§ [TWENTY-FIRST NIGHT.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
, in moving, in page 4, after Clause 3, to insert the following Clause:—Where it appears to the Local Government Board that any powers, duties, or liabilities of any quarter sessions or justices, or any committee thereof, under any local Act are similar in character to the powers, duties, and liabilities transferred to county councils by this Act, the Board may, if they think fit, make a Provisional Order for transferring such powers, duties, and liabilities to the county council,said, the clause was intended to meet the case of liabilities incurred under Local Acts by the Quarter Sessions, and to transfer them to the County Councils. This, however, could only be done by a Provisional Order.
§ New Clause (Transfer of certain powers under local Acts,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the next clause was proposed in order to carry out the undertaking which he had given to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair). It required every medical officer of health to send to the County Council a copy of every periodical report of which a copy was required to be sent to the Local Government Board. It was as follows:—Page 13, after Clause 17, to insert—Every medical officer of health shall send to the county council a copy of every periodical report of which a copy is for the time being required by the regulations of the Local Government Board to be sent to the Board, and if a medical officer fails to send such copy, the county council 1647 may refuse to pay any contribution, which otherwise the council would in pursuance of this Act pay, towards the salary of such medical officer.If it appears to the county council from any such report that 'The Public Health Act, 1875,' has not been properly put in force within the district to which the report relates, or that any other matter affecting the public health of the district requires to be remedied, the council may cause a representation to be made to the Local Government Board on the matter.New Clause (Power of county council as to report of medical officer of health,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. RITCHIE
believed there was an Amendment to be moved in that direction by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Firth).
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had now to propose a new clause relating to the appointment of Commissioners. After Clause 61, insert the following Clause:—
- "(1.) For the purposes of this Act shall be appointed Commissioners.
- (2.) If a vacancy occurs in the office of any of the Commissioners by reason of death, resignation, incapacity, or otherwise, it shall be lawful for Her Majesty the Queen, under Her Royal Sign Manual, to appoint some other person to fill the vacancy, and so from time to time as often as occasion requires.
- (3.) The Commissioners may from time to time, with the assent of the Treasury as to number, appoint or employ such number of officers and persons as they may think necessary for the purpose of the execution of their duties under this Act, and may remove any officer or person so appointed or employed.
- (4.) There shall be paid to any officer or person appointed or employed under this section such salaries or other remuneration as the Treasury may assign, and that remuneration and all expenses of the Commissioners incurred with the sanction of the Treasury in the execution of this Act shall be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.
- (5.) On holding any inquiry for the purposes of this section, any Commissioner or officer of the Commissioners shall have the same powers as an
1648 inspector of the Local Government Board has on holding a local inquiry under 'The Public Health Act, 1875.'
- (6.) There shall be paid to the Commissioners by the councils of the counties and county boroughs whose financial relations are adjusted by the Commissioners in pursuance of this Act, such fees as the Treasury may fix as necessary for the payment of the costs of the Commissioners in relation to such adjustment, including a proper share of the salaries and remuneration of the officers and persons appointed or employed by such Commissioners, and such fees shall be paid into the Exchequer, and the amount so paid shall be included as part of the adjustment.
- (7.) The powers of the Commissioners shall, unless continued by Parliament, cease on the last day of December one thousand eight hundred and ninety."
§ New Clause—(Appointment of Commissioners,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)ߞbrought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
asked whether the Committee were not to have the names of the Commissioners?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had been in communication with certain gentlemen, but had not yet been able to complete the Commission. He had also been in communication upon the subject with right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. He would undertake to lay the names before the House on the Report.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On the Motion of Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER, the following Amendments made:—In line 25 of proposed new Clause, leave out "fees," and insert "amounts;" in line 26, leave out "the Commissioners in relation to;" in line 29, leave out "fees," and insert "amounts."
§ MR. MACLURE (Lancashire, S.E., Stretford)
moved, after line 30, to add the following Sub-sections to the new Clause:—(7.) The authority of the Commissioners shall extend to the settlement and the determination by them, on such terms and in such manner as they, in their absolute discretion, think most just and fit, of the matters referred to them, and also of all such matters and questions as are, in their judgment, incident thereto, or consequent thereon, to the end that their award or awards may effect a final settlement.(8.) Every award, order, and other instrument made by or proceeding from the Commissioners shall be binding and conclusive to and for all intents and purposes, and shall have the like effect 1649 as if it had been made by a judge of the High Court of Justice in England, and shall be acted on, obeyed, executed, and enforced by all sheriffs and other officers and persons accordingly. No such award, order, or other instrument shall be removable by any writ or process into any of Her Majesty's Courts, and the Commissioners' proceedings or acts shall not be liable to be interfered with or questioned by or in any court, or elsewhere, by way of mandamus, prohibition, injunction, or otherwise.(9.) The costs of and attending the inquiry and award shall be borne and paid by the parties out of the fund or rate applicable to their general expenses in such proportions as the Commissioners may direct, and the Commissioners may order the taxation of any costs in such manner as they may see fit.His object was to make the decision of the Commissioners final, in the same way that the decision of the Railway Commissioners was final.
§ Question proposed, "That those Subsections be there added."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was quite understood that the decision of the Commissioners was to be final, and therefore he would not object to the proposal of his hon. Friend.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
moved, in page 52, after Clause 62, to insert the following Clause:—Where the Local Government Board are required in pursuance of this Act to decide any difference or other matter referred to arbitration in pursuance of this Act, the provisions of 'The Regulation of Railways Act, 1868,' respecting arbitrations by the Board of Trade, and the enactments amending those provisions, shall apply as if they were herein re-enacted, and in terms made applicable to the Local Government Board and the decision of differences and matters under this Act.The object of the new clause was to enable the Local Government Board to do as the Board of Trade did—namely, when it referred a matter to arbitration to appoint its own arbitrators, whose decision would be final, without going through a good deal of the usual course of what he might call "red tape."
§ New Clause (Arbitration by Local Government Board,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.1650
§ MR. RITCHIE
moved, in page 62, after Clause 72, to insert the following Clause:—After the commencement of this Act, the Local Government Board shall exercise the powers conferred by Part V. of 'The Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,' relating to corporate property and liabilities, as respects the approval of loans and of the alienation of property, and other matters therein mentioned, and that Part shall, as respects any transactions commenced after the passing of this Act, be construed as if 'Local Government Board' were throughout that Part substituted for 'Treasury.'The object of the clause was to concentrate the powers with regard to the approval of loans and other obligations dealt with under the provisions of the Bill in the hands of the Local Government Board. At present, one authority was the Treasury and the other the Local Government Board. The Treasury was not very well adapted for fulfilling an office of this kind, because it had no staff of officers at its command to make the necessary inquiries. It was proposed by the new clause that the power given under the Bill should be exercised by the Local Government Board alone.
§ New Clause (Adaptation of Part V. of 45 & 46 Vic. c. 50, as to corporate property and liabilities,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
moved, in page 65, after Clause 76, to insert the following Clause:—
The new clause was simply to effect some technical alteralions in the Amendment of "The County Electors Act."
- "(1.) The provisions of section four of 'The County Electors Act, 1888,' with respect to the framing of the lists and register of voters in parts shall extend to parishes situate within a Parliamentary borough.
- (2.) In the provisions of section four of the said Act with respect to making out the lists of voters according to the order in which the qualifying premises appear in the rate book, the county authority shall mean the county council.
- (3.) For the purpose of the provisions of the Acts relating to the appointment of revising barristers, and of section nine of 'The County Electors Act, 1888,' the county of Surrey and such portion of the county of London as is situate south of the Thames, shall be deemed to be separate counties forming part of the south-eastern circuit; and such portion of the administrative county of London as is situate north of the Thames, shall be deemed to form part of the county of Middlesex; and that portion and also the county of Middlesex shall be deemed respectively to be a separate county on a circuit, but
1651 any sum payable by the London county council in respect of either of the said portions of the county shall be paid as for a general county purpose.
- (4.) The provisions of section eleven, with respect to the payment of the sums therein mentioned, shall apply to the payment of the said sums in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight in like manner as if a county authority had not been established under this Act.
- (5.) It is hereby declared that nothing in section twelve of 'The County Electors Act, 1888,' applies to any person occupying property within a borough.
- (6.) It shall be lawful for Her Majesty the Queen, by Order in Council, from time to time to alter the instructions, precepts, notices, and forms under the Registration of Electors Acts, in such manner as appears to Her Majesty necessary for carrying into effect this Act and 'The County Electors Act, 1888,' and any other Act for the time being in force amending or affecting the Acts mentioned in this sub-section, and the instructions, precepts, notices, and forms specified in any such Order in Council shall be observed, be valid in law, and clerks of the peace and town clerks and other officers shall act accordingly.
- (7.) The provisions of section six of the said Act, requiring the statement of the barrister for the purpose of an appeal to be made not less than four days before the first day of the Michaelmas sittings shall not apply in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he had experienced some difficulty in getting a copy of this Act, and had therefore been unable to refer to it. He wished to know whether Sub-section 5 was a matter of substance or merely of form. There was a provision put into the Act that the £10 householders should be enfranchised, which he thought might be effected by this clause.
§ MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)
wished to know whether in reference to Sub-section 3 any change was made in connection with the Metropolis.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that no change whatever was made, and there was no alteration in the substance of the County Electors Act.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he could not answer the question, but he would give an answer to him privately later on.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
moved, in page 77, after Clause 93, to insert the following Clause:—Nothing in this Act with respect to main roads shall alter the liability of any person or body of persons, corporate or unincorporate, not being a highway authority, to maintain and repair any road or part of a road.The clause was simply directed to the use of the roads by tramway companies, who had certain obligations in regard to the maintenance, which obligations it was not proposed to transfer to the County Council.
§ New Clause—(Saving as to liability for main roads,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question "That the Clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. RITCHIE
moved, in page 90, after Clause 113, to insert the following Clause:—The persons who at the passing of this Act are coroners for any district which becomes wholly or partly by virtue of this Act part of the county of London shall continue to act for such districts until otherwise directed as hereinafter mentioned, and while so continuing to act shall, as respects such part of their district as is within the county of London, be deemed to be coroners for the county of London, and the amount payable in respect of the salaries, fees, and expenses of such coroners, where the district is partly within and partly without the county of London, shall be apportioned between the counties in which such district is situate.In the case of any coroner's district being situate partly within and partly without the county of London, the county councils of the counties in which such district is situate shall arrange for the alteration in manner provided by law of the district, so that on the next avoidance of the office of coroner, or any earlier date fixed when the alteration is made, the coroners districts shall not be situate in more than one county.For the purposes of this Act respecting compensation, the coroners shall be deemed to be officers of the quarter sessions of the county for which they are coroners.1653 The clause made provision in regard to Coroners for Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent, whose districts were severed by the boundary line of the new County Council.
§ New Clause (As to existing coroners for Middlesex, Surrey and Kent,)—(Mr. Ritchie,)—(brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the clause be read a second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton. E.)
moved, in page 4, after Clause 3, insert the following Clause:—In respect of any rate made, assessed, and levied for the purposes and under the provisions of this Act, by the county council or by a district council, as hereinafter provided, the following enactments shall be made (that is to say):—1654 The Clause now proposed was of very great importance. He thought this was an appropriate occasion for raising the question whether the new rates which would be imposed under the Bill were to be wholly paid by, or were to fall partly on, the owners of property in the county, and partly on the occupiers. He was not wedded to one form of words more than another. His only object was to give effect to a desire which had been expressed on the part of the Committee to distribute the incidence of rating more equally. As the clause was drawn, he used the words of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) in his Bill of 1871, with slight alterations to suit the provisions of the present Bill. What he wanted to elicit was the feeling of the Government upon this most important question, and if, before the Report was brought up, they would look favourably on any other form of words which they might consider better adapted for dividing the rates between the owner and occupier, he should be perfectly satisfied. No stronger argument was ever laid before the House than that which was addressed to the House by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1871. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt on the extreme anomaly of allowing the owner of property to contract himself out of his liabilities in regard to local taxation, while he was not allowed to contract himself out of his liabilities in connection with Imperial taxation. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt on the fact that in the towns, and also in the country districts, new rates had fallen very heavily on the occupiers, and he drew special attention to the fact that in the Metropolis, and in large towns like Liverpool and Manchester, the improvements which had been carried out between 1860 and 1871 had absolutely been carried out at the expense of the tenants and ratepayers, and that the landlords had not contributed one shilling towards the outlay. Now, the words of the right hon. Gentleman, quoted from Hansard, were—
- (1.) Where the occupier of any rateable property who has paid any quarterly, half-yearly, or other instalment of such rate or rates, pays a rent in respect of the property on which such rate is made and assessed, he may, if the rent paid by him is not less than the rateable value of the property, deduct from such rent one-half of the sum which he has paid as rate; but, if the rent paid by him is less than the rateable value, be may deduct from each pound of the rent which he is liable to pay, one-half of the sum in the pound which he has paid as rate, and so on in proportion for any less sum than a pound;
- (2.) Where any person receiving rent in respect of any rateable property also pays a rent in respect of the same, he may deduct from the rent so paid by him a sum bearing such proportion to the amount of the rate deducted from the rent received by him, as the rent paid by him bears to the rent received by him;
- (3.) Where any person receiving rent in respect of any rateable property has agreed to pay rates, or is rated under 'The Poor Rate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869,' or Acts amending the said Act, he shall, for the purposes of the provisions of this Act, be deemed to be the occupier;
- (4.) Every person receiving, in respect of any rateable property, rent, from which a deduction has been made on account of rate, shall be deemed to be an owner for the purposes of this Act;
- (5.) Any contract made by an occupier after the passing of this Act, by virtue of which he is deprived of his right to make a deduction from his rent, which he would otherwise be entitled to make under this section, shall, so far as relates to such deduction, be void, both at law and in equity."It is generally inexpedient that the landlords should be allowed to contract with their tenants, that the local authorities should impose no taxation on them. With regard to imperial taxation, such a practice is not permitted… … Many great improvements in the Metropolis, Liverpool, Manchester, and other large towns have been 1655 made within the last 10 years exclusively at the cost of the occupiers without the landlords contributing a single shilling towards the expense.The right hon. Gentleman went on to use these remarkable words—The Government have decided that such an anomalous state of things shall no longer exist; and the provision rendering void any engagements, by which owners contract themselves out of the payments of local taxation, is embodied in this Bill."—(3 Hansard,  1134).If stronger words could be found to support the contention that the rates should be divided between owner and occupier, they would be found in the speech addressed to the House of Commons by the late Professor Fawcett, in 1875, speaking on the Public Works Loan Acts Amendment Bill. He would not detain the Committee by reading the whole passage; but he would merely quote a few words of it. Professor Fawcett said, in speaking of the improvements carried out under Lord Cross's Act—If, then, the occupiers had given to the municipality a property worth £800,000, the rates would be reduced; if the rates were reduced, rents would be raised; and it came to this—that the occupier of a house would be rated, in order to enable the owner ultimately to put the money into his own pocket in the form of increased rent. … There could be no doubt that if, for the sake of effecting any improvement, money was borrowed, and a new rate imposed to pay the principal and interest of the loan, every shilling of the rate would be paid by the occupiers as distinguished from the owners of farms, houses, and business premises."—(3 Hansard,  810–11.)It was difficult to imagine anything that involved greater infringement of the principle of financial justice. It seemed to him that the arguments addressed to the Committee the other night gave a conclusive answer to the apprehensions of hon. Members that the effect of the Bill would be to curtail the power of the County Council. They had cut down the limit of borrowing power to 1–20th part of what it was in the Bill as first introduced. They had also limited the period during which the public loans were to be paid off to 30 years, although his experience as a member of a Local Board justified him in supporting the assertion of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) that 40 years was not an unreasonable limit to apply. The question the Committee had to ask itself was this, was it quite right that when improve- 1656 ments were carried out, and contributed to the solid advantage of the county, and actually handed over considerable money value to the owners of property in the county, that the whole of the expense of such improvements should be, during the next 30 years, thrown upon the ratepayers? Of course, it was to be hoped that the tenants and occupiers might be able to recoup themselves for a portion of the outlay; but, on the other hand, when the rates were reduced the rents would be raised. There was one point which he desired to add to the arguments that had already been laid before the House which arose from the Amendment which had been moved by his hon. Friend (Mr. Hobhouse) in Clause 2, and which had been embodied in the Bill. It would be within the knowledge of the Committee that they had enabled persons to become qualified for seats upon the County Councils who were on the Parliamentary Register as freeholders. That was to say, that they had really made it possible for the whole of a County Council to be elected from among persons who need not necessarily be ratepayers. The Bill gave great borrowing powers, and those powers might be given to a Body which might actually be composed of gentlemen who were not ratepayers of the county. He thought that fact added considerably to the arguments advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1871. That surely was an additional argument why they ought to impose part of those burdens on the owners of property, who ought to have an interest in the rates, both directly and pecuniarily. There was to be a great extension of the principle of grants in aid, although the Government did not call them grants in aid. He referred to the transfer of licences, and of local taxation, which would relieve the county to a great extent. No doubt, some portion of the ratepayers would receive an advantage, but that was no argument whatever when they were discussing the question of justice. Suppose a man's rates amounted to £100, and they were reduced by the transfer of licences and local taxes to £60, in all probability £40 of those rates would go for new purposes and improvements, and £20 of that £40 might fairly represent the contribution to the permanent increase of the value of the landlord's property. How could the tenant be justly asked to pay that £20, when the 1657 remaining sum of £20 would cover the advantages he would reap during his tenancy from the improvements carried out? He would not detain the Committee further, but would move the clause as it stood on the Paper. He would only say that the clause was placed on the Order Book directly after the second reading of the Bill without the knowledge that his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr.Rathbone) had placed a similar Amendment on the Paper. The Amendment of his hon. Friend only applied to the first subsection, and provided that one-fourth of the rates should fall upon the owner of property instead of one-half. He had simply placed the clause on the Paper in order to elicit the opinion of the Government, and he hoped that expression of opinion would be frankly and clearly given, and that action would be taken now at a moment which was, perhaps, the greatest crisis that could occur in the present generation in dealing with the question of local taxation.
§ New Clause (Enactments with regard to levying of rates under the Act,)—(Mr. Channing,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would give him credit for having done his best to forward the progress of the Bill as much as possible. It was, however, most extraordinary and disappointing that the object of this clause was not embraced in the Bill as it was introduced by the Government. It was now 17 years ago—namely, in 1871, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that both justice and policy required that the owners should pay a certain portion of the taxes, and that—It was inexpedient that the landlords should be allowed to contract with the tenants that the local authorities should impose no taxation upon them.The right hon. Gentleman went on to show the great injustice which took place. Since the right hon. Gentleman had pointed this out, great improvements had been made at the expense of the tenants without the owners contributing one shil- 1658 ling. He showed that a division of rates would be a great boon to the occupiers, and that it was to the interest of the owners that they should be thus called upon to take an interest in taxation and in debt, for the latter of which they would be ultimately liable. The Government had now introduced a Bill in which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a boon of £3,000,000 in relief of local taxation. That ought to have taught every local government reformer to consider it as one of the prime principles of local government reform, and therefore it was extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should be a party, after the lapse of 17 years, to the introduction of a measure which attempted no remedy of the existing injustice. With this immense power in his hands, the right hon. Gentleman failed to carry out that which he had so clearly proved was only just to the poorer part of the community and in the interests of the richer. And what had happened since then? They all knew that the right hon. Gentleman had not changed his views on this subject. Since then they had been constantly imposing fresh burdens on the occupier—take, for instance, the heavy education rate—and yet this justice was still deferred. He thought that no system of local government would be thorough and complete or efficient without this provision. Anyone who looked into this matter, anyone who had taken an active part in the work of local government, knew how difficult it was to get the leisured and wealthy classes—the owners of property—to take their adequate and fair share in the work of local government. Why was this? Simply because they did not feel the direct impact of such taxation, its rise and fall. Those who felt it were the persons who looked after it, especially the tradesmen and the farmers who paid these rates directly. Often among the most vigilant guardians of local expenditure were the cottage owners. And why? Because under the Compounding Act they paid rates directly. What had happened since the right hon. Gentleman convinced them that this was just and expedient? The debt which he described as enormous at £30,000,000 had risen to about £140,000,000; and though for much of this they might have received valuable result, yet he did not hesitate to say that much of the proceeds of those loans had 1659 been more extravagantly and less efficiently expended than if they had been under the vigilant eye of those owners of property who would ultimately have to pay them. It was not mainly on the mere money ground that he was so earnest upon this question. It was because loose expenditure meant corruption, bad principle, bad workmanship, and demoralization of the people that he was so anxious that the leisured and wealthy classes should be brought to realize their duties, to realize their interests, to prove that there were some raison d'être for this class of society by taking their fair share in the duties and bearing their fair share of the taxation of the country. Even if they were unsuccessful in this Motion, he trusted that in the measure which was to complete the skeleton which this Bill had laid down, and to clothe it with flesh and blood next year, the Government would see their way to adopt this principle which had been accepted by Committees of the House of Commons both under Conservative and Liberal Governments as just and expedient; and that in their Bill of next year this principle of just taxation would be carried out. There would be, he was satisfied, no difficulty if such a boon was offered to the electors and ratepayers of this country in inducing both parties to carry out the old principles that taxation and representation should go together, and in choosing the Aldermen of our new Bodies by the votes of the owners of property. Even those who objected to selected Councillors would admit that choosing them in this way would be, even in their view, better than the method provided in the Bill, and would be willing to concede it in order to obtain so great a boon for the ratepayers of this country.
§ MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)
said, he rose for the purpose of supporting the Amendment of his hon. Friend. The question was one of immense importance to the Metropolis. It was an open secret that in the pigeon holes of his Office the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had found several Bills in which a provision of this kind was adopted. There was one, at any rate, which he must have discovered, embodying the local taxation of ground rents.
§ Mr. LAWSON
said, there had been a proposal of that nature to make deductions step by step from the occupier to the ground landlord. The Metropolis was now mapped out into great areas of private property. The rent rolls of the large estates were almost fabulous in amount. Many of them, such as the Portland estates, were falling in hand, and most of the leases were approaching termination. The property of the landlords, therefore, was growing larger year by year. In fact, the average leasehold in London was of very short duration. But the ground landlords, who were to receive the whole of the unexhausted improvements which had been effected by local expenditure, had not paid a penny towards the local rates, and had not borne a single pound of the local burdens. In London in 1885–86 the receipts from rates amounted to about £7,000,000 and the outstanding loans to £38,000,000. That showed the amount which the occupiers and the lessees had had to pay. Mr. Harrison, the well known solicitor, when examined before the Town Holdings Committee, was asked questions in reference to the incidence of taxation. He said he would take the case of certain settled estates—the Grosvenor estate for example, and the Portland estate. In those cases ground rents were created, and when the leases expired, large fines were to be paid. The ground landlord, however, did not contribute to any portion of the improvements that were taking place where public charges had been made for improving the property. The property had been settled during the whole of the time, and the landlord had been taking tithe. In point of fact, the improvements were paid for before the reversion fell in, and the interest of the ground landlord was immensely improved in the 30 years over which the outlay extended, so that the ground landlord got almost the whole of the benefits of the expenditure without contributing one farthing towards it. This condition of things, however, had not always been the case. Under the old Acts, by which improvement rates were levied, the ground landlord had sometimes to contribute as much as four times that of the tenant, and instances were given before the Town Holdings Committee to show the injustice of the present system so far as London was con- 1661 cerned. Mr. Harrison, speaking of the Charing Cross improvements, showed that the ground landlord got an increased ground rent in consequence of the improvements which had been carried out, and yet he escaped altogether the obligations of contributing one penny towards the expenditure. He wished the President of the Local Government Board to consider the hardship to a leaseholder who signed his contract some 21 years ago; the School Board rate was a total innovation, which had fallen on his shoulders since then. Last year that rate amounted to £1,917,000, with outstanding loans of more than £6,000,000. He granted that it was a civic duty to do something for the education of their fellow citizens, but he did not think that the burden should be imposed solely on the occupier and tenant. On the contrary, the ground landlord ought to contribute an equal part towards it. Let them take the case of the Thames Embankment. Many of the adjoining properties had been immensely increased in value, and yet that great improvement for the beautification and development of the Metropolis had been paid for by the tenants and lessees alone. A case had occurred in his own locality. The Railway Companies consented to make a voluntary contribution towards the extinction of local debts to which otherwise the ratepayers would have had to devote all the surplus of a conversion and consolidation scheme, but the ground landlords withheld their hands, and preferred to stand by the old condition of things. They were, therefore, asked to contribute to the expense, as the Railway Companies had voluntarily undertaken to do, but with one exception—namely, that of Lord Calthorpe, the ground landlords absolutely refused. He asked the President of the Local Government Board to take into his consideration the case of the London lessee, who before the Metropolitan Management Act could not have anticipated the School Board rate, the Fire Brigade rate, and the Main Drainage rate, and that during the currency of a lease there could be no re-adjustment. The right hon. Gentleman should also consider what those vast properties were bringing in. He must know very well that the ground landlord could afford to pay his fair share of the charges which fell upon the parish. He thought 1662 the right hon. Gentleman should now avail himself of the opportunity of making it obligatory upon the ground landlords to do something to alleviate the burdens of the lessees, by paying their fair share towards local taxation, considering how immensely their property had benefited by the expenditure of the working and occupying class. It was only fitting that the voice of the Metropolis should be heard upon this question, considering how greatly the ratepayers had suffered.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that no one could feel surprised that attention should he called to this matter just now. The question was one of extreme importance, and had always been recognized as such; but it had, also, been always recognized as one of extreme difficulty. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had dealt simply with one phase of the question—namely, that which affected the ground landlords. Of course, he knew quite well that there were other phases of the question independent of that of the ground landlords, and that they were sufficiently large to be dealt with by a separate Bill; indeed, it was perfectly impossible to settle it by means of the new clause in a Bill like that now before the Committee. The hon. Member had said that Bills dealing with the particular question of the division of rates between the owner and the occupier were to be found in the pigeon holes of the Office of the Local Government Board. He himself, however, had not been able to trace them, and he was afraid the pigeon-holes of the Local Government Board must have been cleared out with considerable care; if such Bills had been prepared in that Department, they must have been removed by their parents.
§ MR. RATHBONE
asked, if the right hon. Gentleman had never seen the provisions of the Bill of his Colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, the Bill of the Chancellor of the Exchequer did deal with the question of rates.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that Bill was not in the pigeon holes at all, but was made public, and what he was referring to was Bills that were said to be in the pigeon holes of the Local Government 1663 Board. A good deal had been said in reference to the action of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this matter, and he acknowledged that his right hon. Friend, in 1870, did give evidence of his falling in favour of the division of rates between the owner and occupier; that, however, was a feeling which was not by any means confined to hon. Gentlemen sitting on the other side of the House. There were large numbers of hon. Members sitting on that side of the House who would be only too glad if some measure could be introduced which would deal equitably with the question of dividing the rates between the owners and occupiers. But the difficulties of dealing with the question were enormous, and the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) would remember that the proposal of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the division of rates was contingent with the division of the representation also between the owners and the occupiers, and that, as the Committee would recognize, was an excessively difficult problem.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Then was he to understand that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be content to accept, along with the division of rates, something like an equivalent division of the representation?
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, that as the right hon. Gentleman asked that question, he might say that he believed that on his side of the House they would be willing to accept, as a condition of that boon, that the Aldermen should be chosen by the owners of property.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he failed to notice that any applauding cheers had greeted that statement from the other side of the House; although, no doubt, his hon. Friend would be perfectly willing to accept that proposal, in all probability he would be left in a small minority. For himself, he believed that nothing would have tended more to impede the progress of the Bill than for the Government to have embarked on the course they were invited by his hon. Friend to take, and to have made a proposal by which a certain section of the County Council should be elected by a particular class. He ventured to say that if he had made such a proposal, instead of standing there with the nume- 1664 rous clauses of this large Bill disposed of, they would probably have been compelled, long since, to abandon the Bill altogether. He was satisfied that nothing would have more retarded the progress of the Bill, and he thought his hon. Friend would acknowledge that the matter was one of the most extreme difficulty. Not only had the Government not asked the House to assent to the special representation of owners under the Bill, but in the measure itself there was not even a provision giving the owner a vote. The hon. Member who brought forward the Amendment said the case for the clause now under discussion was much strengthened. And why? Because they had allowed an owner, who was not resident, to be eligible for a seat in the County Council. That the hon. Member seemed to think would be an ample safeguard for the owners, and a sufficient equivalent for imposing on them the liability to contribute to the rates which the ratepayers alone would have an opportunity of dealing with by the representatives elected by them and not by the owners. All they said to the constituencies was that their choice of representatives should not be limited to resident ratepayers, but that they might select persons who were non-resident owners, and because they allowed such persons to be elected the hon. Gentleman said they had provided a sufficient safeguard. He maintained that a grosser act of injustice could not possibly be conceived than to say that the owner should not only not have special representation, but that he should not even have a vote, and yet that they would divide the rate between the owner and occupier. It was idle to say that the stipulation that the owner might become a member of the County Council was at all a ground for making the proposal. He would point out, also, in reference to this particular proposal, that it only really touched the fringe of a large question, because, if the proposal were accepted, they would be limited to an infinitessimal part of the rates to be levied, seeing that they were not dealing with the District Councils. To say that the county rate should be divided between the owner and occupier, and then not to deal with the other part of the rates, was almost trifling with this great and important question. The Government 1665 acknowledged the importance of the matter. He was sure that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer adhered to every word of the opinion he expressed in 1870; but the Government did not desire to complicate an already overweighted Bill by including in it a burning question of this kind, which could only be discussed and settled when they were dealing also with the question of representation. He submitted with confidence to the Committee that it was not a question that could be dealt with by an Amendment of this kind.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
thought that no one could deny the great importance of the special question raised by the hon. Member opposite. But he agreed with his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board that this was not the proper time to discuss the question. It was a great deal too large a question to discuss at the present moment. They were not prepared to go into all the various details of this very conflicting case, and he thought it would be most unwise to embark in a discussion which would not settle the question of rating, because the President of the Local Government Board had clearly laid down, when he made his statement on the second reading of the Bill, that the question of rating was not brought into the Bill, because it would have a tendency to overweight it. It would be very unwise to discuss it at the present moment, because there were so many other questions mixed up with it. He had ventured himself to suggest that the owners of property ought to have a right to vote for members of the County Council, and certainly they should have that right if they were to be called upon to contribute to the rating. Those who advocated that position were beaten on that occasion by a large majority, and they were told that they were merely a remnant of the old Tory Party, although, when it suited hon. Gentlemen opposite, they said taxation and representation ought to go together. At the same time, it could not be disputed that in regard to compound householders the landlord paid the rates in the villages, although he was not allowed to vote, and was not, therefore, allowed to have one word to say as to the expenditure of the money. He hoped the Government would not support the proposition that was now 1666 made. At the same time, the question of rating was one which at the proper time would deserve the consideration of the House; but he thought it ought to be approached with an unbiassed and an unprejudiced mind in connection with a Bill dealing with that question alone. He thought it would be unwise for the Committee to go further at present into the discussion of that important subject, and he hoped they would rest satisfied with the pledge which the right hon. Gentleman had given, that at the earliest opportunity a Bill would be brought in to settle that much vexed question.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, that if the speech of the right hon. Gentleman had conveyed the assurance that the Government recognized the enormous grievance which the Amendment proposed to remove, and had given something like a promise that the Government would apply to this exceedingly pressing question a prompt remedy, his hon. Friend would, undoubtedly, have withdrawn his Amendment, and hon. Members on that side of the House would have been much pleased to know that half-an-hour of the time of the House of Commons had been spent in such a fruitful way. But he did not gather that the right hon. Gentleman in any way recognized the enormous grievance which his hon. Friend's Amendment proposed, at any rate in part, to remedy. That grievance might be stated in three sentences. It had been stated often, and by no one more powerfully than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and no contradiction had ever been given to it. It consisted in this—that a great many years ago a bargain was made between the ground landlords and the tenants—he would take the case of London because he knew it best—by which certain sums of money were to be paid by the owners of the ground rents, and that the tenants should pay all the rates present and future. Now, since that bargain was made, an enormous local expenditure, which was not even dreamt of at the time, had taken place. Great sanitation works had been set on foot, all of which had been paid for by the tenants; while the tenants had also to bear the outlay and yearly charge in respect of the education of the people. But there was a much stronger case still, and that was the enormous expenditure for the amenity 1667 and beautification of the Metropolis. That vast expenditure was levied by a new Body, and it had all fallen upon the unfortunate tenants, while all the benefit went to the landlord. It was in consequence of that enormous expenditure that when the leases of the great properties in Belgravia and Mayfair fell in, they would be worth—he would not say half as much again as they were 100 years ago—but they would be worth half as much as they would have been if this expenditure from the rates had not taken place. Well, every penny of the expenditure had been borne by the tenants, and all the permanent advantage went to the landlords. He maintained that that grievance was as great a one as ever existed. What were the arguments which were used against the immediate removal of the grievance? The right hon. Gentleman told them that the Chancellor of the Exchequer held upon the question the views which he expressed 17 years ago. Having held those views for 17 years, he had hoped that his right hon. Friend would have taken the present opportunity for removing the grievance permanently. This Bill was not the only one before the House in which it could be dealt with. There was also a Bill for the complete re-arrangement of the Local Budget. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill proposed to do something to deal with the immense burden on the ratepayers of London. It was proposed to allot to them, as he thought, more than their due share of the Probate Duty, and it was proposed to levy a tax to which great exception was taken—namely, the Wheel Tax. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, had at his hand the source from which he ought to have drawn the relief for the London ratepayers. What was the first method they would naturally take in order to relieve the overburdened ratepayers? Why, surely to make the people who ought to pay the rates really pay them. The people from whom most ought to be expected in the way of rates, and from whom they got nothing, were the ground landlords. Before they imposed any new taxation or transferred any old taxation for the benefit of the burdened ratepayer, the first thing they ought to do was to make those people pay the rates 1668 who ought to pay them, and did not. The argument relied upon by the right hon. Gentleman in opposing the Amendment was that it would be necessary to introduce provisions to give extra representation to the landlords. Now, he frankly owned that he did not see any necessity for that; and, in support of that opposition, he would rely upon the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who told the Committee quite plainly, in the debate upon an Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), that the owners were sufficiently represented by the residential suffrage. He must say that he quite agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He thought he had placed before the Committee an argument to prove that there was an immense and an unredressed wrong. The Government might redress this immense wrong with the greatest case; and, so far from impeding the Bill, he believed it would have been sent through even quicker than it was now going. The ground landlords might have friends in other respects, but they had none to enable them to keep their enormous and indefensible privilege. As no satisfactory answer had been given by the Government to the Amendment, all those who were in favour of it would feel compelled to go to a Division in order to record their firm opinion that the House of Commons was bound to remedy an injustice which had been pointed out, at once, or, at any rate, as soon as possible.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, that the course which had been often pursued was to allude to a quarter or one-third of the proposals which he had made 17 years ago, without alluding to the other two-thirds or three-fourths of those proposals. The right hon. Gentleman, who wished to pin him to a portion of the proposals without even reminding the Committee of the other portion, had omitted to state that it was of the essence of his proposals that the owners should be represented in virtue of a division of the rates. He was in perfect sympathy with his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone). He valued the division of rates, not merely for the sake of relieving the grievances of the ratepayers, but for the 1669 set purpose of giving the owners of land a direct and more powerful influence in local administration. That was the essence of the whole matter 17 years ago. It was thought then, and thought rightly, that the owners already paid a considerable portion of the rates, but that they were not so directly represented as they would be if they paid half; and it was assumed that that would give them a locus standi for representation, which otherwise they would not obtain. For his own part, he thought it would be out of the question to propose to the House a division of the rates, unless it was accompanied by some further rearrangement in regard to the representation of the owners. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the gigantic grievances of the occupiers of London. Not many weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), asserted that, practically, they were giving no relief to the occupiers at all, because it was the owners who were, as a matter of fact, paying the rates. On the other hand, the Government had always asserted that the relief they were giving to local taxation was given, to a great extent, to the occupiers. Now came the right hon. Gentleman opposite and contended, in strong and urgent tones, that it was practically the occupiers who were bearing the burdens of local taxation, and that he wished to relieve them by putting half the taxation upon the owners. For himself, he took precisely the same attitude as to the division of rates which he had taken before. He thought that the division of rates was a proposal which, carried out in the way suggested before, would not only relieve the occupiers to a certain extent of the growing rates—not of the actual rates—but would also give the owners a distinct locus standi with regard to the administration of local affairs. He agreed with the President of the Local Government Board that it would be impossible to introduce such a provision into the Bill at the present stage. Then the right hon. Gentleman opposite wished to relieve these gigantic grievances in London on the lines which were suggested 17 years ago; but the right hon. Gentleman forgot that in that Bill contracts were respected, and that it was distinctly laid down that this division was to 1670 be in regard to future rates. He did not think it would be right to interfere with old contracts. No doubt the question of ground rents was one of extreme difficulty and complexity. He remembered that when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was heckled in Scotland upon the question of ground rents, he was unable to give any answer about taxation relating to ground rents, saying that it was a matter of extreme intricacy. The question of ground rents was being examined by the Committee appointed to deal with the question of town holdings. He did think it would be rather unfortunate at this stage of the Bill, when the whole Bill had been constructed on the basis of the rates being paid by the occupier, that the Committee should come to the decision that the rates were now to be paid by owner and occupier. The adoption of the clause would involve very considerable reconstruction of the Bill; and, therefore, he hoped hon. Members would not think it necessary to assert this principle at this moment. It was a question which in some respects would certainly have to be examined in the future, but it would be most inequitable to interfere with it now.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, there were two questions involved in this matter; one was the question whether the moment was opportune and appropriate to the object, and the other was the question of policy involved in the discussion raised by his hon. Friend (Mr. Channing). The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) had made a considerable contribution to the discussion; the right hon. Gentleman had given them a tolerably clear indication of his view on the subject. He had told them that his views remained unchanged, and that they were identical with the views he entertained more than 17 years ago. First of all, the right hon. Gentleman had told them that he was of opinion that the rates should be divided between owner and occupier, subject, of course, to the question of what was fair in regard to existing contracts; and that, in the second place, he was of opinion that if that could be done, it could only be done by according the owners some special representation on the representative Body that was to have control of the rates. He (Mr. 1671 Stansfeld) did not know before that the two points were inseparable in the right hon. Gentleman's mind—namely, that he was strongly in favour of a division of rates between owner and occupier, and that he was strongly in favour of representation of the owners upon local rating authorities. The question he had to put to the right hon. Gentleman was not whether the change could be made now, when they had constructed the Bill otherwise, when they had made the occupier alone the person to pay the rates, but was, why did he not bring his opinions to bear upon the construction of the Bill before it was laid on the Table of the House? Upon that subject the Committee had received no information. They knew the circumstances in which the right hon. Gentleman was placed; they knew his position in the Government; they knew the influence he exercised in the Government.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had endeavoured to explain the enormous difficulties which would be brought about by any proposal to carry out the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and how impossible it was to deal with them in such a Bill as this.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that the right hon. Gentleman's interruption amounted to this—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer maintained the views which he thought not only right but practicable 17 years ago, but had yielded to the opinions of his Colleagues, and had not insisted upon them.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he was not sure that what could be done 17 years ago could be done now. [An ironical cheer.] The cheer showed what he meant. The proposals which could have been carried 17 years ago might not be right now.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he had not the slightest disposition to be at all unfair. All he wanted was to understand the right hon. Gentleman, and he would interpret what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had now said by saying that if the right hon. Gentleman had believed it had been possible to secure direct representation of owners he would have insisted upon a division of the rates. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to mean that if he could have hoped that the House of Commons would have agreed with him upon both 1672 the points he would have pressed his views upon his Colleagues.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that this was not a matter which could be dealt with in the form of a conversation across the Table. Unless he were to make a long speech he could not explain precisely the views he entertained upon the subject; and when he was speaking just now, in reply to the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division (Sir George Trevelyan), he endeavoured to compress his remarks as much as possible.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he would address himself to the question whether it was necessary, in the interests of justice, if the rates were divided between the owner and occupier, that there should also be special representation of owners upon the rating authority. His position was that such a representation was unnecessary in point of justice, nor would it be of any avail. In that House there was no special direct representation of owners, and yet they dealt with every law affecting property, and no one would pretend to construct that House upon such a basis as that. In the second place, in his opinion, owners of property, the very class who had been ruling in the counties hitherto, had nothing whatsoever to fear from this Bill. There was naturally a property qualification in their favour, which undoubtedly would be of great influence and effect. It was not likely that they would have a rush of democratic people to become members of County Councils. Such people had not the means; they had not the leisure; they had hardly the knowledge or desire; and he had no doubt whatever that the County Councils of the future would be very Conservative in character and constitution; that very largely the people would be represented, not by those who came from the masses of the people, but from the class who had hitherto been magistrates and who owned the land. He did not believe that a special representation would be of any value, and he thought so when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer originally introduced his scheme. If they applied their principle at all, they must apply it to districts as well as to counties, and if they applied it to districts they could not get a constituency out of landowners. If they tried to get 1673 a constituency they would have to take in the 40s. freeholder. The original conception was a foolish plan, for it was not based on any actual conception of the realities of life. What landowners and the wealthy classes had to rely upon were not schemes and contrivances of this description, but their means, and leisure, and readiness to devote themselves to the public service. The country gentlemen of England had given a great deal of their time to the public service, and the administration of the past had never been impugned from that point of view. He believed that the country gentlemen would occupy influential positions in the County Councils. He admitted that with this clause alone it would be impracticable to carry out the views he and his hon. Friends held, and which they desired to impress upon the Committee. He thought there was much in the argument that the moment from that point of view was not the most fitting; that it would be difficult to carry out what was desired; and he admitted, therefore, that the President of the Local Government Board was perfectly justified in saying, whether he agreed with them or differed from them on the general question, that there were difficulties in the way which made it impossible for him to consent to what they proposed. But that was no reason why they should not exercise their right of recording their votes in favour of the principle involved in this clause. In voting they would do so, looking forward to a future and more appropriate time when they might be able to address themselves to the question with a greater hope of success. On the Opposition side of the House one of the two propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer found almost universal acceptance, and that was the justice of dividing the rates between the owner and the occupier. He knew that, on the other hand, they were unanimous in disagreeing with the right hon. Gentleman upon his second proposition, and that was that there should be special representation of owners. They disagreed with him on that point, because they did not hold such representation to be just, necessary, or equitable. They disagreed with it, because they did not think it would be of any avail, and because they felt that they could trust the people as represented on the 1674 County Council as they could trust them in this House. He desired to make a very few remarks in reference to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone). They all knew that no man had a greater right—perhaps no man had so great a right—to address the Committee on this subject as the hon. Gentleman; but his hon. Friend's main view upon this subject had always been what he (Mr. Stansfeld) might call an administrative view. The hon. Gentleman's desire for a direct representation of the landlord class was not based so much upon the notion that it was just to them to give them representation if the rates were divided, as upon the much broader and more fundamental conception which was part of his whole theory—namely, that he wanted to have the leisured, and the educated, and the wealthy classes actively brought into the local administration of the country, not for their own sakes, not that they might avoid payment of rates, but that they might improve the local administration of the country at large. That was an admirable object, but he did not agree with his hon. Friend in thinking that his was the best or the necessary way of accomplishing it. He had great faith that the leisured and the wealthy classes of the country would continue to take an active interest, and to play the part they had hitherto played, in the affairs of the different localities. He had no fear upon that subject, and, therefore, he should have no hesitation or difficulty in voting for the clause of his hon. Friend (Mr. Channing).
§ MR. C. W. GRAY (Essex, Maldon)
said, that if this clause was carried to a Division he should certainly vote against it, not because he disagreed with the principle of some just division of the rates as between owner and occupier—most decidedly not—but because he thought that when the question was settled it should be settled in a much more thorough form than it could possibly be by a mere clause in a Bill like the present. Hon. Members opposite had debated the clause as though it were of primary interest to the Metropolitan ratepayers; he, however, assured hon. Members this was a question which equally interested the ratepayers of rural districts. Over and over again at Chambers of Agriculture and other 1675 agricultural associations the question of the division of rates between owner and occupier had been discussed, and he must frankly say that he considered that the party in the country who had advocated some fair division in this way had generally proved their case. It struck him that there was, some years ago, a favourable opportunity for introducing and carrying a Bill dealing with the question. When the School Board rate was instituted the importance of the question was felt, and then would have been the time to have dealt with the subject. His knowledge as to what the Chambers of Agriculture had been doing in connection with this question was this—that, although this Bill had been discussed over and over again from beginning to end, and expressions of opinion given upon it by various Chambers of Agriculture and other agricultural associations, there had been nothing said or done to show that it was the wish of the members of those associations to have this great question embodied in the Bill. It had been shown, he thought, that, however necessary it might be to go into this question at a suitable time, this was not the occasion, and for that reason he should vote against the clause, although, as he had said, there was, in his opinion, a great deal in the principle of the division of rates.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
thought that the hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex (Mr. C. W. Gray) had put himself on the horns of a dilemma, for he had wound up one of his usual semi-democratic speeches by telling the Committee that he intended to give a good solid Tory vote. If the hon. Gentleman had intended to come to that decision, he should have ended his speech before alluding to the School Board rate. If it were an opportune moment to have settled this principle at the time when the School Boards were created, and the new rate was brought into existence, was it not a more opportune moment now that they were changing the whole of their machinery, when they were giving over to the people of the counties a power they had been told by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must necessarily tend to increase the local charges? It seemed to him that the hon. Member for the 1676 Maldon Division of Essex had made out by far the strongest case that had been made out during the debate for the adoption of the very principle he himself was going to vote against. When they advocated reforms they were always met by one argument on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Hon. Gentlemen said—"We admit what you wish to do is of the utmost value, but the time is not opportune." They argued now that it would be a very great misfortune to attempt to embody this principle in the Bill now under consideration. What was wanted was something more serious than that; he and his hon. Friends intended, if possible, to make the Bill of still more value than it was. Personally, he should have thought that this would have been one of the main propositions of a Bill creating a new system of local government. He could not understand the argument of the right hon. Gentleman meant to say that we had gone back instead of going forward during the last 17 years. The right hon. Gentleman said that what was practicable 17 years ago might not be practicable to-day; did the right hon. Gentleman think that they had gone back? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that what might have been a fair compromise 17 years ago could not be considered a fair compromise to-day; but some hon. Gentlemen wanted to go a little further than they would have done at that time. Many hon. Members had taken refuge in the idea that the moment they made an owner pay something towards the local charges they must give him separate representation. The old property qualification was really at the bottom of this—certainly the tendency of modern times had been to get rid of property qualifications and to give residential qualifications to persons. They did not give a man a vote or an extra amount of political power because he happened to pay the Income Tax; they inflicted the Income Tax just as they required it; they did not hesitate to put an extra penny in the pound upon the Income Tax; and nobody who paid Income Tax upon a greater amount than most other people argued that he ought to have some extra political power because he had a greater interest in the way the money was spent. He (Mr. J. Rowlands) 1677 contended that in respect to local charges they had no more right to give to the owner an extra amount of governing control than they had to give it to the Income Tax payer as such. He understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that owners now paid some local charges. He would like to know what those charges were? He had sat on the Committee on Town Holdings, and he had heard the statement made over and over again by agents of ground landlords. He admitted that when pressed on the question they had said—"It is true the ground landlord does not pay the rates directly, but he pays indirectly. If he had to pay them directly, he would not get the same rental as he does at the present time." Let him give a typical case of a Metropolitan ground landlord. The Committee on Town Holdings had before them Mr. Dunn, the London agent of the Duke of Norfolk. From Mr. Dunn they learned that for the houses in Norfolk Street and streets adjoining it in the neighbourhood of the Strand, which originally fetched £90 a-year, the tenants were now required to pay £265 per annum. He asked whether the landlords paid directly or indirectly towards the rates? What more rent could they get out of the people? They got the highest rents they possibly could, and he contended that they did not, directly or indirectly, contribute towards the rates. Mr. Dunn was pressed to say what had caused increased value. He was asked, was it the development of London; was it that the tenants had made a goodwill; or was it a very large Metropolitan improvement for which the ratepayers had had to pay immense sums of money—namely, the Thames Embankment, which had caused the value of that property to go up hundreds per cent? Unfortunately, the agent did not know the property before the Thames Embankment was constructed. He (Mr. J. Rowlands), however, as a born Londoner, knew the district well, and he knew that the rental of the houses in the streets abutting on the Thames Embankment had gone up enormously, not because the ground landlords had done anything, not on account of the business position of the street, but because by the construction of the Thames Embankment the neighbourhood had been beautified, and the houses vastly improved from a sanitary point of view. 1678 The capitalized value of the property had enormously increased since the Embankment was made, and he asked any hon. Member of the Committee to point to one farthing which the ground landlords had paid towards that improvement. It had caused an increase of the rent from £90 to £265 per house; but that was not the way to demonstrate to the Committee that the ground landlords had made increased contributions towards local charges. This question was discussed from a London standpoint because the case was thereby presented in a more concrete form than it was in some rural districts. Hon. Members might say—"Oh, it is necessary for the ground landlord to make this extraordinary extra charge, or he would not recoup himself for the deferred profit." Did hon. Gentlemen know how long these houses in Norfolk Street had been built? He had it on the authority of Mr. Dunn that the houses were built 200 years ago, and that the only thing the Duke of Norfolk had done had been, as the leases had fallen in, to increase the rents, until he had got them up to the amount they stood at at the present moment. Mr. Dunn was asked how they fixed the rents, whether they had regard to the rents or the property adjacent, and he told the Committee that before the rents were fixed inquiries were made as to the rents on the Bedford Estate. All this meant that the people were entirely at the mercy of the great ground landlords in regard to rent—that ground landlords were monopolists in the truest sense of the term. With regard to the School Board rate, he agreed with the hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex (Mr. C. W. Gray) that that was a rate which ought to be divided. He also thought that the main drainage rate ought to be divided. What had the main drainage done? Not only had it been a benefit to the people of London, to those who had lived since it had been carried out, but it had sent up to an enormous extent the capitalized value of the property of the ground landlord. He was confident that the time was not far distant when they would tell the ground landlord that he could not derive an enormous amount of wealth from a district without giving anything towards the local charges, which were continually being paid by his tenants.
§ MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)
said, that the hon. Gentleman commenced his observations by saying that the hon. Member for the Malden Division of Essex was on the horns of a dilemma, because that hon. Gentleman had said that, while agreeing generally with the principle that some of the local taxation should be borne by the ground landlords, he was not prepared to go into the Lobby with the Mover of the clause, because he did not consider the time opportune. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Rowlands) was himself on the horns of a dilemma of a more serious kind, because what became of the article of faith of the Radical Party, what became of the principle which had been so frequently inculcated—namely, that there should be no taxation without representation, if the House were to agree to the clause now under consideration? He thought that, in the words of an hon. Friend behind him, no greater injustice could be perpetrated than that the House of Commons should fix on the ground landlord the payment of part of the local rates, and at the same time say—"You shall have no voice in the mode or manner in which those rates are administered or spent." He listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan). The right hon. Gentleman said it was mainly in the Metropolis that the illustration was afforded of how the expenditure of the ratepayers' money went entirely to swell the revenues of the ground landlords, and he instanced the large sums of money spent in improving the amenities of and beautifying London. The right hon. Gentleman also adverted to the fact that a large tax was imposed on the ratepayers of London with reference to the education of the poor. With all due deference to the right hon. Gentleman, he asked him how the expenditure on primary and compulsory education increased the revenues of the ground landlords of London? What was the direct connection between the improvement of the education of the people and the increase in the revenues of the ground landlords? He traversed, also, the right hon. Gentleman's remark that the whole of the money which had been pent in the improvement of the amenities of London and in beautifying 1680 London tended mainly to increase the volume of the ground landlords' revenue. He (Mr. Isaacs) thought—and he believed the Committee would agree with him—that not only had the construction of the Thames Embankment improved the value of the estates which abutted upon it, but it had also improved the position of everyone occupying premises in London by affording them more direct and more pleasant intercommunication, and in saving the time of the commercial classes who were compelled to travel from one part of London to another. If he wished to illustrate an improvement of a more recent period he would cite the case of the Shaftesbury Avenue. In what particular could anyone show that the ground landlords had benefited by the formation of that street to a greater extent than had the inhabitants of London generally by having the increased means of intercommunication which the opening of the street afforded? He would not trespass further upon the attention of the Committee than to say that, while there might be some rates, particularly those relating to main drainage and other sanitary improvements, in which a portion of the expenditure should fairly be borne by the landowners, he thought that in the majority of cases where money had been expended in the Metropolis it was the inhabitants who had benefited as largely as, if not more largely than, the ground landlords, and for this reason he found himself unable to support the clause.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
said, he did not intend to answer the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Isaacs), because the hon. Member seemed to have missed altogether the point of the attack made by the Opposition side of the House. They did not deny that the occupiers and the public at large had benefited by the beautifying of London, by the widening of the streets, and by the improvement of the drainage. He would even go so far as to say, with the hon. Member, that they had benefited as much as the owners of property; but the contention was that the occupiers had paid the whole cost, and the owners of property had paid none. Therefore, they maintained that in a great measure of this sort, which accompanied a great reconstruction of local taxation, it was 1681 an unfair thing and an unjust thing to put the whole of the future increased expenditure upon the occupier, and save the owner again, as he had always been saved in times past, from any contribution—nay, worse; to leave the ground landlord untouched, while they still further harrowed the unhappy trader by putting a tax on his wheels. It was because he (Mr. Winterbotham) was a County Member, and because he knew the way in which agriculturists regarded this matter; it was because he had beard and received scores of resolutions passed by Chambers of Agriculture, deploring the present state of things and urging hon. Members to do something to give relief; because he agreed with the principle of the clause, he was, unlike some hon. Members who had spoken on the opposite side, going to vote for that principle. The argument which was always used when any case was brought forward for reform was that the time was not exactly opportune. The hon. Member for the Maldon Division of Essex (Mr. Gray) and himself were not Members of the House at the time the opportunity afforded by the School Board rate was missed. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that they were not responsible that that opportunity was missed; but they were responsible at the present day if they let go by an opportunity of recording their protest against and attempting to alter the inequality of the system of rating. He would have joined in the appeal to have withdrawn the clause if they could have had a formal promise from the Treasury Bench that the matter would be taken up in a serious way at an early opportunity. They had had no such promise, and he rejoiced to think that they would have an opportunity of letting the country know who were in earnest for assimilating our system—with due regard to existing contracts—to the Scotch system, and making it fair to the tenant farmers of the country. In reference to the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had to say that they had not all followed him in putting the hands of the clock back during the last 17 years. They, upon the Opposition Benches were as determined as they were 17 years ago that all the pleas for procrastination and delay, all the excuses to wait for a more convenient 1682 season, should no longer stop the way of alterations in that law. If the County Councils were not to be shams; if they were to de real work; if they were to improve and develop the resources of the counties, all of this would cost money—the money would have to be paid by someone. The whole question was by whom should the money be paid—whether once again, as in olden times, the whole cost should be put on the long-suffering occupier, and that the landlord who received the whole capital value benefit of the improvements should escape without paying a shilling—whether the old system of the tenant being sucked that the owner might fatten should be repeated? He hoped every Member of the Committee who really meant what he said when he declared in election addresses and at agricultural dinners he would try to bring about a system of more equitable taxation, and to relieve the burden on the overrated occupier, would go into the Lobby in support of the clause.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
said, that, as an independent Metropolitan Member, he desired to say one or two words to explain the vote he should give that afternoon. His hon. Friend the Member for the Maldon Division of Essex (Mr. Gray) had been taunted by several hon. Members opposite with defending and approving the principle of an amending clause, and, at the same time, stating that he intended to vote against the Amendment at the present moment. He (Sir Roper Lethbridge) confessed that he saw nothing whatever unreasonable in such a statement as that. Surely, it was too late for hon. Members opposite to allege inconsistency in such a statement as that, for throughout the whole of the discussions on the Bill they had been dealing with such points as that. The President of the Local Government Board, the author of the Bill, had declined to overload the Bill with matters which were desired to be dealt with, but which could not be dealt with in the Bill without absolutely destroying all possibility of carrying the measure that Session. There were many hon. Members upon the Ministerial side of the House who wished, quite as much as hon. Members opposite, to see questions like educational administration and Poor Law administration, and many 1683 other things dealt with. They had expressed their opinions during the discussions on the Bill. They had said frankly that they wished these points dealt with, so that, he maintained, it was quite reasonable for some of them to feel that the principle of the Amendment was a reasonable one, and yet to decline to vote for it at the present moment. [Laughter.] He maintained, with all due respect to hon. Gentlemen who laughed, that the question of the division of rates between owner and occupier, and the subsidiary question of the taxation of ground rents, were questions of a most complicated and thorny character. He was of opinion that those questions required dealing with, and he should be very glad if the Government felt able to give some assurance to the Committee of some action in the not very distant future on those points. Considering, however, the complexity of the questions introduced in this clause, considering the great extent that had already been covered by the measure, and wishing, as he did, to do nothing to impede the progress of the Bill, he should vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, the proposal involved two distinct propositions; one was the division of local taxation in rural districts between landlord and tenant; and the other was the taxation of ground rents in the case of large towns like the Metropolis. In the observations be had to make, he should confine himself to the question of the division of rates in London and other large towns between landlord and tenant. He confessed he heard with great surprise the speech of the hon. Member for the Walworth Division of Newington (Mr. Isaacs); because he thought the hon. Member, as a Metropolitan Member, would gladly have acknowledged the present system of taxation. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Sir Roper Lethbridge) had admitted the injustice, but thought that that was not an opportune time to remedy it. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was afraid hon. Members would never find an opportune time; in fact, he observed that many of the speeches made during the debate had been founded upon the familiar argument that the time was too early or too late, or that the proposal was either too large or too small. The hon. Member for the Walworth Division of New- 1684 ington seemed to deny that there was any cause of grievance on the part of the London householder, or any cause of grievance against the London ground landlord. What was the state of things? The great bulk of the London landowners had let their land years ago on long leases. Since entering into those leases all the great expenditure of the Metropolitan Board of Works had been incurred—the expenditure upon such works as the Main Drainage Scheme, the Thames Embankment, the building of School Board schools, and other things of the same kind. The whole of this expenditure had been provided for by loans which had been raised on comparatively short terms, and the repayment of which would probably be complete either before the leases fell in, or a short time afterwards. The result was that when the leases expired the ground landlords would derive the full benefit of all that expenditure without having contributed anything towards it. That was the great grievance of the London system. Altogether, it appeared to him that the ground landlords of London derived enormous advantage from taxation, both local and Imperial, and that now Parliament had an opportunity of doing something to relieve the injustice in the case of Local Taxation. The proposal before the Committee was not that the ground landlords should pay their full proportion of taxation, but that they should pay one-half. Suppose the rates of London were 2s. in the pound, the ground landlord would pay one-half —namely, 1s. in the pound. Therefore, he thought the proposal dealt with the ground landlords on very favourable terms. Certainly, many Members of that House would be prepared to vote in favour of a proposition by which the landlords should bear their full proportion. He would remind the Committee that, in imposing the Property Tax and the Income Tax, the law provided that the tenants should deduct the proportion of the Property Tax which fell on the landlord, and the landlord was not permitted to contract himself out. Part of the proposal now before them was that landlords should not, in future, be able to contract themselves out. But the main proposal was to put on the ground landlords a proportion of the taxation from which they were now unjustly exempted, and to compel them to con- 1685 tribute towards the rates levied on the whole Metropolis for Metropolitan improvements. He should have thought that no Metropolitan Member would have ventured to raise his voice against such a proposition. He believed it was a just and sound proposition, and one which certainly, if not carried now, would be carried at no distant date.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that the proposal is retrospective with regard to leases in agricultural districts, and does he propose that by this clause all existing contracts are to be broken?
I have had grave doubts as to the relevancy of this clause to the Bill; but I have admitted it, having regard to the fact that the words "in respect of any rate made, assessed, and levied by the County Council," make it applicable only to the taxation levied by a County Council. Having regard to the 5th section, it appears to me that the clause relates to new contracts.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman distinctly whether he proposes that Parliament shall now declare that existing contracts entered into under the conditions that the occupier shall pay the whole of the rates shall now be entirely changed, and that the owner shall pay one-half of the rates, without any revision of the contracts?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It is the county rate which is levied with the poor rate, or rather the poor rate is levied with the county rate, and therefore the proposal is that henceforth the county rate, with regard to existing liabilities—that is, with regard to existing debt and charges as to which the owner practically pays no rate, shall be paid one-half by the owner and one-half by the occupier, without any revision of contracts.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
The clause does not apply to the poor rate, but to the county rate, and I understand that the proposal is prospective. As regards the ground landlords of London and other large towns, I wish it to be made retrospective as well as prospective, as a 1686 matter of policy and justice, notwithstanding their contracts.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I wish to get the view of the right hon. Gentleman clearly, in order that the Committee may realize what it is. The County Council of London will be in the position of the Metropolitan Board of Works. My impression is that the Board of Works rate is between 4s. and 5s. in the pound. [Cries of "No!"]
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that as regards that rate there should be forthwith a division between the owner and the occupier, notwithstanding that even yesterday contracts might have been entered into on the basis of the occupier paying the whole of the rates?
thought that the discussion was travelling somewhat wide of the subject under consideration.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
said, that if he did not vote for the clause, it was not for the reason that he did not think it opportune; it was not for the reason that in many respects he did not think the clause perfectly just. He held very strongly the opinion that up to the present time tenants had had to pay a very large proportion of rates which ought to have fallen on the landlords, because those rates had really benefited the landlords' property; but he was in a difficulty when he saw, as he frequently did, hon. Gentlemen opposite bringing forward carefully drawn-up paragraphs, asking the House to vote upon them, and saying at the same time—"You are not pledging yourselves to the assertion that these paragraphs ought to be the law of the country; you are not pledging yourselves to the assertion that this is a sufficient safeguard for the rights of everybody; you are only pledging yourselves to the principle." As he understood it, the principle in these cases invariably was the principle of embarrassing Her Majesty's Government whenever it was possible to do so. Now, in the 4th sub-section of this clause it was provided—That every person receiving in respect of any rateable property rent from which a de- 1687 duction has been made on account of rate shall be deemed to be an owner for the purposes of this Act.What was "an owner for the purposes of this Act?" During the course of the consideration of the Bill in Committee it was proposed that an owner should have the right to vote; but that was denied to him. What was now going to be done? It was proposed that he should be a ratepayer, because this clause proposed that an owner should pay a proportion of the rates. If he paid half the rates, he was as much a ratepayer as the man who paid the other half. If an owner be a ratepayer, he ought to have the rights as well as the liabilities of other ratepayers. If the clause had been drawn so that the owner, being converted into a ratepayer, received the ordinary rights of a ratepayer, he (Mr. Darling) would have voted for the clause, notwithstanding the quarter from which it came; but when he found the supporters of the clause voting only a few weeks ago against an owner having any representation at all he must vote against the clause, because taxation without representation was wholly unjust. He desired to see landlords, especially London landlords, made to pay a proper proportion of the local charges; but he could not consent to do it by means of that Resolution, proposed by those who had carefully and deliberately prevented those landlords having anything to say in the management of the rates. The question must shortly come up for settlement. There were many Members of the House, not only the Representatives of London constituencies, who were conscious that their constituents took a deep interest in this question. If no one else brought this matter before the attention of the Government, in order to have it properly and fairly settled, he himself intended to do so. But that was no reason why, in season and out of season, he should vote for a proposal which he believed to be unjust, because it dealt with the question in an unjust way. He had not heard hon. Gentlemen opposite make any allusion to the fact that, at the present moment, there was a Committee considering the question of Town Holdings. Were they to legislate regardless of the recommendations of that Committee, and was the most opportune time, which hon. Members opposite 1688 spoke of, before that Committee gave their opinion?
§ MR. DARLING
said, he was quite aware the Committee had issued two Blue Books containing evidence; but he observed that hon. Gentlemen opposite had not read them. What was undoubtedly true was that the Town Holdings Committee had not made their Report. They had issued the evidence they had taken; but he understood that they did not intend to report until after Christmas. The hon. Members, therefore, were not yet possessed of the result of the deliberations of the Town Holdings Committee. He understood, from what had been said, that the Government intended to deal with this question at no distant date—to deal with it fully and adequately. It was because he understood that it was their expectation and intention to legislate upon the Town Holdings Report that he should vote against the present clause. If the Government themselves did not take up the matter when there was a fair opportunity, some of their supporters would certainly press it upon them in the hope of securing that the ground landlords in London and in the country generally should be made to pay what was their fair share of taxation for local purposes. Whatever might be said as to the clause being retrospective or not, it could not be doubted by anyone that the 1st section would apply to every case of a lease, whether it existed now or was created after this Act was passed. It might be that, in granting the lease, the landlord had fixed the rent on the basis that one or the other should pay the rates. The landlord, for instance, might have said—"If I pay the rates, the rent shall be £100 a-year; but if you pay them, the rent shall be £80." Even after a bargain on that basis, if the clause were adopted, the tenant might again deduct the rates and the landlord have no remedy.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, he regretted that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Darling) had made a charge against the Opposition with reference to the progress of the Bill, which he did not think would meet with the approval of the President of the Local Government 1689 Board or of the First Lord of the Treasury. The hon. and learned Gentleman had told the Committee that the only principle which had influenced Members on that side in the consideration of the measure was the principle of desiring to embarrass Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. DARLING
said, that he did not limit that remark to that measure at all. What he said was, that he had noticed that they were asked to vote for Resolutions, and were told to do it simply to accept the principle, the principle invariably being, in his opinion, that of embarrassing Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, he could simply deal with the hon. and learned Member's words, and he maintained that the discussion on that important Bill, which involved some of the very gravest economical principles surrounding local government, had been conducted fairly, and with the desire on both sides of the Committee to bring about a fair and wise and just solution. Such remarks as those of the hon. and learned Gentleman did not tend to promote the progress of the Bill, or to promote the good understanding which he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) thought had hitherto existed. He was not going into the question raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman as to what was "opportune" or "inopportune," or as to what was a "convenient season." The other night the hon. and learned Gentleman considered it was not a convenient season for settling the question as to whether the Judges for London should be elected or not. His Leaders, however, came to a contrary opinion, and they wisely deferred to what was the general sense of the Committee, and what was now the general sense of the country; they found that it was an opportune moment for effecting a reform in that matter. During the progress of the Bill a great many questions arose which it was stated must be met by new clauses and not by Amendments. It was, therefore, rather hard that they should be told when they brought forward new clauses that the time was not opportune. He would like, without subjecting himself to a categorical examination by the First Lord of the Treasury, to state what he understood of the proposition of his hon. Friend (Mr. Chapping) to mean. He 1690 was not responsible for the wording of the clause; but what he understood his hon. Friend to raise was that with respect to rates that were to be hereafter levied by the County Councils, in pursuance of the powers conferred upon them, the rule as between landlord and tenant should be that the tenant was to pay one-half of such rate, and the landlord should pay the other half; that that in no way affected or compromised any existing contracts by which that obligation had been defined. With reference to London, the same principle, of course, would apply; but there was a specific sub-section to which the Chairman had called their attention. The 5th sub-section of the clause ran thus—Any contract made by an occupier after the passing of this Act, by virtue of which he is deprived of his right to make a deduction from his rent, which he would otherwise be entitled to make under this section, shall, so far as relates to such deduction, be void, both at law and in equity.Existing leases, therefore, were left undisturbed, but the clause positively prohibited in the future any attempt to contract out of the Act. He would like to call the attention of the Committee to two or three passages from the Report made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) to a Select Commitee upon this subject. A correspondence took place between the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for South St. Pancras (Sir Julian Goldsmid). His hon. Friend objected to the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a division of rates between the landlord and tenant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer wrote—This brings me to the only point, I think, in your letter, upon which I have not yet touched—the question of rates, as between the owner and the occupier. To defend my proposal as to the division of local rates as between the landlord and the tenant would extend this letter beyond reasonable limits. I have fully argued the matter in the Draft Report submitted by me to the Select Committee upon Local Taxation of 1870, and to that I would venture to refer you for a detailed exposition of my views of the advantages, both economical and administrative, which would result from such a division of the rates. Let me add that I have never maintained that such a measure, unaccompanied by other legislation, would meet what is called the 'ratepayers grievance,' though I do attach to it very great importance.He referred the Committee to that Report of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for there was no more masterly summing 1691 up of the arguments pro and con upon this question than could be found in that Report. London, no doubt, stood upon its own merits; it had grievances of its own; but in the part he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) was taking in this debate, he was not thinking so much of London as of the agricultural districts of the country. Let him read the Chancellor of the Exchequer's summing up of the case. The right hon. Gentleman said—The case of the incidence of rates as regards landed property between owner and occupier may, accordingly, be thus summed up: First, in the case of leases, the average burden of past rates invariably enters into account with other outgoings, when a tenant first takes a farm, and the rent which he would be prepared to give is greater or smaller in proportion to the amount of the rates to which the land is liable. To that extent the rates distinctly fall upon the landlord. On the other hand, after the agreement has once been made, the excess in the rate beyond the amount estimated by the tenant when he took his farm falls upon him; and where, owing either to legislation or to changes brought about by local circumstances, a serious increase has taken place, the tenant, upon whom the whole risk is invariably thrown by the terms of his agreement or his lease, feels that increase as a grievance. Secondly, where there are no leases, the occupier might theoretically seek a re-adjustment of rent with every increase of rates upon his farm; but, practically, it appears that the prevailing custom of rarely changing the amount of rent, except simultaneously with a change of tenant, added to the increasing value of land, and the greater competition for it, which has been steadily progressing in most parts of the Kingdom; and, lastly, the circumstance of farmers being very generally charged with a lower rent than the rack rent, have all tended to throw by far the greater portion of the increase of the rates, where there has been an increase, upon the tenant.He (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) was content to take his stand upon that principle. The contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite was that the rates were going by the Bill to be increased; and his (Mr. Henry H. Fowler's) view and that of his hon. Friends was that local taxation being for the benefit of the landlord and tenant—being for the benefit of all classes of the community—a portion of the rates should be thrown upon the landlord. Having dealt with the scientific propositions of the right hon. Gentleman, let him come to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's House of Commons way of dealing with the matter. In a speech the right hon. Gentleman delivered 17 years ago, he said— 1692I now approach the third grievance which I call specially that of the ratepayers—namely, the question between the owner and the occupier, in consequence of the exclusive payment of rates by the latter. Considering this matter in connection with the evidence produced before the Select Committee last year, the Government have become more and more convinced that both justice and public morality require that the owner shall pay a certain portion of the taxes. At present, through the nature of the contracts made between the occupiers and the landlords, by which the former engaged to pay the whole of the rates, any increased rate which is not foreseen by either party falls entirely on the tenants. That is a question more seriously affecting the towns than the country districts; but it is inexpedient in either case that the landlords should be allowed to contract with their tenants that the Local Authority should impose no taxation on them. With regard to Imperial taxation, such a practice is not permitted; for if it were legal to make contracts that the whole of the Income Tax should be paid by the tenants, the House of Commons would be hampered in its legislation; knowing that on any increase in the Income Tax, the payment would fall not on the landlords, who ought to pay their fair proportion, but exclusively on the occupiers. The result of the present state of things has been that many great improvements in the Metropolis, in Liverpool, in Manchester, and in other large towns, have been made within the last 10 years exclusively at the cost of the occupiers, without the landlords contributing a single shilling towards the expense. The Government have decided that such an anomalous state of things shall no longer exist; and a provision rendering void any engagements by which owners contract themselves out of the payment of local taxation is embodied in this Bill.That his hon. Friend (Mr. Channing) wanted embodied in this Bill—The division of rates between owners and occupiers is not a new proposal; for a similar provision exists in Scotland and in Ireland. In England alone, the exclusive payment of rates by the occupiers has been maintained, and I will point out to the House one of the consequences which flow from such a system. Landlords, not being considered ratepayers, have no share at all in the administration of the money raised by rates, although I feel sure that the House will agree with me that it is important, both for the interest of the public and for the good administration of affairs, that they should take a direct and practical interest in all the great works paid for out of the rates. It may be said that if the tenant pays an increased rate he gets a deduction of rent on account of it; but for every small increase of rate, the tenant cannot go to the landlord and tell him he must reduce the rent. In the first place, the tenant knows that, owing to the great loss and expense involved in moving from one farm to another, he will suffer far more than the landlord, if he is compelled to leave his farm; and, secondly, whoever of the two contracting parties has to take the initiative in asking for an alteration in the terms of the bargain is thereby placed at a serious disadvantage. Again, I have seen it stated repeatedly that it would be no relief to the farmers or occupiers in towns 1693 that half the onus should be thrown on the owners. I believe, on the contrary, it will be a very great boon, if unfortunately there should be an increase of rates, that it should be so decided, and for the reason which I have just stated —namely, that the occupier will no longer be compelled, in order to relieve himself of the whole burden of the increased rates, to place himself at the disadvantage of taking the first step in proposing a modification of the terms on which he occupies his holding.The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman dealt with every argument against the principle of the division of rates in a far more masterly and unanswerable manner than he thought any Member sitting on the Opposition side of the House could endeavour to emulate. The right hon. Gentleman said that part of his proposal, on which he laid great stress, was, that the owner should have a direct voice in the expenditure, and should be directly represented. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer said just now that they could have done 17 years ago what they could not do to-day; that the whole situation had completely changed. No doubt, 17 years ago, the county franchise was based on a different footing from that of to-day. The franchise formerly was mainly an ownership franchise; but now they had made occupiers practically the constituencies to choose the men who were to control the Imperial taxation. Why did they want a different principle for local taxation? If property was to have a distinct and special representation, so far as expenditure was concerned, why were they to draw the line at local taxation? Why should not property have a special voice in regard to Imperial taxation? Imperial taxation was levied, as hon. Gentlemen opposite were ready to assert, very largely upon property, and upon property alone. No one, however, contended that they should have special and distinct representation of property in that House. Without defending the wording of the clause—the meaning of the clause might be obscure and the clause might want amending—he wished to insist that what they had to consider was, what was the practical question on which the Committee was going to vote? The practical question to be decided was whether they would or would not, on that, as he thought, opportune occasion, assert a principle which had been very popular in agricultural districts for many 1694 years, which had been loudly advocated by Representatives of agricultural districts, which had met with the approval of Chambers of Agriculture, which had never been seriously contested by any political authority, which had the high sanction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, the principle that in the increasing taxation of this country taxation for the benefit of the owner and for the benefit of the occupier, the owner should bear his fair share of that taxation. In favour of that principle, totally irrespective of the wording of the clause, he intended to vote.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (SIR RICHARD WEBSTER) (Islo of Wight)
said, he thought there was no doubt whatever as to what the clause really meant. The 1st sub-section provided that where an occupier was paying a rent equal or not less than the rateable value he should be allowed to deduct one-half of the rates paid; but if he was paying less than the rateable value he should be allowed to deduct on the amount paid one-half of the amount in the pound, and that without any saving of existing contracts. All Sub-section 5 said was that if any future contract was made whereby the tenant or occupier was deprived of his right to make a deduction the contract should be void. The consequence was that the only effect of Sub-section 5 was to make void any contract made after the passing of that Act, whereby a tenant would be deprived of his right to make a reduction from his rent. With very great deference to any opinion expressed before, he thought there was no doubt that the clause, as now framed, would clearly affect existing contracts. He only mentioned that in order that the Committee might have the matter clearly before them. He did not wish to argue the merits or demerits of the question. The effect was clearly to give a tenant the right to make deductions under existing contracts as well as under new contracts.
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
said, the hon. Member for the Walworth Division of Newington (Mr. Isaacs) had taunted Liberal Members with having forsaken their opinion that taxation and representation should go together. Under the Bill, special representation of owners of property was distinctly provided for, and therefore he could not understand how 1695 the hon. Member could endeavour to get support on the ground that in voting against the clause now under consideration he would be supporting the principle that taxation and representation should go together. He (Mr. Halley Stewart) was indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) for his able advocacy of the cause of agricultural districts rather than the case against ground landlordism. He hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite who represented agricultural constituencies would recollect that if they voted against the proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. Channing) they would be voting in favour of saddling the tenants with those permanent improvements, the repayment for which some of the Members on the Opposition Benches were in favour of spreading over a period of 60 years. The Committee limited the period to 30 years, so that practically they would throw upon the tenants and ratepayers the responsibility of paying back in their own lifetime the money expended in permanent public improvements, by which the landlord, in the end, would chiefly benefit. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to put the Front Opposition Bench into the awkward position of having to choose between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow (Sir George Trevelyan). But both were right; immediately, the tenant, but ultimately, the landlord, found relief from lessened taxation or the burden of its imposition. It seemed to him (Mr. Halley Stewart) that if the owners were just, they would meet the difficulties they saw in the future, and accept the responsibility of their property. They could not point to a single spot in city or town where the landlords that day received less income than they did 100 years ago—he was not referring to agricultural land. They could not find spots where, in the aggregate, the landlords had not a far larger income than formerly. Therefore, it was unjust to talk about the landlords at the present time paying their fair proportion of rating and taxation. It was the land that was bearing the large increase of taxation. In addition to the elo- 1696 quent words already quoted from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would bring to mind one sentence from a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman in reply to some observations of Sir Massey Lopes in 1871, who was proposing a Motion for grants-in-aid, in which he said that the Motion was brought in as a means of evading the division of the rates between owners and occupiers. That seemed to him (Mr. Halley Stewart) to go far in advance of anything read by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler); because under the Bill, though they did not give grants-in-aid in name for the occupiers in England, they gave a substitute for grants-in-aid, so that the Motion of Sir Massey Lopes was being practically carried out by the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and the proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that a division of rates between the owner and occupier was a duty, was a reasonable argument, even when grants-in-aid were not given, it was ten times more reasonable now that grants-in-aid were given, and given to so large an amount. He (Mr. Halley Stewart) sat there as representing an agricultural division, though, he believed, the tenant farmers of the division had not supported him. He had told them that if returned to the House he would be returned notwithstanding their adverse vote, but that when he came to Parliament he should serve them in spite of themselves. In giving the vote he intended to give, he felt that he should be giving a vote on behalf of the tenant farmers of England, and especially on behalf of those who had long leases under which they had been saddled with new and burdensome rates. He hoped hon. and right hon. Gentlemen representing agricultural constituencies would do something to bind tenant farmers and their proprietors together in bearing the burdens of new taxation. They had done something under the Allotments Bill for the labourers, and now let them do something for the tenant farmers, who were at the present moment crushed so unmercifully between the upper and the nether mill-stones— 1697 crushed between the landlords and their increase of rent and the labourers and increase of wages.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, he did not want to give an entirely silent vote on this question, as it was one in which he had previously taken an interest. It would be in the recollection of Members of the last House of Commons that the subject of the revision of rates between owners and occupiers was brought forward on March the 23rd, 1886, by the late Member for the Bermondsey Division of Southwark (Professor Thorold Rogers). He (Mr. Picton) had the honour of seconding Professor Thorold Rogers's Resolution, and what took place during the debate upon that Motion was, he thought, so instructive that he had expected it to be referred to more than had been the case during the discussion that afternoon. Perhaps he might be allowed to remind the Committee of what were the terms of that Resolution. It was as follows—That the present system under which, in England and Wales, the first incidence of local taxation (with some slight exceptions) falls on the occupier and not on the owner of lands and tenements is unjust; that such owners ought in equity to bear at least a moiety of those charges; that the system under which country mansions are rated is unfair; and that the owners of ground rents in towns are liable to no part of those charges, the outlay of which is essential in order that the property may possess any marketable value whatever.That Resolution was carried, but being in the nature of an abstract Resolution, it had never yet been embodied in legislation. Why not? The answer to that question may be gathered from the speeches made by the Conservative opponents of the Resolution. An Amendment was moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget), and he (Mr. Picton) would ask the attention of the Committee to the terms of that Amendment. They were these—To leave out from the word "that" to the end of the Question, in order to add these words—While the apportionment of the payment of rates between landlord and tenant may be desirable as part of a complete scheme for remedying the admitted inequalities of the incidence of local taxation, this House is of opinion that the financial injustice complained of can only be removed by a comprehensive measure, and that an equitable re-adjustment of taxation as between real and personal property is urgently required.1698 The view taken by the hon. Baronet at that time was, as expressed in his Amendment, that while the proposal made by the late Member for the Bermondsey Division of Southwark was a reasonable one enough, the time had not yet come for carrying it out, and the time would not come until there was a considerable measure for the readjustment of the whole system of Local Taxation before the House. In that view of the question the hon. Baronet had been sustained by many sitting on his side of the House, which was, of course, not the side on which he was sitting now. But they always expected that people who made earnest professions when they crossed over from one side of the House to the other would be prepared, as far as possible, to carry out the views that they had held in opposition. Now, he (Mr. Picton) wished to draw attention to some words that were spoken, and which seemed to sum up very well the whole of the view taken by the Tory opponents of the Resolution of the late Member for the Bermondsey Division of Southwark. The hon. Member for the Howdenshire Division of the East Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Duncombe) said—It was a strange thing to a new Member to think that year after year this question came before the House, and yet was no nearer any settlement. They all knew the necessity for some change, but it was only on those occasions which, unfortunately, were only too rare, when a Conservative Government was in power, that anything like a practical step was taken."—(3 Hansard,  1678.)Well, now they had a Conservative Government in power at the present moment, and he (Mr. Picton) should like to see the Members of that Conservative Government more mindful than they had hitherto appeared during that afternoon's discussion of the views that they and their Friends had taken on the occasion to which he referred as to the question of Local Taxation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley), the hon. Member for the Honiton Division of Devonshire (Sir John Kennaway), and the hon. Member for the Wirral Division of Chester (Captain Cotton), all had at that time contended that reform was absolutely necessary, but they said that it could not possibly be accomplished until there was a large measure for the re-adjustment of Local Taxation before the House. Well, they had that mea- 1699 sure now. It might not be as extensive as some of them could have desired, but still he thought that what was being enacted in the course of that Session in regard to Local Taxation was a very considerable and a very important measure of reform. They were going to give much larger assistance to Local Taxation than had ever been given before. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer assured them that that measure would accomplish that end to which so many statesmen had aspired—namely, of making personalty take its share of the burdens of Local Taxation, so that he (Mr. Picton) thought they had good reason to say that the idea laid down in 1886 by the Tory opponents of the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Bermondsey Division of Southwark had actually been accomplished. They had said, "We are quite prepared to divide the rates between landlord and tenant as soon as we can bring about a fair measure of reform in regard to Local Taxation." Well, that fair measure was being actually carried into law that Session, and he (Mr. Picton) called upon those Gentlemen to fulfil the promise they then gave and to accept the Amendment now before the Committee. In regard to some of the arguments which had been produced from the other side, he could not but express a little surprise. There was the hon. Member for the Stepney Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Wootton Isaacson), for instance, who expressed the utmost wonder that any Member should be so unreasonable as to expect the ground landlord to pay any part of the school rates. He asked, almost with indignation, "What benefit can the ground landlords possibly derive from the school rates?" Well, the ground landlords were already deriving considerable advantage from the payment of these rates; for what did those rates effect? They raised the standard of comfort amongst a large part of the community, amongst whom the standard of comfort had hitherto been too low. Better education inspired a desire for better lodging, and that necessitated better buildings, and when those were put up the ground landlords got better security for their money. Besides, they were benefited by the promotion of public order and public wealth, all of which operated to their credit, in making 1700 their land more valuable and a better security for their money. He therefore thought it was entirely unreasonable to say that the ground landlords had no interest in helping to sustain public elementary education. But the point he wished to argue here especially was that it was time that they should change the assumption which always underlay every argument about rates up to the present time—namely, that the occupier might fairly be expected to pay the whole amount. They wanted that assumption changed. It was a very moderate proposal that was made that day, as the Chairman had laid it down that they could not refer to anything but the new rates to be raised by the County Council, for County Council purposes. It was therefore not a comprehensive, but only a partial reform. It might be regarded as the thin end of the wedge; but if it was a beneficial change, that did not much matter. That seemed to him to be an excellent opportunity of doing something to check the assumption that the occupier ought to pay the whole of the rates. There was nothing so strange in the idea. As they had heard in Scotland already they were thoroughly accustomed to the practice of dividing the rates between the landlord and the tenant, and he believed that system worked admirably there and caused far less discontent and friction than our system on this side of the Border. He hoped we should take a lesson in this matter, as we had taken on many others, from our Scotch brethren. He trusted the Government would be satisfied with the marvellous progress made in the measure, and that willing as they had shown themselves to accept reasonable suggestions, they would give way upon the present point and allow the Committee, as they were passing a large measure of reform in the system of Local Taxation, to reform away grievances which they themselves admitted in the past, and even now admitted to exist in regard to heavy burdens of Local Taxation which bore upon the occupier.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, they had listened with considerable interest to the speeches of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Spalding Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Halley Stewart) and the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Picton) and others. 1701 The hon. Member for the Spalding Division had told them that he was no representative of the farmers; but he had afterwards declared that he told the farmers that he would help them, in spite of themselves, believing that the farmer was in the unhappy position of being between two millstones, being crushed by the oppression of the landlord in his demand for increased rent, and by the oppression of the labourer in his demand for increased wages. Well, this was a statement which he (Sir Richard Paget) thought it was worth well to take note of, coming from one who posed as the friend and direct representative of the labourer. There was one remark in the hon. Member's speech with which he (Sir Richard Paget) agreed, and that was that this question was of greater importance to rural districts than to urban districts. That would be seen in a moment, for the incidence of every farthing of rate pressed far more severely on occupiers of farms than on occupiers of houses. In the case of occupiers of houses the rate represented nothing more than that part of the man's income which was devoted to paying the rent of the house. But, so far as regarded the farmer, the case was different; and still more different as regarded the yeoman farmer, because he paid as owner and occupier, and bore four or five-fold the taxation that was imposed on the man who merely paid rates in respect of his house. That was a thing they should not lose sight of when they were dealing with the question of local rates. Now, he (Sir Richard Paget) had been familiar with this question of a divided rate for a long period. For upwards of 20 years in that House he had personally identified himself with this question of Local Taxation. He had had the pleasure of working with Sir Massey Lopes, and of forming one of that majority which that gentleman gained many years ago in favour of his principle. He had listened with pleasure to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) when he quoted from the work written by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Every word which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted had his (Sir Richard Paget's) complete assent. It was stated with admirable 1702 clearness, and represented a case to which it would be impossible to take any exception, and he (Sir Richard Paget) would say a word or two with regard to that presently; but he would now take the opportunity of apologizing to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton for having attempted, for a moment, to interrupt him in his speech. The truth was that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton had established in that House a reputation so great for clearness, precision, and accuracy, that he (Sir Richard Paget) was anxious to help him to maintain that reputation, and if the right hon. Gentleman had allowed him to interpose one question, he might have aided him in the matter. The question he was anxious to put to him was this—Whether, when he said that this Amendment now before the House, distinctly reserved the right of all existing leases, he could put his finger upon a line or spot in the Amendment wherein these rights were so reserved? He (Sir Richard Paget) need not now argue the question, because the hon. and learned Attorney General, who had spoken in so calm and lucid a manner, had pointed out that Sub-section 5 of the Amendment was limited to contracts made after the passing of the Act, and, so far as regarded the rights of the occupiers to demand from the owner the rate, those rights were absolutely safeguarded; but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had pointed out, no such safeguarding existed in the early portion of the clause. He would not go further into this matter, because he took it that it was entirely beyond dispute. He did not think that anyone would for a moment deny that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had in a clear, plain, and unmistakable manner pointed out that, whatever might have been the intention of those who introduced the Amendment, there was nothing in it whatever to safeguard the rights of existing contracts. And now let him refer again for a moment to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton in quoting from the work of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which he thought dated back to the year 1871. He (Sir Richard Paget) had 1703 already stated that he was in complete agreement with every word which had been quoted. But at the time the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was before the House, he (Sir Richard Paget) found himself, of necessity, in opposition to it, and for the simple reason that he and those with whom he had the honour to work were endeavouring to obtain a re-adjustment of taxation, and to secure that which they thought was rightful relief to the local taxpayer. They were in no way assisted by public opinion. The truth of their contention was denied; but slowly and by degrees public opinion had come round, and that House had come round, and almost everything that he had asked had been conceded. But the contention they held then against a divided rate— and they held it now—was this, that the divided rate per se was no relief to local taxation. Take the case of the man who paid as owner and occupier, which was a crucial case. What relief did the yeoman get, if they told him to take his rates as owner out of one pocket and as occupier out of the other? That divided rate was no remedy. It was, however, quite another thing when a large readjustment of taxation was being made, and he (Sir Richard Paget) was one of those who hoped that before this debate came to an end they would hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or some one representing Her Majesty's Government, that this was a question which they were prepared to grasp and grapple with in the future. He did not complain for a moment of the principle of dividing the rate, except in so far as he had done of old, which was that it was no relief of Local Taxation, and was merely giving that question the go-by The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Picton) had done him the honour to quote him in the course of this debate, and had stated that he had said on a former occasion that he "would support a proposal for a division of rates when it was proposed in a comprehensive measure." [Mr. PICTON: Hear, hear!]. The hon. Member for Leicester cheered that statement; but if he (Sir Richard Paget) recollected aright, it was only within the past few minutes that the hon. Member himself had said that that was not a comprehensive measure, so that, out of the mouth of the hon. Member for Leicester 1704 himself, he claimed to be entirely absolved from giving a vote in the direction that hon. Member would desire. Nay, more, he claimed this, that his constituency would demand that he should do as he was going to do—that was to say, vote against the Amendment, for his point had always been that they should deal with this question comprehensively. Would the acceptance of the Amendment be dealing with it comprehensively? To what extent did it go? It went to the extent of dealing only with the rate which was levied by the County Council. But what was the amount to be levied? If they could judge from what the rate had been in the past, it would be something like 4½d. in the pound. So that thus, fragmentarily, in dealing with a single rate, they were attempting now to introduce into the Bill a clause which he maintained had no place within it, and which he thought it would be extremely inconvenient to introduce, and which, he contended, the time had passed for attempting to introduce in this Bill. He would tell the Committee why. At an earlier stage of the Bill the Committee had come to this conclusion, that owners, quâ owners, were not to have the vote. The Committee had given them the miserable right that they might, if they chose—if they were selected—sit as representative men on these County Councils, but they had denied the owners any franchise. If it had been otherwise, and if the voice of the Committee had been —"There is so much to be said for this principle, that we will give the owners representation, and will give them the power of voting," well and good; but the Committee had already cut from under their own feet the only ground upon which they could stand, when they declined to give effect to such a principle. The only sound attitude was this—to let one foot stand on taxation and the other on representation, for then they knew where they were; but to cut the ground from under one foot or the other was to render the position thoroughly unsound and unstable. He thought he had given sufficient reason why, on that occasion, it would be absolutely inconsistent to deal in a fragmentary way, and in a manner void of principle, with a question of that magnitude. He would say one word as to an argument which had been used—"Why do you object to this on 1705 principle when it is done in Scotland?" ["Hear, hear!"] Surely, those who cheered that statement did know, or, at any rate, ought to know, that in Scotland in respect of these rates, owners were adequately represented. Did hon. Members not know that there were Commissioners of Supply in Scotland? Did they not know that Commissioners of Supply were persons who paid the rates and had the right to spend them? Would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton introduce, by way of Amendment, into this Bill, a principle similar to that of the Commissioners of Supply in Scotland? Would he give the owners in England the power they had in Scotland?
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET
said, that in England the owners had the exclusive privilege of having no vote at all. The right hon. Gentleman wanted to place the English occupier on a par with the Scotch occupier, but to give the English owner the exclusive privilege of being denied the right to any share in representation. The right hon. Gentleman would vote for the clause as it stood, although it would break down existing financial arrangements, and do that in the interests of one section of the community without giving any share of representation to those on whom he would impose, for the first time, the new financial burden. Surely, it could not for a moment be contended that in such a proposition there was to be found any justice whatever? This debate had turned to a considerable extent upon the Metropolitan question, and he (Sir Richard Paget) was not there for one moment to say that there was not a grievance to be remedied, and that something did not require to be done He did not say that the owners of ground rents in London should not in some way be called upon to pay a reasonable share, especially in respect of those items of permanent expenditure which added to the value of their holdings. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), if he recollected aright, had already told them in this debate that his mind on this question was in a state of great uncertainty. He said at one moment that he thought the clause ought to be retro- 1706 spective for London, but that it was not retrospective; he said at one moment that the clause proposed to give relief to the occupiers of London to the extent of half their rates, and that he thought relief of the whole of the rates should be given. The right hon. Gentleman's mind seemed to be in a confused, inchoate state on this question, and that must be the mental condition of other hon. Members, as they approached it with the idea that it contained that which the hon. and learned Attorney General said it did not contain. The arguments of those hon. Members were knocked into smithereens by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. There was nothing in their contention. This was a question upon which he trusted that Her Majesty's Government would be firm, and would not give way. Whilst he, for one, would adjure them to remain firm with respect to this Amendment, he must say that he should be gratified to hear from them a clear and distinct statement that they thoroughly realized that this was a question of great difficulty, and, it might be, of great perplexity, but that it demanded a settlement; that there was virtue in the principles enunciated, and that in future they would be prepared to deal with the matter. To attempt to deal with it now in the present Bill would require the measure to be recast. Nothing but the recasting of the measure, so as to introduce the principle of giving owners, under the circumstances he had pointed out, the right to vote, which they undoubtedly ought to have—nothing short of that would, in any respect, justify the introduction of this principle into the Bill. They were now at the end of July. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad to hear that cheer; they had got on famously last night, and he should be glad to find a Division now dispose of this matter; but let this be understood —that someone on the Front Ministerial Bench should be authorized to speak, and speak with no uncertain voice, on the matter, and declare that there was a principle involved in this subject which they should grapple with, although it was impossible to do so in the present Bill. What was the position of the late Home Secretary? Why, "in season or out of season, be it fair or unfair, be the clause meagre or complete, 1707 here is an opportunity in which I can stick one of my peculiarly poisoned pins into the measure of Her Majesty's Government." He (Sir Richard Paget), however, would be glad to hear reasonable men on both sides of the Committee agree as to the impossibility of introducing that method of action into the Bill, and see them relegate the question to a time when it could be satisfactorily dealt with. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, as a matter of fact, had engaged themselves in a sham fight, and they could not, by any possibility, do more than throw another difficulty in the way of passing the Bill. The system proposed would break up existing contracts. ["No, no."] The hon. and learned Attorney General had shown them clearly enough that if the Amendment were adopted there would be no safeguard for existing contracts, and as it would saddle owners with new financial burdens without giving them a share in representation, he thought that the Government should strenuously resist it.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I rise, at the invitation of the hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Paget), not to stick a poisoned pin into him, but to express my real and sincere compassion for a Gentleman who finds himself in an extremely difficult position, and who has, at considerable length, adduced a great number of arguments in favour of not doing that which he feels he ought to do. The hon. Baronet has said that he is not against the principle of this clause—that he thinks it is a right principle; but then he sets to work to show that this is not a convenient season to carry it out. He then says that the time has gone by when it could be carried out, and he has given every possible reason which could occur to that formidable band of local taxation reformers who have been holding themselves out for years to the tenant farmers of England as their true friends, to show that when the time comes for doing something for their benefit, that they make every possible excuse for doing nothing. The hon. Baronet knows very well how the Division List on this Amendment will be scanned in the newspapers in every county in England to-morrow. The hon. Baronet knows that the people who will vote against the clause will be the landowners and the people who represent property. He knows perfectly 1708 well that the excuses—if it were not for the great respect I bear towards the hon. Baronet, I should say the miserable excuses—he has offered for not supporting the Amendment will not serve his purpose at all. He has referred to certain details in the Amendment, and has spoken of what the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General said on the subject. The hon. and learned Attorney General was perfectly frank in the matter, and said he was not arguing the principles of the Amendment, but details which could be altered in the clause. We are on the second reading of the clause; we are not on the details at all. We are on the question of the principle which the hon. Baronet says he is in favour of—namely, a division of rates. There is nothing else at issue between us except that division. The hon. Baronet and others have endeavoured to argue the point as to interference with past contracts; but the answer to that is, that if the majority of this House are of opinion that past contracts should be saved, it is perfectly possible, after you have read this clause a second time, to amend it so as to save them. Whether it would be a wise thing or not to do that, I will not express a strong opinion. [Laughter.] The noble Lord opposite smiles. He is a man who condemned the conduct of the Government when, on the last Irish Land Bill brought in last Session, they inserted a clause to affect existing contracts retrospectively as to judicial rents. And why did they insert that clause? Because we, I think unwisely, had saved existing contracts, and it had become impossible to maintain the injustice of refusing to revise judicial rents on existing leases when they were standing side by side with other tenancies which had had the advantage of a revision of judicial rents. I beg the noble Lord's attention to that. I know he condemned the proposal; but, then, he condemned the action of the Government he supports, and they found it necessary to affect retrospectively existing contracts, because they could not apply a principle they deemed to be just to future contracts, and refuse to apply it to past contracts; and I advise hon. Members opposite to bear in mind, when they come to deal with this question of the division of rates, the pressure under which they were obliged to adopt 1709 that principle previously. However, as I say, that is not the question we are upon now. The question we are now upon is as to whether it is a fair thing that a division of rates between the owner and occupier should be made a part of the principle of rating in this country, whether in town or country. I was a little surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, feeling the pressure of the admirable speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), should not have attempted to make any reply to that speech. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be satisfied with borrowing across the Table his own book, from which my right hon. Friend had quoted, to satisfy himself that he could ever had laid down such a principle of justice, of equity, and of policy as had been attributed to him. The right hon. Gentleman having, however, satisfied himself that he had at one time laid down such a principle, very discreetly left the House. Well, that is the position in which the Government are with reference to this principle of the division of the rates. They are obliged to admit that the principle is a just one, and what are the pretexts upon which hon. Gentlemen opposite are going to try to evade responsibility for refusing to apply that principle? [Cries of "Oh!"] I use the word evade, but I do not wish to do it uncivilly, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite will supply me with a better one in which to describe the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget), I shall gladly adopt it. Would the hon. Baronet prefer that I should ask what are their excuses for not carrying out the principle, which they admit to be a just one? Here we have a Gentleman who says that he approves of the principle of the division of the rates. Well, this clause asserts the principle of the division of rates; and why, therefore, is he going to vote against it? [An hon. MEMBER: The time is inopportune.] Very inopportune! That remark reminds me of an observation made by a very well-known character of old, who, when the truth was preached to him, said—"I will hear you at a more convenient season." 1710 Why is the time inopportune? Here is a Bill which is intended to settle the question of Local Government. Why should it not settle the question of the division of the rates? It is said that you cannot deal with the whole question of the rates, and no more you can; but is there any man of common sense in this House who does not know perfectly well that if you inserted the principle of this clause in this Bill, that principle will inevitably, and, as a matter of course, be applied to all the other rates in the country? It is a just principle. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in those passages which were read by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton, has proved that the principle is just, and that the other principle is unjust to an extent that can hardly be expressed. What is the other principle? Why, that you practically make the occupier, whether he be in the town or country—and although I do not myself profess to be a more competent judge in this matter than other people, I should say that probably in towns more than in the country—you practically make the occupier pay the cost of the permanent improvements, from which the owners derive the greatest share of benefit. That is unquestionably true; no one can deny it; and I maintain this is a gross injustice—one of the greatest injustices that property has ever inflicted on industry and labour in this country—and the more it is discussed the more it will be so understood; and you who represent the great majority of Metropolitan constituencies opposite, how are you going to justify to the occupiers your vote against a principle which will share, as between the owners and occupiers, the burden of the rates? How are you who represent county constituencies, and who have talked so much about the dreadful oppression of Local Taxation—[Laughter]—yes, you talk about it as if you would lift with your little finger every part of that burden, how are you going to face your constituencies after the vote you are about to give? You, the landowners of England, are determined that the tenants of England shall bear this burden, and so far as the country and rural districts are concerned you will be directly voting for the landlord as against the tenant. ["No, no"] You may say "No" if you like; but the question is, what the 1711 tenants of England will think of your vote to-morrow. Well, now, what is your answer? You say if this division of rates takes place, the landlords ought to be represented. Yes, but how represented? I suppose you mean that they are to have half the representation. That is your argument; but is there a man amongst you who dare make such a proposal? The noble Lord opposite, who was delighted at the argument that in Scotland the Commissioners of Supply imposed the rate—who, thanks to that arrangement, is all right—half the rates being paid by the tenant, and half by the landlord [Sir RICHARD PAGET: No; wholly paid by the landlord.] ["Hear, hear!"] Are you applauding the proposition that some of the rates are divided, or that no rates are divided? Without explanation I am unable to understand the reasoning faculty upon which the cheers of the hon. and learned Member for Preston (Mr. Tomlinson) are founded. The noble Lord is satisfied with the scheme under which the landowner or the heritor will have the whole vote and the tenant pays a part of the rates, but a system under which the tenant would have a majority of the votes, and the landlord would pay a part of the rates, he describes as "Oh, most unjust! We could not think of such a thing. "That position was entirely destroyed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, in the speech to which no reply had been attempted. In Imperial taxation you do not lay down any such principle as that the owner should be represented, especially in respect of taxes which fall upon property, and although that point has been raised before, no reply has been attempted to it. We have long ago got far beyond that view, that unless special representation of particular interests is given, you cannot make a rate which will affect everybody. Now, in respect of the taxation in rural districts, who are going to be responsible for the expenditure, and consequently for the rate? Is it the tenant alone? Not at all. The ratepayers generally, the majority of whom in many cases will be the agricultural labourers, will determine the expenditure and will determine the rate. What protection will be given to the farmer? None at all. You do not pretend that the rates should only be made by the 1712 persons affected; because the farmer is in a small minority in the rural districts, so far as regards the persons who administer the rates. Therefore, you do not class these grants-in-aid in defence of the farmer; but I am sorry to say that when it comes to a practical point, you do not care one straw about the farmer. You are very ready to advance this argument on behalf of the landowner as conclusive, and say if the landowner is not fully represented he shall not be rated; but as regards the farmer, you allow him to be rated. At present he has no representation at all for his property, and therefore it is practically an insincere and hypocritical pretence upon which the principle contained in this clause is contested. How does the matter stand? Here we have a proposal upon the second reading of a clause to assert the justice of a system of a divided rate. We are not, on this second reading of the clause, discussing at all the question as to whether or not the proposal is to apply to existing leases or to existing contracts. The Committee may determine that one way or the other, as it pleases. I have already, in the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pointed out, as a warning, the case where leases were excluded in the Irish Land Act. You could not stand up to that principle; but I am not arguing upon that now, as we are not going to divide upon it. The question we are going to divide upon is the question of the justice of the division of the rates as between owners and occupiers. That principle, whatever reason the right hon. Gentleman may give for voting against this proposal, is not unjust. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself expressed the opinion that the existing system is unjust, that it unfairly taxes the occupier, and that it gives a most unfair advantage to the owner of property. That is the system which you refuse to modify, that is the system which in this Amendment we intend to put a stop to. We take issue on it. We reject all those dilatory pleas which have been put in on behalf of the landowner by the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Divison of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget). We reject all those pleas as to the time being inopportune urged on behalf of 1713 owners of property by those who represent them, whether in the rural districts, in the Metropolis, or in the urban districts of England, and we take our stand upon the principle which you may defeat, but which we are thoroughly confident must become the law of the land within a very short time.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was present not very long ago when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) deprecated the introduction of warmth and Party spirit into this debate. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman heard the friendly lecture of his right hon. Friend, who stated that this debate had, generally speaking, been conducted with very great freedom from Party spirit, and rebuked an hon. Member who sits on this side of the House for endeavouring to make political capital out of this debate. Now, the right hon. Gentleman, as is usual—as he so often has done—endeavoured to set occupiers against owners, and to misrepresent the feelings of owners towards occupiers, and to create between them as much bad blood as he possibly could. That was why the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to import into this debate so much warmth. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT dissented.] I do not think it will be denied that the right hon. Gentleman contributed considerable warmth to this debate. Then the right hon. Gentleman having, as I have said, done his best to create had blood, came and laid down from his position on the Front Opposition Bench what we are going to vote for. He chooses a certain formula, and says that is the principle for which we are going to vote. Now, it is nothing of the kind. The question before us is as to whether the clause on the Paper should be imported into the Bill.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; it is as to the second reading of the clause; but the right hon. Gentleman did not say that.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
The right hon. Gentleman was not in the House when I said it; but he came in while I was speaking—when I was in 1714 about the middle of my speech. I said we were reading this clause a second time, just as we read a Bill a second time, and that that second reading would commit us to the principle but not to the details.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman chooses to say what is the principle of this clause; he says it is the division of the rates between the owners and occupiers. It was said that I had upheld that, and I consulted my own book in order that I might see what I said therein. I also consulted the Bill, which I had the honour to introduce 17 years ago for a very different purpose. I did that in order to compare—and I call the attention of the Committee particularly to this—in order to compare the proposal then made to that now submitted to the Committee. If hon. Members will make that comparison, they will find that a very curious result follows. The hon. Member who proposed this clause (Mr. Channing) has taken almost the precise language of the clause in my Bill, but with two remarkable omissions. The section in my Bill introduced this provision—But no deduction shall be made to any occupier in respect of such portion of the rates as he has before the passing of this Act contracted with his landlord to pay.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; but why was it not put in this clause originally? The Committee will see the significance of the omission. It is not that the hon. Member did not think of it, but that he deliberately omitted to put in the provision, and this justifies what has been said—a position which I think few hon. Members opposite will deny—that by this clause they intended to affect existing contracts. [Cries of "No!"] But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby nods his head. They put a different construction upon it, Sir, to that which you were inclined to put upon it at the beginning of this discussion, that it affects existing contracts by placing half the rates on the existing owner whatever the contract might have been. That is the proposal for which we are called upon to vote. But the right hon. Gentleman says—"Why do you not amend the clause, if you think it desirable?" We have urged, and 1715 will continue to urge, and it is a reasonable argument, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, that a Bill in which we have not dealt with rating at all, is not the proper place in which to introduce this provision. There are many questions connected with rating with which we shall have to deal hereafter, and which cannot be dealt with in this measure. We have purposely not overloaded the Bill, which, Heaven knows, is long enough and heavy enough at present. We should kill it if, besides what we have done, we were to deal with the whole question of rating. We cannot agree at this stage of the Bill to introduce a part of the rating question, and such an important and interesting part of that question would affect the Bill in different ways. And now let me call attention to the other omission of the hon. Member from this clause, which has otherwise been copied from the clause in my Bill. The Bill of 17 years ago proposed that the owner, being rated to the Consolidated Rate, should, for the purposes of the Parliamentary and other franchises, be deemed equally to be rated to the Poor Rate, and for the payment of such rate. Therefore, I was prepared that when the owner paid part of the rate for Parliamentary and other franchises, he was to have a vote. Hon. Members opposite, it would be remembered, denied to owners the status of the franchise; they denied to them any franchise at all. Therefore this proposal, which is now made to the Committee by the clause we are asked to read a second time, violates existing contracts, and refuses that representation to the owner in respect of which he should be called upon to pay. Now, I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to a passage in a speech delivered by Sir Charles Dilke on this very matter at Halifax, in 1885. The right hon. Gentleman said—'The Rathbone Bill' followed in one important point the view which Mr. Goschen had declared some years before, and provided for the division of the rate between the owner and occupier. I mention this matter because I believe the division of rates involves giving the owners the municipal franchise in the municipal boroughs. If, as some think, the boroughs will not accept this change, then I fear the division of rates cannot be carried.If, therefore, we had proposed this division of rates in the present Bill, we should have had, in addition to all the 1716 other work we have to do, to reconstruct the municipal franchise, and I leave it to the Committee at large to consider what labour and application that would have involved in the conduct of this Bill. The fact is, and it cannot be denied by the most ardent advocates of this division of the rates between the owners and the occupiers, it involves the settlement of the position of the owners and their right to a special voice with regard to this taxation, half of which they would be called upon to pay under this proposal. That is a matter which could not possibly be put out of sight. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has charged hon. Members on this side of the House with being lukewarm on this question of the division of rates between owners and occupiers. There are many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who take precisely as strong a view of the propriety of this rating as hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I entirely repudiate the view that this is a question as between the acceptance and the refusal of the principle of the division of rates. The right hon. Gentleman knows to what extent I am myself pledged to this division of rates. From what I have said on previous occasions on this question I do not recede, with the saving of existing contracts and securing to the owner a voice in the expenditure of the rates, and I am authorized to say, on the part of my Colleagues, that that is their view also. We consider that while it is not possible in this Bill to deal with the division of rates between owners and occupiers, as it would involve the settlement of many other matters which it would be impossible to put into this Bill, we will certainly consider how the division recommended by the Richmond Commission should be carried out. We have been asked how far we can pledge ourselves to deal with the matter by legislation? We cannot pledge ourselves to deal with the question within six months; we cannot say we will undertake, at any given moment, to deal with it; but we will say this, that we consider that the whole question of rating has still to be dealt with. It is a chapter that has not been concluded, and it is a matter that we should have been glad to include in this Bill if it had not been impossible to do so. Though we cannot pledge ourselves to 1717 any particular date, we shall deal as soon as we can with this question of rating, and take into our best considertion how we can secure the division of rates between owners and occupiers; but certainly along with that division providing security for existing contracts, and securing to owners a fair and just voice in the outlay of that taxation, such a large proportion of which they will be called upon to contribute.
§ SIR JULIAN GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, he thought the main principle on which they ought to agree was this—that if the tenant had contracted to pay rates he ought to continue to pay them during his lease; but it was hardly fair to impose upon the tenant new rates which were for the benefit of the landlord and tenant alike. He thought that those who were jointly to benefit by the new rates ought jointly to pay for them. That principle was not embodied in the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Channing), because he did not preserve to the present tenant the obligation of paying the existing rates. However, he thought that that objection might be met by an Amendment. It would not, in his opinion, be right to impose on the landlord the duty of paying part of the rating for improvements, unless they gave him some share of representation, and consequently in that respect, also, the Amendment would have to be amended, and many other alterations would have to follow in the Bill. As he had said, it would be very difficult to make all those alterations at this late period when there still remained so much work to be done, and he could not but think that his hon. Friend might be inclined not to press his Amendment if the Government would undertake to deal with the subject next Session. The Amendment contained a principle which it was exceedingly difficult for him to vote against, and he would for these reasons urge that, as they were agreed in saying that it was fair that existing obligations should be preserved, and that some representation should be given to those required to pay in future, there need be no great fight upon this matter, and that the Government might make a promise to deal with the whole question next Session, and then he thought his hon. Friend might fairly withdraw his clause.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, in answer to the appeal of the hon. Baronet, it was a little too soon to make any positive engagment with respect to next Session. They might be placed in circumstances over which they had no control, and have to delay or postpone one measure in favour of another of greater importance. But his right hon. Friend had stated that it was the intention of the Government to deal with the question of rating at the earliest possible moment. He asked the Committee to consider that intimation as given in good faith, and beyond it he could not go.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, although he represented no landowners, he must vote against the clause, and desired to state his reasons for doing so. He had no objection to a law being made which should throw on the landlord or owner of property a portion of the rates; he had no objection to a law being made which, if it were necessary, would throw upon him the whole of the rates, provided only that there was left to him and the tenant absolute freedom to make their own arrangement with regard to these payments. His objection was to the 5th sub-section of the clause, which sought to provide that any contract made by an occupier after the passing of the Act, by virtue of which he was deprived of his right to make a deduction from the rent, should be void both at law and in equity. As concerned that proposal, no case whatever had been shown to the Committee why the law should step in and interfere with that freedom of contract which ought to exist between grown people who were making a bargain, as to which each knew what he wanted and would take due pains to obtain it. He objected to the clause in the interests of the owner and the occupier. [Cries of "Divide!"]
§ MR. BUCHANAN
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
said, it seemed to him that when the owner had land to let, and was seeking a tenant, and when a tenant desired to hire land, the two ought to be allowed to make their own bargain with regard to the incidence of taxation. There was no 1719 reason in the nature of things why the law should step in between the parties and prevent their making as good terms for themselves as they could. They were quite aware with regard to Ireland that a state of things had arisen which had led to interference with freedom of contract; but it had not been shown that there was any ground for such interference in this country. Political economists had shown clearly that attempts of this kind to interfere with freedom of contract did much more harm than good to the party whom they were intended to benefit. For these reasons he should vote against the clause.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
said, he would not detain the Committee for more than a minute or two. But he wished to say a word before the question in the clause was decided upon. If he believed that the position of the occupier in respect to the question of the division of rates would be prejudiced by the rejection of the clause, he should certainly have a great objection to voting against it. This was a reform in connection with rating, which he had long believed to be expedient; but it seemed to him that it, and, indeed, the whole question of rating was one of quite sufficient importance to merit consideration and to form the subject of a separate measure. The Government, he believed, had stated that it was their desire in the first instance to deal with the subject of rating in the present measure; but experience had shown that there were already a sufficient number of subjects of very great importance dealt with in it without encumbering it with the important and difficult question of rating. His own opinion was that it was not desirable to introduce one portion of that great question by means of this clause. He considered that a tacit understanding had been arrived at on the point when the franchise for electing the County Council was decided upon, and when no portion of the Committee supported the giving of a vote to owners. It seemed to him that if the owners were to be made liable in future to pay a portion of the rates to which they were not now liable, the question, at all events, arose—he did not say it conclusively followed—whether some additional representation and power of making their voices heard 1720 ought not to be given to them in consequence. Not only would the introduction of the clause involve important changes in the construction of the Bill which had now passed, but, at the same time, it would be extremely undesirable at that time to introduce matters which might lead to further controversy and considerable alterations in the Bill. He conceived that the pledge of the Government was that they would, at the earliest possible opportunity, deal with this question—that they would deal with it in the next Session, unless they were unavoidably prevented. That, it appeared to him, was as much as could reasonably be expected; and, believing that it was undesirable to meddle with one corner of a subject which could not, during the remainder of the present Session, be adequately discussed, he should certainly support the Government in their opposition to the clause.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 174; Noes 229: Majority 55.—(Div. List, No. 222.)
MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.), in moving the following new clause:—
On any vacancy occurring after the passing of this Act in the office of a coroner for a county, the county council shall thereupon appoint a fit person, not being a county councillor, to fill such office, and in the case of a county divided into districts shall assign him a district; and any person so appointed shall have like powers and duties, and be entitled to like remuneration, as if he had been elected coroner for the county by the freeholders thereof;
Sections eleven and fourteen of 'The Coroners Act, 1887,'and any other enactment relating to the election of a coroner for a county by the freeholders of such county or any district thereof, are hereby repealed,
said, he thought the Committee would agree that the present mode of electing Coroners was obsolete, inconvenient, and costly. At present a Coroner was elected by the body of freeholders, who once were, but were no longer, representative of the inhabitants of the county. There was no proper register of the freeholders, and the body of electors was, therefore, extremely indeterminate, and every candidate for the discharge of the duties of the office had to go through a troublesome and expensive canvass of a large number of persons in order to obtain their votes. He was convinced that if the Govern-
ment could see their way to adopt the clause he had placed upon the Paper, to vest the power of appointment to the office of Coroner in the County Council, future candidates for Coronerships would be sincerely grateful. As far as he knew, there were only two possible arguments against the addition of the clause to the Bill. The first was that the present mode of electing Coroners was very ancient. But that plea had been thrown over in "another place" by no less an authority than the Prime Minister. The second objection would be that the Government had a Bill in the House of Lords proposing to vest the appointment of Coroners in the Crown. But he would earnestly press upon the Government that, having set up a Council in each county, they should, as a pure matter of convenience, transfer to that authority the power of appointment by adopting the clause which he now begged to move.
§ New Clause (Appointment of coroners by county council,)—(Mr. Hobhouse,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, that a few days ago the Committee had decided that certain judicial officers in the City whose appointment had, for many centuries, been vested in the Common Council, should in future be appointed by the Crown. There was no doubt that so far as the existing mode of appointing Coroners was concerned, it was not one which could be easily defended. It might or might not be a question whether these appointments ought to be made, as in the case of the Judges in the City, by the Crown, but whatever might be the ultimate decision on that point in future, he did not see why they should not adopt some improvement of the present system, if they could do so, in this Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman who proposed the clause before the Committee had said that a Bill dealing with the question had been introduced by the Government in "another place;" and although he was quite right in saying that the original proposal was to vest the appointment of 1722 Coroners in the Crown, yet he might inform him that at the instance of the Lord Chancellor, a clause similar to that which he now proposed had been inserted in the Bill. It was to the effect that the Local Authority having the power to elect the Coroner should be any representative body elected by the inhabitants of the county which might be established under any Act of Parliament passed in the present or any future Parliament, and until it was so established, that the appointment of Coroner should be vested in Quarter Sessions. The principle for which the hon. and learned Gentleman was contending had, therefore, been accepted by the Government, and, in those circumstances, he did not think they could resist the clause, whatever the result of further consideration of the question in future might be.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he had been under the impression that the proposal in "another place" was to vest the appointment of the Coroner in the Crown. A more unconstitutional proposal than that it was impossible to conceive, because the whole object of the office was to secure the protection of the people against the Crown. It was on account of the fear that the Crown might take part in the proceedings that a popularly elected officer should hold the investigation. It was not a judicial office in any sense of the word; the fundamental position was that the office of Coroner should be a public protection against the Crown holding a preliminary inquisition which should lead to judicial inquiry. He was, therefore, glad to hear that there was no idea in "another place" of transfering to the Crown the appointment of Coroner, and that it was to be placed in the hands of the County Council, which he thought a very great improvement upon the present system.
§ MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
said, with respect to the County of London, it would be necessary to re-arrange the Coroner's districts. That was proposed to be done in the Bill of 1884, which gave power to the then Lord Mayor to settle the duties and assign the districts of the Coroners. That was a carefully considered proposal, and he thought some words should be brought in on Report to amend the clause so far as related to the County of London.
§ MR. ARTHUR WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)
said, having placed upon the Paper an Amendment of a similar character as that of his hon. and learned Friend, he had to express his great satisfaction that the Government had agreed to add the clause to the Bill. He ventured to hope that a fair and candid consideration would be given to another Amendment that stood in his name.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause added to the Bill.
New Clause—After Clause 7, insert the following Clause:—
(Justices may suspend county constable.)
Any two justices having jurisdiction in a county may at any time suspend any county constable of the same county whom they think negligent in the discharge of his duty, or otherwise unfit for the same,"—(Mr. F. S. Powell),
—brought up, and read a first and second time, and added to the Bill.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, it was not desirable that the medical officer of a county should be dependent upon local practice. They wanted men of scientific, medical, and sanitary education, who could give the whole of their time to the work that had to be performed, and it was necessary that they should be placed in a position in which they could efficiently carry out their duties. He was not prepared to go to the extent of taking away from the Sanitary Authority the appointment of the medical officer, and placing it absolutely in the hands of the County Council. He was a believer in the principle of local self-government, and he did not desire to minimize it by conferring it upon large areas alone; but he thought there was everything to be said in favour of facilitating an arrangement between the county and the sanitary districts, by virtue of which the county might appoint a man of high education and scientific knowledge, who could give the whole of his time to the various urban and sanitary districts which might be disposed to avail themselves of his services. The clause he had placed upon the Paper, to come in after Clause 15, was entirely of a voluntary and enabling nature, and proposed that the County Council should appoint a medical officer of health, and that the County Council and any urban or Rural Sanitary 1724 authority might from time to time make arrangements for his services to be availed of beyond his district. The arrangement was to be left entirely to the judgment of the respective Bodies, and, so long as it remained in force, the obligations of the District Council under "The Public Health Act, 1875," should be deemed to be satisfied. After this brief explanation, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman would agree to the clause.
§ New clause—
§ (Power of county councils to appoint medical officer.)
§ "(1) The council of any county may, if they see fit, appoint and pay a medical officer of health, or medical officers of health, who shall not hold any other appointment or engage in private practice without express written consent of the council;
§ "(2) The county council and any district council may from time to time make and carry into effect arrangements for rendering the services of such officer or officers regularly available in the district of the district council on such terms as to the contribution by the district council to the salary or the medical officer, or otherwise, as may be agreed;
§ !"(3) So long as such an arrangement is in force, the obligation of the district council under 'The Public Health Act, 1875,' shall be deemed to be satisfied without the appointment of a separate medical officer,"—(Mr. Stansfeld,)"
§ —brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "that the Clause be read a second time."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (MR. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, if the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman were to take away from the districts the power of appointing medical officers of health, he should, of course, most strongly object to it. But it was to be entirely voluntary whether the County Councils should appoint such officers, and also whether the County Council and the districts should combine for the object in view, and, under those circumstances, he was prepared to agree to the Amendment.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
said, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman would fill up a great gap in the present Bill. A clause was passed yesterday which compelled medical officers of districts to report to the County Council. Now, under the present circumstances, the County Council had no medical officer who could analyze the 1725 Reports, and bring them into use for the health of the community, and, therefore, he thought that the acceptance of the clause would constitute a great improvement.
§ MR. F.S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he desired to hear what was the tenure of the office. He believed that many officers held their position by a very frail tenure, and upon terms that were very injurious to the localities.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the tenure of office differed; in some cases it was held for a year, and in other cases for a longer period.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
said, it was well known that when the Act of 1875 was introduced it was proposed that medical officers should be appointed for large districts in preference to small ones. That was tried in many counties, but it was found not to work well in the rural parts, because it was difficult to get men of sufficient position, except at a very large salary, to give up an established practice; and in addition to that, there were conditions with regard to the carrying out of the details of the Act which a great number of those who made application for the office were not willing to accept. It was, therefore, found more convenient that medical officers should be provided for smaller districts. He was not sure that that was altogether well, but practically he thought that a good deal of good had been done in the rural districts by carrying out the Act. The great object was to get men for the office well instructed in sanitary matters; but it seemed to him that there would be much difficulty in many places in getting such men to do the work, because the matters to be attended to in small localities were comparatively of small importance, and such that men with a good practice would not care to undertake—namely, attendance at prosecutions for overcrowding cottages and similar work. For these reasons he was inclined to think that medical officers for large districts would not be able to serve the local Sanitary Authorities.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said it had been stated that the tenure of office varied very much indeed. But, surely, under certain circumstances, officers of Poor Law Unions could not be dismissed without the consent of the 1726 Poor Law Board, and he thought it desirable that there should be a similar arrangement made with regard to medical officers; especially as it was understood that the medical officer was not to have any other appointment without the consent of the Council. He considered it necessary to insert some words which would protect medical officers from being turned out of office without good reason.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
asked, whether it would not be desirable to leave out from the 1st sub-section the words which provided that the medical officers of health should not hold any other appointment or engage in any other business without the express written consent of the Council? In order to get properly qualified men to undertake the office on those terms, it would be necessary to give them a very large salary, but in small districts he thought they might be obtained for a moderate salary by leaving them their private practice. His own opinion was that it would be best to leave the County Council to do exactly what it thought right in the matter.
§ MR. F.S. POWELL
said, he thought it was extremely important if these officers were to be appointed at all they should have no private practice. It was of the essence of the matter that they should have men of skill, without private practice, who could give their whole time to the discovery and prevention of disease throughout the county.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said, he believed that men who did their duty as sanitary officers efficiently ought to be paid large salaries. This would be absolutely necessary in order to get men of high scientific qualifications. He was most strongly in favour of the Amendment.
§ SIR JOSEPH BAILEY (Hereford)
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would consent to the omission of those limiting words, because if they were retained they would prevent the County Councils in Wales making use of the clause.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR
said, it was in his opinion of the highest importance that the words should be retained.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it was most important that the medical officer in some cases should not be 1727 engaged in private practice. But he would point out to the hon. Baronet the Member for Hereford (Sir Joseph Bailey) that there was plenty of scope for the County Council in exceptional cases to allow the medical officer to retain his private practice if they thought fit. The clause did no more than say he should not have a private practice with the express consent of the Council.
§ MR. C. T. DYKE ACLAND (Cornwall, Launceston)
said, he considered that nothing could be more important than the fully carrying out of this provision.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he thought they might safely trust the County Council to appoint the medical officer on such a tenure as would enable the work to be properly carried out.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Clause agreed to, and added to the Bill.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
said, the object of the clause, the second reading of which he was about to move, was to secure the qualification of every medical officer appointed by the Council. Many of the medical officers were men practising in little districts, and they did not require any other qualifications than those of medicine, surgery, and midwifery. But in the large districts it was most necessary that they should have a knowledge of matters connected with public health. All Examining Bodies and the Universities examined in public health, and it would be no inconvenience that men who desired to have these appointments in counties should have such qualifications in that branch as would insure to the district the advantage that would result from his knowledge of sanitary science. He would now ask the Committee to read a second time the clause he had placed on the Paper to secure that object.
§ New Clause—
§ (Qualification of medical officers of health.)
§ "Except where the Local Government Board, for reasons brought to its notice, may see fit in particular cases specially to allow, no person shall hereafter be appointed the medical officer of health of any district, or the deputy of any 1728 such officer, unless he be legally qualified for the practice of medicine, surgery, and midwifery; nor shall any person after the first day of January one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two be appointed the medical officer of health of any district or districts containing a population of fifty thousand or more inhabitants, unless he be registered in the medical register as the holder of a diploma in sanitary science, public health, or State medicine under section twenty-one of 'The Medical Act, 1886,'"—(Sir Lyon Playfair,)
§ —brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ SIR GUYER HUNTER (Hackney, Central)
rose to Order. He had been absent for a very short time, during which a most important Amendment in his name had been passed over. He asked if he could now propose the Amendment in question, which related to the qualifications of medical officers?
said, he feared that the hon. Gentleman must bear the consequence of his absence. If the hon. Member wished to move his Amendment, he might do so when the Amendment before the Committee had been read a second time.
§ SIR GUYER HUNTER
said, he had no objection to second the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He thought it absolutely necessary for every medical officer of health after the 1st of April, 1892, to possess a diploma in public health, sanitary science, and State medicine. The office in question was one for which those qualifications were eminently requisite, and without them he said it stood to reason that no one should be appointed to it. He had no objection to accepting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with reference to the smaller areas and the officers who might be appointed after the 1st of January, 1892, and he should cordially support it because he regarded it as of vital importance to the well-being of the people that after that date every man appointed medical officer of health should possess a diploma in sanitary science, public health, or State medicine.
§ MR. MALLOCK (Devon, Torquay)
said, he would point out that these diplomas would cost £20. He believed the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman went beyond the precedent of two Acts of Parliament, under which medical 1729 officers who proved that they were in practice, might register. He thought there would be no objection to make this order with regard to the future; but it would be very hard on men of middle age, who had served their districts well, to make them sit down and fill up examination papers.
§ SIR TINDAL ROBERTSON (Brighton)
said, he hoped the Government would accept the clause of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair). In no respect had it been more clearly demonstrated that the public had been benefited by the present tendency of the Medical Profession than in that of Sanitary Science. There was a general recognition of the fact that medical men devoted themselves not only to the cure, but to the prevention of disease, which latter he regarded as one of the most important objects which the Profession, both at present and in the future, should look to. He believed that the clause would materially assist in the attainment of that object, inasmuch as it would lead to greater vigilance on the part of the public in the selection of properly qualified men for these important offices.
§ It being half an hour after Five of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.