§ PART I.
§ Clause 1 (Establishment of County Councils).
§ MR GURDON (Norfolk, Mid)
, in rising to move, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 7, and elsewhere, to leave out the words "County Council," and insert, instead thereof, the words "Shire Court," said, this was a very small Amendment, and he hoped the Government would accept it. He trusted they would agree with him that the term "Shire Court" would be more familiar and certainly shorter than "County Councils." In the county which he had the honour to represent, the building in which they sat for the transaction of county business had always been called "Shire Court." The term "Court" was very well known. It was used in the case of the Quarter Session, the High Court of Parliament, and the High Court of Justice; and in many other instances the word "Board," such as Local Board and Board of Guardians, was employed. The word "Council" was not at all familiar to the rural mind, and, therefore, he considered that the name of "Shire Court" or "Board," as it might seem best to hon. Members, would be more appropriate for the new Bodies to be constituted under the Bill. He, therefore, begged to move the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, and elsewhere, to leave out "County Council" and insert "Shire Court."—(Mr. Gurdon.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'County Council' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, the 1548 Government were of opinion that the term "County Council" was more appropriate to the functions which would devolve upon the Council than the term suggested by the hon. Gentleman. As far as the word "Court" went, it seemed rather to imply a Body having judicial magisterial functions; and the word "Council" was, therefore, much more appropriate. It was a well-known word, and was used throughout the country in connection with Town Councils. "County" was more familiar to the general public than "Shire," and, on the whole, the Government were disposed to recommend the Committee to adhere to the designation contained in the Bill.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
, in moving, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 7, to leave out "Council," and insert "Assembly," said, he proposed to take the same course in regard to the rest of the Bill where the word "Council" was used. He hoped the Government would not think that, in moving this Amendment, he was at all desirous to obstruct the progress of the Bill. He was as anxious as the Government, or anyone else in the Committee, to see this new form of Local Government established in such a way as to secure the fullest respect of all those for whose benefit it was intended to be established. It appeared to him that by the Amendment he suggested that object was more likely to be effected than by retaining the word "Council," which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had expressed his preference for. He did not think the same objection applied to this Amendment as to the last. He proposed to substitute the word "Assembly" for "Council." It was quite true that the word "Assembly" would convey an idea of the exercise of different functions from those now exercised by Municipal Bodies called "Councils;" but the County Boards were to have enlarged functions, and he thought they ought to have a different name from that enjoyed by other Courts and Councils. With respect to the term "Council," he would respectfully suggest that, if they took that name for the supreme Body in the county, they would not give to it that kind of superiority over other Bodies which it ought to 1549 enjoy, seeing that it was likely to be a Court of Appeal from the lesser Bodies in the county. At the same time, they would run a risk of of mixing up a number of different Bodies, seeing that there would exist Councils performing very different functions in the same county. There were already Town Councils, and, under the present Bill, there would be District Councils, and probably other Councils. On that ground, it appeared to him desirable to substitute the larger and more dignified name of "Assembly" for what was intended to be a more dignified and far more important Body than a Town Council. The Body about to be constituted would probably include high dignitaries of the Church, Members of Parliament, and others, and would be far more dignified in its general character than even Town Councils. However admirably they did their work, the members of a Town Council were much lesser luminaries than this County Assembly was intended to be. That was the main reason why he suggested that the term "Assembly" should be substituted, because he desired to make the new Body as authoritative as possible for the purpose of securing, in the work they had to perform, the respect of the whole county. Another reason was, that it was a well-established rule in that House, and in most Assemblies called Deliberative or Legislative Bodies not to address Members in the House by their names. That course had been found extremely inconvenient in practice, and it might be said that the turmoil and unseemly conduct which frequently occurred in Vestry meetings, and meetings of Boards of Guardians, arose from the fact that the members of such Bodies were addressed as Mr. So-and-So. In the new County Councils the persons returned would be members representing a distinct division of the county. In large counties, for example, such as Cornwall and Devonshire, the members returned would represent a particular district as distinctly as they now did in the House of Commons. It, therefore, seemed to him convenient, if possible, to refer to a member as member for a certain division of a county, rather than by name. That appeared to him not to be an immaterial consideration in discussing the Amendment. He might point out that they had a 1550 precedent for it in connection with the Legislative Assemblies in the Colonies, and he did not see why it should not be used to distinguish gentlemen who would belong to the new Deliberative Bodies in our counties. It would be far better to add to the end of the name of a gentleman who represented a particular district, M.C.A., and would be much preferable to M.C.C., when considering that it was very well known what those letters were generally supposed to imply. He, therefore, humbly submitted that, on all those grounds, it would be much better, in starting the new Deliberative Assembly, to give it a title which would distinguish it from other and lesser Bodies, which would confer upon it a higher position, and add to the dignity of the debates which would take place. He begged, therefore, to move the substitution of the word "Assembly" for "Council."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 7, to leave out the word "Council," and insert, instead thereof, the word "Assembly."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Council' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he differed altogether from the hon. Member who had moved the Amendment. The hon. Member said that if they were to put the letters M.C.C. after the name of the member of the County Council, the position might be misunderstand; but if they began to talk about County Assemblies, he was afraid that also would be liable to be misunderstood, and it might possibly suggest an entertainment, and the officers of the Council might be confounded with assembly rooms. The Government could not accept the Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he had not had any desire to divide the Committee, therefore he would proceed to the next Amendment which stood in his name—namely, in line 9, after the second "the," to insert "legislative." He proposed to introduce the word "legislative," so that the Council might be entrusted with the management of the administrative, legislative, and financial business of the county. It had always been understood that when these County Councils were established, they were in- 1551 tended to relieve the House of Commons of a great deal of the Private Bill legislation which at present hampered their proceedings to such a great extent, and not merely Private Bill legislation, but Public Bill legislation, because there were a considerable number of projects they were asked to discuss which merely referred to Parochial or Vestry matters. It appeared to him that that principle of relieving the House of Commons of a certain amount of its local business should be recognized in a Bill establishing so wide and fundamental a system of Local Government as that which was now before the Committee. He did not propose to give an independent power of legislation to the County Council; but he would remind the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman, further on in his Bill, had made provision for handing over to the County Councils what was distinctly legislative business in connection with Provisional Order Bills, and so on. [Mr. RITCHIE dissented.] It certainly seemed to him that some of the clauses which would be brought on later referred to legislative matters which it was proposed to hand over to the Councils. He thought it would be better, at the outset, to make it clear whether these Councils were to have such powers or not. His own opinion was that the wider the powers conferred on these County Councils the better, and, therefore, he would move the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 9, after the second "the," insert the word "legislative."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'legislative' be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was not proposed by any clause of the Bill to confer any powers of a legislative character upon the County Council. Provisional Orders would be made by the County Councils in the same way as they were now made by the Local Government Board, but the Local Government Board was not a legislative machine. Neither would the County Council be a legislative machine. All legislative business would have to be conducted in the House of Commons. That was his answer to the particular point which had been raised by the hon. Gentleman—namely, that it was not proposed in 1552 any part of the Bill to confer legislative powers on the County Councils, and, therefore, the Government could not assent to the Amendment.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he should like to know what could be understood by what had been said as to the necessity of relieving the House of Commons of a great deal of its Business? It had been complained, over and over again, that Private Bill legislation wasted a good deal of the time of the House, and it was admitted by all Parties that the House of Commons should be relieved from it. It certainly seemed to him that if every Provisional Order or Order in Council was to be deliberated upon and passed by a County Council before it came before the House of Commons, it would simply add to the work they would have to do in that House. It was upon that ground that he submitted the Amendment, and it certainly would appear that the Amendment he proposed assumed a greater amount of importance than he had imagined at the outset, and, if he received any support at all, he should go to a Division upon it.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
, in moving, as an Amendment, in page 1, line 11, to leave out the word "Chairman," and insert "President," said his object was to make the head of a County Council its President, instead of Chairman; but he scarcely expected that it would be of any use endeavouring to influence the mind of the right hon. Gentleman on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had already adopted an attitude of non possumus, and there was no good in indulging in any expectation in regard to his accepting the present Amendment. He was bound, however, to say to hon. Members who suggested that these were matters of very little importance, and who asked him what there was in a name, that there was a very great deal in a name in these cases. It would add an appearance of great dignity to the Assembly they were proposing to establish, and would have a marked effect upon the proceedings of that Body, and would tend to the orderly conduct of business and the general good of the county. As he had proposed former Amendments with that view, he now proposed this Amendment to substitute 1553 the word "President" in place of that of "Chairman." In the case of a Town Council, they made use of a word which was certainly better than Chairman. They had a Mayor, and as the President in this instance was to enjoy considerable prerogatives in connection with the County Councils, he thought it desirable that the title conferred upon him should be consistent with the dignity and importance of the position. He, therefore, proposed, that the word "President" should be substituted. He thought it was desirable that the head of the County Council should be looked upon as being placed in a somewhat different category from the Chairman of a mere Local Board. He certainly thought the Amendments he suggested deserved more consideration than had been given to them.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 11, leave out the word "Chairman," and insert instead thereof the word "President."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question, "That the word 'Chairman' stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.
said, the next Amendment, which stood in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for the Barkston Ash Division of the West Riding of Yorkshire (Colonel Gunter), and which provided that—The meetings of the Council shall be held in such buildings, rooms, or premises, either within or without the county, as the Council shall from time to time, or at any time, provide,ought to be brought up as a separate clause, and not proposed as an addition to Clause 1.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury)
, in moving to add at the end of the clause the following Proviso:—Provided, that every borough containing at the time of the passing of this Act fifty thousand inhabitants (which are the boroughs named in the Fourth Schedule to this Act) shall, for the purposes of this Act, and subject to its provisions, be a county of itself,said, he thought it better simply to move formally an Amendment which stood in his name, as he understood the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill wished to make a statement in regard to the matter. Perhaps the Committee would allow him (Sir Henry James) to state his views after he had heard the 1554 statement of the right hon. Gentleman.
In page 1, at end, add—"Provided, that every borough containing at the time of the passing of this Act fifty thousand inhabitants (which are the boroughs named in the Fourth Schedule to this Act) shall, for the purposes of this Act, and subject to its provisions, be a county of itself."—(Sir Henry James.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that as the Bill was originally introduced, the Committee would be aware that the limit which the Government thought proper to treat as a county in itself was a borough with a population of 150,000. He did not wish to disguise from the Committee that his own feeling was that it would, on the whole, have been better that the towns which were to be taken out of the counties, and to be created practically into counties themselves, should be only the largest and most important boroughs in the Kingdom. But, notwithstanding the belief on his part that the Bill, if it had been allowed to remain as it stood, would have been in many ways better than any other provision that could have been made, the Government had felt themselves unable to adhere to the limit originally fixed. Of course, there had been a very natural and, in many respects, a most laudable desire on the part of boroughs below 150,000 inhabitants to participate in the advantages proposed to be given to boroughs with over 150,000 inhabitants, and, therefore, the original figure had been reduced to 100,000. Still further pressure had been brought to bear on the Government to include boroughs even below 100,000 inhabitants, with the result that they had come to the conclusion to assent to the principle of this Amendment. The arguments which had been made use of were arguments which they had felt to be very strong indeed, and the announcement he had to make to-day was that, although the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) would probably, after the explanation he had given, not think it right to press his Amendment, because this would not be the place for any Amendment of the kind, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would undoubtedly expect from the Government some expression of opinion in regard to the decision they 1555 had arrived at, and what arrangements they proposed to make in the Bill, and what the boroughs were which would be included in the fourth schedule. As he had said, the Government had come to the conclusion upon the whole to accept the proposition of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. They proposed, therefore, that when they came to that part of the Bill which dealt with this question, to make provision that all boroughs which had 50,000 inhabitants in 1881, and which desired to come into the schedule, should be admitted into that schedule. With regard to the boroughs which could give satisfactory proof that they had now 50,000 inhabitants the Government had decided that they also should be included in the schedule. As to this latter class, however, they had not, at this moment, any reliable information. The only statistical information they had on the subject of population were the Registrar General's Returns, and they had been made up by taking as the increase since 1881, the same rate of increase as occurred between the Census of 1871 and 1881. Of course, this had been simply a work of calculation, and in many respects the figures might be fallacious. There might be boroughs which had had their area increased since 1881, and others which had not. The result of the decision of the Government was that all boroughs which desired to be admitted into the schedule which had a population of 50,000 in 1881 should be admitted, and all such boroughs as could satisfy the Government that their population had increased to that figure since 1881. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman was aware, there existed a means of finding that out by ascertaining how many additional houses had been built since the last Census, and that the Government would be prepared to accept as sufficient proof. Now that they had gone down so far in population as 50,000, there arose certain considerations with reference to the admission of other boroughs which had not so large a population as 50,000, and yet had their peculiar claims for consideration. He was speaking now of certain counties of cities. When the Bill was originally drafted, it was found impossible to take the claims of these cities into consideration, however great and substantial they were, and, therefore, boroughs and 1556 cities which formed counties—some of which had a population as low as 30,000—were not included. But now that it was proposed to come down as low as 50,000 inhabitants, the Committee would see that the condition of things had altered, and while the Government would have been justified in refusing to recognize the position taken up in regard to these cities of counties, they were no longer prepared to insist on their exclusion. Therefore they were prepared, in addition to the boroughs he had spoken of, to admit these cities of counties, which from their antiquity, their associations, and ancient usage gave them a very strong claim to be included in the schedule. That claim was more accentuated by the fact that these boroughs had never been within the jurisdiction of the county at all. The population of three or four of these cities was exceedingly small, and he did not propose to deal with them in this way. But in reference to the cities whose names he would read, it was proposed to include them in the fourth schedule—namely, Warwick—which, of course, had a population of more than 50,000, and might be left out of the question—Exeter, Lincoln, Chester, Gloucester, Worcester, and Canterbury. The population of Canterbury was considerably below that of Worcester, but they felt that if Canterbury did desire to come in, the historical claims of that City, notwithstanding the smallness of its population, would probably be recognized by the Committee. Therefore, if Canterbury desired to come in, it would be admitted. He hoped the Committee would understand that they did not propose to force any of these boroughs or cities to go out of the counties. It was quite optional with them, and perhaps they would take some other means of letting the Government know whether they desired to be included in the schedule or not, because, as they did not propose to force any of these boroughs or cities to take up this particular position, so also they were prepared to provide means in the Bill by which at any time in all these boroughs or cities, if they thought it more advantageous to their own interests, they could become part of the county to which they belonged. There was another consideration which they were bound to regard now that the number of 1557 boroughs included in Schedule 4 had been so greatly increased. A large and very influential deputation from Lancashire waited upon him at the Office of the Local Government Board a few days ago, to represent to the Government that the counties in which these boroughs were situated might be placed at a very great financial disadvantage if the boroughs were taken out of the counties and placed in an independent position by being put in the fourth schedule. He was bound to say that the representations made to him at that time seemed to him to have great force and weight, and that it was impossible for the Government to ignore them. He did not believe that any of these boroughs desired that the counties from which they were taken should suffer financially from the severance. He had always, when representations were made to him on behalf of the boroughs, said to the deputations who placed the cases before him, that in any event they would take special care that the county finances were not adversely affected, as far as the existing contributions were concerned, by such boroughs being taken out of the counties. In no single case had there been the smallest objection on behalf of these towns to an arrangement whereby those contributions should be maintained as at present. But the circumstances of the various boroughs were so different, that it was absolutely impossible for the Government to lay down a hard and fast rule by which each case should be settled. They, therefore, resolved to prepare a large clause of an equitable character providing for the establishment of a Commission, to which all these cases might be referred in the absence of agreement between the boroughs and counties affected; and such a Commission should have power to decide each case upon equitable grounds. Of course, the Commission was said to consist of a system of arbitration. The Government had felt it of extreme importance that whatever machinery they established, it should be as little costly as possible, and hon. Gentlemen would be aware that in resorting to arbitration heavy costs were sometimes incurred. It was, therefore, thought better to set up a small Commission, whose names would inspire confidence all over the country. By that means a tribunal would be provided which would settle all these matters in a 1558 fair and satisfactory manner, with the least possible amount of expense. Those were the proposals the Government had to make. He hoped in a few days to be able to lay on the Table of the House the clause or clauses by which this object was to be effected, so that Members who were interested should have the fullest opportunity of studying the provision proposed to be made, and of seeing whether it met with the justice and the necessities of the case. Under these circumstances, and as the Government undertook at the proper time, and in the proper place, to insert the names of the boroughs that were to be included in the fourth schedule, he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would consent to withdraw the Amendment.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, he thought the Committee had heard with satisfaction the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. Speaking on behalf of the boroughs affected by the Amendment, he gratefully accepted the announcement which had just been made. The extension of the principle was not, he was sure, one that would be objected to or complained of by the larger boroughs. A great boon had been conceded, and if it were extended to other towns and cities it was not a matter of which they could make any complaint. There were one or two observations he desired to make upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had suggested that the Amendment should not now be inserted in the Bill. He knew the great practical difficulty the responsible Minister in charge of a Bill felt in accepting an Amendment under these circumstances, but he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment for the time, in order that there might be a record of it, because it would afford great satisfaction to the boroughs affected. Therefore, unless the right hon. Gentleman's objections were insuperable, he would ask him to permit the Amendment to be passed on the full understanding that the drafting of the Bill would be made complete on the Report. In that case, if any change was to be made in the Bill in order to carry out the views of the right hon. Gentleman, he would undertake that the Amendment should be removed from the special position it would occupy, so that he might assist the Government in confirming their 1559 alterations and embodying them in the Bill in such form and plan as the right hon. Gentleman might think convenient, so far as it carried out in its entirety what had now been accepted by the Government. He asked the right hon. Gentleman, if he possibly could, to accept the Amendment in order that it might be inserted in the Bill now, and when they came to the Report it could be withdrawn or modified in the most convenient form the Government could suggest. With regard to the time from which the population was to be calculated there were some boroughs about which great care would be required. He would not speak about his own constituency, which had no great interest in the matter, but he knew there were others, such as Wigan and Reading, which would require to be carefully considered. He thought it would be sufficient if any reasonable proof were given that the boroughs desiring to be scheduled had reached the limit of 50,000. That, he thought, would be a proper solution of the question. There was only one other matter, and that was the important subject of the terms on which the boroughs were to be converted into counties. That question was raised by the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for the Clitheroe Division of Lancashire (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth). His (Sir Henry James's) own constituency would be perfectly willing to bear the burdens they had already borne, and they were willing to pay to the county fund the contribution they had already made, accepting as their reward the benefit of being erected into a county themselves. They had no wish to make any pecuniary benefit out of the transaction, and he was sure the House would see that it would be for the benefit of the boroughs that were to be included in the fourth schedule to continue in many instances to make this contribution. Take, for instance, the case of lunatic asylums already existing. The boroughs would not want to erect new ones. He would not, however, enter into details at that moment, he would only say that, as far as he had gathered the opinion of the Representatives of the boroughs which were to be inserted in the fourth schedule, they were ready to accept the responsibility of paying, as they had hitherto paid, and contributing, as they had hitherto contributed, to the county 1560 funds. As to the best means of arriving at that contribution, he should desire to see the clause before expressing any opinion, and probably the Government would explain what their views were when the Amendment of the hon. Member for Clitheroe was reached.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he only rose to support the suggestion of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). He, like his right hon. and learned Friend, represented a town which was extremely interested in the question. The Town of Derby was nearly within the limit of 100,000 inhabitants, but until recently it had been excluded from the fourth schedule of the Bill. He agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend that it was very important, unless some reason could be stated, that the Amendment should be, at least for the present, accepted and introduced into the Bill. It would give security, and remove the uneasiness and anxiety which the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill knew to exist in a great many of the boroughs of the country, and would smooth the passage of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had given an assurance of the intention of the Government to accept the Amendment, and he thought the chariot wheels of the right hon. Gentleman would run easier in consequence. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would accept the suggestion which had been thrown out. There was one other, and a very important point, and that was the question of the contribution of the boroughs to the county fund. There, again, he entirely agreed with his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury. He did not understand that any of the boroughs desired to cease to contribute what they contributed already, or in the degree they contributed now. Where a borough contributed now, it ought to continue to contribute, but where there was a borough which had made its own lunatic asylum, it ought not to be called upon to contribute to the cost of maintaining a county asylum. Then, again, there was the question of main roads. If a borough did not now contribute to the maintenance of main roads, he thought it ought not to be called upon so to contribute hereafter. That he considered to be the view of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, 1561 because he took down the right hon. Gentleman's words—namely, that care would be taken that the county should not be affected so far as existing contributions were concerned. He desired now to emphasize those words. What he understood was that the boroughs were to contribute on the scale of their existing contributions, and that their payments were to be measured by the existing contributions, and that no fresh liabilities were to arise in consequence of any of the provisions of the Bill. That being so, he did not see any objection to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, and there was certainly no reason to complain of it. Of course, the particular machinery to carry it out they could not discuss until they had the right hon. Gentleman's proposals before them. If the right hon. Gentleman would incorporate this Amendment for the present, at least, in his Bill, with a clear understanding that the boroughs concerned were only to make existing contributions, he thought they would be satisfied with the concession the right hon. Gentleman had made.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not insist on the Amendment being inserted in the Bill in this place. He was informed that it would be extremely inconvenient for the Amendment to be put in here, and there was a further answer to the proposal now made. The same argument used by the right hon. Gentleman just now might be made with regard to any other Amendments in a large measure like this, and if they put in an Amendment wherever an hon. Member wished to insert it, merely because they desired to assent to the principles raised, the measure would present a ghastly appearance before it got out of Committee. He hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir Henry James) would be satisfied with the assurance he had given him, that care would be taken to give full effect to the proposal in the proper place. In regard to what the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) had said, he had accurately interpreted the views which he (Mr. Ritchie) had endeavoured to place before the Committee. With reference to the main roads, reference had been made to him to get the law amended, and to bring in for contribution, for main road purposes, 1562 Quarter Sessions boroughs which had not contributed for years past. What he had always said in respect of representations of that kind was that they must take the law as they found it, and that they could not attempt in a Bill of this kind to remedy any grievance a county thought it might suffer in consequence of the non-contribution of any of the boroughs within its area. They must leave that to future legislation, and if there was a grievance it might be removed by a special Bill; but they could not attempt to bring within this Bill, in regard to contributions for main roads, boroughs which did not contribute to them at the present time. So far, he was speaking of boroughs which were treated as boroughs themselves. Of course it might be argued against his proposition that it was proposed by the Government that Quarter Sessions boroughs which remained within a county, and which were not at present assessable for main roads, were to be made assessable. That was perfectly true; but the position of things was different in the case of boroughs which remained in the county to what it was in the case of boroughs which were taken out of the county altogether. The Government recognized that they could not ask the Quarter Sessions boroughs in a county to contribute to main roads without some corresponding obligation on the part of the county. They, therefore, proposed that the county should have the obligation cast upon it of making the main roads, or of supplying the borough with funds for making the main roads within its boundaries. He might point out, also, that the liability to contribution for main roads would be very small, because the amount of the transferred licence duties for that special purpose would be as large as the whole cost of the main roads at the present time throughout the county. Consequently, he should be much astonished if it were found necessary to make a main road rate at all; and, even if it were necessary to make one it would be a very small one. In his opinion no hardships would be inflicted upon anyone from the making of any new main road. That, of course, would be different with reference to the boroughs which were taken out of the county for all administrative purposes. It would be impossible for them to lay 1563 on a county the obligation of maintaining main roads outside the area of that county. He hoped that after the assurance he had given on the part of the Government, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury would not think it necessary to press his Amendment.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he hoped he might be allowed to say a few words in reference to the borough which he had the honour to represent. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for the concession he had made in accepting the principle of the Amendment, and he would not add a single word in the nature of a general argument. He desired, however, to express the satisfaction which he, and those he represented, felt that they were not to be tied down to the Census of 1881. The Census of 1881 was now for many purposes an obsolete and spent Census. They were now fast approaching a new Census in 1891, and anything of a permanent character based on the condition of affairs which existed when the Census of 1881 was taken would very soon become an anachronism. He should like to say one word in reference to the borough of Reading, to which reference had been made. He had had the honour of serving on the Committee which investigated the question of extending the boundaries of the borough; and he desired to take that opportunity of saying that the part of the population then added to the borough of Reading was entirely part and parcel of the borough. Therefore, the claim of Reading to have the advantage of the increased population which had been added to the Bill was indisputable, and justice would not be done unless the right of Reading to be included in the fourth schedule was fully recognized. So far as his own constituency were concerned, they were quite ready, without any reservation, to bear their fair share of the county burdens. That which they wished for was the autonomy which they would gain by the concession of the Government. With that autonomy they were entirely content, and were quite ready and willing to make their full contribution to the county funds.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said, that before his right hon. and learned 1564 Friend the Member for Bury replied to the appeal which had been made to him by the President of the Local Government Board, not to persist in the Motion he had made at this stage of the Bill, but to be content to have the principle recognized in some later clause, he should like to say a few words on the Amendment generally, and the mode in which it would affect the county he had the honour to represent. He thought he was justified in thus early bringing to the notice of the Committee the case of Lancashire, because special reference had been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to the deputation which waited upon him the other day and placed before him views of great force and weight. He wished to show the right hon. Gentleman how necessary it was, if any Amendment like this were introduced, to make an adequate re-adjustment of burdens between the counties and boroughs. The Amendment was one which affected the County of Lancashire in an exceptional degree. He, therefore, hoped the Committee would allow him to point out what would be the effect on that county if the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury were adopted. He might say at once, on behalf of those who were now charged with the county administration, that they did not desire to offer opposition to the Motion of his right hon. and learned Friend. All they said was this—and he spoke also for many of the boroughs and for the Lancashire Local Boards—that if that Motion were adopted it would be necessary to go further, as had in fact been admitted by the President of the Local Government Board, and to introduce Amendments securing that justice should be done as between the counties and the boroughs. Before he pointed out to the Committee what he thought were the matters which ought to be taken into consideration in order to do justice, he would first explain to the Committee how the Amendment would operate. As the Bill originally stood only two boroughs in Lancashire—namely, Manchester and Liverpool—would have had the power and position of a county. If, however, the Committee adopted the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury, there would be admitted also at least nine, and probably 11, other 1565 boroughs, making 13 county boroughs within the County of Lancaster. It had been doubted whether the borough of Wigan had grown to a population of 50,000 since the last Census, but, after the speech of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. F. S. Powell) there could be little doubt that that borough would be able to make out a case. He did not know what course his hon. Friend the Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) proposed to take, but no doubt a similar claim would be made on behalf of that borough. Altogether, there would thus be 12 or 13 county boroughs within the County of Lancaster. But that was not all. These county boroughs contained rather more than one-half of the population and rather more than one-half of the rateable value of the whole county. Therefore, he asked the Committee to take into consideration the very serious nature of the proposal now made. He did not ask them to go against the principle of the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend, but he asked them in discussing the Bill to remember that the towns in the County of Lancaster which it was proposed to remove from the county constituted more than one-half of its population and rateable value. This fact applied not only to the County of Lancaster, but in a less degree to other counties. His belief was that, if the Bill stood as it did now, the county boroughs would be the recipients of a very large portion of the Probate Duty grant and of the local taxation duties and transferred duties which the Government had promised to apply to the reduction of the county burdens. They believed that within the boroughs a large revenue would be raised which would not really arise from their poulation, and some part of such revenue ought to be made available towards lightening the rates of the county. He would only instance the City of Manchester, which was something like the City of London, in having a huge day population drawn from surrounding districts. Under this Bill Manchester would receive large sums really arising from the taxation of the wants of the county. A fair proportion of these should surely be devoted towards the relief of the county rates. He maintained that there were many circumstances connected with a revenue of this kind which required that it ought not to go wholly into the pockets of the cities for the relief 1566 of their rates alone, but should be made available for the general relief of the rates of the county. All those subjects ought to be considered by a proper tribunal so that justice might be done, some equitable arrangement being made between the county and the boroughs. The proposal with regard to the Probate Duty would also work very much in favour of the boroughs, since it was to be allocated upon the basis of the amount of indoor pauperism, and indoor pauperism was far greater in the boroughs than in the rest of the county. He was afraid that the effect of carrying out the present proposals would be to allocate to the boroughs a larger portion of the Probate Duty than they would be fairly entitled to. All that he asked on behalf of those he represented was that justice should be clone both to the counties and boroughs. Perhaps he might be allowed to say a word about the Van and Wheel Tax in connection with this subject. The bulk of this tax would be levied in the county boroughs, and not in the counties. Consequently, as the Bill now stood, the county boroughs would enjoy nearly all the benefit of the tax. This would be most unjust. In reply to the deputation the other day, the right hon. Gentleman had explained that he would alter the Bill and carry the proceeds of this tax to a common fund for the benefit of the whole county. But he should like him to go somewhat further, and explain how he proposed to distribute the money from this fund to the different parts of the county. It would not, he thought, be fair to distribute the proceeds of the Wheel and Van Tax according to the rateable value, because the mileage of main roads in the county was enormously larger than in the county boroughs of Lancashire, whereas the rateable value of the county boroughs would be rather greater than that of the rest of the county. There were in that county 564 miles of main roads, against only 38 miles in the county boroughs. If the tax were distributed according to rateable value, county boroughs would get rather more than one-half, whereas the proportion of the main roads to be maintained by the counties was 564 miles as against 38. He admitted that the expense of repairing a main road in a town was larger than in the country; but if the main roads in the boroughs cost twice and a-half as much to repair as 1567 the main roads in the county, still there was an enormous disparity between the total cost of maintaining the county main roads and the borough main roads. The former at £120 a mile would cost nearly £68,000: the latter at £300 a mile £11,400. He would suggest that the basis of distribution of the proceeds of the Wheel and Van Tax should be, not rateable value, but mileage of main roads, with some allowance for the larger cost of roads within a great town. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board told the Committee that he would propose that there should be an equitable Commission, with power to decide all questions between the counties and the boroughs. He trusted that, as the right hon. Gentleman had intimated, that Commission would be constituted of men who would command general confidence; but he should like to have some further information as to the questions that were to be referred to that Commission, and the directions that were to be given to that Commission, to guide them in carrying out their instructions. He certainly should like to have that information in detail before hastily giving an approval to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not expect him to say, on behalf of the County of Lancaster, that that proposal satisfied that county until they knew how far it went. He had no desire to detain the Committee at the present moment by going into the question of main roads. Perhaps the Committee would allow him, on a later stage of the Bill, to go more fully into that matter; but he should like to point out that, as the right hon. Gentleman had admitted even in the present Bill, the Government went behind past legislation, and did interfere with the existing contributions. As the Bill stood, without the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury, the Quarter Sessions boroughs in Lancashire of less than 150,000 inhabitants would have been made to pay their share of the charge for main roads, notwithstanding that they had been exempt under the Highways and Locomotives Act of 1878. That exemption would have been done away with as far as Quarter Sessions boroughs were concerned which did not become 1568 county boroughs. But what was the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman now? He had decided that the Quarter Sessions boroughs should in future contribute to the main roads on the principle that it has been unjust to relieve them from the contributions in 1878. Undoubtedly it was an injustice that a road so greatly used by the boroughs as the road between Oldham and Manchester should be paid for and maintained by the county. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had recognized the injustice; but now that he proposed to convert the Quarter Sessions boroughs into county boroughs, he ignored the injustice, and revived their unjust exemption from all charge for county main roads. He should have, at a later stage of the Bill, to press strongly the fact that the Act of 1878 had not worked justly. It was recent legislation in the nature of an experiment, and as it had not been found to work well, it was only right that Parliament, in dealing with the question of main roads, should do justice between the counties and boroughs. As the Bill was drafted, it pointed out the way in which justice might be done, and all he claimed was that the Government should do the same justice between the boroughs and counties as they had proposed in the case of Quarter Sessions boroughs. He would not, however, raise that question now; but he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give full information, and as soon as possible, as to the exact subjects proposed to be referred to the Commission, and the nature of the directions given to the Commission; and he also hoped the right hon. Gentleman would state how soon his Amendments would appear in print on the Paper, so that hon. Members might have full time for considering them in all their bearings, and especially in the light of the Amendment of his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury. In the meantime he would reserve all further comments until he came to move the Amendment which appeared in his name on the Paper. He should persevere with that Amendment if he found it necessary to do so; but it was for the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board and his right hon. and learned Friend the member for Bury to decide 1569 whether the whole of this subject should be discussed now on the 1st clause, or deferred until a later stage.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
said, that, as one of the deputation who waited upon his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board with regard to the exemption of these boroughs, he would venture to make an appeal to the right hon. and learned Member for Bury not to press his Amendment on two grounds —first, that they had received a large and substantial concession from his right hon. Friend; and, secondly, that it would be rather hard for the Borough Representatives to press the Government to accept the Amendment at this particular moment, instead of waiting until the Government were prepared to say exactly what they proposed to do. It might be that the provision to be hereafter inserted in the Bill would differ materially from the Amendment which the right hon. and learned Member for Bury had on the Paper; because he understood the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to say that he anticipated that a good many of these boroughs would not avail themselves of the opportunity to come under the Fourth Schedule of the Bill. Consequently, the clause which was intended to be introduced would be permissive and not compulsory. In the next place, the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Gentleman made no reference to the boroughs which were already counties in themselves, one of which he had the honour to represent, and on behalf of that city he tendered his thanks to his right hon. Friend for the concession he had made; and, under all the circumstances, he hoped the right hon. and learned Member for Bury would yield to the appeal of the Government and not press the Amendment.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, there was only one question which he desired to put to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and that was what means he proposed to take, in the event of the Amendment being withdrawn, to ascertain what the desire of a borough was, and how it was to be expressed? In regard to the borough which he represented, would the placing of an Amendment upon the Paper be regarded 1570 as a sufficient expression of a desire on the part of that borough, or what form of desire would the Government wish to have? On behalf of Northampton he would add his thanks to the Government for the concession they had made.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
asked how the Amendment, if carried, would affect the Metropolitan boroughs? Nearly every one of them contained more than 50,000 inhabitants, so that every borough in London would become a county in itself.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, as he had had the honour of being the first to bring this subject before the House, he also should like to express his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman for having conceded the just claims of the existing municipal boroughs. The Main Question now before the Committee was whether the Amendment should be inserted in the Bill, or whether it should be withdrawn. There were, no doubt, a number of Amendments, to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, which, if adopted, might disfigure the Bill, and which related to another great question that was subsequently to be discussed in the Committee. But this was one of the most vital questions in the Bill—namely, the area and extent to which counties and borough's were or were not to be subject to the jurisdiction of the County Councils. It was quite evident, from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Clitheroe Division of Lancashire (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth) that he was not disposed to accept the decision at which the right hon. Gentleman opposite had arrived, but that he reserved to himself his approval or disapproval of the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) as to whether certain provisions ought to be made or not for carrying out what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board desired to secure—namely, the preservation of existing contributions to the counties, and an entire reform in the relations between the boroughs and counties. The right hon. Member for Clitheroe raised the question of Lancashire, and told them that the large boroughs of that county—such as Manchester, Liverpool, Wigan, Bolton, Blackburn, and so on—had only 1571 38 miles of main read between them, whereas the county had between 500 and 600 miles. But these towns had many hundreds of miles of streets; and Piccadilly Street and Market Street of Manchester, and Bold Street of Liverpool, were just as much main roads as anything in the county.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, he wished to put that point right. Did his right hon. Friend forget that country parishes had to bear a heavy rate—often a 1s. rate—for highways—in addition to the rate for main roads?
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, it must not be forgotten that the borough ratepayers were bearing heavy burdens in the shape of local taxation, and were expecting relief from the Bill as well as the county ratepayers. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Clitheroe asked that the Wheel and Van Tax should be apportioned on some principle which would give to the county the whole of the advantage. He would not deny that heavy burdens were imposed on the counties, but there were equally heavy burdens upon the boroughs. What he understood the proposal of the Government to be was that boroughs with 50,000 inhabitants were to be taken out of the county administration and finance before the Schedules of the Bill were finally settled, except to the extent of the conditions which they were now subject to county administration and finance. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said he was going to appoint a strong Commission to adjust this question; but he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) was at a loss to understand what adjustment was necessary, nor could he understand that that Commission was to apply to boroughs already included in the Fourth Schedule, because in the Fourth Schedule it was provided that such towns as Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, &c., which were to be dealt with as separate counties, should not contribute to the county fund, except under contract or agreement, and, in default of agreement, on terms to be fixed by arbitration. The 7th sub-section of Clause 30 was as follows:—After the appointed day a borough named in the said schedule shall not, save as provided by this Act, contribute to the county 1572 fund of any other county otherwise than under any contract (whether a contract respecting a lunatic asylum or otherwise), but where any such borough has heretofore contributed to the county rate of a county otherwise than under any such contract, the council of the borough shall redeem the liability to that contribution on such terms as may be agreed upon with the council of the county, either by a capital payment or by an annuity, or by a transfer of debts and liabilities or otherwise, and, in default of agreement, on such terms as may be fixed by arbitration.Sub-section 8 said—Until such redemption comes into operation the council of the borough shall pay out of the borough fund to the council of the said county the average annual amount contributed by the borough to the county rate during the three years next before the appointed day, and such sum shall be carried to the general county account of the county fund.This was not a difficult question to settle, because the officials of the Local Government Board knew that the County Authorities throughout England had a custom of sending in an account to each Quarter Sessions borough which were outside the county jurisdiction, showing its proportion of what was called the county expenditure to which it was bound to contribute. That county contribution was assessed, not as a county rate, but under the poor rate or borough fund, and was paid accordingly. He, therefore, did not see what adjustment was necessary except in the case of the Wheel and Van Tax. If Parliament was of opinion that there should be some appropriation of the Wheel, Van, and Horse Tax in respect of main roads, the provision to be made for the contribution ought to be put into an Act of Parliament, and not left to any Commission to settle. The same principle would apply whether the county was Lancashire, Cheshire, or Dorsetshire, and provision should be made for it without introducing any new machinery or jurisdiction. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Clitheroe desired to do something which the Government did not contemplate, and which he hoped the Commission would not sanction. The boroughs did not want to be exempted from one single penny they paid to-day of the county expenditure; but they did object to have a single additional shilling of county taxation placed on their shoulders. They wanted to have their fair share of the relief of local taxation. He asked that the point should be now 1573 decided, so that they might know what boroughs were to be in the Schedule, and what boroughs were to be out of it, so that no one Hereafter could raise the question, and be met with a reminder by the Chairman that the question had already been disposed of.
said, that before the discussion went further it was necessary that he should point out that the orderly despatch of all Business was intimately connected with the orderly presentation of Amendments. It was admitted that the Amendment under discussion had not been presented in the best place, and that it was not in the place in which it would ultimately have to come. It was held that it ought to be discussed, but it seemed to him that the proper place for the discussion of it would be when Clause 30 was reached, which dealt with boroughs that were to be considered counties in themselves. The Government would place down the Amendments they intended to propose in that clause, and the Committee would then be able to proceed regularly with the discussion.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES
said, that upon the point of Order he was quite sensible that this section was not the best for drafting purposes in connection with the question he had raised; but he had thought it would be convenient for the Committee to know exactly the course that would be taken when they reached Clause 30. No doubt, Clause 30 would be a better place for bringing on the Amendment, and he would be willing to withdraw it at this stage upon the explicit understanding that it was the intention of the Government to allow this Amendment, in some form, to be part of the Bill If that was perfectly and clearly understood, he did not care to press the Amendment at this stage; but if it was not understood, he would have to ask for a decision upon the question now, for this reason—that if it were defeated many hon. Members would take up a position in regard to some of the clauses of the Bill which they would not otherwise adopt. He had not the slightest objection to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, on the understanding that the Amendment was accepted in principle, that it was only objected to in regard to the place in which it was pro- 1574 posed to insert it, and that it would be fairly carried out at the proper time and place.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he thought he had, in the most explicit terms he could possibly use, given the right hon. Gentleman the assurance he had asked for. He would say again that the Government accepted the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, and that they would use every effort in their power to insure that the Amendment should be inserted in the Bill when the proper time came.
§ MR. GULLY (Carlisle)
said, he had an Amendment to reduce the limit of population to 25,000. He could not help feeling that there was a great gulf between the present clause and Clause 30, and it was impossible to say when the debate on the new Amendment would come on. He should prefer the discussion upon his Amendment to take place at once; but, as he had no desire to take what might appear to be an unreasonable course, he was willing to assent to the suggestion that had been made.
§ MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
said, the Committee must be very sensible of the conciliatory spirit shown by the right hon. Gentleman in making this concession; but he felt that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman did not by any means satisfy those important boroughs having a population of less than 50,000, and which were larger than those he had specially exempted. With regard to his own constituency, one of the municipal boroughs included would profit by the concession of the right hon. Gentleman, while another borough below the figure mentioned would be left without any such advantage. He did not wish to go into the question now, because he hoped the case of the pottery towns would be dealt with in a manner special to their peculiar circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman must dismiss the illusion that it was possible to treat as a whole a population both urban and rural; and, whether they liked it or not, there would be drawn a distinction between urban and rural interests, more and more, as the discussion on the Bill proceeded.
§ MR. T. FRY (Darlington)
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the small boroughs, considering the amount of taxation they would have to 1575 pay, the option of saying for themselves whether they would be included in the County Councils or not. He believed there were 25 Parliamentary boroughs of 25,000 inhabitants, and it seemed to him very hard that they were not to be allowed to have this, when Canterbury, with a population of only 17,000, was to have the privilege. The amount of licence duty which his (Mr. Fry's) borough paid could not be less than £6,000 a-year, independently of Probate Duty. He supposed that the whole of that amount would be paid to the County Council, and that the borough would receive back only a very small portion of the money that would go to the County Council. He would like to hear that the right hon. Gentleman could reconsider this question, so as to give, if possible, the boroughs in question an opportunity of saying that they would be included in the County Council area.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, it was very hard that cities which were also counties, and which had had the control of their own affairs, and had held their own Quarter Sessions for the last 300 years and upwards, should be disfranchised. There were some boroughs which had done this for 800 years; their Charters had been handed down from generation to generation; they had their own police, and had managed their affairs properly. The whole principle of the Bill, as represented by the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite generally, was that nothing should be taken away from cities which had certain privileges, and they thought it very hard that under the Bill there was a probability of their being deprived of their ancient rights and Charters. He was bound to say that in some cases—the city which he had the honour to represent, for instance—this was almost a sentimental feeling; because, although they found that under the Bill they would be receiving some relief from their present burden of taxation, they would rather waive that advantage. They said they would prefer to retain their ancient status, with their own government, the Quarter Sessions and Coroners, and that they would maintain their main roads at their own expense, and, in fact, be no burden at all on the country, rather than be disestablished. He earnestly hoped that that great hardship would not be in- 1576 flicted on cities that had conducted their own affairs from the time of the Conquest, especially as the principle of the Bill, as stated by the Government, had been that they would not take away any privileges from boroughs which desired to retain them. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, if this question were not brought on then, whether a further opportunity would be given of discussing the question?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the Amendment of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) would come forward for discussion when Clause 30 was reached, and then, if the hon. Baronet wished to move an Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal, he could do so. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Gully) suggested that the Government should go below the limit proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but he (Mr. Ritchie) could not hold out any hope that the limit would be reduced; they felt they had reached a limit beyond which it was impossible to go. He hoped the hon. Gentleman (Sir John Swinburne) would not imagine that there was the smallest idea on the part of the Government to take away their rights and privileges from boroughs under the limit in respect of population. There were in the Bill some proposals which, he believed, would be generally acceptable to the boroughs, with reference to the transfers; but matters of that kind they would be quite ready to consider when they came to a later portion of the Bill. The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) had asked how London would be affected by this proposal to reduce the limit of population. Of course, this would not affect London at all. As his hon. Friend would know, the Bill dealt with municipal boroughs; whereas the boroughs of which he spoke were Parliamentary boroughs. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) asked how boroughs which desired to be included in the Schedule were to make their population known? All boroughs of 50,000 inhabitants in 1881 were to be included, unless the Government received intimation of their wish to the contrary, and they would, no doubt, receive, from those who desired to be included, specific information on the subject of population. He would not go further into the criticism of the 1577 Amendments on this subject, because, as the Chairman had pointed out, some of them were not in Order, and would be more properly considered when a later part of the Bill was reached.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLEWORTH
said, he did not think the Chairman had ruled that this Amendment and the debate upon it were out of Order, but that the proposal would be be better moved at a later part of the Bill. He did not rise for the purpose of going further into this matter, as he intended to reserve his remarks until that part of the Bill was reached. The Committee greatly desired the further information on various subjects promised by the right hon. Gentleman, particularly the statistics of taxes which were to be transferred to the new County Authorities. He imagined that the information given would discriminate between the amount that would be raised in a county and that raised in the various boroughs. Hon. Members would be glad to know when those Returns would be laid on the Table, because some of them were of vital importance to the clauses to be discussed. And, again, when might they hope to see on the Paper the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded? It was absolutely necessary, as he had said, that it should be for a time in the hands of hon. Members for consideration, so that its scope might be fully understood; and, therefore, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to assure the Committee that the Amendment would be shortly in their hands.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had already stated, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), that the information which the right hon. Gentleman asked for with regard to the transfers of taxes would be in the possession of the House in about a fortnight. Nearly the whole of the information had been got in, and he trusted that within a week it would be with the printer and presented to the House at the time mentioned. He also hoped, at the same time, to be able to put on the Table of the House the proposal with regard to the number of County Councillors. The Amendments, he hoped, would be on the Paper in a week.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
asked, whether it was part of the un- 1578 derstanding that the excepted towns should be liable, practically, for their own contributions?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the understanding was that, so far as the existing contributions were concerned, the excepted boroughs, in conjunction with the counties from which they were taken, should not suffer financially—that whatever adjustment was made should be upon the existing contribution of those boroughs.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE
asked, if that meant that the boroughs he had referred to were to retain their Quarter Sessions and Coroner? He spoke personally for the borough of Lichfield, which had its own Council and had managed its own affairs for 500 years.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the Government did not intend to interfere with the Quarter Sessions in any borough; but he suspected that under the operation of the Bill the Coroner would be interfered with.
§ MR. ROWNTREE
said, he was afraid the small boroughs would be prejudiced in respect of the amount of contribution under the arrangement arrived at that afternoon. He hoped the Government would take care that that did not occur.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
asked if the Government were going to make any proposal as to the division of large counties, for he thought there were boroughs of 50,000 inhabitants whose acceptance of the offer now made would be influenced by that consideration. He believed there were boroughs in a certain county which would, undoubtedly, desire to become counties of themselves if the county was not divided; but if it were divided, and they were made the centre of a portion of it, the case might be different.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he did not know to what county the noble Lord referred; but there were certain counties whose position the Government were now considering, and which, either by long usage or by Statute, had been divided into two divisions; but they did not propose to take any steps to create any conditions of the kind where they did not already exist. Whether provision might not be made, however, for allowing a County Council, with certain consents, to divide a county, if it seemed convenient, was a matter, of course, open to consideration.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he understood that only the municipal boroughs throughout the county were to be considered—not the Parliamentary boroughs. If that was so, it would be a considerable disadvantage in cases where municipal and Parliamentary boroughs practically constituted one town; and he could not help thinking that the anxiety displayed by the boroughs to be quit of the benefits supposed to be conferred by this Bill showed how far they estimated its value. Their attitude towards it appeared to be well expressed by the line—Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he imagined that the case of each of the boroughs should be considered by itself. In answer to the hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare), he was bound to say the boroughs the Government referred to were not Parliamentary boroughs. With regard to another question that was asked, the Government was assuming that all boroughs of 50,000 inhabitants would desire to come into the arrangement, unless they heard from them to the contrary.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N. W.)
said, as general statements were so likely afterwards to be misunderstood, he would like a little further information. His right hon. Friend had failed to tell the Committee what he intended to do with the contributions which the Government were going to make in aid of the local rates. His right hon. Friend had stated that where a borough was taken out of the county, the same contributions as were now made to the county rates would be continued; but the point he referred to was most important. It was, how much of the taxes proposed to be transferred would come to the rural parts of the counties, as they did not feel inclined to lose their chance of getting a fair share of the contribution?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the new local taxation, such as the Horse and Wheel Taxes, under the Bill as now framed, would be collected in the excepted boroughs for the use of the boroughs themselves; but the Government did not think that an equitable 1580 arrangement under the present circumstances, and they proposed that, whether a borough remained in or was taken out of the county, the whole sum should go into one common purse and be distributed through the county, including the boroughs, according to rateable value, With reference to the transferred licence duties, they would be collected within the area of the borough, and the county would collect its own contribution within its own area. Whether the county would or would not be placed at a disadvantage in consequence of this was a matter, no doubt, for consideration.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give the Committee the statistics of the numbers of Councillors before they came to the discussion of the sub-section dealing with that subject?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was inclined to hope that the Committee would discuss the question, even if they could not get the figures before the sub-section was reached; because it was obvious that the number of Councillors would be governed by the principle of the subsection. He desired to say distinctly that, as far as the Government were concerned, their wish was, as far as possible, to consult the views and wishes of hon. Gentlemen who might become Councillors of Counties, and when the Return was laid before the House he should take care that full opportunity for criticism was given to those interested in the matter.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he did not see how they could discuss the figures when they had passed the 2nd sub-section; nor how they could discuss the clause until they had the figures.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was, of course, desirable that the Committee should be in possession of the information in question as soon as possible; and in view of the discussion he would promise to press forward the Papers, so that they might be in the hands of hon. Members in a few days; or if it were considered desirable, he would undertake, when the clause was reached, to deal with the subject in a Schedule.
§ MR. T. FRY
said, he thought they had a right to ask that if the counties were not to suffer by the withdrawal of the boroughs from the counties, the smaller boroughs should not suffer by being included in counties.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the County of London was, of course, totally different from others, and the Government were not prepared to accept any proposal by which London would be split up. With regard to small boroughs which remained in the counties, the Government must treat them with reference to finance as a portion of the county. It was impossible to do otherwise. He did not think, however, that boroughs interested would suffer. The transferred licence duties were to be given in lieu of the grant now given to the counties, and in paying them over to a common purse the small boroughs would not be prejudiced. They would only be paying to a Local Body for the benefit of the whole instead of to the Government.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
asked, whether the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to a common purse were to apply to the boroughs mentioned in the schedule—Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, and others?
§ MR. ROWNTREE
said, it seemed to him that in this arrangement the small towns were to be made the scapegoats; and, if so, he submitted that this was a most unfortunate misunderstanding to arise at the outset of the discussion on the Bill. It appeared that the smaller boroughs were not to have the weight which it was supposed would attach to them.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the hon. Gentleman had quite misunderstood the position of the small boroughs. The county would be bound to perform, and pay for all duties which it now performed in the boroughs; and the boroughs, moreover, would get a contribution from the county for indoor pauperism and police, while any surplus which remained in the county purse at the end of the financial year, after all charges were met, would be divided amongst all Local Bodies in the county, boroughs included, according to their rateable value.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, it was impossible for hon. 1582 Members to pledge themselves to any particular arrangements without they were in a position to judge from figures what the result would be; and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would, therefore, take steps to expedite the Returns that would be necessary in this case. He asked whether he was right in supposing, as was originally the proposition in the Bill, that the whole of the statutory payments would continue to be made as hitherto in respect of police and other matters that were now the subject of subvention?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the whole of the revenue obtained by counties, whether by means of licence duties, Probate Duty, or anything else, would be charged with the existing statutory payments, and also with 4d. for every indoor pauper; and if there were a surplus, it would be divided, as he had pointed out, amongst the various Local Bodies in the county, according to their several rateable values.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY (Lancashire, N., Blackpool)
asked, whether the statutory payments would include the present contribution to the main roads? There were practically no main roads at all in the district of Lancashire which he represented; and of the sum paid for main roads since the Act of 1878 about one-third had been paid by townships who themselves derived no benefit whatever, having no main roads. They did not ask to be put in a better position than at present; but they did ask that their position might not be made worse than it was, and, unless they secured the same contribution as hitherto from Imperial resources, he apprehended that the gross injustice of which he complained would be aggravated.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the existing contribution of the Government towards the main roads amounted to £250,000, which represented one-fourth of the total cost in counties. That contribution would cease; but, in lieu of it, the licence duties to be transferred to the counties, together with the proposed Horse and Wheel Tax, would, it was estimated, yield considerably more than the amount now contributed—namely, about £1,000,000, or the whole cost of the main roads throughout the Kingdom.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause agreed to.1583
§ Clause 2 (Composition and election of council and position of chairman).
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said, in rising to move the next Amendment, which was in his name, he might refer to a remarkable article in The Nineteenth Century, in which Lord Thring pointed out that no fewer than 22 sections of the Municipal Corporations Act were embodied in this clause. The words which he proposed to omit were as follows:—The council of a county and the members thereof shall be constituted and elected, and conduct their proceedings in like manner, and be in the like position in all respects, as the council of a borough divided into wards, subject, nevertheless, to the provisions of this Act,and so forth. If hon. Members would look at the clause, they would see that it would read quite as well if the subsection were left out. The 1st sub-section incorporated a number of sections of the Municipal Corporations Act, and it would be, therefore, necessary that the Act should be referred to, in order to understand the sub-section, because, as had been pointed out, 22 sections of that Act were embodied in the clause. His idea, and that of his hon. Friends, of a Local Government Bill was that it should be a self-sufficing and self-contained code in all matters relating to Local Government; and, when they found it was necessary to the understanding of the measure to refer to an Act containing so many legal niceties, they could not but feel that the clause was constructed upon a wrong principle. As an illustration of the object of the Amendment, he pointed out that the Act to which reference was made disabled clergymen of the Established Church and ministers of religion from being elected as Councillors; but there was nothing whatever said about this in the Bill before the Committee. The Government would, no doubt, accept the Amendment proposed to deal with that matter; but it would have been much better if they had distinctly stated in the clause who might be elected and who would be the selected Councillors than to have referred Members to a most complicated section of another Bill. To expect the clause to be passed on a mere reference to another Bill was something like asking them to "buy a pig in a poke;" and on that ground, as well as 1584 upon the ground that it would prevent waste of time, he begged to move that the sub-section he had cited be omitted.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, leave out Sub-section (1).—(Mr. F. S. Stevenson.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, there was no doubt that everything which fell from Lord Thring was deserving of attention, and he should have been very glad to incorporate in the Bill the provisions of all the various Acts with which it dealt, if he had found it possible to do so. He very much sympathized with the desire of the hon. Gentleman to have the provisions of the Act referred to by him set forth; but, as a matter of fact, had they attempted to incorporate in the Bill the provisions of the various Acts with which the Bill dealt, it would have been of unmanageable bulk; and, with reference to the Municipal Corporations Act, the Government had less difficulty than in other cases, because the Act was practically thoroughly well understood by all those who had made themselves familiar with Local Acts and the course of local life for years past. The Act in question was before the House in 1882, and he undertook to say that its leading principles were thoroughly well understood. The argument of the hon. Gentleman cut both ways, because it was within a very few days of the Bill appearing in print that the Government was assailed from many sides by hon. Gentlemen who did not desire this disability. He was satisfied that if they had time to deal with the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman the Bill would have been totally unmanageable, and one which they could not have hoped to carry through the House. He hoped the Committee would, under the circumstances, approve of the course the Government had adopted, a course which, in their opinion, was the most convenient.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, he did not wish to offer any opposition to the fiat of the right hon. Gentleman, but it was not unfitting that they should upon this occasion utter some protest against this characteristic of modern drafting. The modern method of drafting had grown up certainly within his memory. Possibly it had grown up in 1585 consequence of Parliamentary exigencies, from the multiplication of debates, and from the impossibility of passing measures drafted and framed in the old customary and clear way. That was the reason for what the right hon. Gentleman had done, but he (Mr. Stansfeld) was bound to say that he had not yet met a Bill or an Act which seemed so remarkable in this respect as the Bill for which the right hon. Gentleman was responsible to the House. There, again, the reason was patent. In the first place, the Bill had been drafted in this manner on account of the immense complexity of the subject; and, secondly, on account of the desire—a very justifiable desire—on the right hon. Gentleman's part to put the measure forward in such a form that it would be possible to pass it within a Session of Parliament. Although he hoped the attention of the Parliamentary Draftsmen's Department ment would be drawn to the advisability of not proceeding further in the direction of this style of drafting, he did not see that they could, if they wished to pass the Bill, object to accept the difficulties of the situation and make the best of them. It was extremely true of this Bill that it was very difficult to understand; it was difficult even for men familiar with the subject and with the interpretation of Statutes; it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, for men who were familiar with the subject but not with the law to understand the provisions of the Bill with any reliable accuracy. Therefore, with regard to the difficulties of understanding, on which they were all agreed, he asked the right hon. Gentleman to be patient as they proceeded with the Bill in respect to the queries he might find addressed to him, and to give them explanations which they really could not always work out for themselves. He was sure the Committee would readily accept the explanations given by a Minister on his own responsibility. They would frequently want explanations in this case, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not imagine that hon. Gentlemen wished to delay the passing of the Bill if they called for explanations.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, it appeared to him that there was strong reason in justification of the Government for the method they had adopted in drawing up this Bill. He understood 1586 from his right hon. Friend that one of the objects of the Bill was to apply to the government of the counties the same method which was now applied to the government of towns—that the District Council should be similar to the Town Council. As the Bill was drawn there was entire identity between District Councils and Town Councils, except so far as the Committee chose to make exceptions. If the Bill had contained a series of clauses and provisions taken, word for word, from the Municipal Corporations Act of 1882, every word of those clauses would have been open to controversy, and they would have come out of the deliberations of the Committee with identity, to a certain extent, between District Councils and Town Councils, but, at the same time, with an identity of a bewildering and perplexing description, because subject to so many exceptions. He thought that reason was an entire justification for the policy of the Government. If the Committee would permit him he would give one illustration—a remarkable one—of the result of endeavouring to embody in a Statute the whole of the law contained in other Statutes. There had been before the House for a number of years a Consolidating Bill with reference to the management of towns in Scotland. That Bill had been introduced year after year by successive Governments, and year after year it had failed to pass. The Bill of the present year had been referred to a Select Committee on which he had the honour to serve. The progress made with the Bill was most slow, and by the proceedings in the Committee upstairs he was convinced of the entire impossibility of passing the Bill this Session unless it were drawn on the lines of reference.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
The next Amendment stands in the name of the hon. Member for the Ashburton Division of Devon (Mr. Seale-Hayne). It is perfectly in Order, but it is proposed at a most inconvenient place. It is clear it would be best proposed when we reach the 2nd sub-section, and I will call upon the hon. Gentleman to move it then.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
thought that perhaps before saying anything as to his reason for 1587 proposing the Amendment which stood in his name it would be well to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to explain exactly the purport of the words "and to be in a like position in all respects." He confessed he found difficulty in understanding how these newly constituted Councils could be in a like position in all respects to Town Councils. At any rate, one argument he would like to put before the Committee as to the reason why he put this Amendment down was, that he, in common with other hon. Members, had a strong objection to the aldermanic principle which it was proposed to introduce. It seemed to him that in view of the Amendments which came later with respect to Aldermen or selected Councillors it would be desirable to get rid of these words in this particular clause. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain what will be the exact result of the words he (Mr. Conybeare) had mentioned.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 14, leave out from the word "and" to "respects."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ Mr. RITCHIE
said, he had been as puzzled to understand the meaning of this Amendment as the hon. Gentleman had been to understand the words he desired to omit. He could not quite gather why the hon. Gentleman proposed to omit these words. The only object they had in putting in these words was to make a general distinction which should show that these Councils should be framed as far as possible upon the lines of the Bodies framed under the Municipal Corporations Act. Of course, when they came to the Definition Clause it would be quite open to the hon. Gentleman to move any exceptions he desired to make in the constitution of the new Councils as compared with the old.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he was satisfied with the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, and would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE (Devon, Ashburton)
said, that the object of the Amendment he had put down was to 1588 remove the disabilities which prevented clergymen and ministers of religion from exercising the functions of County Councillors.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
rose to a point of Order. He had an Amendment on the Paper which was precisely to the same effect. It was a matter of perfect indifference which Amendment was moved first; but what he desired to ask was, whether the effect of the Chairman's ruling in this case would not be that, if any hon. Gentleman wished to get precedence for a particular Amendment, he would have nothing to do but to place it on the Paper in the wrong place in order to be called upon first, although, at the same time, another Member might have put down an Amendment in the right place?
I was under the impression that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Seale-Hayne) had put down his Amendment first. Undoubtedly, if the hon. Gentleman put the Amendment upon the Paper after the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division (Mr. Chaplin) had placed his there, he ought not to move it.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he was certainly under the impression that his Amendment appeared upon the Paper first.
§ MR. SEALE-HAYNE
said, he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that his Amendment appeared on the Paper at least two or three days before the right hon. Gentleman's appeared. The object of the Amendment was, as he had said, to remove the disabilities which would prevent clergymen and ministers of religion from exercising the duties of County Councillors. From a Liberal point of view, he held, of course, that it was inexpedient that any class of men should be restricted in their civil rights and privileges. As a matter of fact, clergymen and ministers of religion were able at the present time to exercise functions in Courts of Quarter Sessions and upon various Local Boards—upon those public Bodies whose functions were going to be handed over to the new County Councils. Therefore, without labouring the point, he saw no reason whatever why this disability should exist, why clergymen and ministers of religion should not be able to be elected both to the County Councils and to the District Councils.
In page 1, line 13, after "constituted," insert "except that clerks in holy orders and ministers of religion shall not be disqualified for being elected and being councillors."—(Mr. Seale-Hayne.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that, as he had already intimated, the Government were prepared to accept this proposal, but he was still of opinion that it would be most convenient for the Amendment to appear in the place where his right hon. Friend the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had proposed to insert it. Of course, it was for the Committee and the Chairman to say whether or not that should be so. It was clearly the opinion of the Government and of the draftsmen that the Amendment ought to be inserted where his right hon. Friend proposed. It would certainly be more convenient that it should appear there, and therefore he hoped the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Seale-Hayne) would withdraw the Amendment now, and allow it to be inserted in what was undoubtedly a much better place.
said, that in addition to that, this was an enfranchising Amendment, and there was another standing in the name of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse). It was immaterial which Amendment was taken first, but he thought that Amendments of this class ought to be taken before other Amendments.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, he thought that the words removing disqualification ought to be like to those which enacted it. The words used in the Act of 1882 were, "is in holy orders or is a regular minister of a Dissenting congregation." He thought that it would be much more convenient if they followed those words. The words as they stood were open to question, as to whether a clerk in holy orders was a minister of religion or not—he hoped they generally were. He suggested to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Seale-Hayne) that they should follow the exact language of the Act of 1882, and thus use the words, "is in holy orders, or is a regular minister of a Dissenting congregation."
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
said, he hoped the wording of the Amendment 1590 as now moved would be allowed to stand, for he thought it was a distinct improvement upon the wording of the former Act. He did not like the description "Dissenting minister," and the feeling of the public was gradually beginning to realize that it was a somewhat offensive definition. Therefore he thought it should be dropped in all Acts of Parliament if the meaning could be made clear in so doing.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he ventured to point out that unless they used the disqualifying words "minister of a Dissenting congregation," it might be a matter for a Court to determine whether the qualifying words, "minister of religion," did deal with the disqualification. He considered there was great force in what had been urged by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell.) If they wanted to get rid of a disqualification, they ought to get rid of the express words of disqualification.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said, he hoped that the words of the first of these two forms would be adopted. He did not belong to the Church of England, nor was he a Dissenter. The members of the Church in which he was born, and in which he hoped to die, did not recognize that they were members of the Church of England or Dissenters—they were Wesleyan Methodists. They did not desire to be called Dissenters, not from any motives of contempt for those who were Dissenters, but simply as representing the historical fact that they had not dissented. Their ministers were not ministers of a congregation—they were ministers of religion, which was a totally different thing.
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said, that to meet the objection of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell), he begged to move that the word "other," be inserted before the word "minister."
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, to insert, after "and," the word "other."—(Mr. Brunner.)
§ Question, "That the word 'other' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, proposed,
In page 1, line 13, after "constituted," insert "except that clerks in holy orders and other ministers of religion shall not be disqualified for being elected and being councillors.
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
MR. HOBLIOTTSE (Somerset, E.)
said, that in the Municipal Corporations Act no person was qualified to be a Councillor who was not qualified to vote. He had on a former occasion pointed out to the House the great advantage of extending the privilege of sitting on these Local Bodies to every person who had a substantial stake within the county. Of course, there was room for considerable difference of opinion as to whether the franchise should be altered to include certain classes, but he did not think there would be room for much difference of opinion as to the advisability of admitting to this qualification to sit upon the County Council all those who were qualified by having a substantial stake within the county. The Amendment which appeared in his name was to insert the words—A person shall be qualified to be a councillor who, though not qualified in manner provided by the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,' as applied by this Act, is registered as a Parliamentary voter for the county or division of the county, or any borough therein.But he proposed to alter that Amendment so that it would read—A person shall be qualified to be a councillor who, though not qualified in manner provided by the 'Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,' as applied by this Act, is registered as a Parliamentary voter for the county or division of the county in respect to the ownership of property of whatever tenure.He himself preferred the words on the Paper, but he understood the Government were only willing to assent to an alteration of their Bill to the extent of owners on the list of Parliamentary voters. The difference was extremely small; there would only be in the other case a few lodgers and a few service franchise voters, and, therefore, he did not see that the alteration was a very material one. With the view of saving time and promoting discussion, he proposed to move the Amendment in the amended form. He left out the words "or any borough therein" for the reason that there were no ownership voters on the borough register, but only on the county register.
In page 1, line 18, alter the last Amendment, to insert the words "a person shall be qualified
to be a councillor who, though not qualified in manner provided by the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,' as applied by this Act, is registered as a Parliamentary voter for the county or division of the county in respect of the ownership of property of whatsoever tenure."—(Mr. Hobhouse.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, that this Amendment practically created a new register altogether. What he was anxious to ask the Government was, whether they were prepared to extend the qualification to faggot voters who had no interest in the County Council, who were not assessed to any rates the County Council administered, and who might simply hold 40s. freehold interests which would create votes?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman would see there was a great difference between giving the franchise to those who were qualified in this way and allowing them to be elected. Clearly it would be an extraordinary hardship if a person, who, perhaps, owned a very large estate in the county, but who did not reside, and was not rated there, was unable to be elected as a Councillor. Surely there was no one more fitted to be elected, if the electors chose to elect him, than a gentleman who owned property in the county.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, that this was a very doubtful proposal. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think it perfectly reasonable and rational to form a register excluding the owners of property in counties who were not inhabitants. When it came to the question of election as Councillors the right hon. Gentleman thought it a great hardship that men of that kind should be excluded. He (Mr. Stansfeld) was not in favour of the exclusion principle at all; but, having adopted one line in regard to electors, he did not think they should desert it when they came to deal with persons who were to be elected. He thought there was considerable force in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. 1593 Henry H. Fowler) had said, that to a large extent they would by this Amendment single out for exceptional favour owners of freeholds who had hardly any practical interest in the county itself. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board might, of course, if he liked, proceed on the ground that, having chosen the electors, those electors should be perfectly free to choose whom they liked to represent them; but why did they limit the thing at all? They only proposed to adopt that principle as far as the owners of property in counties were concerned. He (Mr. Stansfeld) was certainly disposed to vote against the Amendment.
§ MR. A. E. GATHORNE-HARDY (Sussex, East Grinstead)
said, he wished to point out that in almost every constituency Members of Parliament were elected who formed no portion of the constituency for which they sat as Representatives, and he could not see why there should be any disqualification to be elected because there was not this particular qualification which was suggested here. For his part, he rather agreed with the right hon. Gentleman—he would go even farther than the Amendment, and be prepared to vote for removing altogether any disqualification to the election of any person. He held that the right persons to decide as to their representative were the constituents, and that, when they had set up a constituency, they might fairly trust it to elect those who would reasonably satisfy it. It might be said, no doubt, that there would be a certain number of persons elected possibly who had no interest in the particular county for which they might be elected, but that he could not credit. He could not think that to keep up a qualification, or such a qualification as existed in this Bill already, would in reality exclude anybody whom it was in the slightest degree desirable to exclude. He should vote for the Amendment as it stood, but he should certainly be prepared to vote for a very much larger Amendment.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, that there was only one logical conclusion to be drawn from the Amendment, and that was that all disqualifications should be removed. He could not understand the argument of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, when he inferred that certain persons 1594 would not be qualified to stand. If what he meant was that he only wanted persons to have the right to sit as Councillors who had no direct rated qualification, simply because they were owners of property, instead of widening, as he professed to do, the scope from which persons could be selected as County Councillors, he wanted to give privileges to the wealthy classes of the community. There was no force whatever in the argument that an owner of property, as put by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, should be allowed to sit on the County Council simply because he was an owner of property and did not contribute to the rates. If the supporters of this Amendment wanted the Amendment to go unchallenged, they must go as far as to provide that the lodgers of London, as well as ground landlords, should have the right to sit as County Councillors if they obtained the confidence of their fellow-men.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, he rose to say how entirely he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) in respect to this Amendment. The fact was that this was the old question as to whether property or persons should be represented. He regarded the Amendment as one of the most dangerous character. There was only one logical conclusion in this matter, and that was pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Finsbury (Mr. J. Rowlands)—namely, that they must abolish all disqualifications. If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse) was prepared to go to that extent, they, of course, would agree with him. If he was not, the Amendment was one which ought not to be supported.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
said, he heartily agreed with the very sound democratic sentiments he heard expressed by the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for the East Grinstead Division of Sussex (Mr. A. E. Gathorne-Hardy), and he was going to give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity of showing in a practical way that he stood by his opinion. He proposed to amend the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse) by leaving out the word "who" in the first line of the Amendment, and 1595 by leaving out all the words which followed the word "Act" in the third line of the Amendment. The result of that would be that the Amendment would read as follows:—A person shall be qualified to be a Councillor, though not qualified in manner provided by 'The Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,' as applied by this Act.The effect of that Amendment of the proposed Amendment would be to raise definitely the issue the hon. Member (Mr. A. E. Gathorne-Hardy) had so fairly stated, and to determine whether there should be any restriction of any sort or kind.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment, in line 1, to leave out the word "who."—(Mr. Asquith.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'who' stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was quite true that, so far as Members of that House were concerned, there was no qualification whatever for a Representative, and he thought rightly so, but it was a different thing with respect to County Councils. He must say, speaking for himself, that it was very desirable that those who represented a county should have some kind of stake in the county. It had been said that these gentlemen might not be ratepayers; but he would like to know what man was more interested in the question of rating in a county than an owner of property in the county? He could not conceive anyone more fitted to represent the ratepayers in a County Council than an owner of property, who, perhaps, was as much as anyone affected by extravagance in rating.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 247; Noes 210: Majority 37.—(Div. List, No. 131.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ SIR WILLIAM PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, W.)
said, that before the Amendment was put to the Committee, he should like to propose another Amendment to it. It had just been decided that there must be a qualification. He was opposed to a property qualification. In these circumstances he thought it would be an advantage 1596 if, after the word "Act," they were to add the words "is resident in the county area." That would give to them not a property qualification at all, but would simply determine that the person to be elected should reside in the area for which he was elected as representative. He begged to move to omit from the Amendment the words—Is registered as a Parliamentary voter for the county or a division of the county in respect to the ownership of property of whatsoever tenure;and to insert, in lieu thereof, "is resident in the county area."
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words after the word "registered," in order to insert the words "is resident in the county area."—(Sir William Plowden.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. PICTON
said, he thought that if these words were added the Amendment suggested was not necessary at all, because if a landowner was resident in the county he was qualified as a ratepayer. But he objected to giving the landowner any special privileges whatever. It did not matter how this Amendment might be changed or altered in its language, so long as its substance remained the same he should protest and vote against it.
§ SIR WILLIAM PLOWDEN
said, that there was no landowner recognized at all in this clause; the hon. Member was under a mistake.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (, &c.) Kirkcaldy
said, that a man might not be eligible, but, at the same time, be eminently qualified to represent his fellow citizens. It seemed to him that this was an extremely democratic Amendment, and, therefore, he hoped his hon. Friends would not divide against it.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he certainly should oppose the original Amendment, and even divide against it. They could accept the principle that there should not be any clog imposed on the choice of Councillors, as in the elections for that House; but the Amendment was a distinct declaration in favour of a property qualification. They, on the Opposition Benches, were opposed to any such distinction being made, and they would divide against the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 236; Noes 193: Majority 43.—(Div. List, No. 132.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, that the words "or any borough therein," which appeared in the Amendment upon the Paper, had been struck out, and in their place the words "in respect to the ownership of property of whatever tenure" had been inserted. They had refused to qualify lodgers who were resident within the county, and it was now proposed to qualify owners of property not resident in the county. That was a property qualification which he could not assent to, and, therefore, he should vote against the Amendment.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he begged to move the omission of the words "in respect to the ownership of property of whatsoever tenure."
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, that there seemed to be some mistake about this matter. The Government apparently proposed to endow absentee landlords with the special prerogative to come down and swamp the residents of a particular county. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Yes; or, at any rate, to oust those residents who happened to be lodgers. It seemed to him that that was altogether unfair, and he was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman above the Gangway (Mr. Stansfeld) proposed to push this matter to a Division.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he desired to ask the Members of the Government how far they considered themselves consistent in pushing this Amendment? It would be remembered that, in respect to the Electors' Bill, he made a proposition, which was negatived in the House, to the effect that the Parliamentary Register should practically be the register of voters under this Bill; and now the Government were about to extend to one section of those persons, whom they refused to admit to be voters, the privilege of acting as representatives. He certainly thought the Government were landing themselves in an exceedingly illogical position. He should 1598 oppose this Amendment on account of the property qualification, not because it gave special privileges, but because through it the Government were going dead against what they resolved on the Amendment which he proposed.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
said, he would remind the hon. Gentleman that it was no fault of some of them that owners of property were not electors under the Bill passed earlier in the Session. When the Voters Bill was under discussion, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) announced that he would concede the very point they were now discussing—namely, that the owners, though not electors, should be allowed to act as members of the Councils. He gathered from the way in which hon. Gentlemen discussed the particular question now before the Committee that they could not have been in the House during the greater part of the discussion upon the Voters Bill, or else they would have remembered what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board promised to concede.
§ MR. JAMES STUART
said, that the Amendment he proposed would have admitted lodgers to this franchise. He certainly thought that the new form of this Amendment went even more dead against the position the Government assumed in respect to his Amendment than the form which appeared on the Paper.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the hon. Gentleman seemed to think there was something illogical in allowing persons to be elected who were not voters. There was nothing at all illogical in it. The hon. Gentleman was aware that men were returned to that House for constituencies in which they could not vote.
§ MR. JAMES STUART
said, that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to forget that they were in this Bill proceeding on the basis of the municipal franchise.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS
said, it would be in the recollection of the Committee that when his hon. Friend the Member for the Hoxton Division of Shoreditch (Mr. James Stuart) moved his Amendment providing that lodgers should have the right of the franchise, the right hon. Gentleman told them that he did not wish to deviate at all from the principle 1599 laid down in the Municipal Corporations Act, 1882. What were they doing now? They were certainly deviating from the Municipal Corporations Act, and what the Opposition were asking the Government to do was to be consistent with the position they assumed upon the Voters Bill. The right hon. Gentleman did not for one moment attempt to answer their arguments; he did not attempt to deny that there was equity in the proposition put forward in favour of lodgers in large towns. His only argument was that he wished the Bill to be based on the Municipal Corporations Act. They only asked him to remain true to the position he then took up.
§ MR. J. S. GATHORNE-HARDY (Kent, Medway)
said, he remembered very well the day on which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) gave a pledge upon this subject. He (Mr. J. S. Gathorne-Hardy) had that day received a deputation of gentlemen, in the main landowners, upon this subject. In reply to them he said they were going on the franchise of the Municipal Corporations Act. But with regard to the qualification to be elected, it was perfectly ridiculous to suppose that a man owning large property in a county should be incapable of being elected, if the ratepayers chose to elect him, because he did not happen to be a ratepayer. At the time the right hon. Gentleman pledged himself that an Amendment of this kind should be carried it was received with cheers from all parts of the House, and if hon. Gentlemen had only remembered the cheers given then they would not have adopted the course they had taken in regard to this Amendment.
§ MR. JAMES STUART
asked to be allowed to recall the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) to the Act of 1880. The object of that Act was to abolish the property qualification for members of Municipal Corporations and local Municipal Bodies. The right hon. Gentleman was departing distinctly and clearly in a large measure from that principle.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he begged the hon. Gentleman's pardon; there was no question of property qualification at all. The only claim they put forward for owners of property being capable of being elected was that they would have 1600 a little interest in the welfare of the county, and, therefore, ought to be eligible for election. There was no qualification at all.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he hoped he would be in Order in moving to insert after the word "tenure," the words "or is a lodger, or in respect of any service holding."
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the proposed Amendment, to add the words "or is a lodger, or in respect of any service holding."—(Sir George Campbell.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 187; Noes 257: Majority 70.—(Div. List, No. 133.)
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I rise to Order, Mr. Courtney. It is now 10 minutes to 7 o'clock, the hour at which, by our Rules, the debate stands adjourned.
The hon. Gentleman was informed two nights ago that the Question can be moved on the suspension of Business.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
That the words 'A person shall be qualified to be a councillor who, though not qualified in manner provided by "The Municipal Corporations Act, 1882," as applied by this Act, is registered as a Parliamentary voter for the county or a division of the county in respect of the ownership of property of whatsoever tenure,' be there inserted.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 249; Noes 171: Majority 78.—(Div. List, No. 134.)
§ It being after Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress at Nine of the clock.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ It being after Seven of the clock, the House suspended its Sitting.
§ The House resumed its Sitting at Nine of the clock.