would be no difficulty in obtaining competent men to fill the Office under such conditions.

MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

said, he was certain that if the Government bad kept good faith with the House the discussion would not have taken place. No valid argument whatever had been adduced why the Lords' Amendment should be accepted. It was desired that, if the City Corporation was to remain an integral part of the government of London, the functions of its officers should be confined within the area of the City itself, just as at present they extended over a much wider area; but the Amendment would give to an officer of the Corporation important functions outside the City. He objected to the change being made in the Bill by the House of Lords after it bad been unanimously assented to by the House of Commons. He repeated that if the Government had stood by the Bill as it left the House of Commons, this long discussion need not have taken place. He hoped the House would not go back from the decision arrived at when the Bill was in Committee. It should be remembered that when the decision was come to, the House was very much larger than now, and therefore more accurately represented the prevailing feeling. To argue that the Recorder had not only to discharge his legal functions, but had also to entertain great personages, was to degrade his position. It was most unfair that when the Government had yielded the point in Committee in that House, they should have brought it up again, and, although the City might carry their Amendments, yet the inhabitants of London would notice that it would be done in a thin House, and after the City Remembrancer and other such officials had beaten up their recruits. The conduct of the City in the matter was another instance in which they would have to show that the existence of the Corporation of the City and the House of Lords, which had sent this Amendment down, would have to be called in question before long.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

said, he could understand an appointment made by the Crown, or one made by the Corporation; but he could not understand an arrangement by which the appointment would be placed between the two. It was like putting it between the proverbial two stools. He looked upon it as unworkable, unpractical, and illogical. He must, therefore, oppose the Amendment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 119; Noes 86: Majority 33.—(Div. List, No. 275.)

Page 40, line 30, after "1865," insert "and except for rating purposes the Eastern and Western Divisions of Suffolk," the next Amendment read a second time, and amended by leaving out the words "except for rating purposes."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment, as amended."—(Mr. Ritchie.)

COLONEL ANSTRUTHER (Suffolk, Woodbridge)

said, he objected to the whole of the Lords' Amendment. He objected to the division of the county, because it would detract from the dignity and importance which the Bill proposed to confer on the Council. The House had already decided that there should be one County Council, and of five Members for the county of Suffolk one only had declared himself in favour of the division. He (Colonel Anstruther) further objected to it on account of the absolutely unnecessary expense it threw on the ratepayers in the increased burden that would fall on the county rate, and because the proposal was contrary to at least the wishes and desires of three-fourths of the inhabitants of Suffolk.

SIR SAVILE CROSSLEY (Suffolk, Lowestoff)

said, he supported the opposition of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Anstruther) to the Amendment. He would point out that the ratepayers were utterly opposed to the extra burden proposed to be thrown on the county by establishing two County Councils instead of one. The Bill gave power to any county to divide itself if it wished. His noble Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Lord Francis Hervey) would do better to wait and submit his proposition to the County Council when it met at Ipswich. He could then take the decision of those who were interested in the county. He hoped the Government would support the original Amendment, and would not be deaf to the voices of three-fourths of the population of the county. He would appeal to the Government to say whether the object of the Bill—namely, to leave matters as much as possible in statu quo, would be attained as far as Suffolk was concerned, if the Lords' Amendment were agreed to.


said, it had been assumed that at least three-fourths of the population of the county of Suffolk were in favour of a united county. There were 356,000 persons in the county. Sixty thousand were in the county borough of Ipswich, which had elected to take itself out of the county, and he submitted that the population of Ipswich and the Members for Ipswich were not justified, after having availed themselves of the opportunity given by the Bill to remove themselves out of the county, afterwards to dictate in what way the county should be managed. One hundred and twenty thousand persons were in West Suffolk, and there was practical unanimity in their demand that the Government should not invade the ancient legal and chartered rights to which they had long been entitled, and they wanted to know why they should be so invaded? He was at a loss to understand, in those circumstances, how the proportion of three-fourths was arrived at. For 800 years the Western Division of Suffolk had never been incorporated with the Eastern Division, and by law at the present moment West Suffolk had secured to it financial, civil, and judicial independence. The proposed union was most distasteful to them, and they believed that it would be far from conducing to efficient management or economy. The proposed union was a case of seeking to bring grist to the Ipswich mill. He appealed to the House to support the Lords in that Amendment, making the two divi- sions of the county, as well as one making those of Sussex, except for rating purposes, respectively administrative counties, separately for the purposes of the Act, as being eminently righteous and eminently wise, and one which would greatly conduce to efficiency and economy in the management of county business.

MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

said, he also supported the Lords' Amendment. He would hope that what had fallen from his noble Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmund's (Lord Francis Hervey) would have weight with that House. Suffolk had a population of 400,000 and a coast line of 50 miles, and it would be very inconvenient to the inhabitants to have the whole of their business transacted at a place like Ipswich.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 54: Majority 68.—(Div. List, No. 276.)

Subsequent Amendments read a second time.

Page 66— (15.) The quorum of the council shall be one-fourth of the whole number of the council, and one-fourth shall, for the purposes of the section, be substituted for one-third in paragraph 10 of the second schedule of the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,"— the next Amendment.


said, he thought that this was an imprudent Amendment.


said, he feared that it would be specially so in the case of London.


said, he happened to be in the other House when the matter was under discussion, and it was urged that, looking at the difference between a county and a borough, there were good grounds for not making the quorum so large in a county as it was in a borough. It was much more easy to obtain the necessary quorum in a borough than it would be in a large county. There was no reason to anticipate that one-fourth of the members of a County Council would not be able to transact the necessary business in a manner that would be satisfactory to the county at large. The difference between one-third and one-fourth was not a large one. The change was not proposed by the Government, and it was assented to only in response to a good many appeals that were addressed to the Government in the other House. In the case of London, as the Council would number about 150, it could scarcely be said that one-fourth of that number would not be sufficient to transact the business.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments to page 68 agreed to.

Page 70. At the end of Sub-section (1) add— ("Moreover, all cheques for payment of moneys is sued in pursuance of such order shall be countersigned by the clerk of the council or by his deputy,") the next Amendment.


said, there was no provision for the appointment of the deputy by the Council, and so the deputy might be anybody appointed by the clerk.


said, he would propose to amend the Amendment by making it read "or a deputy approved by the council."

On the Motion of Mr. RITCHIE, Amendment amended, by leaving out the words "his deputy," and inserting the words "a deputy approved by the council."

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Several of the remaining Amendments amended, and agreed to. [Special Entries.]


Before we part with this Bill, I should like to take this opportunity to say a few words of a personal nature. It has fallen to my lot to be one of the most persistent and pertinacious opponents of the President of the Local Government Board during the progress of the Bill, and I think I should be failing in a public duty if I did not express my most hearty appreciation of the admirable manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has guided and directed the Bill through the House. A great deal depends upon the "engineering" of a Bill of this kind, which affects many conflicting interests and is concerned with many most complicated and difficult questions, and I do not think I am using the language of exaggerated eulogy when I say that no Minister of modern times has conducted a measure of such a character through the House with better temper, greater courtesy, and greater fairness, than the right hon. Gentleman has displayed. I hope I may also be allowed to refer to the way in which he has been assisted by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long). The marked ability and genial courtesy exhibited in these debates by the hon. Member for the Devizes Division of Wiltshire have raised him to a point in the estimation of the House of which any man would be proud. We are sometimes blamed in this House for not being able to carry on the Business of the country without indulging in a good deal of Party spirit and asperity. That is inseparable from our system of Party government; but, remembering that, it is very gratifying to be able to congratulate the House of Commons upon the fact that this, which is one of the greatest measures of modern times, has not met with bitter Party opposition in its passage through this Assembly. It is not a final measure—the right hon. Gentleman himself does not pretend that it is—but it is the first volume of a mighty work, and the foundation of a great edifice. I think I may say that this Bill has been discussed with as small a modicum of Party spirit as could possibly have been expected, having regard to the nature of the Bill; and I have to congratulate the President of the Local Government Board on the great and signal success that has attended him in passing this most important Bill through the House. I have also personally to thank him for the uniform courtesy, good temper, and fairness which he has shown.


said, he could hardly express his feelings at the extremely kind words which the right hon. Gentleman had used with reference to his conduct during the long and arduous task of passing this Bill. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman there was no Member of the House from whom he would value a compliment more than from himself. The right hon. Gentleman had stuck very closely indeed to the House while the Bill was under consideration, and he (Mr. Ritchie) hoped he might be permitted to say that, on many occasions, he had had to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the assistance he had rendered to him in the object he and the Government had in view in making this a real, workable, and satisfactory Bill. He (Mr. Ritchie) started at the outset with the view of, as far as possible, endeavouring to make this a Bill not so much of a Party, as of the House of Commons. He was gratified to think that from all sides and from all Parties in the House that desire had been realized. He was very glad the right hon. Gentleman, in the kindly references he bad made, had coupled his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) with his (Mr. Ritchie's) name. He was glad to have that opportunity of bearing his full testimony to the most valuable and able assistance which he had rendered him and his Colleagues in the Government in the conduct of the measure—and not only in its conduct in the House, but in the discussion and settlement of the details prior to the House becoming acquainted with them. He hoped he might also be permitted to bear his testimony to the admirable services to the country which had been rendered by all the officials of the Local Government Board. As the House must know, the Bill had not been prepared and carried without entailing enormous labours upon the permanent officials of the Local Government Board, and he desired to recognize to the full the admirable manner in which those duties had been discharged. He was sure all his Colleagues in the Cabinet would agree with him when he said that every man in the Local Government Board, from the highest to the lowest official, who had been engaged on the Bill, had acted in a manner which entitled them to the confidence and thanks of Parliament. He hoped he might be allowed to add one word as to the drafting of the Bill. Those who were acquainted with the enormous number of subjects dealt with in it must be aware of the vast responsibility which had fallen on the draftsman, and he thought that among the Civil servants to whom the House owed so much for their assistance in the preparation of the measure he might particularly refer to the experienced gentleman who had drafted it.