§ Clause 2 (Composition and election of Council and position of chairman).
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
, in moving, at the end of line 18, to insert—Provided that all Members of Parliament for any division of a county, or any borough within the county, shall be qualified to be a councillor,said, he thought that all Members of Parliament ought to be ex officio members of the Council for the division of a county which they represented or any borough within the county. He wished to make it clear that Members of Parliament were not to be excluded from the opportunity of representing the counties on the County Council as well as in Parliament. Though they might not possess the qualification of ownership of property, it was well known that many Members of Parliament would not be qualified as owners of property to represent the county for which they stood; but, considering that they were considered fit to represent the great and material interests of the constituency in the House of Commons, be thought they ought to be qualified to represent the same interests in the County Councils. It was with that object that he had placed the Amendment on the Paper. As he had explained, it was a very simple matter, and he trusted the Government would see their way to accept the Amendment.
said, the Amendment was put down as a Proviso, and must be moved as a separate Sub-section.
In page 1, line 18, to insert the words—"All Members of Parliament for any division of a county, or any borough within the county, shall be qualified to be a councillor.—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
said, he did not complain of the hon. Member for moving the Amendment; but he would express a hope that there should be some finality in regard to Motions of this kind. Members of Parliament would, of course, be eligible if they possessed the necessary qualifications; but the Government could not accept the proposal of the hon. Member.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
maintained that he was perfectly justified in having placed the Amendment on the Paper.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (, &c.) Kirkcaldy
complained that the definition of the qualification for councillors was extremely narrow and grudging.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he thought the Amendment was useful, because it accentuated the fact that the Government Bill was a most illiberal measure. Here they had the positive fact that a Gentleman who was deemed fit to sit for a particular constituency in the House of Commons, yet, by this Bill, would not be allowed to sit on the County Council for the very constituency he represented in Parliament.
§ MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, all the clause asked was that Members of Parliament should not have further powers than other individuals who resided in the county. He failed to see why they should have further powers. If they did their duty properly, they would be in London for six or seven months in the year, and from that fact alone they would not be very well qualified to perform local duties in their own districts.
§ Question put, and negatived.
said, he wished to call attention to the fact that the next 1720 Amendment which took precedence on the Paper involved two questions—namely, whether all the councillors should be elective councillors, and whether there should be no aldermen. It might be a question whether those two points ought not to be raised separately. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Sir Roper Lethbridge) had given Notice of his intention to omit the word "elective."
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
said, he had no desire to do anything that would be contrary to the directions of the Chair, but it seemed to him that the objection which had been raised might be met by an addition to the Amendment now upon the Paper to provide that there should be no selected councillors or aldermen.
pointed out that there would still be two questions raised, and each of them ought to be discussed and voted upon accordingly.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
said, that if that was the ruling of the Chair, he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
in moving in line 19, leave out paragraph (a) which provided that—The councillors elected by the council shall be called selected councillors in lieu of aldermen, and the other councillors shall be called elective councillors,in order to insert—All the councillors shall be elective councillors, and there shall be no aldermen,said, he proposed to give certain reasons why this was a matter in regard to which he entertained some hope that the Government would assent to the proposal. In the first place, he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and to the House, that his Amendment was consistent with the introductory speech of the right hon. Gentleman, whereas the present drafting of the Bill was not consistent with that speech. There was, indeed, nothing more remarkable in the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman than the sturdy way in which he declared, on behalf of the Government and their supporters, that they were determined to trust the people, and to place the County Councils in future by direct election and not by indirect and secondary election in contact with the people of the county. 1721 Therefore, he thought, the right hon. Gentleman would admit that the Amendment was more consistent with his introductory speech and the principles he intended to lay down, than the provisions of the Bill in their present shape. The right hon. Gentleman had told them candidly that he had followed the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act. What was now proposed would make that admission a more intelligible, reasonable, and sensible proceeding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. It was, no doubt, difficult enough to pass any measure of so complex a character as the present Bill, and, in his opinion, the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly justified in relying upon the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act passed some years ago, but it was quite a different question when Amendments were proposed in that House, whether the right hon. Gentlemen or the Government should accept those Amendments or not. It was one thing to say that the Government were wise in having drafted the Bill on the lines of the Municipal Corporations Act, and quite another thing to say that in no respect would they depart from those lines to suit the views and desires of hon. Members in any part of the House. As a matter of fact, however, the right hon. Gentleman had already, in two instances, departed from the lines of the Municipal Corporations Act. He had accepted two Amendments and he was now simply asked to accept a third. The first Amendment related to the admission as members in the County Councils of clerks in Holy Orders, and the second made eligible an owner of property who was not resident in the county. He now asked the right hon. Gentleman to accept an Amendment which would establish a third difference between this Bill and the Municipal Corporations Act by getting rid of selected members, on the ground that to do so would be more consistent with his own declaration of principle than the present drafting of the Bill. If they went back for a moment to the reasons why the Municipal Corporations Act was passed, it might be said, although it was hardly pertinent to the subject, that the Liberal Party were not responsible for the creation of aldermen under that Act. He laid no stress upon that historical fact, because a great many 1722 years had passed since then, and a great many things had happened, and he did not see why hon. Members on either side of the House should be bound by what was done under very different circumstances. What was done at the time of the passing of the Municipal Reform Act, so far as boroughs were concerned, was well known, and he was ready to admit that there were two sides to the question. On the one hand, it was said that certain advantages had resulted from the provisions they had made, and that it enabled the Municipal Corporations to secure the service of men of experience, position, weight, and authority who might be induced to serve for a period of years, but would decline to go before the constituency for election. He believed there was something in that argument as far as the boroughs were concerned. On the other hand, there was another argument which was equally well known and understood—namely, that the election of aldermen at the first institution of a Town Council had, in many instances, absolutely modified the constitution of those Bodies, and that that modification had continued in a sense opposed to the popular opinion of the town at that particular time from that day down to the present moment. He did not know how the right hon. Gentleman, consistently with the large and liberal principles he had laid down during the second reading of the measure, was justified in deliberately proposing an arrangement which undoubtedly was calculated to produce this consequence—that in a certain number of cases the County Councils would not, at certain times, reflect the complete public opinion of the county. The argument in its favour had already been stated that it gave an element of stability to the Body itself, and enabled it to resist outward pressure, and too rapid changes of opinion. He had read the other day that its object was to put some check on the effect of passion at the moment; but he could hardly conceive the idea of passion attaching to the question of the future election of county councillors. When he considered the limited class from whom it would be able to choose, his only apprehension was, that they would find a difficulty in getting together a sufficient number of persons, having the public interests at heart who would 1723 be prepared to serve, having regard to the fact that the County Councils would meet at a considerable distance from certain parts of the county, and that eligible persons might neither have the necessary leisure, nor the means to accept a position which would render their services useful. He would go a little further in this matter, and would submit to the right hon. Gentleman that he was not bound to introduce this principle into the County Councils. Reasons might exist in the boroughs which did not exist in the counties. The class of people eligible for County Councils were a limited class, and it would be extremely difficult to secure the services of men of experience. Some local men might desire to get upon a District Council, but it would not suit them to stand for the division of the county in which they resided, nor would they be able to bear the expense. After all, the question of expense might be far less important to such men than the loss of time by being taken away from the management of their business. No doubt, this would not apply to the landed gentry; but below that class there were small farmers and shop keepers who could not afford to leave their business, and go away from time to time in order to attend to the meetings of the County Councils. Then, again, the selected councillors were to be appointed for a period twice as long as that for which the ordinary councillor was elected. What was the reason for that? It was all based on an analogy of borough life, which was not, to him, an exact analogy, because county life could not become so concentrated. Above all there was this difference, that in the boroughs the whole government of the borough was in the hands of the councillors, whereas in the counties it was very different. He, therefore, did not see, even from the point of view of good administration, that any advantage would be derived from making the county system the same as that in the boroughs. He failed to see any necessity for it, and he did not see why the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board should be bound to his present proposal seeing that he had accepted two Amendments already which altered the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act. Therefore, without detaining the House longer, and trusting 1724 that the Government would not meet his proposal with a hasty refusal, he begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
In page 1, line 19, to leave out paragraph (A), and insert, "All the councillors shall be elected councillors, and there shall be no aldermen."—(Mr. Stansfeld.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said, he thought it was of importance to consider the question principally from an administrative point of view. He thought they were in great danger of making a mistake if they refused to consider the matter from an administrative point of view. He agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) in some of the points he had laid down. Unless they took great care he did not think they would get in the County Councils a sufficient variety of Gentlemen of the various parties they required in the now Administrative Body, nor did he think they should be tied down to one single form of election if that did not give them the best chance of securing the best talent of the county. What they required was men of experience, and not men who would be ready to undertake offices of honour, and then neglect the duties attached to them. That was certainly the case now. Take the county magistrates themselves. A large number of gentlemen, qualified as county magistrates, never took any part in the work at all. In this case it would be considered an honorary office, and there was a danger that a number of persons would be ready to assume the office who would never perform the duties. If that occurred, what would happen? The work of the County Councils was not as likely to be as light as might be supposed. Upon the County Councils was to be laid not only the duties it was proposed to transfer to them, but the whole organization of a new scheme of Local Government. If hon. Members would look through the Bill as he had looked through it, they would see that at present it was merely a skeleton of a Bill, and before it could be placed in a position in which the public could understand it, its provi- 1725 sions must be extremely modified and extended by the County Councils themselves. That made it of the highest importance that they should throw into the County Councils the whole strength of the county, and he asked the Committee to consider whether the Bill, as it stood now, would do that? He was certainly not enamoured of the form which was adopted for constituting the different Councils, and he had placed on the Paper what he thought would be a better form upon which the councillors might be elected by the whole county, and not by districts. His Amendment was, in line 19, to leave out "the councillors elected by the council," and insert—The members of the council, who, if the council were the council of a borough, would be the aldermen, shall, until district councils are constituted in pursuance of this Act, be elected by the county council, and afterwards shall be elected by the district councils of the county. The apportionment of the councillors to be elected by the district councils shall be such as the Local Government Board may determine. A councillor elected by a district council shall be, at the time of his election to the county council, an elective councillor of the district council, and may hold both offices together. The councillors elected by district councils.Under the Bill as it stood, each councillor would have to be elected by a small district, and each district would only have the power of selecting one councillor. There was almost sure to be in the district some good man—very likely a useful man—whom it would be of great advantage to put on the County Council, but it would probably be the case that the man who would be returned would be elected because he represented some special local idea or some special idea of his own. Their object should be to obtain the services of men for the management of county business who had ample leisure and adequate experience to enable them to undertake the responsible duties which would be imposed upon them. There must, therefore, be some plan beyond the mere election of councillors, one by each local district, and some attempt must be made to secure upon the County Councils the most experienced and most leisured men of the county. His right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax had declared that the election of Aldermen by the votes of Aldermen had led to very great abuses, and that he (Mr. Rathbone) 1726 admitted was a matter which must absolutely be remedied. He had no doubt that the Government would be ready to remedy it; but the cause of the discredit which attached to the election of Aldermen was the fact that, under the present law, Aldermen could vote for Aldermen, and, consequently, when the majority in a town who elected the majority of the councillors changed their opinion, and wished to carry out their views, their determination was upset by the aldermen voting with the minority, and thus converting it into a majority. That was a monstrous system, which was never intended to prevail. He had placed an Amendment on the Paper with a view of putting an end to those abuses, and he hoped that it would be accepted by the Government. If they did accept it, it would, he thought, entirely remove the principal objection which his right hon. Friend made to the selection of Aldermen, and would leave the advantage which had resulted in the boroughs from the selection of members who had proved their qualification for carrying on Local Government, and whose services it was desirable to secure. Although his right hon. Friend did not appear to consider that the difficulty of selecting extended to the Councils, as the Bill was now drawn, it was of great importance that some form of electing the councillors for a longer period—who would represent not so much separate localities as the opinion of the whole county—should be adopted. He had got together all the information he could as to the working of these institutions in other places. They were now constituting the Local Government system on a democratic basis; and taking the experience gained by America, where a similar system existed in some places, it would appear that it frequently resulted in keeping the best men out of office and producing very bad management. Judging from the experience of America, it was desirable to have a wider method of election than single elected members. In Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and, in a lesser degree, in Boston and New York, means had been taken to modify the system. In one place, where there were 19 members on the Board of Aldermen, 12 were elected by three districts—four to each ward—and it was required that seven out of the 19 should be elected by the 1727 whole city. He trusted that, either in that form or some other, a change would be made in the method of electing the County Councils under the Bill, and that the Government would maintain the system of selecting a portion of the County Council on some broader basis than that of single member election in a small district. If they did not adopt some such provision, he was afraid they would find that their experience would be very similar to that of America, and that men would be elected from some local or selfish motive; so that, instead of getting the best men who were known in the counties and boroughs, the work would fall into the hands of more selfish men. Anyone who had watched the course of Local Government in this country would see that it occasionally happened that men who took the most active interests in the work were influenced by selfish motives.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
said, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Arfon Division of Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) seemed to fear that the electors of the county would not know who were the best men to govern them and be their representatives on the County Council. If that were likely to be the case, and if the opinion of the hon. Member was correct, then he contended the whole of the Bill was one gigantic mistake. They were told, when the Bill was introduced, that the principle of the Bill was to trust to the people, and that principle he, for one, had accepted in its fullest extent. He thought the electors of the county were to be trusted thoroughly in the choice of their representatives, and he believed the Government thought so to. If this principle were not accepted, he thought it would be better for the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board if a millstone had been placed round his neck and he had been thrown into the sea, rather than present such a Bill as the present. He was of opinion, however, that the Members of Her Majesty's Government believed what they said, and that they did trust the people, and accordingly he appealed to them to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld). If there were to be any selected councillors, then, in his opinion, and in the opinion, he believed, of a great number of other persons who 1728 knew something of local administration, the result would be that the best men in every division would stand aside. They would refuse to undergo the turmoil, annoyance, and worry of a contested election, and they would stand aside, expecting that the elected councillors would naturally look to them and those without as the selected members. On the other hand, he thought it quite reasonable that the electors themselves, knowing that, after they had performed their functions and elected a certain number of gentlemen to rule over them, there would be a further election, and that other gentlemen would be brought in to join with them, would be chary about voting for those men who they regarded as the most suitable to conduct their affairs. For this reason they would say, "I want my vote for A, B, or C. It is quite certain that X is admittedly the best man of all. He will, therefore, be selected hereafter by co-option." Therefore, the electors themselves would vote for A, B, or C, but not for X, the best man. By "best" he meant not at all the richest or the highest in rank, but simply the man who was the best qualified to perform the function of ruling in the County Council. The views he ventured to submit to the Committee referred more especially to London, but he could not help thinking that, to a certain extent, they would cover the rest of the country. He would, therefore, press upon Her Majesty's Government and his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board the propriety of accepting the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax.
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)
said, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would not accept the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that he had brought in the Bill upon the old municipal lines, and he, for one, would be much disappointed if the right hon. Gentleman gave up the old Conservative principle which had been embodied in this Bill. He also thought that if the Government accepted this Amendment, they would not only recede from the principle they had laid down, but would introduce a system altogether opposed to the lines of the existing Municipal Corporations Act, of which they had 1729 heard so much. Remarks had been made about "lubricating" the Bill, but the necessary effect would be, if they were to carry the process of lubricating much further, that very little of the original Bill would be left. Personally, he was strongly in favour of the dual system, for they must remember that in electing the now Councils they were not merely transferring the work of the present magistracy to the new Bodies, but they were creating a new institution which was to do totally different and more important work. Unless they established a dual system, it would be impossible to give the County Councils much more extensive powers than the magistracy now possessed. The municipal constitution established by the Municipal Reform Act had been a great success. In our Imperial Constitution we had gone on a system of opposition, check upon check, and he maintained that in electing a new Council that system of checks, which had already worked so well, ought to be followed. There were many people who said that they could trust the people, but in doing so use was made rather of a "fetching" cry than of an argument that appealed to the mind and to the conscience. For his own part, he thought no one ought to put unlimited trust in anybody, whether it was an individual or a corporate body. In laying the foundation of a new system of Local Government, the Committee ought to remember that if they built upon a narrow foundation they could afterwards widen it, and, therefore, it would be foolish in these democratic days to lay down the widest possible principle. They had been told by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone) that in America, where municipalities were originally laid down on the widest bases, occasion had already arisen for modifying them. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Sir Roper Lethbridge) seemed to think that by the dual system many gentlemen would court selection, thinking thereby to avoid the risk and turmoil of a contested election; but he was inclined to think that the members of the Council, who had themselves undergone the worry of contested elections, would hardly be likely to vote for those who had stood aloof from the turmoil of an election contest, and would be much more likely to appoint persons from their own ranks 1730 who had borne the heat, and harden of the day. Therefore the prospect would be diminished of such persons being selected unless they had first undergone an election in the county. For those reasons he hoped the Government would not accept the Amendment, and that they would not run away from the Conservative principle embodied in the Municipal Corporations Act.
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, the last speaker had not been very fair to his hon. Friend the Member for Canarvonshire, who had shown a thorough knowledge of the subject. The real difficulty was to get the best men to stand an election for the County Council. Under the Municipal Corporations Act it was laid down that Aldermen should be elected, not only from the inside Council, but from those who were outside; and it was understood, no doubt, by that provision that persons who were not willing to put themselves forward in order to be elected as Councillors might, if they were desirable, be elected as Aldermen. But the practice had come to be this—that the Council invariably elected men from their own body, and really good men were to a largo extent put aside. In the counties allusion had been made to men of business, farmers, and others who did not care to occupy a prominent position, and who would not allow themselves to be put forward as candidates if they were to undergo contested elections. No doubt that was so, and there were a great many men in the county whose business was so extensive that they would not allow themselves to be put forward as candidates; but he ventured to say that those were the very men whom the County Councils would be glad to obtain, and he did not see how their services were to be obtained unless some other method of election were provided except direct election. In saying this, it must not be supposed that he entertained any distrust of the principle of election. At most elections the candidates were brought forward on one line or another. Should those who were elected find themselves in a majority of two on the first election they would be able to get the management of the whole of the business in their own hands by returning the whole of the Aldermen, thus transferring that which was merely a nominal majority of two into a ma- 1731 jority of one-third of the entire body. He hoped the Government would take into consideration the other Amendments which stood on the Paper, in order that the constitution of the County Council might be made as perfect as possible.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
said, there was one matter which he should like his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board to make clear. Supposing that an Amendment of this kind were carried, how would it affect the election of Councils in the large boroughs which in the future were to become counties in themselves? He did not think that that point was made quite clear, even in the Bill when it was drawn, and when it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman only to make Quarter Sessions boroughs counties in themselves. Since then that provision had been largely extended, and he desired to have the matter decided once and for ever. He would remind his right hon. Friend of this difficulty—that if Amendments of this kind were not to extend to elections to Corporations, or to boroughs which were in future to become counties, they would have two systems of counties throughout the country. If that were not the case, they would be reduced to the other alternative—that if they were to allow Amendments of this kind to affect the elections to Corporations they were practically amending the Municipal Corporations Act. He wished to hear from his right hon. Friend which of those two systems would be adopted.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that his hon. Friend had asked a question which really went to the root of one of the objections which the Government had to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax. His hon. Friend asked whether, if the Amendment were carried, it would affect the election of Councils of boroughs which were to be placed in the Schedule as counties in themselves? They did not propose anything in the Bill which would in any way affect the mode of election in boroughs which were to be made counties in themselves. His hon. Friend stated very properly that if the Government were to see their way to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, this anomaly—and he thought it 1732 would be an indefensible anomaly—would be created—that whereas the larger area of the county, and for many purposes the more important Councils, would be elected without any selected members at all, the smaller area made up of Councils of the boroughs which were to be made counties would have selected members. Looking to the fact that they were largely and properly extending the number of the boroughs to be included in the Schedule, the anomaly would thus be greatly accentuated; and, practically speaking, there would be in the small boroughs of 50,000 inhabitants selected Councillors, while the great counties proper would have Councils elected for their particular fitness. That was one reason why the Government could not recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman, in his argument in favour of the Amendment, said that, if adopted, it would be more in accordance with the principle which he had laid down in the speech he had made in introducing the Bill to the House, when he said that its great principle was trust in the people. He adhered to what he had said. If the provision proposed by the Government were retained, the Bill would still embody the principle of trust in the people. There would be no element whatever within the County Councils which did not proceed from the people, because, as the right hon. Gentleman well knew, they were replacing a non-representative Body by a Body which was representative in the broadest sense that the Town Council of a borough was representative. The fact of the aldermanic element being introduced into the Bill did not show any distrust of the people, because all the appointments would practically be in the hands of the people and their representatives. If the Government had suggested any system of delegation or appointment for these new selected Councillors, then he thought there would have been a good deal of force in what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax; but, as it was, he maintained that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman had no force whatever. Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of his Amendment was that although the Government had framed the Bill on the lines of the Municipal Corporations Act, and had brought that 1733 forward as an argument in its favour, yet, as a matter of fact, they had on two occasions departed from the principle of that Act. That he at once frankly admitted; but he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish them to take their stand rigidly upon any provisions of that Act which they might have considered not to have worked well and to be incapable of Amendment. What they had done was altogether on all-fours with the object of maintaining the principles of the Municipal Corporations Act. The principle of the Government had been to consider any Amendment which did not depart from the principle of the Municipal Corporations Act, but which yet removed some complaint in regard to the working of some of its provisions. It was in that spirit that the Government had accepted the Amendment with regard to the qualification of clergymen to sit as members of the Council. He thought it unwise to exclude from the Council ministers of any denomination if they were otherwise qualified; and he had, therefore, considered it unwise to adhere to that principle, notwithstanding the provision which existed in the Municipal Corporations Act. With reference to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that the Liberal Party were not responsible for the aldermanic element in the Municipal Corporations Act, he would point out that if they had not been responsible for the original Act, they had certainly been responsible for that of 1882, which again re-enacted the obnoxious principle of selected members. Although he was prepared to admit that it was only a consolidating Act, yet it was allowed to pass with that element in it. The House of Parliament had assented to the retention of the automatic element with reference to the election of Town Councillors. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax said that might be all very well in the towns, but did not suit for the counties; and he had based that statement upon the argument that the duties which would devolve upon the County Councils would not be of so important a character in some degree as that which devolved upon Town Councils. The hon. Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone)—than whom there was no man in that House who had a larger, better, or wider experience of the operations of the Municipal Corporations Act 1734 —on the other hand, told them that as far as his study of the Bill went, and his knowledge of the work of Town Councils, he believed that the duties of the new Councils would be as important as those which now fell on Town Councils. That was also the view of the Government. They thought that at the present moment it would not, perhaps, be wise or desirable to overlay the County Council at the outset with a great number of new powers; yet they believed that in the Council, as set up by the Bill, Parliament was establishing a Body which might, at a future time, be entrusted with powers very much larger and more extensive than those conferred by the Bill, extensive as they were. He therefore maintained that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, that in retaining this provision of the Municipal Corporations Act they were showing distrust of the people, was not justified by what would ultimately turn out to be the fact. It was not at all on account of distrust in the people that the Government suggested to the Committee to adopt the principles of the Municipal Corporations Act with reference to selected members. The hon. Member for North Kensington (Sir Roper Lethbridge) seemed to imply that the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire was of opinion that the proposal showed distrust of the people. Now, he had not gathered that that was the argument of the hon. Gentleman, but rather that it was the desire of the hon. Member that they should be able to get Councillors out of the ranks of those who might be pre-eminently fitted for the work, but who could only with difficulty be got to stand an election.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, his argument was that in some form or other it was desirable to have provided, in addition to the small area of the District Council, a wider area, and that the whole county should choose a certain portion of the members of the Council. He had said that the form proposed by the right hon. Gentleman did not directly accomplish that object, but it did indirectly, and he ventured to say that it did not show any distrust whatever of the people.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was endeavouring to show from the argument of the hon. Member that the proposal of the Government did not show the smallest distrust of the people, and he 1735 was going on to say that he gathered from the hon. Gentleman's speech, and also from the speeches of others, that their desire was to maintain a system under which they would be able to get selected Councillors out of the ranks of men who were pre-eminently fitted for the work, but whom it would be very difficult to induce to stand an election. That was one of the arguments by which he had ventured to impress upon the Committee how desirable it was that there should be some other means than that of simple election by which they might select from outside the best men to be placed on the Council. Those were the reasons, along with that of continuity, which was also of great importance, which had induced the Government to adhere to what it considered to be the very beneficial provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act. It was said that by means of this provision in the Bill they might possibly maintain a perpetual majority in opposition to a majority of elected Councillors. He was bound to say that there was a good deal of force in the arguments which had been used in regard to the question. He did not think it was a wise or prudent thing that they should establish a system by which a perpetual majority one way might be obtained in the Council, while the elected majority might be of another way of thinking altogether. That was exactly one of the points to which he had alluded at the commencement of his remarks as one in which the Government did not intend to adhere rigidly to the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act; and he hoped the Committee would consider favourably the Amendment which would come on for discussion at a later period, by which the remaining selected Councillors should not vote for the new selected Councilors who were to be chosen. That, he thought, would do away with the objections which had been urged with reference to this point. These were the arguments by which the Government hoped the Committee would be influenced in the retention of the aldermanic element, subject, of course, to the modification he had mentioned.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, he quite shared in the hope and belief of the right hon. Gentleman that the functions which would devolve upon the now County 1736 Councils would be as important as those which devolved upon the existing Town Councils; and it was because he desired to see the most competent and best qualified persons elected that he supported the objection of his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) to the application of the provision of the Municipal Corporations Act, which had not been found to work satisfactorily in the boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board himself admitted at the close of his speech that he was not satisfied with the provisions in that Act in one most important respect, and that he was prepared to alter them. He felt bound to enter a protest against the statement that the Liberal Party were responsible for the retention of the aldermanic element in the Act of 1882. As a matter of fact, there were many Members in the House of Commons who wished to raise this very question at that time. But the Government made use of the argument that it was only a consolidating Bill, and that it was not the practice to introduce Amendments into a consolidating Bill. The consequence was that in the Bill of 1882 a great many provisions were included which ought not to have been re-enacted. He contended that the Liberal Party were not responsible for what was done in the Act of 1882. The provision of the original Bill was certainly not introduced by Lord John Russell, but was introduced in the House of Lords by Lord Lyndhurst. A compromise was accepted by Sir Robert Peel, and instead of an Alderman being elected for life, as the proposal originally was, it was agreed to adopt the term of six years. He had had some considerable experience in the working of the Municipal Corporations Act before he had a seat in that House, and he knew something of the working of the aldermanic principle. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman opposite that, though he was correct in the theory, the practice was not what he believed it to be. Now, the theory which, no doubt, would justify the aldermanic element was that they got the services of men who would not go through the worry and turmoil of popular election, but who were very valuable public servants, whom it was desirable to secure on the Town Councils. But, as 1737 a matter of fact, they did not get the services of distinguished men who would not go through a popular election. He would not say there was no exception; but his experience had extended over a good many years, and he did not know an instance of an Alderman having been elected who had not previously been a Town Councillor. That was invariably made a basis of promotion. As a matter of fact, the Town Councillors did not elect outside men, but men who had already done good work in the Council, who understood the nature of the business, and who were, no doubt, competent to discharge the business. The danger which arose, and which the right hon. Gentleman was willing to take some steps to guard against, was that the elections of Aldermen were made Party questions. The dominant Party for the moment put aside great qualifications when it saw a chance of perpetuating its own policy for a considerable number of years. The temptation to human nature was so strong that they yielded to it, and the practical result was that, notably in Liverpool and Bristol and other places, a particular political Party obtained predominance, and kept it by means of the system of automatic elections. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he wished to confer on the counties a power similar to that which existed in the boroughs. Now, they had already considerable differences between the County and Municipal Councils. The County Councillor had a different qualification from that enjoyed by the Town Councillor. There was another point to which he wished to draw attention. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to go back to what he (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) considered to be the much wiser mode of re-election provided by the Municipal Corporations Act? Instead of that, he adopted the plan of the School Boards, which had worked very badly—namely, the plan of all the County Council retiring at the end of a certain period. There was a still greater anomaly. When a Town Councillor was elected an Alderman, the vacancy occasioned in the Council was filled up by going back to the particular constituency which the Alderman had represented. But the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the reactionary plan of allowing the now Councils to fill up their own vacancies. 1738 In reply to an argument advanced by the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hanbury), he would rather insert improvements in the present Bill, and let the Municipal Corporations copy them, than take what was bad out of the Municipal Corporations Act and perpetuate it here. His hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshiro had spoken in reference to the danger of a class of men being elected who would not feel themselves responsible, and neglected their business; but he did not think there was any force in it.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, his statement was that it did not follow that, although men might desire to be appointed on account of the honour and dignity of the position, they would necessarily attend the meetings of the Council and take their full share of the work.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, he was glad to hear his hon. Friend give an explanation, because he thought there was likely to be more irresponsibility on the part of the selected Councillors than on the part of those who were directly responsible to their constituents. He would not presume to say that there was not a good deal to be urged on both sides of the question; but it was one which must be tested by experience and not by theory, and he ventured to say that, as a rule, the principle of selection did not work well in the boroughs. There was a desire, both in the Councils and in the constituencies, to effect a change in the present system, and it would be, on the whole, better not to perpetuate the principle in that Bill, but to make every man directly elective, as was done in the case of the school boards, which constituted the last great change in the system of local government. In the case of the school board, the principle of selection was not introduced, although it had been urged upon precisely the same grounds as were brought forward now. The House of Commons of that day, however, decided that every Member should be directly responsible to the constituency he represented. He thought that was a wise course, and he supported the same principle now.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
said, his right hon. Friend who had just sat down had made some reasonable remarks in regard to the probable working of the clause if it were 1739 passed in its present form. He, therefore, hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would give attention to these points as they came on, and would take care, in connection with the new Councils, that one particular Party should not make use of an aldermanic majority in order to secure a permanent majority. He did not think that anything could more tend to bring the County Councils into discredit than the establishment of perpetual majorities. It was quite plain, in his opinion, that in order to secure efficient work in the Councils they must include some selected Councillors. He did not intend to give any opinion as to the working of the system in any of the boroughs; but if they were to secure perfect work it was necessary that there should be selected Councillors. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Why?] That was exactly what he was going to explain. Those who knew county life intimately would be aware that at present there were two very large classes, both of which ought to be largely represented on the future County Councils, but which might be partially, to a large extent, excluded if there were no selected Councillors. There were, in the first place, a few men in each county who had attained considerable age, and still remained the most experienced in county government, but who, from their age, would not be willing to undertake the fatigue of going through a county contest. There was no reason why those gentlemen should. They had absolutely nothing to gain by being on the County Council, but all their experience would be for the good of the county government. The second class was a larger class, who would, for the future, be the more important element—namely, large tradesmen, small paper manufacturers, millers, and that class which were not found scattered through the rural districts, but were found congregated, perhaps, to the number of half-a-dozen together in one small county town. These men, having no connection with a rural district, would stand no chance of election in that rural district. Therefore, if they wanted to have a sufficient number of this commercial class on the County Council, there must be found an opportunity of adding some of them by selection, because if there were half-a-dozen 1740 in one small town, not more than one would be elected. Therefore, he earnestly hoped that the Government would stick to their present plans, and not accept the Amendment.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
said, he wished to explain to the House what it was that induced him to take a part in the present conversation. It had reference to a point which had been fairly raised by his noble Friend who had just sat down. His noble Friend hoped that the Government would adhere to their present proposition in its present form, and he based himself upon two arguments with respect to the class of persons whom he thought would find their way into the Councils. The first and weightiest of the arguments of his noble Friend was that in respect of the class of those who might be called seniors. Now, it would be almost indecorous of him to say anything on behalf of seniors. To say that experience was a very notable element in the conduct of public business would seem so very like a reflex compliment upon what was called the present company, that he would venture to avoid the argument. Like other good things, it might be carried too far. A great experience in county affairs might be a very valuable thing, and it might be very desirable to have a minority of Members who should sit for a longer term than the majority. He would assume that he had risen also in consequence of what was said by his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler)—with the general tenour of whose remarks he completely agreed—with reference to the retention of the arrangement as to Aldermen in the Municipal Corporations Act. Now, he had not had the advantage of the practical experience in reference to Municipal Corporations possessed by his right hon. Friend and other Members of that House; but he had been conversant for a considerable time with questions in relation to the consolidation of laws, and there he would lay it down, as a practical rule of business, that the only sound course, as a general rule, was to separate consolidation from reform. Consolidation was not reform. Otherwise, so far from making real progress, because it was thought there was an opportunity, they only brought business into confusion. Unquestionably, 1741 therefore, he should have resisted a proposal to abolish the arrangement with respect to Aldermen upon the simple ground that it was a question of municipal reform, and that there would be great inconvenience in dealing with it as a question of consolidation. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had approached this question in the same practical spirit and the same desire to listen candidly to what might be said on all sides which had marked all his proceedings and eminently governed the able speech in which he originally submitted the Bill to the House, and he said that he looked with favour upon an Amendment which would provide against the perpetual majority, so justly objected to, by taking care that certain persons should be disabled from voting in the choice of the new selected members. He did not think that was a happy arrangement in some other respects. The House had now a fair opportunity of considering the authority which ought to attach to the Municipal Corporations Act, and they were at liberty to consider that question freely. His right hon. Friend had given an accurate and just account of the way in which the aldermanic arrangement worked. There was no doubt that between 1835 and 1841 important Acts of Parliament were contested between the two Houses with a particularity and pertinacity of which he knew no other example. The tactics of the House of Lords were managed with extraordinary astuteness and skill by Lord Lyndhurst, the Conservative Party were just recovering from a great and disastrous defeat upon the question of Parliamentary Reform, and the adoption of many arrangements was virtually forced upon the House of Commons during those years to which the Liberal Party was very averse. This was no Party question. There could be no doubt that direct election was much better than secondary election, and had a great deal more weight. If they were told, as his noble Friend had said, that there were certain classes of people who would not go into the Council unless there were secondary election, his answer was that the same objection might apply to that House. Of course, there were exceptions here and there. No doubt, it was desirable that there should be men 1742 of great experience in that House. But everybody knew that in the constituencies seniority carried the greatest weight, and he had known constituencies recognize that consideration in a spirit of almost extravagant generosity in not contesting seats occupied by old Members. His noble Friend had referred to the class of millers. Now, the class of millers was well known in agricultural districts, and, whether the farmers liked them or not, it was not likely to be from want of knowledge. He claimed no weight whatever for his own judgment in the matter. He was very much disposed to think, and to press, that the principle of election had better be carried through. If a portion of the Council were to sit otherwise than by direct election, there would be an implication with regard to a certain class of the Members as to whose qualifications the constituencies were not well qualified to express their opinion. He had no complaint to make of the general spirit of the Bill, or the manner in which the Government were inclined to deal with this question, but he attached much importance to the general principle of election.
§ MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)
said, he wished to point out to the President of the Local Government Board that the case in favour of the Amendment was far stronger in London than elsewhere. The Members representing the Metropolis in that House might be said to have decided unanimously, or by a largo majority, that, as a general principle, it would be far better to have the County Council wholly composed of elected members. The introduction of the selected element would be more retrograde in London than anywhere else, because in the City Aldermen were now elected upon a principle which they wished to see universally enforced. The Aldermen of the City of London were now directly elected on the widest municipal register within the limits of the United Kingdom. They had recently had an opportunity of testing the relative worth of direct and indirect election in the case of the Metropolitan Board of Works. That Board was indirectly elected by the Vestries, and certainly, at the present moment, did not smell sweet in the nostrils of public opinion. On more than one occasion the members had denied their responsi- 1743 bility when questioned as to their votes, which they would not have been able to do if they had been really responsible to constituencies. In London there were not two opinions that in the case of the County Councils there ought to be direct representation. There was more at stake than in the rural districts, because, as the right hon. Gentleman well knew, the expenditure must be much larger. It was, therefore, desirable to bring the responsibility directly home, and the best course was to make every member of the Council understand that he was under the necessity of appealing to the ratepayers at large. No man in London would be worth his salt who was afraid of facing a popular electorate, or who would say that he would not serve unless he was selected by the other Councillors. At present, he only knew one class that was likely to be disqualified in the eyes of the public, and they were the members of the present Metropolitan Board of Works. As to men of experience not being likely to be elected, he wished to draw attention to the fact that when the School Board of London was first established, it was composed of men of great age and experience, with Lord Lawrence at their head as its first Chairman.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
said, his remarks did not apply to London, the case of which was quite different, but to the County Councils only.
§ MR. LAWSON
said, he quite appreciated the views of the noble Lord; but he wanted to know whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to apply this provision of the Bill to London? What he maintained was that the whole of the body to whom they were going to give these enormous powers should be directly elected by, and responsible to, the inhabitants of the Metropolis.
§ MR. MATTINSON (Liverpool, Walton)
said, he was glad to think that Her Majesty's Ministers were standing to their guns in regard to this matter. If he believed that there was any real danger of the elected members being swamped by the selected members he would not support the proposal; but it must be borne in mind that the selected members would only form a fraction of the entire Council, and there could be no real danger of their ever swamping the elected Councillors. In the next place, it must be borne in mind that these Coun- 1744 cillors were not to be selected by an irresponsible body, but by members who were directly responsible to the constituency, and the selection would be made immediately after the election by popular vote. If the election were to take place by the expiring Council in the last days of its existence, the suspicion might arise that the majority in the Council were anxious to perpetuate their power. But that objection did not apply here, because immediately after the first election the Council would be required to appoint the selected members. Therefore, he did not think that any practical danger could arise of the selection of anybody who was obnoxious to the ratepayers. On the contrary, the desire of the Council would be loyally to give effect to the general wishes of the rateyayers. The Committee were aware that in the case of Municipal Corporations the principle of selection existed as well as that of election, and he confessed that he had not been able to follow the objections which had been urged against the principle of selection. It had been suggested that in some cases the principle had not worked well, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) said that it had worked badly in the case of Liverpool and Bristol. He knew nothing of Bristol, but he had some knowledge of Liverpool, and in regard to that town he might say that, so far from the selective or aldermanic principle having worked badly, it had worked, not in restriction, but in aid of popular rights. The suggestion was that it had worked badly, because the Liberal Party had been prevented from obtaining a majority in the Council, through the action of Conservative Aldermen. The truth was that the only chance the Liberal Party ever had of coming within a measurable distance of a majority in the Council had arisen from the obsolete arrangement of the wards. The Liberals represented the small wards; the Conservatives the great, populous wards; and but for the existence of Aldermen, on one occasion at least, the sense of the majority of the ratepayers would have been misrepresented. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had endeavoured to explain the action of the Liberal Party in reference to the Act of 1882. It was alleged that during the long years they 1745 had been in power they had never attempted to interfere with the carrying out of the aldermanic principle, and the right hon. Gentleman justified the course they had taken by reminding the Committee that the Bill of 1882 was a Consolidation Bill. But what the right hon. Gentleman had to explain was not the proceedings of 1882, but the acquiescence of 50 years by the Liberal Party.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
said, that his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian had admitted the necessity for securing to the County Councils as much as possible the elements of experience and continuity, and suggested a mode in which those elements might be secured. But in that suggestion his right hon. Friend somewhat overlooked the necessity for securing that special kind of experience which was so necessary at the present time—the experience of those who had hitherto taken a very prominent part in county government, and were almost universally admitted not to have abused the trust placed in them. He fully admitted the value of the suggestion, which he understood to be that the constituencies themselves should elect members to serve for a longer or a shorter period, so that in course of time some continuity might be secured on the Council with a certain amount of experience. But that suggestion would not necessarily secure on the Councils, at the first elections, the presence of those men to whom he had referred. He quite agreed with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) that the question was not a very simple one, and that much might be said on both sides. He was very glad, indeed, to notice that the right hon. Gentleman opposite had expressed his intention not to adhere strictly to the present mode in which Aldermen were elected in boroughs. By that announcement it seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman had removed the only objection to the system as it existed in boroughs at the present time. Whether or not the Liberal Party were responsible in any degree for the continuance of that principle in boroughs he was not aware. What was of more importance was that he had not heard any complaints made with reference to the aldermanic principle in boroughs ex- 1746 cept as to the mode of election, which it was said in certain boroughs insured to one political Party a continuance of power. The Amendment the right hon. Gentleman was going to introduce would to a great extent, if not completely, do away with this objection, which, so far as he was aware, was the only objection to the system which now existed in boroughs. If the system were a valid one, and had worked well in boroughs, there was no reason for refusing to incorporate it in the present measure; but if it were not, be should hail it as a proposal of great value as a temporary measure. They were going to introduce a new element in the management of county affairs, and with that new element there must necessarily be a lack of experience. It had been universally admitted that a considerable number of those who had taken part in county business ought to continue to do so. It was doubtful, however, whether a great number of those gentlemen would come forward and risk all the trouble and labour of popular election; but if the proposal of the Bill were adopted, a certain number of them, at all events, would be able to keep their positions. He thought, therefore, that, at all events as a temporary measure, the precedent of the Municipal Corporations Act might be followed.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, he wished in a few words to endorse the arguments of the hon. Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Lawson) in regard to London. He believed that the clause as it stood would have a very disastrous effect upon the Metropolis itself. Everybody would admit that the Metropolitan Board of Works had fallen into disrepute, and the only way to provide for proper Municipal Government in London was to have direct representation. The proposal of the Government would have the effect of inducing the better men not to seek election in the first instance, but to lie by in the hope of being selected by the Council as Aldermen. Therefore, in the first instance, there would be an inferior class of Councillors elected by London generally. The same argument would apply also to the Councils, and that was his reply to the noble Lord the Member for Petersfield (Viscount Wolmer). The fact would be that experienced men, whose services it was so im- 1747 portant to secure, would not seek election, but would wait in the hope of being selected as Aldermen, and in that way they would get an inferior Council to start with, the members being returned from an inferior class of men. With regard to London, he agreed that there was a universal consensus of opinion in favour of direct representation. [Cries of "No!"] It was remarkable that two Conservative Members for London had given Notice of opposition to the creation of Aldermen, and he believed that the great majority of the Conservative Members for London were against the principle of placing Aldermen upon the new Governing Body. At all events, whatever might be the decision of the House on the Amendment before it, he ventured to express a hope that in the case of London there might be direct representation.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, that his only personal claim to speak on the question was that of some long municipal experience; but after the reference to London he felt he ought to state that, as one of the Members for London, he had presented a Petition from the Governing Body of his constituency urging that selected members would not be desirable in the case of the Metropolis. He ventured to express a hope that in a case like this the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would not hesitate to improve, if it wore possible, upon the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act. What was claimed as the strongest argument for the principle of selected members? The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), the noble Lord the Member for Petersfield (Viscount Wolmer), and other speakers, contended that the selective system would be the means of inducing gentlemen of experience to enter the County Councils. He earnestly hoped that those who had hitherto administered county affairs with so much economy and so much advantage would be retained on the new Governing Body, and it was because he felt most strongly on the subject that on the second reading of the Bill he expressed a hope that no more than one door would be opened for admission, for such a second door would prove to be a delusion. He trusted the Government would reconsider their decision 1748 on this matter. When it was stated that the system would be a means of placing experienced men on the Councils, it must be assumed that the Aldermen in boroughs were usually selected from outside the Council. Now, he had taken some trouble to ascertain, with approximate truth, what the exact facts were upon this point—namely, the selection of Aldermen, and he found that the principle had been almost invariably to select Aldermen from inside the Town Councils. He believed that the exceptions had been very few indeed. He wrote to the Town Clerks of 25 boroughs of the largest population, and he asked for the figures as to the election of Aldermen during the last 10 years. He found that in 18 boroughs, which gave him the exact figures, 411 Aldermen had been elected from within the Councils, and only 21 from outside. In the case of Bristol, 9 were elected from without the Council, and at Birkenhead 6, which accounted for 15 of the 21; so that in the majority of the boroughs there must have been absolutely none elected from without the Council. From Birmingham be received the general reply "invariably elected from within the Council;" from Manchester he got exactly the same reply; the same from Portsmouth; the same from Hull, which accorded with his own experience. From Plymouth the answer was "most exceptional to go outside;" and from Liverpool the reply was "as a rule from within, but there are numerous exceptions." He was bound to say that those exceptions might have been of decided advantage; they might have been the fulfilment—they probably were the fulfilment—of the idea which originally induced Parliament to insert the Proviso "from within or without the Council" in the Municipal Corporations Act. The case at Norwich seemed to be very exceptional. There 28 had been elected from without the Council, and only one from within. Norwich seemed to have acted upon a most singular principle, because it generally elected as Aldermen those who had not been re-elected as Councillors. In other words, if a man was not approved after experience and trial by his constituency, that was a title to be elected as Alderman. He thought that, as a general rule, it might be said that election from within the Council was wise, because the men 1749 selected had shown their ability to act or otherwise; they had gone through the ordeal of election; they had come into contact with a constituency; and he argued that the general impression was that, as it was in the case of that House, so it ought to be in the case of the County Councils, no one ought to be a member unless he had come into contact with constituents. That seemed to him to be the result of the figures which had been given to him; but he also impressed upon the right hon. Gentleman, as one reason for taking a modified course of this kind, an argument which had been mentioned, and which appeared to him to have very considerable force. It was this—that there would be a strong tendency on the part of the majority to strengthen itself when elected to the County Councils; and he could imagine nothing more calculated to perpetuate strong Party feeling, which was most undesirable in administrative matters, than the existence of such a feeling in the Council. Take the case of licensing, which they must still assume to be part of the functions of these Councils. Might it not be felt by those who might have succeeded in the election that they had a bounden duty to support the principles which they had advocated by electing partizans of their own in order to carry out their views more effectually? Take the case of economy, or the want of economy. They praised the existing régime, because it had conduced to great economy and considerable efficiency; but there might be a régime in which there might be undue extravagance, and if the party of extravagance should succeed in the election, and should again strengthen itself by the selection of selected Councillors of the same character as themselves, the minority, who might be in favour of wise economy, would be powerless in face of the Party so strengthened. He had the strongest regard for the general character of the Bill; and, therefore, he would not do anything to support this Amendment if he thought it struck at the Bill. On the contrary, he thought that it would materially improve the Bill, and conduce to its effective working and to the credit of the Ministry; and, therefore, he hoped that the Government would find some reasonable means of meeting the proposal.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, his hon. Friend (Sir Albert Rollit), who had spoken very strongly against the proposal in the Bill, had argued from two different points of view, one of them altogether contradicting the other. [Sir ALBERT ROLLIT: I put it alternatively.] His hon. Friend said that the argument that had been used, that this provision afforded an opportunity of asking Gentlemen who might not otherwise be disposed to run the gauntlet of an election to serve as selected Councillors, was not a good one, as the object aimed at would not be attained. Then his hon. Friend proceeded to tell the Committee that he had been at considerable pains to find out how this rule of selected Councillors operated with reference to boroughs, and the result of his inquiry was that he found that almost entirely the aldermanic element was elected from within and not from without the Council. But he (Mr. Ritchie) could easily conceive that, even if that were to be the operation of their proposal, there would be very great advantages connected with it; because there might be many gentlemen who would be prepared to run the gauntlet of election, and go to the expense of election once in every six years, who would not care about doing it once in three years; and if the Aldermen were selected from inside the Council, the Bill would give the Council an opportunity of giving those gentlemen, some of them at any rate, a longer term of years than they would have if they had to go every three years to the electors. Under these circumstances, the Council would be afforded an opportunity of giving a double term of office to gentlemen they might desire to honour, if it were, as the hon. Gentleman seemed to consider it, a distinction. Even from that point of view, he (Mr. Ritchie) thought it was vary desirable that, if a Council in a borough had the opportunity of conferring that distinction upon members of their own body, a County Council should have the same opportunity of conferring a similar distinction upon some of its members. Even if they were selected from within the Council, he believed there were considerable merits attached to the proposal they had to make. His hon. Friend, after having made that point in his argument, proceeded to abolish it by 1751 saying that the result would be a tendency of the majority on a County Council to make their majority very much larger by means of selected members. That meant that they would not be selected from within the Council, but from without. [Cries of "No, no!"]
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the hon. Gentleman was already aware that certain proposals were to be made with reference to that; and although it would be quite out of Order for him to speak in detail now upon those proposals, he might say that they had a hidden purpose in making them; it was with a view of saving expense. But if the Committee desired to make an alteration, providing for election when vacancies were created, the Government would be perfectly prepared to agree to such an Amendment.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
asked the Chairman whether a fallacy should be attributed to him on the ground of something that might be done?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he did not desire to attribute a fallacy to his hon. Friend, and he would say no more upon the point; but, certainly, if the vacancies created by selected Councillors were filled up by the Council, there could be no strength in the argument the hon. Gentleman had used. The Government had made this proposal strictly upon the lines of the Municipal Corporation Act, and they had not heard from any quarter of the House that the aldermanic system in municipal boroughs had been productive of evil. Some Gentlemen had vaguely stated that the system was an unsatisfactory one, but no illustration had been given to show that it had worked badly. If there was any fault to be found with the system as it existed in the boroughs, that was a matter which ought to be dealt with by the general amendment of the law, both with reference to Municipal Corporations and all other Bodies that might have similar rights. But they thought that, in proposing as they had done to extend the benefits of the Municipal Corporations Act throughout the country, it was only fair and right they should make a proposal to the Committee by which County 1752 Councils should have the same opportunity of appointing the aldermanic element as Councils in boroughs. It would, of course, be for the Committee to say whether the proposals of the Government were acceptable to them. The Government had no reason to suppose, from representations made to them, that they were otherwise than acceptable to the constituencies on whose behalf they desired to set up these new institutions, and they thought, therefore, the Committee would do wisely to adhere to the proposals.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, there was only one point he wished to lay before the Committee, and that was with respect to an example that had been set of late years. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had had some experience of the working of the Charity Commission, and he must know that the system by which the Board of Management elected themselves, when vacancies occurred, gave the greatest dissatisfaction. He (Sir John Swinburne) asked the Government to lay this fact to heart before persevering in resisting this Amendment.
§ MR. SINCLAIR (, &c.) Falkirk
said, that considerable reference had been made in the course of the debate to the case of Liverpool, and the experience gained there was very important. He desired, as knowing something about the case, to say a few words in respect to it. He did so in the presence of an hon. Member, the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Forwood), who was popularly supposed to hold the whole Town Council of Liverpool in the hollow of his hand; and if he was mistaken in what he asserted he would, no doubt, be corrected by the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for the Walton Division (Mr. Mattinson) was, perhaps, to be excused in making the observations he had as to the course of procedure in the election of Aldermen in Liverpool, for his connection with that City was of very recent date. He (Mr. Sinclair) would give one instance, and one only, as to the election of Aldermen which occurred not very long ago. The Town Council of Liverpool consisted of 64 members, of whom 16 were Aldermen, leaving 48 elective Councillors. There were, at one period, of those 48, 1753 28 Liberals and 20 Conservatives; but at that time there were eight Aldermen who held their seats, and there were eight Aldermen who were about to be elected. Of the 20 Conservatives, some who had just been returned were, by the Court which tried the Petition, declared not to have been properly elected; but their vote was taken in the election of Aldermen, and if they added to these 20 Conservatives the 8 Conservative Aldermen, the result was there were 28 Liberals to 28 Conservatives. One of the Liberals, a gentleman who had formerly been a Conservative, did not vote, with the result that there were eight Aldermen, 20 Conservatives, and 27 Liberals voting. As a matter of fact, eight other Conservative Aldermen were elected, thereby perpetuating the Conservative political character of the Town Council of Liverpool, when, at that time, there was a distinct majority of eight Liberal elected members in the Body. He had used the words Liberal and Conservative, but he would just as soon have said Conservative and Liberal, if the facts had been in an opposite direction. He believed that the perpetuating of any particular form of government in a Town Council, whether Liberal or Conservative, was a decided mistake in the real interest of the town itself; and he trusted sincerely that, now the Committee had the very important question before it as to the future constitution of the County Councils, it would take care that that which had worked badly in the past in boroughs should not be perpetuated in the future in counties, and that the opportunity would be taken of making the election directly elective. He ought also to say that the principle which had been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Islington (Sir Albert Rollit) as having been frequently, if not invariably, adopted at Norwich, the principle of electing as Aldermen those who had been rejected by their constituents, had very frequently been adopted at Liverpool. He did not say that it invariably happened, but it very frequently happened at Liverpool that those who were rejected as Councillors were, at the next election of Aldermen, elected as Aldermen.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, that as the position in London had been challenged, not in a speech, but 1754 by articulation, he wished the hon. Gentleman opposite, who thought he might find some opinion in London in favour of selected Councillors, would have given them some evidence where he could find it. Go where they would, quite irrespective of political Parties, they could not find any opinion in London in favour of the existing system. The people of London had unfortunately suffered too much from the want of thorough control or the want of any practical control over their own affairs. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Lawson) might have carried his argument respecting the Metropolitan Board of Works a little farther. He might have asked in how many instances had a member of the Board of Works been selected from outside the Vestries? He (Mr. J. Rowlands) know that under the Metropolitan Local Management Acts the Vestries had power to go outside themselves on purpose, he supposed, to get the preeminent ability which had been spoken of. In how many cases had they gone outside their own Bodies? He remembered in one instance in an East End parish there was quite a revolution in the Vestry, because certain members of the Vestry considered a prize which belonged to them had been taken away from them, and given to someone outside. It was an invariable rule that they should select a Vestryman to send him to the Board of Works. If the principle of selection was a good principle, and gave them better men than they could get under ordinary conditions, the Board of Works ought to be a Municipal Body of light and leading to the whole world. He left hon. Gentlemen to judge for themselves how far that was the case. He thought that to go back to what was done in 1835, and ask them to re-enact such a principle as the one to which he had been referring, was absurd in the extreme. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was justified in playing with the Municipal Corporations Act as he was doing. When he (Mr. J. Rowlands) and several of his hon. Friends asked the right hon. Gentleman to deviate from the Municipal Corporations Act with regard to the franchise he told them the Government could not do so; he could not consider the case of 1755 the lodgers of London, because he was going to keep strictly to the procedure of the Municipal Corporations Act; yet afterwards, on Friday, he went away from that Act. He was not going to say that in the first case the right hon. Gentleman did not do good; but in the second case the right hon. Gentleman introduced in the Bill a very pernicious principle indeed, because he gave to non-residential owners powers to sit on the new County Councils. But, apart from whether the principle was good or bad, the right hon. Gentleman had deviated from the Municipal Corporations Act where he thought it was necessary. The principle which was introduced in 1835 was one totally at variance with the democratic spirit of the present day; such a principle was against all modern legislation. There had been two Reform Acts since the time when the principle of selected Councillors was adopted; power had been given to the democracy, and he wanted the Government not to talk about their confidence in the democracy, but to show their trust in the democracy. If the people of the counties thought they would like selected Councillors, let them have them by all means. The people of London, however, protested against the system. Two hon. Gentlemen sitting upon the Ministerial Benches had spoken against the system quite as much as any of the Opposition. London had had a better opportunity of judging what selected Bodies were than any other part of the country; it had too much of them now; and the people know that such a system must end in introducing in municipal life a pernicious principle which could never tend to the full development of the interests of the masses of persons concerned in municipal government. They ought to legislate on broad principles, and he maintained that no valid argument had been adduced in favour of the re-enactment of this principle.
§ MR. HANBURY
said, before he gave his vote for the Amendment he should like to know distinctly what course the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was going to adopt with reference to Sub-section D of the clause, because it appeared to him that there was a great deal in one argument which had been adduced. That argument was that in the case of a 1756 small majority of members of a Council pledged to an extravagant policy it might be possible for those Members, by electing members of their own Party, to keep a majority on the Board. A great deal would depend upon whether the places of members so selected would be filled up by co-optation. If the right hon. Gentleman proposed that vacancies were to be filled up by co-optation he should certainly vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stansfeld). If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) was willing to give way on that point, and say that such vacancies should be filled up by direct election, then he thought one of the arguments in favour of the Amendment fell to the ground.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the Government were prepared to accept an Amendment by which vacancies would be filled up by direct election. They could not see the force of the argument used against it, and, therefore, they were quite prepared to accept an Amendment in that sense.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
said, he desired to point out that the concession or alteration by the Government did not in the slightest degree invalidate the argument of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Albert Rollit), because all who had experience of Town Councils knew very well that one of the principal elements in the appointment of Aldermen was the appointment of Councillors who had safe seats. As a Town Councillor, he said unhesitatingly that this was the weakest, most unsatisfactory, and least defensible part of the whole machinery of Town Councils, and that it worked exceedingly badly.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
said, he thought it was fair that he should be prepared, as one of the supporters of the Amendment, to point out to the Committee that it was a little hard that the argument about continuity should be adduced, when he could show that the Amendment which he originally was to have moved in that respect, and which he gladly gave up in favour of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld), made provision upon this very point. His Amendment provided that half of the members of the County Council should be elected for three years, and that there should be 1757 continuity provided for in that way. He thought that the Committee would hold that there was a great deal of reason in the objection which was urged by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) on that point, and he asked the Chairman whether it would be in Order if he were to move an addition to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman in these words—Provided, that on the occasion of the first election of the county council in each county a certain proportion of the councillors shall be selected by the elected councillors.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he was on the point of making a somewhat similar suggestion to that which had just been made by the hon. Gentleman (Sir Roper Lethbridge). What struck him as being the best arrangement to meet the difficulty pointed out would be that at the first election one-fourth of the County Councils should be selected by the elected Councillors; but that afterwards that one-fourth should be elected by the whole county. A man would vote for the Councillor for his own district, and also for the selected Councillors for the whole county. That would meet the difficulty pointed out, and which, he believed, would be a very great defect in the Bill. If they had no Councillors except those who were elected by small constituencies, and who would naturally be elected to represent the local ideas, probably they would not have the men who would represent the whole county, and who would most likely be the men who would do most of the county work. Such men would be pushed out, and possibly there would not be the class of men in the County Councils necessary to carry on the work. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) would consider the suggestion now made, for he would find it would meet a great part of the difficulty. As he had said before—many Members were not present at the time—that difficulty was not an idle difficulty, but had been found a practical difficulty.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, he could not imagine that the present House would be responsible for the proposals now before them in the shape of the Government plan. If it had emanated from "another place," he thought it would have been appropriate; but he could not imagine 1758 any more direct slight to the constituent Bodies of this country than the House of Commons attempting to tinker up the present system. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had been properly complimented upon his distinguished and practical common sense, and he asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was going to be guided in the course he was about to take by some old-fashioned arrangement previously arrived at after communication with "another place," or whether he was going to be guided by the almost universal expression of experience which had been made in the Committee of that House? So far as he (Mr. Illingworth) had observed, there was not a single Member, who had risen to any experience in municipal life, who had not altogether exploded the fancies indulged in by two noble Lords sitting upon the Opposition side of the House, and by one hon. Gentleman opposite. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and other weak-minded Members of the Committee wanted some superior person, that the constituents of the county could not find, pitchforked into these popular Bodies. He (Mr. Illingworth) disbelieved altogether in the honesty of men who pretended to hold popular power in respect, and who, at the same time, sought to undermine and to cripple it in the manner suggested that afternoon. What was the position in which they found themselves? The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Islington (Sir Albert Rollit) gave them statistics which were of immense value in guiding the mind of the Committee, for they altogether exploded the idea that these superior personages would be found by the system of co-optation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree) had clearly shown what happened at present. Whenever an election of Aldermen took place, the majority of the Council looked through the list, and saw where the majority in the wards was largest, and where it was safest to create a vacancy. Without dwelling upon that case, it was obvious, he (Mr. Illingworth) was there to say, as one who had been within a municipal borough for 40 years, and who know a good deal of its working, that there was a great deal 1759 more harm than good arising from the system of selected members—it was a restriction upon the rest of the Body. He could not conceive why gentlemen seeking to serve the public should desire any higher honour than that they should be elected by constituencies, and he did not see that it conferred any considerable dignity or power of usefulness on anybody that he should have conferred upon him the title of Alderman. Then, on the other hand, he saw no advantage whatever in the notion about continuity. He believed in the omnipotence of the constituencies to return the same men over again if they wished to do so; certainly he would put no restrictive power upon constituencies if they wished to change their representatives. The House of Commons had no such special safeguard, as they all knew, yet, as a rule, three-fourths of the old Members were returned at a General Election. The county elections would partake more of the character of a Parliamentary election than of a municipal election, and he should be exceedingly sorry if the Committee were to reflect so strongly upon the constituent Bodies of this country as to carry out the proposal as it now stood. On the other hand, he was bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) did not attempt to argue as if he had any strong conviction of his own upon this point. The right hon. Gentleman had not even been guided by experience—he had simply taken his stand upon the fact that the amending Act of 1882 left the old form of selected members in the Corporations as it was originally; but the right hon. Gentleman must now be satisfied that the question had never really come before the House of Commons for reconsideration. He (Mr. Illingworth) did not hesitate to say that his own experience went altogether in an opposite direction, and that there was a constant danger arising from the operation of the aldermanic system. Wire-pulling went on, and it was very undesirable such a system should exist in respect to Corporations. The more simple and direct they could make the constitution of these popular Bodies the greater satisfaction they would give both to the elected and the constituents.
§ MR. WEBSTER
pointed out that the selected members in the Metropolis would not be selected by single Local 1760 Bodies, but by the whole of the Metropolis, and that, therefore, they would get men of broad and comprehensive mind, men who could look fairly at all questions affecting the Metropolis generally. He did not think the question was one of the deepest importance; but he thought that if they were to have selected members, they ought to establish a system by which a small majority should not have the power of electing men of their own views—that they should have some system of proportional representation. Before he sat down he wished to correct a small mistake made by his hon. Friend the Member for West St. Pancras (Mr. Lawson). The hon. Gentleman said that the Conservative Metropolitan Members had decided to vote against the principle of selected members. He did not know where the hon. Gentleman got the information, but it was quite inaccurate.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
said, he desired to state his municipal experience, which had been a pretty long one. He had served every municipal office which could be served, and he could confirm what had been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Rowntree). He was satisfied that the system of electing Aldermen had done considerable damage to Town Councils by dividing those Bodies into Parties, and he was sure that if the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had had the experience he (Mr. Mundella) had had in municipal government he would not stand by his present proposal. It would make no difference in the election of Aldermen whether the seats vacated were filled up by direct election or not. As a rule, Parties met privately and decided upon the seats which were to be maintained. They always took care to maintain certain seats; and, as a result, municipal government divided itself into Liberal and Conservative Parties. Men were elected Aldermen not because of their experience, but because their seats were safe. He trusted the Government would see their way to abandon their present proposal.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 264; Noes 192: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 136.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That the words the Councillors elected by the Council' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 250; Noes 214: Majority 36.—(Div. List, No. 137.)
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he wished the Government could see their way to accept the Amendment which stood in his name, which suggested that after the first election the selected Councillors should be chosen by the Local Councils. They would certainly acquire some mode of connection between the County Councils and Local Councils, and it seemed to him that a very natural mode of connection between the two Bodies would be that the selected Councillors should be selected by the Local Councillors of their own Body. It would, moreover, have a very beneficial effect in inducing men to enter the District Councils, if they knew that if they distinguished themselves by devotion to their work they stood a chance of being selected as members of the County Councils. It seemed to him that his proposal was so simple and plain that he need not detain the Committee further in explaining it. He was persuaded that if the Government could see their way to adopting this mode of selecting the selected Councillors, they would make their scheme of Local Government work much more harmoniously and efficiently.
After the word "council," insert the words "after district councils are constituted in pursurance of this Act, be elected by the district council, and shall be."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, there were two objections to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman which were of considerable weight. In the first place, every District Council would have the right of sending its member to the County Council. The number of selected members would be very large, and it might be necessary, under the hon. Gentleman's proposal, to resort to the grouping of District Coun- 1762 cils for the purpose he had in view. That grouping would entail a large number of difficulties which it was unnecessary for him (Mr. Ritchie) to enter into. There was a further objection to the Amendment, and that was that it would substitute the principle of delegation for selection, which he did not think the Committee would be wise in assenting to. He trusted the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, it would be of no use to press the Amendment; but he could not say that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman had convinced him. In many cases the arrangement he suggested had been found to work well. As this Amendment was objected to, he would like to move another. If the right hon. Gentleman was not willing to accept it now, he would move it on Report. The Amendment was to the effect that after the term of office of the first set of selected Councillors had expired, one-fourth of the whole Body should be chosen by the county at large, and not by a small section of it.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, the right hon. Gentleman had not condescended to give a single argument against this Amendment. First, he said that he could not agree because there were practical difficulties in the way of the Amendment. He (Mr. Conybeare) would like to know what those difficulties were, and if the right hon. Gentleman would take the Committee into his confidence and tell them the difficulties, he guaranteed that some of the Members of the Committee would find a remedy for them. It appeared that there was a form of delegation involved in the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman did not approve of, but he had not told them why he did not approve, and he thought the form of nomination which he proposed was infinitely worse than the proposal of his hon. Friend. Before the Amendment was withdrawn he thought he was doing no more than necessary in pointing out that not a single solid argument against the Amendment had been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had an Amendment to suggest to the Committee in connection with the selected Councillors. It might be said that there was something invidious in the words, and various propositions had been made 1763 with regard to what these Councillors should be called. He was afraid that it was his own error that the term "selected councillors" seemed to be meant as the title of those Councillors, but, as a matter of fact, it had simply been used for the purposes of the Bill. He proposed as an Amendment to omit the words—"The councillors elected by the council shall be called selected councillors in lieu of aldermen," and to substitute the words "councillors elected by the council shall not be called aldermen but are in this Act referred to as selected councillors."
In page 1, line 19, leave out the words "the councillors elected by the council shall be called selected councillors in lieu of aldermen," in order to insert, "the councillors elected by the council shall not be called aldermen, but are in this Act referred to as selected councillors,"—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
said, he did not understand why the right hon. Gentleman should have an objection to call a spade a spade. The fact was that the term "selected councillors" meant that these were gentlemen who were not elected or intended to be elected, and were put in because they could not be elected. That was the ground on which the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) supported the creation of those Members, and that was the ground on which they on that side of the House opposed the term. He could not accept the self-depreciation of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board with regard to this Bill, because he was sure that it had been framed and drawn up to express exactly what was intended—namely, that there was to be a sort of cream of the cream, who were to be selected because the constituencies would not elect them. It was an attempt to tone down the very democratical principle of the Bill. If it was intended by the Government to show that they did not trust the democratical principle, that they distrusted the people, and that in order to take the edge off the Bill they were going to have this superior class of members on the Councils, then 1764 he said, let all the world know what it is they were going to do. The Government should have the courage of their principles and belief, and state clearly to the country that there was to be on the Council a certain number of vulgar persons called elected members and certain superior people called selected members. He did not know what they were to be called. He gathered from the Amendment that they were not to be called Aldermen, and some hon. Members thought they ought not to be called selected Councillors. But some name must be given them, and he suggested that they might be called superior nondescripts.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (Yorkshire, E.R., Holderness)
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper to substitute the name of "reeves" for that of selected Councillors. He wished to know whether it would be necessary for him to move it as an Amendment to that of the right hon. Gentleman.
said, there were several hypotheses possible. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman might be rejected, and in that case it would be possible for the hon. and gallant Member to move his Amendment. On the other hand, if the words were struck out, then the hon. and gallant Member could move that the Councillors should be called "reevemen."
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, that he intended to take the sense of the Committee upon the question whether they should be called Aldermen or not, which he and many hon. Members thought was the best name.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, as there seemed to be some desire to substitute other names, it would be most convenient if he were to withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, he rose to move to leave out the words "selected councillors" and insert "reevemen." The name he proposed was one strictly analogous to that of Aldermen, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) said he proposed to retain. The term "reevemen" was well known to hon. Gentlemen as having been in use a great many years ago, and as being a corruption of an old word in the same way as "aldermen" was also a corrup- 1765 tion of an Anglo-Saxon word. There was nothing in that name which implied selection, and, as the term "alderman" had been always associated with boroughs, so he thought in later times the word "reeve" had more especially been connected with counties. On the other hand, he believed that it was not a very archaic word; it was in use up to the year 1830, and, although not generally in use at the present time, it was not of so archaic a character as to make it necessary for hon. Gentlemen to reject it on that ground. He believed, at any rate, that the Government would find it more suitable than the term "selected councillor," and, as the word occurred to him as being the best for the purpose, he hoped that it would be accepted by the Committee.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, to leave out the words "selected councillors," and insert the word "reevemen."—(Commander Bethell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words selected councillors' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the question of the name to be given to these Councillors, he was bound to say, did not appear to him to be one of vital importance, but he was afraid that the term "reevemen" was not one which would be very familiar to the ears of the common people, and that they would hardly be acceptable to a great part of the community.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
said, in that case, if they were to have any name at all, it would be better to retain the name of "alderman," which was used in boroughs. He pointed out that the effect of selection of Aldermen in Bristol had been to saddle them with one class of men for the last 50 years. He was bound to say that in Bristol the Aldermen were the youngest men in the Council, and were, generally speaking, on the Council because they had been rejected by the constituencies. His knowledge of the matter led him to think that the name was the most absurd one that could be adopted; but, if they were to have any name at all, it was preferable to an old and obsolete term.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, he hoped the Committee would not agree to the introduction of the word "reeve- 1766 men." It had been suggested by the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) that if the selected members were to be called "reeves," the other Councillors might be called "ruffs"—but he wanted to know why they should not be called Aldermen? They had in Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester a class of Councillors called Aldermen, and yet, when these County Councils were to be elected, the name was objectionable. It would seem that the intention was to cast some stigma upon the present class of Aldermen. He might remark, with reference to what had been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Commander Bethell), that he doubted that the term had anything to do with age; it came from the old term eaorlderman, and its history was associated with the borough life in the country. He hoped, however, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not put the Committee to the trouble of dividing on his Amendment, and that the Government, who had adopted the terms of the Metropolitan Corporation Act so freely, would retain the name of "aldermen."
§ MR. W. F. LAWRENCE
said, he thought there was a great deal to be said in favour of retaining the term "alderman," as had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton. For his (Mr. W. F. Lawrence's) own part, he was strongly in favour of that well-known term, and also strongly opposed to the adoption of the new term "reeveman." He had an Amendment on the Paper to substitute the word "warden," which was a perfectly well-known term in rural districts in connection with the offices of "way warden," "people's warden," &c., and would, in his opinion, be an unobjectionable substitution.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL
said, that the reason why he objected to the term "alderman" was because he wished to see town and county life being kept distinct. He must leave the matter in the hands of the Committee, but he did not regret having brought forward his Amendment, as it had offered the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) an opportunity for a very excellent vicarious joke.
§ An hon. MEMBER said, he hoped that the personalty of Aldermen would not be merged in the general body of Town 1767 Councillors. He and his hon. Friends did not regard them as superior persons as some hon. Members opposite appeared to do. The name proposed to be given to them was in itself enough to say that they had not earned the honour of obtaining their position by the votes of the electors.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite was quite mistaken in supposing that the Government desired to cast the slightest slur on the Municipal Bodies throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, and other Members of the Committee, desired that the word "aldermen" should be retained, and if that were the general wish the Government would offer no opposition to the proposal, although the term did not appear to them to be so suitable for rural as for town life.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
said, he had an Amendment on the Paper consequential to another Amendment which, if it were carried, would, he believed, do exactly what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton desired, and which he understood the Government would be willing to adopt.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had suggested that it would be better to call the Councillors Aldermen, because there appeared no objection to that term.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR JOSEPH BAILEY (Hereford)
said, he rose to move the insertion of the word "county" after "selected" in line 20. He did so because in another section of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman set up a district Council, and it was desirable to distinguish between the members that were elected for the district and those who were elected for the county.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, after the word "selected" insert the word "county."—(Sir Joseph Bailey.)
§ Question proposed, "That that word be there inserted."
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 172; Noes 109: Majority 63.—(Div. List, No. 138.)
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, leave out the words "selected councillors" and insert "wardens."—(Mr. W. F. Lawrence.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he had already stated that the Government would consent to retain the word "aldermen." It was for the Committee to decide; but the Government were willing to agree to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ On the Motion of Mr. RITCHIE, the following Amendment made:—in page 1, line 20, leave out the words "selected councillors in lieu of."
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, that the Amendment he rose to move was so important that he was surprised that no one had put it on the paper. It was to insert after the word "aldermen" "but shall sit for three years only." The Bill proceeded on the lines of the Municipal Corporations Act, and the provisions of that Act would hold good where they were not expressly excluded, and hon. Members would be aware that the Aldermen would thus have the right to sit for six years. The object of his Amendment was to limit its operation by saying that members selected in the manner proposed should hold their office for three years only, and not for six years, according to the Municipal Corporations Act. He moved the Amendment as a means of enabling the Government to meet half-way Members on that side of the House. There were many hon. Members on his side of the House representing county constituencies who had no opportunity of speaking on the very important subject which had been under discussion all the afternoon, the subject of the selected Councillors, owing to the Closure having been applied, he thought, somewhat abruptly. Those he represented felt very strongly on that question. He would not be in order in reopening that discussion; but he would 1769 say that, if the Government could see their way to accept the Amendment, it would leave open a door and enable the country later on to consider the desirability of having entire freedom of election for all members of the County Councils. Hon. Members would have seen that the principal argument advanced on the opposite side, and also by the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) for the retention of selected Councillors, was that otherwise you could not secure on the Councils men of weight and experience. His amendment perfectly meet this argument; but it had the advantage of leaving matters free for the second election. After the period of three years, it would be seen how the system worked, and, in the meantime, an opportunity would have been given for considering whether Parliament should not trust the people absolutely in this matter. In this way they might carry out the words of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who said, that as there was only one door by which that House could be reached—namely, through an appeal to the people, so, also, there should be only one door in order to reach the council chamber of the county.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, after the word "aldermen," insert the words "but shall sit for three years only."—(Mr. Channing.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG) (Wilts, Devizes)
said, he must object to the Amendment on behalf of the Government, inasmuch as practically it destroyed the value of the Aldermen, whose presence on the Council was intended to secure the continuity of policy so much desired in that House. If the Amendment were accepted these Councillors would only sit for the same time as the elected Councillors, and it was that which the clause was intended to avoid.
§ MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
said, he should support the Amendment of the hon. Member, and would point out that, when the conduct of members on those Bodies was found to be worthy, they were always re-elected at the end of the period of service at which they were re- 1770 quired to be re-elected. That was the case with regard to School Boards and other Bodies.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
said, the Government not only wanted to have a large proportion of the Council to consist of selected members, but they also wished them to hold office for a longer period than the elected members. He ventured to say that if the principle were forced into the Bill it would not last; the question would be opened up again, and would lead to the downfall of the whole system of selections which was most unsatisfactory.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, that the average duration of the periods of service of members of Councils was much shorter than that term which was proposed to be conferred on these Councillors by the Bill. He believed that the average term of service in Parliament was five years, and on Town Councils and School Boards three years. If that was the case with regard to those Bodies, why should they be asked to concede a longer period to selected members of County Councils?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the system here adopted was that under the Municipal Corporations Act, which fixed the period for Aldermen at six years.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, that this was done to get rid of a proposal made in the House of Lords, that Alder men should be elected for life; and surely they were not so benighted an to wish to go back to the principle of 50 years ago.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
said, he thought there was a much stronger case against the appointment of selected members to the County Councils under this Bill than existed in the case of Municipal Institutions, because there would be great jealousy as to the locality from which they were appointed.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 148: Majority 37.—(Div. List, No. 139.)
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. WADDY
said, the distinction drawn in the clause at first was between selected Councillors on the one hand and elected Councillors on the other. As long as that wording was retained, the Amendment he proposed was unnecessary; but directly the words "selected councillors" were struck out and the Councillors were called Aldermen, the whole ratio ceased, and it became necessary to insert other words. He proposed that the clause should stand thus:—"The councillors elected by the council shall be called aldermen," and then the next portion of the clause would naturally follow. Hon. Members would see that the Amendment was purely consequential, and he hoped it would be accepted.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, lines 20 and 21, leave out "and the other councillors shall be called elective councillors."—(Mr. Waddy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that, as far as he could see, there was no difference in principle between hon. Members; but he thought that some slight modification of the wording of the clause would be all that was wanted. He had at first said that he would admit this Amendment; but, on further consideration, he thought it was better to leave the words as they stood, with the slight modification he had alluded to. The 2nd sub-section began by saying, "as respects the councillors; "then Sub-section (a) followed with the words which had been agreed upon. Now if they accepted the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the only Councillors they would deal with would be the Aldermanic Councillors; and it seemed to him that they ought to deal with both classes of Councillors. He suggested that the word "elective" should be struck out, and the word "county" take its place.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On the Motion of Mr. RITCHIE, the following Amendment made:—In page 1, line 21, leave out "elective" and insert "county."
§ MR. ALLISON (Cumberland, Eskdale)
said, he rose to propose that they should add after Sub-section (a) the words "and the county aldermen shall be elected from the county councillors." The object of his Amendment was very simple—namely, to secure that the Aldermen appointed should be elected from among the County Councillors. They had been told earlier in the evening that an hon. Member, after inquiring into the cases of 25 boroughs, found that in the great majority of cases, the Aldermen had been elected from the Councillors in the boroughs, and the right hon. Member himself said that it was desirable to reward members of the Council by giving them a longer period of service, in order to secure the services of men of superior merit. He thought it desirable that they should be subjected to election, and rely on the suffrages of the electors. It was because he thought that every member of the Council should be elected that he hoped the Government would accede to his proposal.
In page 1, line 21, after the second "councillors," to add the words "and the county aldermen shall be selected from the county councillors."—(Mr. Allison.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, this was a very important departure from the Municipal Corporations Act; and the Government, while ready to accept any Amendment which they considered an improvement on the Bill, did not regard the Amendment in that light, and were, therefore, unable to agree to it. It was true that he had used the argument that Aldermen might be elected from inside the Council as a reward for long service, but that was answered by an hon. Gentleman opposite by the remark that that was of very little value from his point of view. It was clear that there might be gentlemen outside the Council who, from circumstances, could not stand the racket of a general election, but who it 1773 was extremely desirable should be on the Council, on account of the valuable services which they could render. The Government, therefore, preferred to leave the question in the position in which it stood under the Municipal Corporations Act.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, that with reference to one of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman that there were superior persons to be selected from outside the Council who could not stand the racket and cost of an election, he would remind him that the cost had to be taken out of the rates. [Mr. RITCHIE: No.] Then he would ask why the right hon. Gentleman had departed from the Municipal Corporations Act, under which the expenses of election were paid out of the rates? He did not see why one class of men should be relieved of the trouble and cost of a contested election at the expense of others; and he would like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that if he were so anxious to follow the analogy of the scheme of Local Government at present in vogue, it would have been better if he had followed that of the Local Government Board instead of the Town Council. There were no less than 1,200 Local Government Boards in the country, against only 300 Town Councils. With regard to the remark of the right hon. Gentleman as to not restricting the selection of Aldermen to those who had already been elected Councillors, he pointed to the figures which the hon. Member for South Kensington (Sir Algernon Borthwick) had placed before the Committee, which proved that, in the great majority of cases, those men were selected and accepted as Aldermen who had served their time as Councillors. Of course, there might be reasons for that; but, at any rate, it seemed to him a strong argument that this was a more popular way than the Bill proposed of getting these Aldermen on the Councils. If they must have Aldermen, it would be better to follow not alone the letter but the spirit of the Municipal Corporations Act, the practice under which had become an almost universal rule. For these reasons he thought the Amendment ought to be accepted.
§ MR. WADDY
said, this was a matter about which it seemed to him impossible that they should be too careful. The 1774 view of hon. Gentlemen on those Benches was that there might be a special favour granted to some members, but that every man, to have any power whatever in Local Government, ought in some way or other to go through the fire of popular election. That, in their opinion, was the very centre and substance of the Bill, and upon that they must stand. The Government were endeavouring to put on the Councils a certain number of men over whom, either directly or indirectly, the public would have no power. He was rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill was not in his place, because he was obliged to say that this everlasting reference to an Act passed so many years ago was simply idle. He and his hon. Friends did not for one moment believe that all wisdom was locked up in the Municipal Corporations Act, which was a very good thing at the time, but wanted a great deal of improvement now, and really stood condemned, if they were told that everything in the Bill was to be on the lines of modern institutions.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
said he should support the proposal of the Government, because he considered that it would be the means of bringing very useful men upon the Council, of whose services they would otherwise be deprived. It was well known that some men were, for reasons, particularly adapted for certain services; among other things, for instance, a man might be particularly well acquainted with the working of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, and it would be a great misfortune to the county to be deprived of the services of such a man on the Council. Therefore, he thought the proposal in the Bill wise, and should give it his cordial support.
§ MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)
said, he believed the right hon. Gentleman had stated in his speech on the introduction of the Bill that its principle was that every man who served on the County Councils should come into direct contact with the electors. He said—We believe that it is essential that whoever shall be the representatives of the constituencies on the County Council should be checked by the healthy test of direct contact with those who elect them."—(3 Hansard,  1654.)Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to use even stronger language, which was 1775 cheered by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), and said—We believe and feel that as there is but one door through which all who desire to take part in the great Council of the Nation that sits within these walls must enter, so there ought also to be but one door through which all who desire to take part in the Councils of the Counties and in the management of local affairs should enter."—(Ibid. 1655.)Members of the House of Commons knew by what door they must enter—it was the voice of the people; but if this Amendment were not accepted, numbers of men would obtain seats on the County Councils who had had no contact with the electors, and, therefore, had not entered, as the right hon. Gentleman said they ought, by the same door as Members elected to that House. He knew cases of Town Councils where Gentlemen had sought popular election more than once, and where they had been rejected, the constituencies showing that they did not want them, and yet they had been subsequently returned by a Party vote of the Town Councillors themselves—he did not say on which side, because he believed in this matter that the Liberals had been quite as bad as the Tories. It was notorious, however, that many gentlemen, who would not otherwise have been there, got upon the Town Councils of boroughs by the votes of those who themselves had been elected, and who selected and did not elect. He himself was an Englishman, and neither an Irishman nor a Scotchman, but he had some information with regard to those countries; and, if he was rightly informed, in Scotland the baillies occupied to some extent the same position as Aldermen in England. He was told that they could not be selected by the members of the Councils, except from the number of elected members; and he was told, as to the Town Councils in Ireland, that there were no Aldermen upon them who could be selected, and had not previously been elected by some sort of popular vote. He (Mr. Cobb) would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board not to be continually telling them that he was following the Municipal Corporations Act, because, as a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be following that Act when it suited his pur- 1776 pose, and abandoning it when it did not suit his purpose to follow it.
§ MR. T. FRY (Darlington)
said, he was sorry, after the close Division they had had, that Her Majesty's Government did not seem able to meet hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House in reference to this question. In the borough he had the honour to represent, there had not been, since its formation 20 years ago, a single case of an Alderman having been elected in any other way than from inside the Town Council. That, he thought, was a strong argument in favour of the present Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
asked, why hon. Gentlemen had such distrust of the County Councils in regard to the election of Aldermen? Why should they desire a restriction to be placed upon County Councils which was not placed upon Town Councils? The Committee having decided in favour of having Aldermen in connection with County Councils, he claimed for those Councils the same freedom of choice in the selection of Aldermen which existed in the boroughs. If the Amendment were accepted, the anomaly would be set up that in a county they would have the selection of Aldermen limited and fettered, whilst in a smaller Local Government Division—that was to say, in a borough—they would have the selection unfettered. He understood that in his absence certain remarks of his had been quoted by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Cobb), who seemed to think that he (Mr. Ritchie) had departed from the substance of those observations. He (Mr. Ritchie) did not remember the exact words he had used; but, if he recollected rightly, when he spoke them he was impressing upon the House that there was to be in the operation of the measure no position on the County Councils which should not be as easily obtainable by one man as another—that the doors were open, and that no one should be prevented from entering. The desire had been to enable any person with the special privilege of wealth or any other special privilege to be elected or selected by the Council as an Alderman—to enable the County Council to elect as Aldermen men of any rank whatever. It had been assumed that the County Councils would invariably select gentlemen of vast wealth and influence, but he could quite 1777 understand that in some counties the very opposite would be the result. He could not, therefore, agree to the restriction that hon. Gentlemen opposite would put upon the County Councils—a restriction which, as he had already pointed out, did not exist in connection with any Council in any borough of this country.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
said, the second edition of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was not quite so clear as the first edition, which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) had just quoted. He (Mr. Broadhurst) regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was not in his place to hear that very admirable sentence of Radicalism quoted from his own speech, which had been so very opportunely read by the hon. Member for Rugby. The objection to the proposal in the Bill with regard to these elected Councillors was this—that it was a direct invitation to the elected Councillors to go outside their own Body for the purpose of electing Aldermen. It was as plain as possible. They would have this Body of selected gentlemen mainly composed of men who, if they put themselves up to be returned by the popular vote, would not get elected by that vote. The position of selected Aldermen would be reserved for this class of men. If the Government were going to create a real and proper County Government, let them have it founded upon the best and strongest principles. It was astonishing what regard Her Majesty's Government had for existing law and the existing condition of things; but he noticed that their particular objection to the creation of anomalies was when something was proposed which was in advance of the present law and present practice. There was never any objection to an Amendment which was not an improvement, or not an improvement in the right direction. He (Mr. Broadhurst) hoped the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) would again read the extract he had given them from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, because he was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would find it impossible to object to the Amendment, unless he objected to and was prepared to disown his own speech, or desired to see his own words wiped out 1778 as though they had never been uttered. He there distinctly declared that the County Councils were to be popular—simply elected on the popular vote.
§ MR. BROADHURST
said, they sometimes received guidance and light from out of the darkness behind the Chair, and it appeared that they were to be indebted to that remote part of the House for some of those advantages on the present occasion. The Committee would, no doubt, be sensible of that attention. He had been pointing out, when he was interrupted, that it was impossible for the Government, with any consistency, to oppose the proposition of his hon. Friend. Unless this proposal were accepted in some form or other, it would be impossible to regard these Councils as consisting of men of ability sent on the Councils by the people; because he had the firmest conviction that nine-tenths of the selected Aldermen would be of the class of men who would not otherwise find seats on these Bodies, except by the means and through the forms of this particular section of the Bill.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, if the Committee would allow him, he would call attention to a change in the law made in 1882, which, he thought, had escaped attention. They had been told, in the course of this debate, that the Act of 1882 followed the Act of 1835—that it was a Consolidation Statute, and that there was no change whatever in the law. Now, it appeared to him if there was one official more than another who ought to be the creation of the popular vote, and who ought to come to his election as a result of that vote, it was the Mayor of a borough. Now, according to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, the Mayor must be chosen from the members of the Council for the time being; but one of the changes in the law made by the Act of 1882, which was passed by a Liberal Government, was one which enabled the Corporation to choose as Mayor any person qualified to be a Councillor, whether he was a Councillor or not. Now, he (Mr. Powell) did think it was a somewhat severe demand upon Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side of the House to be told that it was a wrong thing to allow 1779 Aldermen to be chosen outside the Council, when hon. Gentlemen themselves, in their Act of 1882, introduced a change in the law enabling the Councillors of a borough to appoint a Chief Magistrate from a class which had not been exposed to popular election. He (Mr. Powell) was sorry that he had not had an opportunity of mentioning that circumstance at an earlier period of the discussion. He was obliged to the Committee for allowing him to submit it now for its consideration.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he could not agree with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. If this were a proposal de novo, he (Mr. Stansfeld) could understand the argument. It would be this—"If you choose to trust the elective Councillors with the duty of selecting a certain number of Councillors or Aldermen, do not limit their choice. "That was a plain proposition; but the answer was that the choice should be limited, because the power was objected to. The whole argument upon which the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded, and upon which those who had supported him had proceeded, appeared to him (Mr. Stansfeld) to be based on a distrust of the electorate. ["No, no!"] Yes; it was evident that their arguments were based upon that distrust, and when he used the word "distrust" he did not mean it in any offensive sense. He could not put it more plainly than it had been put by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who always spoke plainly and to the point. The noble Marquess had said, in answer to a question put to him, that the point was that they wanted in the first election to introduce upon the Councils a number of men who at this moment had experience, instead of introducing new and inexperienced men. Therefore, the theory was that the Government could not trust the electorate to elect men of experience. If that was not their theory, then there was another—that these men of experience and position would not condescend to go through the rough and tumble of an election; therefore they were to invent, in this provision of the Bill, a special method of putting them on the Councils. They the (Opposition) contended that that was practically in- 1780 consistent with the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in introducing the Bill, and they were therefore opposed to it. Under the circumstances, as they had just been beaten by the Closure at a period when the debate was by no means exhausted by a majority, though a considerably reduced majority, on a proposition which did not satisfy them, but which was considered better than that of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board—for all these reasons, they recommended this Amendment to the Committee. If they carried the Amendment, they would have succeeded, so far, that they would have provided that no Councillor would be put upon the Council who had not been elected. It seemed to him (Mr. Stansfeld) only reasonable, on the right hon. Gentleman's own principle, that the Government should accept the Amendment, and certainly he (Mr. Stansfeld) was prepared to vote for it.
An hon. MEMBER said, there was one argument in favour of this Amendment which had not been mentioned. He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen knew what was continually taking place in large cities, notably in Liverpool, in the matter of the selection of Aldermen, when the members of both Parties in the Town Council were equally balanced. In Liverpool, when political Parties in the Town Council were equally balanced, one vote was required to turn the election of Aldermen. Well, it being necessary to elect a Councillor in this state of things, no less than £1,000 was on one occasion spent in winning the seat necessary to secure the vote. The seat was won by notorious bribery and corruption, and the appointments to the position of Aldermen were made. Subsequently, the Councillor who won his seat on the Council by the expenditure of £1,000 was disqualified; and then the question arose whether the Alderman who had been appointed, and appointed solely through that election, was also disqualified, but it was found that that was not the case. It was solely owing to that fact that one Party in Liverpool held their position—simply through putting Aldermen on outside the Councils. He thought that, therefore, was a very serious question. There would be 1781 a tremendous fight at the outset for one Party to obtain the upper hand, and when one Party was successful, that Party would select Aldermen from outside, and select them, not because they were fit men to be on the Council, but because they were partizans, and because their election would be in the nature of a permanent benefit to one side or the other.
§ MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
said, that this might be a favourable opportunity for him to say what he had intended to say earlier in the evening, and he thought it would be a comfort to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that he should point out that in 1880, when the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. H. James) introduced a Bill dealing with the election of Aldermen, he (Mr. Causton), then having the honour of representing Colchester, gave the House a practical illustration of how the election of Aldermen worked in that Borough.
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman, in making his speech, must be pertinent to the Amendment.
§ MR. CAUSTON
What I have to say is pertinent to the Amendment, Sir. What I have to say is as to the failure of the present method of electing Aldermen.
The question of Aldermen is settled. The Question now before the Committee is whether or not the Aldermen should be selected from the County Councils.
§ MR. CAUSTON
said, that was just the point he was going to speak upon. He was going to say that during 43 years there was not a single Liberal Alderman or Mayor elected in the borough of Colchester; and no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite would say—"And a very good thing, too. "The different Aldermen and Mayors who had been elected during those 43 years all belonged to one Party, and only two of them had ever received the votes of the ratepayers. He thought that was a strong argument why they should not allow the new Councils to have an opportunity to elect as Aldermen those who were outside the body of elected Councillors. That was what he had wanted to point out earlier in the evening, as the right hon. Gentleman the President 1782 of the Local Government Board had desired to have a practical illustration. He had now given him one which clearly showed that the system in question had in the past worked very badly.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, he should like to say one word in explanation of the criticism of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell), who had stated that in 1882 the Liberal Party introduced a Bill to consolidate the law with regard to Municipal Corporations, and that during the discussion of that Bill a change was effected in the law whereby the chief magistrate of a borough could be appointed outside the body of elected Councillors. The facts of the case were these—and he could speak with considerable accuracy about the case, for, although he was not a Member of the Government at the time, he had watched the fate of the Bill with the greatest care, the Government had refused to accept any Amendment to the Bill in any shape or form in that House; but in the House of Lords, apparently without any public attention being called to the fact, and certainly to the great surprise of people who subsequently discovered it, those two or three words which the hon. Member for Wigan had read were introduced into the Bill. The attention of the House of Commons was not called to the Amendment in any way, and the House agreed to the Lords' Amendment at the end of the Session. The Government were, no doubt, responsible, and ought to have called the attention of the House to the matter. He could only say that, so far as the House of Commons was concerned, it was in entire ignorance of the change having been made.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, he must thank the right hon. Gentleman for his confirmation of his (Mr. F. S. Powell's) statement. Each House of Commons was responsible for its own acts, and as the Liberal Party was in power when the Act in question was passed, he must look upon that Party as responsible for the change to which he had referred.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he should like to answer the question which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had asked. He had asked why should they draw a distinction between Councils in towns and Councils in counties? Why should they so much distrust all those who were 1783 likely to be in a majority on the County Councils? Now, the answer to that question was this—that they had had a great deal of experience of the sort of thing which went on under the existing powers in the country districts, and had good reason to imagine what would happen in a majority of cases in the counties of this country when the parson and the squire secured a majority in the elections for these Councils. There was no part of the country in which there was such an amount of Boycotting existing as in those places where the parson and the squire were the dominant authorities. Those gentlemen who would be elected under the arrangements made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would become the dominant factors on the County Councils for the next 50 years, and the spirit they were likely to act in towards the humbler classes was very well illustrated by an article which appeared in the current number of Blackwood's Magazine. In that article there was a reference made to the "Radical tinkers, tailors, and others," who were likely to get places on County Boards. They knew that a great deal of tyranny was practised at the present time in connection with the Quarter Sessions; and it was because hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House feared, and had good reason for knowing, that this sort of thing would be prolonged and perpetuated under this system of Aldermen which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board was insisting on, that they offered the strongest opposition in their power to the proposal in this provision.
§ MR. COBB
said, that since the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had done him the honour to refer to the quotation he had given from his speech, and as the right hon. Gentleman was not in the House at the time he read that quotation, he (Mr. Cobb) might, perhaps, be allowed by the Committee to trouble it by reading the quotation again. It was very short indeed, and it would give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity—
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
I rise to Order. We have a new Standing Order under which no Member 1784 is entitled to repeat again an argument used previously in debate. The hon. Member is actually proposing to read over again quotations from a speech with which we have been favoured once already.
I cannot say the hon. Member will be out of Order in referring to that speech, but it is a very remarkable innovation.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, they desired the Government to give them some guarantee that this power of selecting Aldermen would not be abused by the County Councils. Hon. Members desired the Government only to allow those persons to be chosen as selected Councillors who at some time or other had received the confidence of the electorate. The Government had made concessions to their friends. They had said that non-resident owners of property should be qualified for becoming members of the County Councils. A man might endeavour to get a seat on the County Council, in the ordinary way, by offering himself to constituencies with nothing to recommend him but his ability, and might prove altogether unsuccessful. He could then go to a place where he owned property, and where his own people might be in the ascendant, and he might be put on the Council by friends of his, notwithstanding his unfitness to serve, as illustrated by the refusal of the constituencies to elect him. They had heard so much in times gone by about these hidden geniuses in some parts of the world, who were prepared to do all the public duty of an Empire, if they could only be found out; but, unfortunately, the ability of these gentlemen was always of such a character that they were never able to impress their fellows with it, and they remained unheard of until, by some privilege or other, they managed to secure the position which their ability had never been able to win for them. He thought that the Government, having conceded to their friends in the Bill that there should be selected Councillors, should concede to the other side that these Councillors should not be selected from a class, the members of which had never been elected to the Council, and who had never previously obtained the confidence of a constituency. The Government had gone out of its way to make concessions to its friends; but it seemed that, how- 1785 ever reasonable the suggestions were which came from the opposite quarter, they were not to receive favourable consideration.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would not give way on this Amendment. He was glad to see the Government opposing Amendments coming from that (the Opposition) side of the House—they were acting in exactly the way he should like them to act. They brought in a Bill professing to be founded on democratic principles, and took every opportunity of shirking the logical consequences of those principles. He would read an extract from a speech which was quite convincing on the point which they were now discussing—namely, whether or not these selected members of the Councils should be taken directly from amongst the councillors themselves. On this point he would read a passage, and he would tell the Committee afterwards from whom he was quoting—We believe," said the orator, "that it is essential that whoever shall be the representatives of the constituencies on the County Councils shall be checked by the healthy test of direct contact with those who elect them."—(3 Hansard,  1654.)That extract was from the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in introducing the Bill. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would ask the right hon. Gentleman to be consistent with the excellent principle there laid down—that members of the Council should come into direct contact with the constituencies The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) was justified in calling attention to the remarks which had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marques of Hartington) earlier in the evening. Why did the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board insist that the County Council should be allowed to go outside of its own Body in appointing selected Aldermen? Why, because in that way alone could they force upon the Councils men whom the electors did not want there. The argument in favour of that proposal given by the noble Lord he thought an honest argument, although he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) did not think 1786 it was a sound one. The noble Lord said that if they did not make a provision of that kind the Councils would be entirely composed of what he was pleased to call inexperienced men, and that the experienced men, who had hitherto done all the work, would be excluded from the Councils. Well, the persons who had done the work up to the present were all of one class—that was to say, of the landlord class; and the argument of the noble Lord was that they must have some means of maintaining the present ascendancy of those gentlemen. What else did it mean? If these gentlemen were worthy of the confidence of the constituencies, in Heaven's name let them be returned by the constituencies; but do not let them perpetuate on the County Councils, by a squire majority, the evils which the Bill claimed and pretended to do away with.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 217: Majority 47.—(Div. List, No. 140.)
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he begged to move the Amendment which stood on the Paper in his name, and to which he did not think any objection was taken by the Government.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 21, after the word "and," to insert the words "county aldermen shall not vote in an election for county aldermen."—(Mr. Rathbone.)
§ Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he had handed in two or three Amendments, but was not quite clear which was the first one. He thought the first was that no person should be selected as an Alderman unless he had received a clear majority of two-thirds of the votes of the Council. The object of this Amendment was to provide against cases such as those which had been mentioned by hon. Members that evening. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had challenged hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House to give reasons and facts showing the faultiness of the method of working of the aldermanic system in Town Councils. Such facts 1787 had been supplied to the right hon. Gentleman, and he (Mr. Conybeare) hoped that he was satisfied with them. What he (Mr. Conybeare) desired to prevent by this Amendment was such abuses as had occurred on Town Councils, and were likely to occur on County Councils unless some such provision as this were adopted. He did not say that the provision was worded in the best possible manner, but its meaning was perfectly clear. He would take an illustration in this way. He thought the provision of the Bill was that the selected Councillors, now called Aldermen, were to be a quarter of the whole Council. If they took the case of a Council consisting of 80 members, it was, of course, quite conceivable that one Party might come in with a very small majority—say, one of the Parties on the Council might have a majority of one only. Now, what would follow in such a case? Why, unless some provision such as was contained in this Amendment were put in the Bill, that majority of one might be converted into a majority of nearly one-fourth, or, perhaps, a great deal more, of the whole Council. For instance, they might have a majority such as he suggested—31 on one side and 29 on the other; then that very small majority would have it in its power to elect 20 members as Aldermen of the same complexion, politically, as themselves, and the result would be that the majority of one only would turn into a majority of 22, because they would have 51, including Aldermen, as against 29, which would be the minority of elected Councillors. But that by no means represented the whole case. They might, of course, have the case of one Party being in a larger majority than a majority of one, and that majority would then have it in their power to place themselves in a much greater majority by this system of selected Aldermen. If, for instance, the Council consisted of 80 members, they might have no loss than a majority of 40 on one side in politics and only 20 on the other. By this process of selecting Aldermen they would put it in the power of the Party having the majority of 40, as against 20, to add another 20 to their already large majority. They could thus give themselves 60 votes, as against 20. Now, it was to prevent such abuses of the exercise of this 1788 power on the Councils, which seemed to him certain to take place unless some limitation were adopted in the Bill, that he proposed this Amendment. He was not sure that one party would be more apt to exercise this power than another. It was a power which had been exercised in the past in the case of Aldermen on Borough Councils; and there was reason to suppose, as had been said by an hon. Member just now, that there would be a tendency on the part of a majority to increase that majority, and it was only in human nature to expect that they would do so. If they did, it would militate against the principles stated by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, who, at any rate at one time, seemed so anxious that the Councils should be based on popular support—that was to say, that one Party should be allowed to go so entirely against the wishes of one part of the constituencies.
At the end of the last Amendment, to insert the words "and no person shall be selected as an alderman unless he has received a clear majority of two-thirds of the votes of the county councillors."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 376: Majority 328.—(Div. List, No. 141.)
§ MR. CONYBEARE
(who was received with ironical cheers) said, that no doubt hon. Gentlemen upon the Ministerial Benches thought he would be deterred by the Division which had just taken place from proceeding with the next Amendment which stood in his name. He could only assure them he should be nothing of the kind, but that he should take a Division upon this and every subsequent Amendment he might choose to put down. The Amendment which he now proposed was in the following terms:—That every alderman shall at the close of his term of six years of office, before being reelected as an alderman, submit himself for election as a councillor.He should follow the example set by the right hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill; as the right hon. Gentle- 1789 man did not see fit to give them any reason for his action, he (Mr. Conybeare) would refuse to give any reason for his action.
In page 1, line 21, insert after the words last inserted, "and every alderman shall at the close of his term of six years of office, before being re-elected as an alderman, submit himself for election as councillor."—(Mr. Conybeare.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. RITCHIE
hoped the Committee and the country would thoroughly understand the course which was being pursued by the hon. Gentleman. The Government were submitting to the House of Commons a Bill of a very large and important character, one of great extent, and containing a large number of clauses. Very important issues were to be considered, and they must necessarily occupy a considerable amount of time in discussion. There had been debates that night—the Government did not complain of them in the slightest degree, because the matters under discussion had been important. There had been several Amendments proposed, and several debates. There had been much difference of opinion upon important questions. Those questions had been discussed, and, he thought, settled; but the hon. Gentleman now desired to prevent the Committee proceeding with the clauses of the Bill by proposing to the Committee Amendments which he had not even taken the trouble to put down on the Paper, and which he did not even take the trouble to explain to the Committee.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
thought the attack which the right hon. Gentleman had just made upon him was altogether unwarranted. It was perfectly impossible for him to put this Amendment on the Paper before he had seen the result of the debate upon the essential question as to whether there should be selected Aldermen or not; it was impossible for him to place an Amendment of this kind on the Paper until it was decided, as it was in the dinner hour, that Aldermen should be selected and fixed upon the people for six years. The right hon. Gentleman taunted him with not having placed this Amendment on the Paper. How about the right hon. Gentleman's own Amend- 1790 ment—one of his principal Amendments which he placed before the Committee in a verbal fashion, but almost immediately afterwards withdrew, so that they had not yet had an opportunity of seeing it? There were other Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman told them he was going to propose, but in his sublime condescension he did not choose to put them on the Paper. [Cries of "Divide!"] He thought most hon. Members knew he had been in the House long enough not to be put down by their clamour. He was not proposing this Amendment in an obstructive spirit. [Renewed cries of "Divide!"] He had had several Amendments on the Paper, but he certainly had not detained the Committee with any lengthened remarks upon them, and he did not go to a Division upon them. That was the first time he had challenged a Division, but it would not be the last. With reference to the charge of obstruction which the right hon. Gentleman had made against him, let him point out that if this Amendment really was, as the right hon. Gentleman said, intended to re-introduce a question which had been already decided, it would have been in the discretion of the Chairman to have ruled it out of Order. The fact that the Chairman did not do that was, to his (Mr. Conybeare's) mind, conclusive proof that the point raised by the Amendment was a fresh one. Everyone must admit that it was a new point—that it had not been previously decided. It might be a small point, but it appeared to him it was desirable they should, in some form or another, place in the Bill a restriction against an abuse which had been proved to exist under the present system, and which it was known would exist under the system proposed. He was satisfied it was possible for a majority of one in a Council to appoint certain persons as Aldermen who would remain in the Council for 30, 40 or 50 years. [Lauqhter.] That was perfectly conceivable and perfectly possible, and the proposal he had made in order to meet that difficulty was simple. It was that after a man had served one term as Alderman, he should submit himself for election as Councillor. Under his Amendment it would be in the power of the Council to replace an Alderman if they chose to do so. That was a new point which had not been previously 1791 discussed; he submitted it was a point for which there was some reason. [Laughter.] He could quite understand hon. Gentlemen opposite saw no reason in it; but it had, perhaps, quite as much reason in it as the suggestion which came from the other side of the house, that the Aldermen should be called "Reevemen." As the Amendment was calculated to safeguard popular liberties, those liberties which hon. Gentlemen opposite professed to have so much at heart, but which they so little cared for, he begged to submit it to the Committee.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, the Committee had already decided in favour of the principle of aldermanship; but the question, what proportion to the whole body the selected element should be, still remained open. He was opposed to the selected element altogether. He would desire, if it were open to him, to eliminate it; but, inasmuch as he was not able to eliminate it, he wished to reduce it to a minimum. There might, however, be many hon. Members of the Committee in favour of some selected element, but who, at the same time, desired that the selected element should not form an extravagant proportion of the whole body. As the Bill stood, the selected element would constitute one-fourth of the whole body. His proposal was that the number of the County Aldermen should be one-ninth of the number of elective Councillors. A forcible reason which had been put forward in favour of the principle of Aldermen at all was, that there was a number of persons who it was desirable to have upon these boards, but who would not, as the President of the Local Government Board had suggested, be prepared to stand the racket of a popular election. But he thought he might put it to the Committee that the number of such persons was comparatively small; indeed, he felt sure that if they reserved for these superior personages one-ninth of the total number of seats, they would make ample provision for them. But the principle of Aldermen might be applied for a much less creditable purpose. It might be used for the purpose of consolidating the strength of the majority and absolutely crushing the minority. Take the 1792 case of a board where the number of elective Councillors was 75. They would suppose that upon that Board they had one Party composed of 37 persons. He did not want to use any specific political term to describe the Party, and, therefore, he would call them merely Reformers. They had 37 Reformers upon the Board, and they had 38 other persons belonging to a different Party, whom they would call Reactionaries. They, therefore, had a majority of one in favour of a reactionary policy. Although they had a nominal majority, the reactionary Party would not be able to do much mischief as they thus stood. But what would happen under the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman? The 38 Reactionaries could take to themselves 25 other spirits worse than they, and, therefore, there would be on the Board 37 Reformers and 63 Reactionaries. It seemed to him most unreasonable that a Party having a majority of one should be able in this way to absolutely crush out the minority. For these reason, he begged to move that the proportion of selected members, instead of being one-fourth of the whole body, should be one-ninth.
§ Amendment proposed, at the end of the last Amendment, to add the words "one-ninth" instead of "one-fourth."—(Mr. Pickervill.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, it was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board to charge them with obstruction. They had been charged with that sort of thing before, but they did not intend to be deterred from doing their duty by such charges. The right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had not had the common courtesy to reply to the suggestions and Amendments which had been brought before the Committee by hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman's conduct deserved condemnation, which, however, he would not then give utterance to. The right hon. Gentleman might think that any suggestion coming from the Representative of a Metropolitan constituency deserved no consideration from him at all. He (Mr. Conybeare) 1793 must say that he took an interest in this matter, because it affected parts of the country where he happened to live, and also that part of the country which he had the honour to represent. He had some interest in the measure; he desired to see it made a good measure, and a workable measure, and he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that it was not his desired to obstruct it. All he desired to do was to see it made a better Bill than it was at present; and all he could say was that if every proposal for the Amendment of the Bill was to be scouted and sneered at and ridiculed, or left without a word of comment by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the measure, the whole discussion in Committee was reduced to a farce, and the sooner they got rid of the Bill the better. He wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman what reason he had to give why a different quorum to that in the Bill should not be accepted? The right hon. Gentleman had proposed one-fourth, but they on the Opposition side of the House said that was too much, and an hon. Gentleman had suggested one-ninth. Would the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board tell the Committee upon what he based his preference for one-fourth?
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
said, he had ventured to put an Amendment down on the Paper to increase the time of service on the County Council from three years to six—that was to say, to leave out the word "three" in order to insert the word "six." He thought that no one who considered carefully the question of elected Councillors would wish to see the election of those Councillors take place too frequently. It was a very expensive business in the first place, and the candidates as well as the ratepayers ought most certainly to be considered; and, in the next place, it was desirable that the Councillors should not be interrupted whilst gaining experience in the work expected of them. When the Committee considered the importance and responsibility of the post of elected Councillor for a county, they would see 1794 that the men filling that post should have a substantial term of office. Again, in the discharge of their functions upon a County Council, looking at the nature of the business which it was proposed to transfer to these Councils, it would be at once, seen that a Councillor ought to be well acquainted with the business to be performed, and that a short term of three years would give no sufficient opportunity of learning that business. He had consulted many men well conversant with the facts of the case; and although Quarter Sessions had been to a certain extent condemned, yet all those on both sides of the House who had carefully considered the question were of opinion that the Courts of Quarter Sessions had done their duty carefully and well, and their opinion, at any rate, would command respect. He believed that the Courts of Quarter Sessions, generally speaking, throughout the country were of opinion that six years would be a much better and much more reasonable time for men to be elected for than that short period of three years. Believing that he was expressing the view which was unanimously held, not only amongst county gentlemen—he would put that class on one side—but amongst all those who must be interested as much as any body of men could be in this matter—namely, the agriculturists of the country, when he said that it would be a matter of great advantage that the gentlemen appointed on the County Councils should have a longer period of office than that proposed in the Bill, he begged to move the Amendment standing in his name.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 22, to leave out the word "three," and insert the word "six,"—(Sir Walter B. Barttelot,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'three' stand part of the Clause."
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, they had inserted the word "three" in accordance, as he had said often before, with the terms of the Municipal Corporations Act; but, of course, if the Committee should consider that the period proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend would be better than the period proposed in the Bill, the Government would not object to the alteration. At the same time he had to say on the part of the Government that, looking at 1795 the fact that they had hitherto adhered to the provisions of the Municipal Corporations Act with reference to the selection of Aldermen, they were disposed to recommend the Committee to adhere to the term as contained in the Municipal Corporations Act.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE
said, he had placed an Amendment on the Paper, which would cover the point here dealt with, with the additional consideration that if the terms of his Amendment were adopted by the Committee it would secure that half of the County Councillors should go out of office every three years. That would give an election every three years of half the County Council, and in that way the continuity of action and policy of the Council would be preserved. He thought, perhaps, he might be in Order if he moved his Amendment as an Amendment to the proposal of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot). The words he proposed were—The councils shall be elected for a term of six years, and shall then retire, except one-half, to be chosen by ballot, of those first elected, who shall retire after a term of three years only.He thought the Committee would see that that would secure a very important point which was commented on by the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) when the former Amendment was under discussion. It would secure a continuity of policy, because it would practically prevent an entirely new Board ever coming into office. There would always be on the Board half the members who had served for three years before.
It is not a very convenient mode of dealing with the proposal before the Committee to take this further Amendment into consideration. It is not possible, in fact, to move it as an Amendment to the present Amendment. There are other Amendments which will raise the same question, which are quite independent of the Amendment before the Committee, and upon those the hon. Member (Sir Roper Lethbridge) can bring forward his proposal.
§ BARON DIMSDALE (Herts. Hitchin)
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had rather missed the point of the suggestion which 1796 he thought was put in this Amendment as to the period during which the elected Councillors should hold office. There was a certain sum of money allocated to the County Councils, which they could distribute towards the relief of local taxation; but if the Committee added to the expenses of the election of the Councillors, that would diminish the fund at the disposal of the Councils to be distributed in this way, and, so far as he was concerned, he thought that would be an evil. He thought that fund had already been diminished quite sufficiently in other ways. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), in dealing with the Wheel Tax, had to diminish the amount allocated in support of roads; and, knowing as they did the expense which would be thrown upon the county rates, he thought that care should be taken to bring about, as far as possible, a reduction of the expenses of elections. If the present proposal was objectionable, he himself had an Amendment on the Paper fixing the period of office at five years. The Amendment was one which had been unanimously adopted by various Quarter Sessions, and should have the ready support of the Committee.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would adhere to the words of the Bill. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for North-West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) seemed to think that the question lay altogether in the desirability of the gentlemen elected having a long apprenticeship in order to learn their trade, but he seemed to forget the rights of the constituencies. He (Mr. Illingworth) contended that to debar the constituencies from the possibility of reviewing the action of their representatives for six years was not a thing to which the Committee should agree for a moment. It was true that they had a Septennial Parliament; but everyone knew very well that the average of the Elections was something like three years, and that, therefore, in practice the constituencies had an opportunity of reviewing their decisions more frequently than once in seven years. He did not think, so far as the counties were concerned, that there was as much weight as hon. Members seemed to think to be attached to what was called the con- 1797 tinuity of policy. Surely the constituents, when they were called upon to elect candidates, would be able to give consideration to that subject. They would send men back who had already been on the Councils if they considered it necessary, and if they did not send those same gentlemen it would be because they preferred now instruments for their work. Those, he thought, were substantial reasons why the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board should adhere to his proposal, and should refuse to alter the term from three years to six. He thought there was something to be said with regard to annual elections which lay beyond this proposal; but, so far as the present suggestion was concerned, he did not think that to take an election every third year would be a very heavy burden on a constituency.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, he apprehended that the interests of the country would best be served by making the best arrangements in the Bill to secure the return to the County Councils of the best men to represent the people. It was in that view, and in that view alone, that he gave his support to the proposal before the Committee. He was satisfied that the best men they could select were in many cases those who desired to live a peaceful life, and to whom the turmoil of an election would be a deterrent. In this House they had always confronting them the necessity of returning to their constituents, and many of them, at any rate, were in the habit of regarding such a contingency without fear or apprehension; but it was entirely another thing under this Bill. Here they were going to provide a new system to take the place of one long established. The old system was one not condemned for inefficiency or extravagance; but still the interests of the counties demanded that they should have a reconstruction of their Local Government. Speaking as one who had had some experience for some years past of that Local Government, he was, above all things, anxious that they should have on the newly elected Body the very best men they could got. He should support the Amendment for no reason whatsoever but this—that he thoroughly believed that to put forward before the men who 1798 presented themselves for election that they were to have a period of six years during which they could retain their office, and for the continuation of their work, they would obtain upon the County Councils a number of persons who would be the best for the work, and whom they otherwise might not be able to secure. For that reason, and for that reason alone, that by it they would secure the best possible system of election, he was prepared to support the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he hoped the Government would adhere to the three years' term. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget) had said that what was desirable was to give people a prospect of a quiet life. Well, he (Sir William Harcourt) was not quite sure that even the Septennial Act gave them that. The people who were dependent upon popular election never had a very quiet life, particularly during the period of its existence, or even at its termination; and, therefore, he did not think that that ought to be a governing consideration. What they had to consider here was that they were making a new experiment in government. They were arranging for the election of a Body which was to exercise very important functions; and surely the constituency ought, within the period of three years, to be able to pronounce whether in this new experiment their representative had carried out the policy they desired. It was impossible to foresee the great number of important questions which would arise. There would be a great number of now questions in the administration of the now County Councils which, after the expiration of three years of experience of the new government, the constituents should have the right of pronouncing an opinion upon. The proposal in the Bill was a reasonable one in the interests of the constituents. They ought to have the right of saying "Aye" or "No" as to the conduct of their representatives during that particular period.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, he hoped the Government would accept the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend. He should not have ventured to rise, after having spoken a few minutes since, if he had not desired to lay before the 1799 Committee the opinion of the Quarter Sessions of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Quarter Sessions of that Riding had passed a resolution in favour of the six years term. Now, he was quite aware that there were some counties in England where the opinion of the Quarter Sessions might not carry weight with hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House; but the Quarter Sessions of the West Riding was not composed of magistrates, nor of one class of society only, but, on the contrary, they had in that great manufacturing district all classes abundantly and well represented on the Court of Quarter Sessions. The proposal of the hon. and gallant Baronet commended itself to his mind, for the reason given by another hon. Baronet (Sir Richard Paget)—that was to say, because he desired to see chosen on the Councils men who were able to do effective and useful work. He did not think they ought to be influenced in this matter by any fear of the expense of elections. He was quite sure that any economy or saving arising from few elections would be a foolish saving of money, unless accompanied by efficiency. They might save small sums in the expenses of elections, but they would lose far more by costly and expensive mismanagement. He felt the importance of having on these Councils men who had gained experience, as the business of the Councils would be of an administrative character, such as the management, to give one instance, of lunatic asylums. The administration and management of those large establishments—and they were establishments of gigantic proportions—required experience; and unless they had upon those Councils men who had served for many years and had become acquainted with the details of their administration, he was quite sure their management would not be efficient, and he was also certain that while thus losing efficiency they would also incur increased expenses. On this ground, he hoped the Committee would adopt the proposal of his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, that perhaps he might be allowed to say that, even in reference to the Quarter Sessions which the hon. Member who had just sat down had spoken of, he thought that if the hon. Member would look into the composition of that body he 1800 would find that about five-sixths belonged to one party.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
said, he wished to call attention to the term of service the Committee had agreed to in regard to County Aldermen. If the Government agreed to the three years' period for the County Council, every alternate Council, when elected, would find themselves face to face with a body of Aldermen elected by their predecessors who would be sharing and perhaps controlling their deliberations during the whole of their period of office. It seemed to him that this was an arrangement which might be singularly inconvenient in practice. It might be got over if it were arranged by the Committee that the first batch of Aldermen should retire after three years, so that the new Council could elect a number corresponding to one-fourth of the whole Council, or the difficulty could be met by accepting the proposal of the hon. and gallant Baronet opposite; but if the Government adhered to their proposal, and the Aldermen were elected for six years, they would be face to face with the difficulty to which he referred.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster)
said, that his noble Friend opposite (Viscount Ebrington) had failed to remark that of all the Aldermen who were first elected, half would retire at the end of the first three years, so that the evil he anticipated would be entirely averted by the fact that the incoming County Council would be able to elect the other half of the Aldermen. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) was aware that a great many of his Friends on the Ministerial side of the House attached great importance to the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot); but, under all the circumstances of the case, the Government thought it better that at all events there should be an election in every three years. Until the new Councils had an opportunity of becoming thoroughly acquainted with the duties they would be called upon to discharge, the best course would be to fix the period at three years, at all events in the first instance. If it should be found by experience that this provision did not work favourably in bringing about the selection of perfectly 1801 competent men, it could be altered. If it was found that those who were not fitted to take part in County Government came forward, and those who were fitted failed to come forward, it would be open then for thorn to make Amendments in the period of election; and he would point out that if the hon. and gallant Baronet carried his Amendment, it was proposed that there should be an election of one-third of the County Council every two years, so that, instead of the county being plunged into the excitement of an election every three years, they would have that excitement every two. He thought, on the whole, the provision the Government had introduced was one which would work well, and gave the County Councils an opportunity of becoming acquainted with their work. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. and gallant Baronet would not press his Amendment.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
said, that notwithstanding what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) he hoped the Government would extend the term and make it a longer period than three years. Those who had watched Public Bodies, as he himself had done, would admit that their observations tended to show that during the first year a newly elected Body was engaged in learning its business, that during the second year the Members worked fairly well, and that during the third year they "played to the gallery" with a view to re-election. The period of three years would have some inconvenience in it in that way, and if the Government, as a compromise, would accept five or even four years it would be better than three.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 384; Noes 82: Majority 302.—(Div. List, No. 142.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.