§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
1641 Sir, in rising to move for leave to introduce a Bill to amend the laws relating to Local Government in England and Wales which stands in my name on the Paper, I fear I shall have to make a rather serious and unusual demand upon the patience and attention of the House. But that patience and attention are never withheld, especially when it is a duty of no ordinary difficulty, such as that which I am about to perform in the House to-night. That it is a duty of unusual difficulty and complexity I am certain all those who at any time have studied the question of Local Government must be fully aware. I feel that, without the aid and sympathy of the House, it would be impossible for me adequately to discharge the duties that rest upon me; but, with the knowledge that I may rely on that aid and sympathy, I shall proceed with the difficult task that lies before me with confidence and hope. The desirability of dealing with the question of Local Government is, happily, acknowledged by both political Parties, and both Parties have, for many years past, been pledged to deal with it. There have been few Governments in recent times which have not had Bills in more or less advanced stages on the subject. We think that the time has fully arrived when this question should come out of the region of promise into the region of performance, and we rely, in our attempt to deal with this question, on the co-operation of all Parties in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), at the commencement of the Session, gave us a welcome assurance on this subject. He promised to give us his cordial assistance; we take note of that promise, and we thank him for it. I hope that he will find that our proposals rest upon such a deep and broad basis as will justify him in giving us that help, support, and assistance without which we feel that the difficulties of our task would be greatly increased. The right hon. Gentleman truly said that there was not any great force of public opinion behind this question to help us to deal with it. I think the words he used were, "the propulsive power is unfortunately weak." It is quite true—and I think all who have studied this question must admit—that there is no great and active force of public opi- 1642 nion behind us on this subject. While I am prepared to acknowledge that that has its disadvantages, I think it is also attended with a certain amount of advantage. When reforms are unduly delayed, and when the country gains an impression that those reforms are not seriously contemplated by either of the Parties in the State, public opinion undoubtedly becomes exacting, excited, and urgent, and I think that the probabilities of dealing with a large question of this kind satisfactorily are greatly impeded in such a state of circumstances as that, and there are great advantages in dealing with this question in a spirit of calmness and consideration which is well-nigh impossible when the state of public opinion becomes excited and urgent to the extent I have described. And why is there no great and pressing demand in the country behind this great measure? I think it is owing greatly to the fact I have already stated—a feeling on the part of the people that both great political Parties in the State are pledged to deal with the question. I think, however, it is also owing very largely to the belief on the part of the public that the duties of the existing County Authorities are well performed, and that there does not exist any amount of dissatisfaction in the public mind with the way they are performed. The government of the counties by Quarter Sessions is, undoubtedly, an anomaly. No one can doubt that; but neither do I think anyone can doubt that, on the whole, it has been not only well performed, and the duties have been well discharged, but unselfishly, wisely, and economically. I should be sorry to think, and the Government also would be sorry to think, that in any reformed scheme of County Government we should not obtain the same assistance and help as we have hitherto been able to obtain from the country gentlemen in the management of county affairs. The duties of the magistrates are, administratively, comparatively limited in character; and I think, if it had not been desirable to enlarge the powers of the County Authorities, there would not probably have been even the limited demand for a change of that authority which at present exists. But I believe that, although there is no great and urgent demand for a change in the character of the Governing Body, there is a 1643 real and substantial demand for a system of decentralization by which many of the duties which are now performed by Central Departments, and in some cases by Parliament, might be entrusted to County Authorities, if they were constituted in a manner which should adequately represent the public. I have said that there is a demand for decentralization; and I think it is evident that if we are to have decentralization we cannot have it without reform. It is that which, in my judgment, more than anything else, renders it necessary to reconsider the constitution of our Local Government of the counties. But the question arises at the outset—are we going to confine our proposals with reference to this question simply to the setting up of a new Body on a more popular basis for the management of the affairs of the counties? Are we going to extend our reforming hand to other Bodies administering local affairs within the area of the county? It is quite certain that if we were to set up a Representative Body such as is proposed for county affairs it would be impossible for us to avoid also the consideration of the composition of the Local Bodies throughout the county. It would be impossible for us to shut our eyes to the confusion of areas within the counties, and to the number of different authorities. We purpose, therefore, not only to deal with the powers and composition of the Central Governing Body in the county, but also with the powers and composition of the Local Bodies within the area. I have said that, in my opinion, the desire that further powers than those which are possessed by the County Authorities should be given to a Central Body in the county is much more prevalent in the country generally than the desire for a mere change in the Governing Body; and therefore it may be convenient if I, at the outset, ask the House to consider the question of the powers which we shall propose should be given to the Central County Council when it is established. I may say, broadly, that so far as the judicial work of the county magistrates is concerned we propose to leave that untouched. We propose, however, to transfer to the new Bodies all the existing administrative powers of the Justices in respect of County Rates and financial business, 1644 County Buildings, County Bridges, the provision and management of the County Lunatic Asylums, the establishment and maintenance of Reformatory and Industrial Schools, the granting of Licences for Music and Dancing, the granting of Licences for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors—which I shall deal with separately presently—the division of the county into Polling Districts for Parliamentary Elections, the cost of the Registration of Voters, the executing the Acts relating to Explosives, the execution of the Acts relating to the Contagions Diseases of Animals, the Adulteration of Food and Drugs, Weights and Measures, and various other minor matters with which I will not trouble the House. We also propose to entrust to the County Councils certain duties with reference to Main Roads in the counties. The present arrangements with reference to main roads in the counties are that they are maintained by Highway Boards in highway districts, by parish surveyors in parishes, by Town Councils in boroughs, and by Local Boards and Improvement Commissioners in other urban sanitary districts. Until last year, the county paid out of the county fund one-half of the cost of the maintenance of main roads in the county, and one-quarter was paid out of the Exchequer to the Highway Authorities—that is to say, these authorities received one-half from the County Rate and one-quarter from the Exchequer. One-half of the county contribution was repaid from the Exchequer as a temporary arrangement last year. But we think that the repair of main roads ought to be a county matter rather than a parochial matter. We propose, therefore, that in future the county shall undertake the repair of all main roads in the county, whether in Quarter Sessions, boroughs, or otherwise. With reference to boroughs, we propose that they may, if they think it right, call upon the County Authority to compound with them for the maintenance of their roads within the borough, because it is evident in boroughs, whether Quarter Sessions or others, the Town Council may desire to incur a larger expenditure on their roads than the County Authority may feel justified in incurring. We also give a new power in connection with ordinary highways. In some parts of the county there are highways which, 1645 although not main roads, are very much used by the county at large, but which are at present entirely repairable by the Highway Authorities. We propose to give to the County Council the power, if they choose, to contribute towards the maintenance, repair, enlargement, and improvement of any highway in the county which may be largely used, although it be not a main road. As the House is aware, the County Police is at present entirely under the control of Quarter Sessions; and the question arises whether the control of the police should be considered a judicial or an administrative matter. No doubt a great deal can be said for either contention. Unquestionably on the efficiency of the police the security for the preservation of order and the enforcement of the law largely rests. At present the Government contributes one-half of the cost of the police, which may be withheld in the event of the police not obtaining a certificate of efficiency. The Government grant in aid of the police is, under the Bill, no longer to be paid; and, therefore, that safeguard will, to a large extent, cease. It may be contended that, looking to the fact that the police in boroughs are maintained and governed by the Councils of the boroughs, so also ought the police of the county to be maintained, controlled, and administered by the County Councils. But no one can fail to observe that the conditions of town and county are very different. The inhabitants of the borough have been for many years accustomed to municipal government, and they have become educated in the science of government to a degree which it will take the counties some years to attain. The borough is also a much more homogeneous area than the county. It has well-defined limits, and compares very favourably in that respect with the widespread and loosely connected area of a county. We are of opinion, therefore, that the question of the management of the police should be considered as partaking partly of the judicial and partly of the administrative character. We, therefore, propose that the raising and management of the police should be in the hands of a joint committee of the County Council and of Quarter Sessions. We propose that the appointment and control of the Chief Constable should remain as at present, but that 1646 otherwise the powers of Quarter Sessions in reference to the management of the County Police should be vested in the joint committee of the County Council and Quarter Sessions. Then we propose to give to County Councils certain powers with reference to the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act of 1876. The House is aware that the power of putting that Act in force is at present in the hands of the Sanitary Authorities throughout the country, and no one could have filled the Office which I have the honour to hold without having had many occasions to observe that complaints are made—oftentimes justifiable—that the Sanitary Authorities are not very prompt in putting into execution the powers of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act; and I have sometimes observed that the reason of that is most obvious, because in many cases the Sanitary Authorities themselves are the principal offenders. It has often been represented to us that certain alterations in the law are required in reference to the powers under that Act, and that the Act should be extended so as to deal with some pollutions which it is said cannot be dealt with. We do not propose to make any amendment in the law in that respect. Whatever may have to be done in regard to it must be done with great care and caution; but we do propose to give such powers to the County Authorities as, we think, will greatly increase the efficiency of the existing Act. We propose to give power to the County Authority to enforce the provisions of that Act in any part of the county, and that this power shall not be in substitution of the power possessed by Sanitary Authorities, but concurrent with the power of Sanitary Authorities. We propose also to transfer certain powers possessed by Public Departments to the now County Authorities. It now devolves upon the Board of Trade to make all Provisional Orders under the Piers and Harbours Act, the Tramways Act, the Electric Lighting Act, and the Gas and Waterworks Facilities Acts as regards Companies. All the powers of the Board of Trade with respect to the making of Provisional Orders under these several Acts we propose to transfer to the County Councils. As regards the Local Government Board, it is proposed to vest in the County Councils the powers of that Board with 1647 regard to the making of Provisional Orders as to schemes of Local Authorities under the Gag and Waterworks Facilities Acts. At present the Local Government Board, in the case of complaint of default on the part of a Sanitary Authority in providing their district with proper sewerage or water supply, or in performing other duties, are empowered to direct inquiries to be made, and, if they are satisfied that the complaint has been established, to issue an Order directing the authority to discharge those duties. If the authority fail to comply with the Order, the Local Government Board are empowered either to enforce the Order by mandamus, or themselves to execute the work at the cost of the authority. These powers of the Local Government Board it is proposed should be vested in the County Councils. The powers of the Local Government Board as regards sanctioning market tolls, fixing the scale of charges in respect of water supply, the investment of a Rural Sanitary Authority with the powers of an Urban Sanitary Authority, the settlement of disputes as to boundaries, and other matters under the Public Health Act, the Public Health (Water) Act, the Artizans' Dwellings Acts, the Valuation of Property (Metropolis) Act, the Sale of Food and Drugs Act, and certain other duties are transferred to the County Council. I have stated now the main powers which are proposed to be conferred at present on the County Councils; but we anticipate that at some future time it may be desirable to cast even more extensive powers than these upon them. We believe that we ought not to commit the mistake of doing that at the very outset. It is dangerous, we think, to overload our machine at starting: but we think that we should so construct it as to be capable of having more work put upon it when it becomes accustomed to the work and is running smoothly We believe that our machine will be so constructed; and although we propose to confer very considerable powers upon the new Body, we look forward to the time when larger powers may be given to it, and we have provided accordingly. As the clause is a very wide one, it may be desirable that I should read it to the House. It says— 1648It shall be lawful for Her Majesty the Queen in Council, if satisfied of such approval as hereinafter mentioned, from time to time by order to transfer to the Council of a county such powers, duties, and liabilities of Her Majesty's Privy Council, a Secretary of State, the Board of Trade, the Local Government Board, or the Education Department, or any other Government Department as are conferred by or in pursuance of any statute and appear to Her Majesty to relate to matters arising within the county and to be of an administrative character; also any such powers, duties, and liabilities arising within the county of any Commissioners of Sewers, Conservators, or other public body, corporate or unincorporate (not being the Corporation of a Municipal Borough or an urban or rural authority), as are conferred by or in pursuance of any statute, and such order shall make such provisions as appear necessary or proper for carrying into effect such transfer, and for that purpose may transfer any power vested in Her Majesty in Council. Provided that before any such order is made the draft thereof, approved by the Secretary of State, Board, or Department concerned, or approved by the Commissioners, Conservators, or body corporate or unincorporate whose powers, duties, and liabilities are affected thereby, shall be laid before each House of Parliament for not less than thirty days on which such House is sitting, and if the House before the expiration of such thirty days presents an Address to Her Majesty against the draft, or any part thereof, no further proceedings shall be taken thereon, without prejudice to the making of any new draft order, but otherwise the draft or such part thereof as is not the subject of any such Address shall be deemed to be approved by Parliament.The House will thus see that we have provided an easy means by which the powers now proposed to be conferred on the County Authorities may at a future time be largely increased. We also impose on the County Council an important duty in connection with the maintenance of the indoor poor. It has often been urged that the cost of the maintenance of the indoor poor falls unfairly on real property, and also that the area of its incidence ought to be enlarged. It has been sometimes contended, on the other hand, that to enlarge the incidence of the contributions towards the maintenance of the indoor poor might possibly result in centralization and extravagance. I have no doubt that there is a good deal of force in the argument that has been urged from that point of view. I have also no doubt in my own mind that although the system of Unions largely helps poor localities in those Unions, yet it would be very desirable, if it could be done, to spread over a still larger area than the Union a portion of the cost of the maintenance 1649 of the indoor poor. We think that it can be done without incurring either of the dangers that I have indicated; and what we propose is to impose on the County Council the duty of contributing 4d. per head per day for every indoor pauper in the Unions throughout their county. How the money is to be provided, and whether from personal or from other property, must stand over until we reach the financial part of the question. We also give to the County Authority certain powers with reference to the promotion of emigration. At present, as many hon. Members will know, the Guardians of the Poor have certain powers with, reference to emigration, and they may, if they so please, pay the cost of the emigration of poor persons within their jurisdiction. But I feel sure that the House will agree with me that if we could give any reasonable assistance to promote any well-considered scheme of emigration without bringing those who desire to emigrate within the pale of the Poor Law, it would be extremely desirable We know that many countries abroad regard with little favour the immigration of those who were sent out by means of the poor rate; and in some countries they are not received at all. Well, can nothing be done, by means of this Bill, to assist those who desire to emigrate before they come upon the poor rate? Can anything be done—can a machinery be created by which those who desire to emigrate may be assisted otherwise than by that means? We know that there are many societies existing for the purpose of promoting emigration. There are also associations in the Colonies themselves who would gladly render assistance to any well-considered scheme of emigrating fit persons. But no means exist, so far as I know, at present by which any assistance can be given in this country in this direction without a Vote being proposed by Parliament. We think that certain powers in connection with this matter may very fairly be put upon the county; and we propose to authorize the County Council to make advances to any person or bodies of persons, corporate or un-incorporate, for aiding emigration, and to give them power where there is reasonable cause for believing that the amount so advanced will be repaid by the emigrants, with or without "guarantee for repayment" from the Colonial Govern- 1650 ment, or from any other person or persons. We believe that, if the House so approves, it will be a desirable stimulant to emigration, and greatly relieve much of the distress of which we lately unfortunately have heard so much, and which, I am sure, we all so deeply deplore. I believe that with proper care this may be done without burdening the rates. We also propose to give County Councils powers to make other charges which will entail upon the county other contributions in lieu of certain contributions now made from the Exchequer. But the details in connection with these I shall explain when I come to the financial part of the question. With reference to the finances of the county, I may say that we give to the County Councils borrowing powers, for the purpose of any duty imposed upon them or authorized by the Act; and we also give them powers to borrow money for the purpose of lending to other authorities within their jurisdiction, for it may very well be that the county may be able to raise money at a more favourable rate than could be done by the minor Local Authorities, some of which are very small. We preserve the powers of the Local Government Board with reference to their consent to the exercise of those borrowing powers by the County Council. The Local Government Board will also audit the accounts, and we propose to impose an obligation on the County Authority to make out a budget of their receipts and expenditure at the commencement of their financial year, so that ratepayers in the county may understand the whole scheme of expenditure and income once for all at the beginning of the year. Having explained to the House the powers we propose to confer on the new Body, I now come to consider the question of the constitution of the Body and the area in which it is to be elected. First of all, in reference to the question of area, the House will readily understand that it is one of the most difficult of all the many difficult subjects connected with the reform of Local Government. There are 172 Poor Law Unions and 65 Boroughs and other Urban Sanitary Districts situate in more than one county. No one can doubt that it is extremely desirable, if it be possible, that these areas should be brought within the county and made 1651 coterminous with the county. Feeling the desirability of securing this, we asked tie House last Session to pass an Act empowering certain Boundary Commissioners to inquire into the subject, with the view of making recommendations which might have the effect of bringing overlapping areas within the boundaries of the counties. I ought not to refer to this matter without saying how greatly we all appreciate the labour the Commissioners have expended in performing an extremely difficult, complicated, and delicate task. But we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there is nothing which has created more feeling throughout the country than the supposition on the part of the inhabitants of the counties that either their County boundaries or their Union boundaries are to be altered. The feeling which has been created has differed with respect to these two classes of boundaries, and undoubtedly the strongest feeling has been indicated with reference to any alteration in the ancient landmarks of the country. This feeling is not by any means confined to those with whom I am politically associated; but it has been evidenced quite as much, I believe, in the ranks of those who are not connected with the Party on this side, as it has among the Members of the Party sitting' on the other side. It is a feeling entirely sentimental; but hon. Gentlemen will understand that a sentimental grievance is by no means the least difficult to overcome. So, with reference to the alteration of the Unions, there has been great feeling evinced on this point, but for different reasons. I am not going now to argue the question whether or not the Unions, as originally fixed, were fixed wisely or judiciously. But, undoubtedly, whether they were wisely or unwisely fixed originally or not, people have become accustomed to the boundaries of Unions as they exist at the present time. There are two great and important questions involved here. There is, first, the financial question; and, secondly, the question of convenience. The financial question is a grave one, for there can be no doubt that if alterations of Unions are to be made, it will often happen that they may have to be made in connection with large alterations in the incidence of taxation. So, also, with reference to the question of convenience, 1652 these matters have to be considered not alone in connection with the convenience of the Guardians themselves, but also with the convenience of the poor; and in any suggested alteration of the Unions it is impossible to leave out all consideration of the question of access and the position of the workhouse, which forms so important an element in our Union system. Therefore, whether you regard this question of the alteration of boundaries from a County point of view or from the Union point of view, all must acknowledge that it is attended with difficulties so great, that if we were to make it a necessary condition of our measure that these alterations should be made, our Bill would certainly be gravely imperilled; and undoubtedly, also, it would be impossible to bring the Bill into operation within any reasonable time, because of the difficulties attending the adjustment of these boundaries. We have, therefore, to submit to the House upon this question proposals which, I trust, will be regarded as satisfactory. We do not desire to delay the election and the assembling of the now Councils one day longer than is necessary. We propose, therefore, that, at any rate for the first election to the County Councils, the present area shall be the geographical county as it is at present constituted, but with certain alterations and certain exceptions. There are some municipal boroughs and large and important urban sanitary districts which are in more than one county. I have already given the number of these—65. There is no question of sentiment involved here as to any alteration which may be rendered necessary to bring these boroughs and urban areas into one county; neither is there any question of the alteration of the incidence of charges, because the county rate does not greatly vary, and it will only be on the county rate that any alteration can take place if we enact that these urban districts shall be in one county. The House will readily see that it is impossible to contemplate the giving of any control of any kind within these districts to two different County Councils. We, therefore, propose that all municipal boroughs and urban districts which overlap two counties shall be held to be within the county in which the largest portion of their population is situated; and, with these exceptions, 1653 we propose that the first election shall take place within the geographical county. We propose that the county is to be divided out into electoral divisions consisting of sanitary districts, combinations of sanitary districts, and portions of sanitary districts; and we provide that where a Union is in more than one county, the portion within one county shall be either considered a separate sanitary district, or shall be added to an adjoining rural sanitary district in the same county. So far as it is possible to arrange, we propose that the electoral districts shall have about ail equal population and return each one member. We propose to impose upon the Local Government Board the duty of fixing the numbers for each county; and it is obvious that this can only be done by a close examination of the circumstances of each county, and that no arrangement in the Bill fixing the numbers for so many thousands of people can possibly be satisfactory, because, if that were done, a large county would in that case have a ridiculously large Council, and a small county hardly any Council at all; and, therefore, it is impossible to fix any general number which will enable divisions to return one member in all counties throughout England and Wales. We propose to impose on the existing County Authority the duty of dividing the county into electoral divisions in districts other than municipal boroughs entitled to one or more representatives. Boroughs will, in that case, fix their own divisions whore they have more than one member. May I now, for a moment, recapitulate the mode that will be adopted, as it is desirable that that should be clearly understood? Municipal boroughs and urban districts, when in more than one county, shall be considered to be in the county where the largest portion of their population is situate. Rural sanitary districts in more than one county shall be divided. Electoral divisions will consist of sanitary districts or parts or combinations of sanitary districts. Each division will return one member. The Local Government Board will fix the number for each county, which will vary. They will inform each municipal borough entitled to one or more representatives how many members are apportioned to it, and the Council will define the divisions for elections. They 1654 will inform the present County Authority how many members are apportioned to the rural sanitary and local government districts, and Quarter Sessions will divide the areas into single-member divisions. This arrangement of boundaries and electoral divisions may be altered subsequently to the first election. We provide that the Reports of the Boundaries Commission shall be referred to the County Council affected by the Report. They are to make proposals to the Local Government Board for the purpose of adjusting the boundaries of their counties and other areas of local government, with a view of securing that no such area shall be in more than one county. And the Local Government Board, on the report of the county or borough that the alteration of the borough or county is desirable, or that the alteration of the boundaries or numbers of the electoral divisions is desirable, may make an order for such alteration; but this order, if it alters the boundaries of the county or borough, must be confirmed by Parliament. Parliament will thus have an opportunity of fully considering every proposal that will be made by the County Council for the alteration of the boundaries both of boroughs and of counties. Now, Sir, I come to the constitution of the County Council. Several suggestions have been made. One was that the Council should consist of delegates from the Boards of Guardians. I am afraid that we feel bound to put aside at once such a suggestion as that. We feel that no system of delegated elections would by any means prove satisfactory. We believe that it is essential that whoever shall be the representatives of the constituencies on the County Councils should be checked by the healthy test of direct contact with those who elect them. Another suggestion was that the County Council should consist partly of owners and partly of occupiers. Undoubtedly there is a good deal to be said for that suggestion; but I think, from many points of view, it is open to grave objection. I think it might set up, both at the poll and in the County Council, an antagonism between the classes—the owners and the occupiers—which would be most objectionable to have, either at the poll or at the County Council, and those whose interests are really identical might be brought to believe 1655 that their interests are antagonistic. In my opinion, such a feeling as that would be directly contrary to any good or sound system of Local Government. Then it has been suggested that the Council should consist partly of elective and partly of non-elective members. We feel as strongly as anyone the great desirability of securing upon the new County Councils the services of those who in the past have so ably and efficiently managed the affairs of the county. But I think, if the House were to accept such a principle as that to which I have alluded, the practical result would be very unsatisfactory. It would not only, in my opinion, diminish the influence of the country gentlemen, but would diminish the influence of the County Councils. It is most important that this matter should be put upon a footing which gives a promise of permanence. Would such a settlement as that secure it? I do not believe it would. It would rather lead, in my opinion, to a further agitation on the subject, and class would be set against class in a manner which all of us would desire in every possible way to avoid. No, Sir; 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. In our opinion, Sir, no other proposal than this gives a promise of stability and permanence. Will the country gentleman be likely to lose the influence for good which he now exercises under such a settlement as that? On the contrary, I firmly believe that under such a system as that which we propose he will best preserve that great influence which happily he now possesses, and that, instead of being diminished, it will be strengthened and increased. In my opinion, the worst enemies of that influence are those who desire to see the country gentleman occupying a position above and apart from his fellow-citizens in such matters. I speak with some amount of diffidence on such a subject—I cannot pretend for a moment to speak from knowledge—I am content to speak from general experience and from observation. But I know that I speak for others than myself, and that the 1656 sentiments which I utter now are sentiments shared by the Colleagues who sit around me, and by a large number of those who have for many years occupied themselves in the business of the counties. I also speak for several Colleagues of my own, more particularly for my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long), who of all others I think is essentially entitled to be considered the typo and representative of the best class of country gentlemen, and I know that in saying what I. have said on the subject I have only said that in which he absolutely and entirely concurs. We have, therefore, unanimously determined to reject the proposal of a nominated class to sit with an elected class in the County Council. What, then, Sir, is the proposal we have to make? I say, at once, that we propose to extend the Municipal Corporations Act to all counties. That Act, thus extended, as the House will be aware, will give a qualification to all ratepayers throughout the county. Three-fourths of the Council will, as in the boroughs, be elected by the burgesses or electors generally throughout the county, while one-fourth will, as in a municipal borough, be selected by the Council, either from within or without their body. [An hon. MEMBER: Oh !] I do not really understand what the hon. Member means by saying "Oh !" I am stating to the House what is exactly the composition of all of the Municipal Bodies. We make some alteration in the provisions of the Act. We provide that instead of one-third of the County Councillors retiring every year, the Council shall be elected for three years certain. That enables us to have single-member districts, and I think this is desirable from many points of view. We shall have one election every three years, instead of having elections annually, which I think is a desirable alteration. The selected members, as in Town Councils, will retain office for twice the time the elected members do, and will be elected for six years instead of three, one-half of the selected members retiring at the end of three years. I have no doubt that some persons may think our proposals are somewhat too broad. But I ask those who have objections to raise to the proposals we make to say how is it possible for us to propose a more 1657 restricted franchise for the administration of local affairs than we have already given for the purpose of Imperial affairs? Now the Councils will thus be composed, as far as the area is concerned, of representatives of the existing geographical counties with the exceptions which I have mentioned, and the electoral divisions will be about equal in population. One member will be returned for each. The franchise will be the municipal franchise, and I believe that a Council so constituted will command the confidence of the people in the county, and will be capable of administering the large and important duties which we shall ask the House to impose upon them. What will be the position of municipal boroughs in regard to this great Council? First of all, we propose that certain of the largest boroughs—Quarter Sessions boroughs and cities—shall be made counties in themselves. Our proposal in the Bill is that these shall be somewhat limited in number. It is obvious that it would be most undesirable to take out of our County Councils the representatives of all the large and prosperous boroughs within their compass. But there are some boroughs so large and so important that they point themselves out for removal, and those that we put in the Bill are as follows:—Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, Bradford, Nottingham, Hull, and Newcastle. I have no doubt that many attempts will be made by hon. Members who represent boroughs other than those I have named to have their boroughs also included in the Schedule, and I am sure the House will be ready to listen to any representation on that score; but for ourselves we do not at present consider it desirable to extend the list of exempted boroughs beyond those which I have named to the House.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I shall devote a separate portion of my remarks to London. The boroughs I have named are all that we propose to place in the Schedule. There are counties of cities and towns with populations as low as 7,000 or 8,000 inhabitants, and it would be quite out of the question for us to 1658 deal with them in the same way. There will be certain financial adjustments which will be necessary between these boroughs and counties. Then, what is to be the position of boroughs other than those which have been mentioned in relation to the counties? Well, Sir, the circumstances with reference to the other boroughs are so various and so difficult that the problem seems almost insoluble. We have first of all Quarter Sessions boroughs. There are 100 Quarter Sessions boroughs, the least of which have a population of between 2,000 and 3,000. They have their own Quarter Sessions, their Councils, their own officers, such as Coroners, Inspectors of Weights and Measures, and so on. For these purposes they are exempt from county rates. Then there are the ordinary municipal boroughs, some of which have a population as low as 900. They are rateable to the county rate, and the County Authority has jurisdiction within the borough, except for the police where the borough maintains its own force. How are we to deal with these boroughs in the varying circumstances in connection with their representation on the County Council, and their relations between themselves and the county? Are we to sweep away at once all the special privileges and exemptions of Quarter Sessions boroughs? No doubt, we should have produced a much more logical and complete scheme if we had felt ourselves able to ask the House to adopt any such proposal as that; but I put it to the House whether or not, if we had produced such a sweeping scheme, the Bill would stand much chance of successfully passing through the House? We have been obliged, therefore, to retain, as anyone would be obliged to retain who attempted to deal with this question, many of the existing anomalies. Speaking at present of Quarter Sessions boroughs with a population of over 10,000, we do not propose to interfere with the judicial functions of the magistrates. They will remain, and, with the exception of licensing, we propose that these boroughs shall still continue to retain their existing powers, duties, and exemptions. But for any now purpose, such as the question of licensing and matters of that kind, they being, as they will be, represented on the County Council, they will have to contribute towards any rate 1659 necessary for such purpose; but their representatives on the County Council will not be at liberty to vote or act with reference to matters to which they do not contribute. I may say, however, that though we do not call upon the boroughs to come into the county for all purposes, we have a clause in the Bill which will enable these boroughs, if they so choose, to come into the county for any purposes which they now perform, and I think it not unlikely that this power will be availed of, because they will find that the county will be able to perform many duties now performed by the boroughs at a leas expense. Then we have the boroughs under 10,000. Of these there are 43. The House is aware that in any new borough which may be created, with a population of under 20,000, the House does not authorize it to maintain its own police. Now we do not propose to go quite that length with reference to the small boroughs, but we do propose that in towns under 10,000, whether Quarter Sessions boroughs or ordinary municipal boroughs, their powers of maintaining a separate police force shall cease. We believe that in this way the police will be much more efficiently and economically maintained by the County Council than at present, where sometimes the police force consists of only two or three men. Then, so far as Quarter Sessions boroughs with a population under 10,000 are concerned, of which there are 29, the Bill transfers to the County Councils those administrative powers of the Council of the borough which, in the case of the county, are transferred from the Quarter Sessions of the county to the County Council. I may say the Council will perform in this way certain functions which in boroughs fall on the shoulders of magistrates. They are functions connected with coroners, lunatic asylums, industrial schools, explosives, weights and measures, and minor matters; and although we do not take away from them their separate justices or their power to appoint coroners, we give them power to transfer these duties to the County Council if they so desire it. Our proposal is that all the boroughs other than those to be made counties by themselves shall be represented on the County Council, that existing powers, duties, and exemptions will continue 1660 except so far as boroughs under 10,000 are concerned, and that the representatives shall not vote or act except in the case of expenditure to which they contribute. I have said that, in addition to dealing with the reform of local affairs in the counties as a whole, we propose also to ask the House to assent to certain proposals as to the areas within the counties. Our Bill, therefore, divides counties into urban and rural districts. The urban districts will be the existing and the future municipal boroughs and the districts of other Urban Sanitary Authorities. With reference to the boroughs, the Town Council will be the District Council. The other urban sanitary districts have had their Governing Bodies, as the House is aware, elected on the plural vote. It is obviously impossible that we should have a County Council elected upon one franchise and the District Board upon a less restricted franchise. We propose that in future the Councils in the Local Board and Improvement Act districts throughout the country shall be elected upon the same principle as Municipal Boards or for the County Board.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Yes; certainly. It will be as now in municipal boroughs. With reference to the rural districts, we propose that there shall be a Rural Council elected for the administration of municipal affairs in those portions of the county, elected also in precisely the same way. With reference to the rural sanitary districts, the House will know that they are at present coterminous with Unions, and are arranged with the view to Poor Law administration. They have never been arranged with any view to convenience so far as sanitary administration is concerned. It is not essential for our purposes that Poor Law Unions, as Poor Law Unions, should be brought within, the county; but it is essential that the district of a District Council which has to carry out municipal affairs apart from Poor Law duties shall be within the county. We propose, where a county boundary cuts a Union, that the portion on either side of the boundary should either form a separate rural sanitary district or be added to an adjoining one, and we impose as a first duty on 1661 the County Council that it shall mat the necessary adjustment, so that an election may be held for such Rural District Council. They will also divide the rural districts in the county into wards, and fix the number of Councillors for these Rural District Councils. But we propose to give further powers to the Rural District and County Councils. I have already said that the rural sanitary districts were fixed without any regard to their adaptability for sanitary administration. It may certainly be desirable that the County Council should have power to consider at any time the boundaries of any rural district within their county, and make proposals for rearrangement where they think it necessary. We propose, therefore, that the County Council may submit to the Local Government Board plans for the alteration of county districts other than boroughs, and the Local Government Board must confirm the Order unless there is objection against it, in which case the Board will hold an inquiry, and determine whether the alteration shall take place or not. In the Local Board districts the Councils will have transferred to them all the existing powers of the Local Boards, who will then cease to exist. In rural districts they will have the power of Rural Sanitary Authorities and of Highway Boards, and the Highway Boards will be abolished. Every District Council, whether Urban or Rural, will take over the existing powers under the Acts as to lighting and watching, baths and washhouses, and lodging-houses, &c.; rates will continue to be levied over the particular areas in which these Acts are enforced, and committees will be appointed by the District Council, which may consist partly of members of the District Council and partly of ratepayers, to manage the administration of these Acts. We propose, also, to transfer to the District Council the powers of Justices out of Sessions in the execution of the Petroleum Acts, Dogs Acts, Infant Life Protection Act; also the licensing powers as to slaughter-houses, pedlars, dealers in game, hawkers, pawnbrokers, fairs, and other minor matters. The existing condition of the rates under which agricultural land is exempt from three-fourths of certain rates in urban and rural sanitary districts will be maintained, and the existing incidence of Highway Rates 1662 will be maintained. The complete organization of the county will then be—for the judicial work, the magistrates; for administrative work, the County Council; all internal areas to conduct the municipal government of their areas, and all elected upon the same franchise. The Poor Law Guardians will continue, as at present, to exercise their functions with reference to the administration of the Poor Law within the areas which exist at present, so that the Poor Law functions and the municipal functions will be different, as they are different at present in municipal boroughs throughout the country.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
Will the Guardians continue to be elected by the plural vote?
§ MR. RITCHIE
We propose to make no alteration whatever in regard to the election of Guardians, or to their powers as far as the Poor Law is concerned, or in regard to the areas for which they are elected.
§ MR. RITCHIE
No. They will be elected in the same way as the representatives throughout the whole area of the county. Well, an hon. Gentleman has asked me what we propose to do with regard to the Metropolis. That is probably a matter which is not only of interest to every hon. Member who represents the Metropolis, but to the whole country. Some think that London might be left alone, and I have been astonished at seeing more than one statement that London was not to be touched in the Bill. How is it possible for us to deal with this question without in some way or other affecting London? I am bound to say that I do not agree with those who think that London should continue to remain in the isolated and peculiar position which it now occupies. But if the Metropolis were to remain as at present, the anomalies of its position would be enormously increased. And why? Because the County Councils of Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent would all have jurisdiction for administrative purposes within the area of the Metropolis. I venture to say that such a state of things would be absolutely intolerable. Certainly, it is not a position which I, as a Metropolitan Member, should contemplate with any de- 1663 gree of satisfaction. Therefore, we think that we must deal with. London in rather a large and important manner. I did not approve the Bill brought in by the late Home Secretary (Sir William Harcourt) for the government of London. I was one of those who opposed it. But I never denied for a moment that great alterations ought to be made in the administration of the municipal affairs of the Metropolis. I did not approve of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, because I thought that, instead of giving more power to govern themselves in the various great communities into which London was separated, it was taking away their powers; instead of affording them larger powers, it was contracting them; and that the area was so large as to render it practically impossible that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman could be adequately and properly administered. But I cannot shut my eyes, to the fact that there does not exist in. London, at the present time, any authority which, has the weight and power which an authority proposing to speak in the name of so great a centre as London ought to have. A great deal has been said of late about the Metropolitan Board of Works and about its administration. I am not going to refer to any of those statements beyond begging the House to accept my assurance that our proposals with reference to London have nothing whatever to do with any recent acts of administration by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Our proposal which I now make, was contained in the very first draft of our Bill 18 months ago. I am one of those who, without professing to be satisfied with the constitution of the Metropolitan Board of Works or with many of their actions, still think that they have done great and valuable service to the inhabitants of London. We cannot, however, shut our eyes to the fact that, whereas every other borough in the country possesses a body directly representing the ratepayers, no such body exists in London. There is no one elected directly by, or responsible to, the ratepayers. Then what are our proposals? Although they may not go to the extent some hon. Members may desire, I hope they will be satisfactory to the House generally. We propose to take London as defined under the Metropolis Management Act out of the 1664 counties of Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent, and we propose to create it a County of London by itself, with a Lord Lieutenant, a Bench of Magistrates, and a County Council of its own. I may say in passing that we propose that the existing magistrates, having qualifications in London, shall be entitled to sit as magistrates for the County of London. We propose that the Council shall be directly elected by the ratepayers, as in all other counties and boroughs; that the franchise shall be the same; and that it shall consist, as in all other cases, of elected and selected members; the elected members sitting for three years, and the selected members for six, one-half of the number retiring every three years. It will take over the licensing powers and all the duties of the Metropolitan Board of Works, which will cease to exist. With reference to the police, most Members of this House will recognize this as being a question altogether separate and distinct, when you come to deal with a great army of police, such as exists in London. The police will not be dealt with in the Bill. As I think was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), the police will still remain under the control of the Home Office—
§ MR. RITCHIE
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means by that. Does he mean that the police will be allowed to retain that position only so long as he is out of Office?
§ MR. RITCHIE
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I was referring to our proposal. We do not, as I have said, put this forward as a complete settlement of the great problem of London Government. We have our own proposals to make, and I hope we may be able at some future time to make them. They are on the lines, not of creating separate municipalities throughout London, but of amalgamating within certain defined areas in London the existing Vestries and District Boards, and constructing in London District Councils having in the various areas in the 1665 county District Councils with large and important administrative functions. But we have felt that the introduction of such a proposal as that into our Bill would have unduly overloaded it, and we did not believe that it would be possible to have settled that entire question during the present Session, in conjunction with other matters of importance with which we shall have to deal in this Bill. Of course, there will be large financial arrangements necessary as between London and the counties, and the adjustment of these we provide for. We provide also that the 4d. per head for indoor paupers which will be distributed by the London Council to the various Unions within London shall be not in substitution for, but in addition to, what is already contributed by the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, and the poor districts will find in that a very large step towards that equalization of the rate for the maintenance of indoor paupers which all who represent the poorer districts of London so ardently desire.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
Will there be any change in the position of the City of London?
§ MR. RITCHIE
. The position of the City will be the same as that of a Quarter Sessions borough in other counties. It will continue to exercise its present authority, but the administrative duties devolving upon its Aldermen, such as licensing, will be transferred to the County Council of London, and it will be rateable for all purposes for which it is now rateable, and for all the new duties cast upon the shoulders of the Central Council of London. The members representing the City at the Central Council will be directly elective, as will be the members from all other parts of London. There will be no difference between the City and other parts of London as regards the election of representatives to the County Council. I now come to what is rather a thorny question—that of licensing for the sale of intoxicating liquors. Many of our advisers in the Press and elsewhere have given us advice not to attempt to deal with so diffi- 1666 cult a question as that of licensing. But we cannot refrain from dealing with it. It is all very well to say—"Why do you not leave it alone?" How are we, when we propose that all the administrative functions of Justices shall be placed in the hands of an elective body, to except the administrative function of licensing? We do not believe that such a position would be tenable, nor do we think it would be desirable to make such an exception. It is desirable that such, a question should be dealt with broadly, and in no narrow and contracted manner; we desire to deal with it broadly, and, that being our intention, it was impossible for us to shut out from the duties to be cast upon the new authorities the question of licensing. It is very singular that upon this particular point the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and those whom he represents and the licensed victualling trade are agreed. It is not often that the lion lies down with the lamb on matters such as that; but there is a great deal of concurrence between the hon. Baronet and the licensed victuallers on this particular point, though they approach it from two different points of view The hon. Baronet and those whom he represents are content to leave licensing in the hands of the Justices, with one qualification mid one restriction—that they shall have no power at all, and that power is to lie in the hands of the people themselves, who shall instruct the Licensing Authority whether or not to grant the licences. I am aware that the hon. Baronet docs not hold the opinion of some of his Colleagues—that the ratepayers should have the power of diminishing, extinguishing, but also increasing the number of licences, so that the Licensing Justices should have no power of their own at all, except by instruction of the ratepayers. When the hon. Baronet came to me with a deputation, I was sorry to hear that he held such a strong suspicion with reference to an elective body, and the manner in which they were likely to discharge the functions we proposed to devolve upon them. The hon. Baronet is, no doubt, the Representative of a great body; but I am surprised that the hon. Baronet's confidence in elective bodies does not go so far as to desire that the question of licensing 1667 should, be entrusted to their hands. But, Sir, we have greater confidence in elective bodies than the hon. Baronet; we believe that there is no reason to doubt that if this function is e trusted to the County Council, along with their other administrative functions, it will be properly exorcised. The licensed victuallers, on the other hand, approach the question from another point of view than the hon. Baronet. They do not want it touched. They want things to remain as they are, because they have full confidence in the manner in which the existing authorities exercise their powers—a confidence in which most people in this country entirely share. We desire to deal with this subject in a just, fair, and equitable manner. We do not wish that the question should be relegated to the time of the dim and distant future, and I am satisfied that it is not to the interest of any of those who are concerned in this question that it should continue to be in the unsettled position which it undoubtedly is. We have determined, therefore, to make certain proposals to the House which we believe will be fair and equitable, and it is for the House to say whether they are acceptable to it or not. We shall make a proposal which we hope the House will accept. If the House does not, our duty will, at least, have been fulfilled. The proposal we make is to transfer licensing, with the other administrative functions of Justices, to the new representative body. Some people, I am aware, advocate the establishment of an authority ad hoc for the purpose of licensing; we do not agree with that at all. We think that if an authority is elected for all other purposes, that authority ought also to be entrusted with licensing. Then arises the question, shall this duty be thrown upon the shoulders of the Local Authorities or the County Authorities? We do not think it ought to be thrown upon the Local Authorities, which in many cases represent an extremely small area, and we think it is more likely to be wisely and judiciously exercised by a body elected from a larger area than that of many districts with which we have to deal. We propose to give over this duty also to the same body as that to which we have transferred other duties of county government. But it may be asked whether we do not propose some means 1668 whereby the locality shall have some voice, at least, in the decision of such an important question as that of licensing. We propose a new means by which local interests will have an opportunity of making themselves known. We propose that the County Councils shall divide their area out into licensing divisions, and that they shall form a licensing committee for each division, to consist of the members elected to the County Council for the division, together with, an added proportion of selected members from the Council. In order to secure that the licensing area may be adequately large, we provide that no licensing committee shall have on it less than six elected members. We make this proposal also—that a town with a population of 50,000 shall be a licensing division of itself, and that where there are not six members returned from that town to the County Council, then that the Town Council of the borough shall add from their body the number necessary to make up the number of six members. Now, Sir, what are the powers we propose to confer on the committee? We propose to confer on the licensing committee of the County Council the power to refuse renewal when they wish to reduce the number of licensed houses. We think it an undoubted defect in the existing condition of the law that the Licensing Authority seems to have no power to reduce the number of licences, however much they may consider that the licences are out of proportion to the needs of the population. We propose, also, that they shall have the power of closing public-houses on Sunday, Good Friday, or Christmas Day, and we propose that in cases where complaint is made—complaints which are necessary for the refusal of the renewal of the licences—that that complaint must be heard by the Justices. We think that that is a matter which ought to go before a judicial tribunal. It will go to the Justices to report, and on their reporting that the complaint has been established and that the licence ought not to be renewed, the renewal must be refused. We further propose that an appeal shall lie to the County Council if the licence is refused for any other cause than the Justices' Report. The County Council may, in considering the question of confirming the refusal, take into account any differences of opinion in the com- 1669 mittee or in the locality, or any representation by the Local Authority, or the question of any adjoining licensing division being affected by the refusal or the character of the licensed premises, or any special circumstances. Now, Sir, arises one question to which a large amount of interest attaches. If the refusal of the renewal of the licence is confirmed by the County Council for some cause other than the Justices' Report, we propose to enact that compensation must be paid. I know there are some Members in this House, though I hope they are few, who contend that there should be no provision of any kind whatever for compensation in this Bill. They would be prepared to sacrifice the whole of the capital which has been embarked in a legitimate business legitimately sanctioned. We are not prepared for any such step as that. Unless the House assents to compensation being paid in cases where the renewal has been refused under the conditions named, we will not continue to be responsible for any power being given to the County Council to refuse the licence. We are not prepared to confiscate the property of those who, under the sanction of the existing law, have embarked their capital in undertakings of this character. I know that there are some who will contend that as these licences are renewable year by year no compensation is due; but although these licences are technically renewable year by year, it has again and again been held by the Courts of Law that renewals of these licences cannot be refused unless for fault shown. We therefore propose that compensation shall be paid to those whose licences are not renewed, because we think that it would be an act of gross injustice if compensation were not to be paid them. The question then arises, What is to be the measure of compensation? We propose that the question of the measure of compensation shall be referred to an arbitrator, to be chosen by the parties interested, who shall consider what is the difference in the value of the house with the licence and of the house without the licence at the time of the passing of the Bill, and it will be for the several parties who may be interested in the licensed house to divide the compensation between them, and if they cannot agree in such division 1670 the matter may be referred to the decision of a County Court Judge. Then, who is to pay the compensation? It has been contended by some that if compensation is to be paid it ought to be paid by the publicans who are left. In my opinion that principle, if well worked, might be made a most effective engine of confiscation. Of course, the number of licensed houses closed in any district might be so great that if the publicans whose licences were renewed were to be called upon to pay the compensation to be paid to those whose licences were refused, the former might be unable to bear the burden thrown upon them, and the trade of the publican might practically end in their disestablishment without any act on the part of the authority. That, I say, would form an effective engine of confiscation. We therefore propose that the charge for the payment of compensation shall be thrown primarily upon the ratepayers of the district in which the licence has been refused, although power is given to the County Councils in special eases to spread the compensation over the whole county, or over a smaller area than the licensing division. But it has been said with some justice—"The licensed victuallers are undoubtedly, by the operation of your rule, in a much more secure and favourable position than they occupy at present." I cannot help feeling that there is some amount of force in that observation. We therefore intend to make a proposal with reference to this point which, I think, will be considered to be a moderate one, and which, I hope, will be acceptable to the House and to the trade affected by it. We say to the trade—"We recognize your claim to compensation, and we give you practically a vested interest by the Bill; and we think that in consideration of our placing you upon so much more secure a footing than you at present occupy, we may fairly ask you to pay something more than you do at present for your licence;" and we, therefore, propose to give power to the County Authority to increase the licence duty of publicans by 20 per cent. The effect of that increased charge will be to raise an additional sum throughout the country for the year of no less than £300,000—that is, if the power to be given by the Bill in this respect is fully exercised by the County Councils through- 1671 out England. We think that a proposal of this kind will meet the justice of the case as far as the contribution from the trade itself is concerned, and that it is fair upon the face of it. Having dealt with this matter, the House will be glad to hear that I am now coming to the last subject with which it will be necessary for me to deal, and that relates to the important subject of finance and the question of the relations that we propose shall exist in future between the Imperial and the local taxpayer. There is no doubt that to this branch of the subject, perhaps more than to any other, the minds of many who have long looked forward to the production of a Local Government Bill are directed, and upon it their hopes are mainly concentrated. I trust the proposals we are about to make will show that we fully realize the great importance of the subject, and are prepared to meet what we believe to be the just claims of those who have long urged that the relations between the Imperial and local taxpayer should be so re-arranged as to give substantial relief to those classes of ratepayers upon whom the burden of local taxation, it is asserted, has somewhat more hardly pressed than upon any other class. It has been for many years recognized by Parliament that the claims of the local ratepayers to assistance from the Imperial Exchequer and from other sources than rateable property are substantial and just. Those claims have been hitherto met by what are called grants in aid. I know that to this form of relief many objections have been urged. I confess, for my part, I have not been able fully to agree in the objections which have been raised against this form of relief. I believe, on the whole, these grants have been the means of greater efficiency in the discharge of the duties devolving on Local Authorities, which has resulted in great public benefit. But I am prepared to admit that this form of subvention is undoubtedly open to some of the objections which have been taken to it; and one objection which I have always felt strongly has been that this form of relief mixes up Imperial and local finance in a manner most inconvenient and confusing, whereas, from every point of view, it is extremely desirable that the two questions 1672 should be kept entirely distinct and separate. The House will, therefore, be prepared to hear that the great bulk of the grants in aid will, under our proposals, entirely disappear. We propose that in the financial year 1889–90 the following grants in aid shall disappear from the Estimates:—Disturnpiked and main roads (England and Wales), teachers in Poor Law schools, Poor Law Medical Officers, Medical Officers of Health, and Inspectors of Nuisances, Registrars of Births and Deaths, Pauper Lunatics (England and Wales), cost of Criminal Prosecutions, subventions in aid of the Police (Counties, Boroughs, and Metropolis), grants to poor School Boards, and awards to Public Vaccinators, which make an aggregate sum of about £2,600,000 in round numbers. It is now necessary for me to state to the House how we propose to fill the void in the local purse which will be created by the disappearance of these grants in aid. But something more even than this is expected from us, and to enable me to fulfil this expectation I have had to appeal to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, I am bound to say, has met me in a large and generous spirit. By his aid I am able to present to the House and to the country what I am sure they will consider a large and liberal measure of relief to local burdens. As I have already said, the amount of the grants in aid which will disappear is £2,600,000, and the amount of revenue which we propose to find in substitution for that sum, if our Bill passes, is £5,600,000, being an increase of £3,000,000. This sum does not include the £300,000 arising from, the 20 per cent additional publicans' licence duty, with regard to which we give powers to the Local Authorities, in the event of our proposals being accepted. Then comes the question, How is this revenue to be raised? We propose that the licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors for consumption on the premises, and grocers' licences for the sale by retail of spirits, beer, and wine, and licences to deal in game, shall be collected by the Local Authorities, and form part of the revenues of County Authorities; these amount to£1,378,143. We propose also to hand over to the Local Authorities the produce of the following licences;—
|Refreshment house keepers,||6,759|
|Game (licences to kill)||139,628|
|Appraisers, Auctioneers, and House agents||65,655|
§ These, it is evident, will be much better and more economically collected by the Inland Revenue than by the County Authorities; but the revenue will, of course, be derived by every County Council from the licences taken out within the area of their county. I have stated that the licences for the sale of intoxicating liquors, which will be transferred, will amount to £1,378,143, and the sum, to be derived from other licences will be £1,591,730, roughly amounting together to £3,000,000. In addition to the existing licence duties, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will propose in his Budget to raise other revenue from other licence duties which he will name, amounting to £826,000. In addition to those licence duties, my right hon. Friend proposes to give us a substantial contribution from personalty amounting to about £1,800,000. It is obvious that it would be highly improper for me to forestall the statement to be made by my right hon. Friend by tolling the House either the names of the new licences to be created, or the source from which he proposes to derive the contribution from personal property; but it was impossible for me to deal with the question of the re-arrangement of finances without informing the House substantially of the amounts to be given by my right hon. Friend. It will thus be seen that those licences and the contributions from personalty amount, in all, to £5,600,000, in lieu of £2,600,000 at present obtained. I have already explained to the House that, so far as 1674 licences are concerned, every county, including the Metropolis and the large towns I have named which will be made counties, will receive all the licence duties collected within its area; and I think we may fairly hope that when the county itself is so greatly interested, as it will be, in the collection of this revenue, a greater vigilance on the part of the County Authority will, to some extent, increase the amount to be derived to a still larger sum. The question then arises—"How is the contribution from, personal property to be distributed?" It would be unfair, I think, that the contribution in every county should go to that particular county. In fact, it would be impossible so to allocate it. On what principle, therefore, is this £1,800,000 to be distributed among the counties '? We have considered three principles on which it might be done—either in proportion, to population, to rateable value, or to the amount of indoor pauperism. In our opinion, neither population nor rateable value is a sufficient test as to the need of the localities. We therefore decide on the last—indoor pauperism—as being the best indication we can find that the amount of relief which we propose to give will go where relief is moat urgently required. The contribution we propose, therefore, will be distributed to the counties according to the proportion the indoor pauperism of each county bears to the total indoor pauperism of the country. I need hardly say that there is no class in the community which will benefit so greatly by this distribution as that class which I always think is most entitled to our pity and sympathy—the smaller class of ratepayers both in counties and boroughs; and although this provision will give a large measure of relief to the poorer districts in the counties, it will also give a large measure of relief to the poorer districts in our boroughs, and to no part of the country more than to the poorer districts of the Metropolis. When it is, therefore, said that this question of the redistribution of taxation is one which affects the county ratepayer, and in which the borough ratepayer has little or no interest, I say a greater mistake was never committed than to make such an assertion as that. I maintain that, great as will be the boon to the county ratepayer, the boon will not be less 1675 great to those with whom I have fully as much sympathy—the poorer ratepayers of our large towns, many of whom are struggling from day to day against heavy rates, and, I am glad to say successfully, to maintain themselves above the level of pauperism to which the heavy rates tend to draw them. But we entail a duty on the County Authorities of paying over a certain portion of this amount to certain local areas within their counties. The House well knows that many contributions from the Exchequer which we propose to discontinue are payable to Local Authorities, and it might be that there would be an extremely unfair incidence of relief if we did not provide some means by which grants of a similar character should be made by the County Council to the local areas within their jurisdiction. The receipts by the County Authority will he subject to payments for the following purposes, on the same bases of contribution as now adopted in connection with the Parliamentary grants—namely, Teachers in Poor Law schools, £37,318; Poor Law Medical Officers, £147,661; Medical Officers of Health and Inspectors of Nuisances, £71,939; Registrars of Births and Deaths, £9,534; Pauper Lunatics, £479,815; Criminal Prosecutions, £162,011; Police, £1,411,833; Grants to poor School Boards, £6,200; Awards to Public Vaccinators, £19,000; total, £2,345,311. Subject to these payments, the revenue will be applicable to defraying the cost of maintenance of disturnpiked and main roads—which is now estimated at about £1,040,000—and the cost of indoor poor, at the rate of 4d. per head per day, estimated at about £1,200,000—and any other charges borne by the whole county. The residue will be divided between the Quarter Sessions boroughs not contributing to special county purposes and the remainder of the county, in proportion to their rateable value. But it will be said—"The Bill cannot come into operation until the financial year 1889–90. Is there no financial relief to be given until then?" It is obvious that we could not bring the full scheme into operation, because the authorities we propose to set up will not have come into office until March, 1889. What, then, is the financial relief we propose this year, and to whom do we propose 1676 to give it? We propose, in addition to the grants in aid, which are in the Estimates, and which will continue to be paid during the approaching financial year, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer shall pay over to the local contribution account a sum of about£1,150,000 direct contribution from personal property, and an amount which I have named of about £826,000, the estimated yield for the year of the new Licence Duties to which I have already referred, making together an amount close upon £2,000,000 for the next financial year. Out of this sum we propose to distribute direct to Boards of Guardians throughout the country 4d. per head per day for indoor pauperism. This will absorb about £1,200,000. Out of the balance of £776,000 we propose to pay over, as was done last year, to Highway Authorities throughout the country, a fourth of the cost of repair of main roads, and to the County Authorities a similar amount, making together a sum of about £520,000 for the same purpose. There remains a balance of about £256,000. The House will remember, in reference to the extra grant of £250,000 made last year for main roads, that great complaint came from the Quarter Sessions boroughs and other areas which received but a small share of the contribution because they had little main road expenditure. In reference to this grievance, which we think a real one, we propose to apportion the balance of £256,000 on the basis of rateable value to London and the Quarter Sessions boroughs. Of course, this principle of apportionment, as the House will understand, is only applicable to the year which is approaching. After the County Authority and the whole machinery is set up, the Licence Duties collected in the area and the amount distributed will be the revenue to be derived by the County Authorities. The House will also understand, as it is necessary it should, that the contribution of £520,000 for main roads this year is not in addition to, but in substitution of, the sum provided for in the Estimates, which will be returned into the Exchequer. In the event of the Bill passing, therefore, the additional sums available for the relief of local taxation will be, in the year 1888–9, about £1,700,000, and in the year 1889–90 this amount will be increased to about £3,000,000. The House will have 1677 observed that there are two Bills on the Paper. One is for the registration of voters, and we hope the House will give great expedition to the passing of that Bill; because, if the other Bill which is on the Paper is to come speedily into operation, it is essential we should proceed with the registration, which, as hon. Gentlemen know, cannot be effected unless the Bill passes in. the middle of May or June. Then with reference to the date at which we propose that our main Bill shall come into operation. We propose that the elections for the County Council shall be hold in January next, although we do not propose that the new authority shall take over the functions of the Governing Body until the 25th of March. The District Councils cannot be elected for some time after, because, as the House is aware, we impose certain preliminary duties on the new County Council, and until they are performed the elections for the rural District Councils could not take place. We therefore propose that, as far as they are concerned, the elections shall take place in the November following; but that afterwards all the elections, both for the County Council and for the municipal boroughs, rural districts, and urban districts shall be held at the same time in November. The House, I am sure, will be glad to know that I have come to the conclusion of my remarks, and it is my duty to thank the House most cordially for the kind, attentive, and considerate hearing which they have been kind enough to afford me. I have stated to the House what our proposals are. They are, as I think the House will acknowledge, large and comprehensive. The subjects dealt with are numerous and important; but, numerous as they are, there are others with which some will have expected that we should deal, and I say at once there are others which we ourselves should have been glad to deal with if we had felt able to do so in the present Bill. We would gladly have included in our Bill the remainder of our scheme for London Government; we should have been glad to have proposed a reconstruction of parochial organization, a reform in the system of valuation so as to make it more simple and more uniform, a scheme for the consolidation of rates, and many other matters. If we have not dealt with these questions in the 1678 Bill, it is not because we do not fully recognize their importance, but because we feel the absolute necessity of keeping our Bill within reasonable and practical limits, and of not unduly over-weighting an already heavy and difficult measure. Some of these subjects we shall be prepared to deal with ourselves on another occasion; but, having set up a great and powerful organization in every one of our counties, we believe we shall have constituted an authority which may be fairly called upon to deal with others of them in a spirit in which they ought to be dealt with. Our chief aim and object has been to extend to the country at large those municipal privileges which have been so long accorded to boroughs, and which, on the whole, have been wisely used and judiciously exercised. No one can say we have approached this subject in a narrow or niggardly spirit; no one can say we have approached it in a spirit of distrust of the people. We have approached it in no spirit of distrust, but in a spirit of confidence in the sense and judgment of the people. We have been actuated by an earnest desire to settle the question on a broad and permanent basis, and we are satisfied that no narrower basis than that we have proposed gives promise of permanence and stability. We believe that by our Bill a spirit of active municipal life will be infused into our rural population, with results salutary and beneficial both to themselves and the country at large; and we claim—and with confidence after the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. W. E. Gladstone)—the assistance of both Parties in the House and the country in bringing about so desirable a consummation. We rely with confidence on the help of the House to pass this great measure of reform which we now submit to the judgment of the House and the country.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the laws relating to Local Government in England and Wales; and for other purposes connected therewith."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
asked whether the financial proposal with regard to the Local Authorities which were intended to come into operation next year would apply to Scotland.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Financial proposals with reference to Scotland will be made 1679 by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but it is obvious that they will be in a different form, looking at the fact that no Bill for Scotland can be passed this year.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, he rose mainly to put a question to the right hon. Gentleman. But as the first Metropolitan Member who had risen, he might perhaps be permitted to say that although the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would, so far as London was concerned, come upon the citizens with some surprise, he believed his proposals, so far as they wont, would not be unsatisfactory. The proposal to establish a directly elected body for London proceeded undoubtedly on the right line, and his only regret was that the right hon. Gentleman had not had the courage to deal with the Corporation of the City of London. He, for one, should not regret the decease of the Metropolitan Board of Works; but there wag another body which he ventured to think oven more than that had forfeited the confidence of the ratepayers of London. He referred to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, and he very much regretted that, as he understood, that Board would continue to exist as heretofore. The question which he desired to put to the right hon. Gentleman related to the poor rates. He was—as hon. Gentlemen would be aware—in favour of equalizing the rate for the whole of London. As he understood, each Union would be entitled to receive from the funds at the disposal of the County Council 4d. per day in respect of each indoor pauper, and they were to have a County Council for London, which would pay 4d. a-day for each indoor pauper under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. But he pointed out that already each Union received 5d. a-day out of the Metroplitan Poor Fund. That being so, each London Union would be entitled to receive 9d. a day in respect of the maintenance of each indoor pauper, and he thought there were grave objections to such an arrangement. In the first place, it was inadequate, because it made no provision for the cost which was incurred for buildings, which was one of the largest burdens on the poor districts of London; and, in the second place. it was improvident, because he believed there was not one Metropolitan Union which 1680 spent so much as 9d. a-day on the maintenance of its paupers. So that it would result that the Guardians would actually make a profit out of their indoor pauperism. The natural offset would be that they would drive the paupers into the Union to a greater extent oven than at present. He felt that, whatever might be said against the danger of outdoor administration, the cost of maintenance ought to be determined on its own merits; whereas now they were still further extending the principle of the Metropolitan Poor Fund, which to some extent induced the Guardians to drive persons asking for relief into the poor-house. That system which had been mischievous they were now proposing to extend, and he therefore asked the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to this aspect of the question.
§ MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
said, he understood that the London Police Force was to remain as it was now. The area at the present time extended 15 miles from Charing Cross, into many districts which were parts of other counties than that which was to be the London Council area. Was the present system to remain, or was the London Police to be consolidated? He also asked whether the only functions of the new Council for London were to be those of the Metropolitan Board?
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, there were a number of boroughs which were to be treated as counties in themselves.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, the object of his question was to know whether those boroughs would continuo to be governed by the Municipal Corporations Act of 1872, or under the new Act?
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
asked what was to be the equivalent for Ireland in the large contributions proposed to be made to the Unions for paupers? Ireland had little or no share in the money which was given in England in aid of the maintenance of highways, and now they were going to give 4d. a-head for all indoor paupers in England. He thought the time had arrived for bringing in a Bill to make the same provision for the poor in Ireland.
§ MR. RITCHIE
With reference to the last question, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will, of course, make a statement with 1681 reference to Scotland and Ireland when he comes to deal with finance. I have no doubt the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Nolan) will find that my right hon. Friend will deal with these countries in a strictly impartial manner. With regard to London paupers, the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill) spoke as if London would obtain an amount far in excess of the cost of the indoor paupers to the ratepayers. Nothing is more fallacious. The cost of the maintenance of the indoor poor is far beyond 9d. per head. The House will understand that the cost of housing the indoor poor in London is enormously greater than the cost of housing indoor poor in the country. I hope that the hon. Member will see the enormous gain which, our proposal will bring to a poor district such as he represents, and that he will not be found a dissenting Member in this matter. As to the police, one-half of the cost of their maintenance in the boroughs will be paid from the county and the borough fund, and one-half of the maintenance of the police in the counties will be paid for from the county fund. With reference to the question of the assessment of personal property, I must refer my hon. Friend to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who will deal with it when he introduces his Budget. We do not, as I have stated, propose to touch the question of valuation now, but we hope, on a future day, to deal with it in a separate Bill. So that all questions of appeals with reference to valuation will remain as at present. We do not propose to make any alteration in the police districts, and the contribution now paid from the Exchequer towards the Metropolitan Police will be paid by the London Council so far as the area of the Board of Works is concerned, and by the County Council so far as their area is concerned. Then I am asked a question as to who will settle the number of members for London. I will undertake to lay upon the Table of the House, before the Bill goes through Committee, a Paper dealing with the members for London as well as for the counties, including London. Where the Government hand over the power of Central Departments to confirm acts done by District Councils, so far as confirmation is required in re- 1682 spect of proposals of Town Councils, they will still have to be confirmed by the Central Councils, because they could not be fairly asked to confirm their own orders.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The only question I propose to say a word or two upon is that relating to Scotland and Ireland. It is obvious to everyone that the right hon. Gentleman had sufficient reason in excluding altogether from his statement even the mention of Scotland and Ireland, and no doubt that reason was to be found in the fact that the concern of Scotland and Ireland in the present statement is a financial concern, and the Government have made an arrangement—which, I think, is altogether a wise and proper one—to follow up the statement of the right hon. Gentleman of today at the earliest possible opportunity with the Financial Statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) on the finances of the year. That matter, therefore, I think, has been disposed of for the present in a manner that is satisfactory with reference to the statement before us. Now, I do not think that, considering the vastness and complexity of the subject, I should have said a single word but for two reasons. One of those reasons is the pointed reference which the right hon. Gentleman made to me in his statement, and the other is that I felt a desire to do justice as far as I could to the strictly personal part of the operation which the right hon. Gentleman has had to perform this evening. Undoubtedly that was a most difficult operation; and I think every feeling of the House must be that he has discharged that very arduous duty in a manner which does him high honour. That portion of the subject I can refer to with unmixed pleasure and satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some general words of mine to the effect that the Government, I thought, would find on this side of the House no disposition to treat their proposals in relation to Local Government in any other than a broad and candid spirit. Well, I do not think that the time is come for me to go beyond those general words. The plans of the Government are a great deal too large to admit of our pronouncing any conclusive judgment upon them at present, whereas to pronounce a partial judgment might, 1683 I think, probably do more harm than good. It is, therefore, my plain duty to say that I adhere to the spirit of the words I used at the commencement of the Session; and, on the other hand, it is likewise my duty to say for myself, and for any that I may be supposed to represent, that, of course, at the present time we must retain our full and absolute liberty both in the mass and in the detail of the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. Still, I will go one step beyond what I have stated in respect of the speech that has been made and of the propositions that are before us. I think that that speech was a very frank, a very lucid, and a very able statement, The right hon. Gentleman stated that he thought that the Government had founded their proposals upon principles which are both broad and deep, and he laid a claim upon the favourable consideration of the House. Well, I do not think that, taking the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as a whole in the claims that he made, it was an unjust or immodest statement. I think, undoubtedly, that he and his Colleagues have had to apply themselves to a combination of subjects so varied, so diversified, so complex, and so weighty that it would be difficult, perhaps, to name any measure which has been submitted to Parliament in which there has been greater difficulty in bringing into a focus such a multitude of topics so necessary to be connected, and yet presenting so many difficulties in establishing a connection. Undoubtedly, as respecting many important portions of the statement before us, it is only just that I should say that the Government have addressed themselves to the consideration of these points in a spirit which is large, bold, and just; and, so far as those portions go, I cannot but believe that I am expressing the general sentiment in what I have said. The reservation of liberty which I have made I must repeat; but I do not think that it would have been just to have allowed the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman to have gone forth to the world without making frankly, and at once, the admission that in the plan he has proposed—whether or not to be good or bad as a whole, or whether or not in its details or its main details it can be supported—there are embodied many principles the acceptance of which, as coming from the right hon. 1684 Gentleman and his Colleagues, is a very important fact in the history of Parliamentary legislation. The good and profit of these principles I should be sorry that Parliament and the country should lose through the existence of any grudging or ungenerous spirit on the part of those who sit separate from the Party with which the right Gentleman belongs.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
said, it was with great satisfaction that he had listened to the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He, in common with the right hon. Gentleman, felt that some liberty of action must be retained by those who wished to facilitate the settlement of this extremely difficult question. He ventured to say that no more weighty measure had ever been introduced into that House than the present. It was a measure bristling with details; and he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) on the evident success he had so far achieved. He took this opportunity of expressing his satisfaction that at last a Government had been found ready to deal with a difficulty so long recognized, and with evils under which the counties had so long suffered. He looked forward with pleasure to the great benefit which local ratepayers were to derive from Imperial taxation, and which he understood would amount in 1889 to £1,700,000 and in 1890 to no less than £3,000,000. That of itself was an enormous advance on the action of any previous Government, and one that he heartily rejoiced at. There were, however, one or two questions that he would venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, were the present Highway Boards to continue to exercise the powers and authority which they now possessed with the exception of those with reference to main roads? Then, with regard to the Police, was it intended to leave it to the new Authority to determine what the number of the Police Forces should be, the rates to be paid, and the manner in which they were to be equipped, when the subvention for the police and the authority of the Home Office ceased? He desired ones more to congratulate his right hon. Friend on the great boldness of conception on which this scheme was founded. He ventured to hope 1685 that when the new Authority came into being, placed on the wider and more comprehensive basis of popular election, it would be found in no degree inferior to the Body which it replaced, and that its administration would be entitled to the same amount of praise as that which had been given to the older Body—that in future it would be found to have regard for economical expenditure, and worthy of being pointed to as a Body having the interests of the ratepayers thoroughly at heart.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he understood that the existing Corporation of London was to exist side by side with the General Council for London. If that was so, was the existing Corporation to continue as a separate Council for each district? And, further, he would like to know if the Corporation of the future was to be elected in the same manner as the existing Corporation. If that were so, without arguing the matter, then he would simply say that it constituted a great blot on the Bill. He should have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had had the courage to abolish the magisterial functions of county gentlemen. One of the great grievances of the present system was that the Justices were drawn exclusively from one class; and that, among other things, the game preservers were the men chosen to try the poachers. It seemed to him strange that an anomaly of this kind should have been preserved. The right hon. Gentleman had not even made an allusion to the existence of Ireland, so far as the financial part of the Bill was concerned, which was a question it was said must be left to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman, he thought, might have said that the Bill was extremely complex, and that he was only making a reasonable demand in asking that he should be permitted to confine it, for the moment at least, to this country. If he had done that, Irish Members would have admitted the justice of his case. But he had not alluded to Ireland; and he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) would be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman some explanation of the postponement of Ireland. At a subsequent period this question would, of course, be raised in another form. He 1686 should reserve his observations in the meantime, and would merely say that it was for the credit of the House of Commons, the credit of the Ministry, and for the credit of English honour and citizenship generally, that they should have a distinct statement from the Government that the postponement of Ireland was one of time, and not of principle.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON (Essex, Epping)
said, that with regard to the accusations of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), he thought that the Government would be able to show, so to speak, a clean bill of health with regard to Ireland, and that the administration of justice might be fairly left in their hands. He had only to ask his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) one or two questions on points about which he was not quite clear. First, with regard to the police and their management in future. He understood that the police in counties would be transferred to a Body equally elected from the Quarter Sessions Body and from the elected Council. He would like to know whether all direct control of the Home Office was to be taken away, and whether all control of the Police Force in future would be left to the Guardians and the Local Bodies? He thought his right hon. Friend had not told them how he proposed to deal with the Metropolitan Police when he spoke of the police being in the hands of the Home Office. Were the City Police to be amalgamated, or were they to remain a separate force as at present? He had no doubt that the other point which he had to mention would be answered by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If these contributions to which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had referred were to go in aid of the locality, how were they in future to divide the contributions of those who resided for half the year in London and the other half in the country?
§ MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)
said, he wished to ask what was to be the position of boroughs of over 10,000 inhabitants. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had not mentioned boroughs which, like Grimsby, had 1687 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants, and were not Quarter Sessions boroughs. He should be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman some information on that subject. Again he asked for what time the District Committees were to be elected. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned three years in connection with the County Committee, but he had not named any time with regard to the District Committees. He (Mr. Heneage) presumed the time would be three years, although it was not mentioned. He had no other questions to ask, and it simply remained for him to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman heartily on the measure he had introduced.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
said, he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, what relation and powers the new Local Authority would have with reference to the Allotment Act of last year, taking into consideration the fact that under the present circumstances that Act was utterly useless and unworkable.
§ SIR BERNHARD SAMUELSON (Oxfordshire, Banbury)
said, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of some grant to school boards which would cease to be paid. He (Sir Bernhard Samuelson) should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he referred to the education grant which was made to school boards, and, if not, what was the grant to which he referred?
§ MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to six or seven cities which were to become counties of cities—Liverpool, for instance, was one of them. He desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman if the proposed Council of that county was to be the present Town Council of the city, or was there to be constituted a now body. If the old body—the present Town Council—was to be the Council of the county, would there be some provision with regard to the election of the Council; would there be one election every three years, or would they continue on their present constitution—one member retiring from each ward every third year?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he would answer the last question first. The Council of a borough made a county would be the composition of the County Council; it 1688 would not have to undergo re-election, and they did not propose in cases of this kind in any way to interfere with the mode of election or with the term for which the Council was re-elected. The hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Bernhard Samuelson) asked him what the Government were proposing to do with respect to boroughs which were not coterminous with sanitary areas? This was one of the questions submitted to the Boundary Commissioners, and it would be their duty to make a report upon it; their report would be submitted to the County Council, who would take the matter into consideration, and deal with it by way of Provisional Orders, His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Major Rasch) asked him whether there would be any alteration as to the authority existing at present to administer the Allotments Act? There would, of course, be an alteration. The authority under the Allotments Act was the Sanitary Authority; the Sanitary Authority in rural districts at present was the Guardians. In future the Sanitary Authority in rural districts would be directly elected by the ratepayers, and they would become the authority to administer the Allotments Act. The District Council would be the Sanitary Authority.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, it was proposed that the County Council should fix the number for each Rural Sanitary Authority. Then he was questioned with regard to the School Board grant. The proposals of the Government had no reference to the grants generally, and only a very small grant to poor School Boards would be involved in their proposals. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somerset (Sir Richard Paget) had asked him a question in reference to the highways. The District Councils, whether rural or urban, would be the Highway Authorities of the future, and of course the existing authorities would cease to exercise their powers. The hon. Baronet also asked him—and a similar question was put by his hon. Friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson)—whether the control of the police by the Home Office was to cease 1689 under the new state of things? No, it was not; the Home Office would still exorcise supervision over the police, they would still have to give their certificate, and where they found that an efficient police force was not maintained in accordance with the efficiency necessary to obtain a certificate, they would have power to call upon the County Authority to remedy the defect. The hon. Baronet also put to him a question upon another point; he suggested that the rates might automatically increase. Where would the increased revenue be found? He anticipated that, even apart from the ordinary and constant increase of revenue to be derived from all these licences, and also from the sources from which personal contributions came, there would be added this expectation of increase, that the Local Authorities within the counties having a direct interest in the amount of revenue raised from the licences, would look very sharply after the collection of the licence duties. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) asked him what were the proposals in reference to the position of the City of London. The hon. Gentleman was aware that they proposed in the Bill only to deal with the question of the County Authority in London which was to be elected by all parts of London. He (Mr. Ritchie) stated that they had other plans with reference to districts. Those plans were not before Parliament, but he might inform the hon. Gentleman that so far as the City of London was concerned it would occupy within the County of London precisely the same position as a Quarter Sessions borough would continue to occupy in an ordinary county.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was extremely anxious to know how the London Authority was to be elected?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, they did not propose to deal with the smaller areas in London in the present Bill at all, and he did not think the hon. Gentleman would expect him to state how they proposed to deal with the City of London when it came to be considered as a District Council with reference to itself.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, he was particularly anxious to know whether the elections in London would be conducted on the popular principle?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, he was afraid he had not made himself understood; they recognized the importance of that particular branch of their work, but as he stated in his speech they did not feel able to deal with that question in this Bill because it would unduly have over-weighted it. They proposed to deal not only with the City of London but with other areas in London subsequently. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) answered his own question when he said the Bill was one which did not profess to deal with Ireland. He (Mr. Ritchie) should be quite out of Order if he attempted to state to the House what were the proposals which they hoped at some future time to make respecting Ireland. Then a question was asked with reference to the City Police—whether they were to be amalgamated? The House knew that the City had always maintained its own police, and it had always declined to submit to the supervision of the Home Office. That being so, they did not propose to include the City of London among the police that were to be maintained at the cost of the county. The question the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Heneage) asked him was, what would be the position of boroughs, not Quarter Sessions boroughs, with a population of over 10,000? They would be precisely in the position they at present occupied. All municipal boroughs would retain their powers and their duties other than those which were excepted exactly as they possessed them now.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that he thought he had told the House clearly that such boroughs would exercise all the duties they exercised now other than those which were excepted. They had not got the power of licensing now except through their Justices. They were powers which would be in the future exercised by the County Council.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that the hon. Gentleman must be aware that the Government proposed to take away licensing as a portion of the administrative functions they took away from the Justices. Of course, the Justices of Quarter Sessions boroughs will, in common with 1691 Justices of counties, lose their licensing powers—[Mr. HENEAGE: And the City of London?]—Yes, and the Justices of the City of London. A question was asked as to the mode of election to the District Councils. In the multiplicity of the questions with which he had had to deal, he had forgotten to say that the District Councils would be elected for the same time, and under similar circumstances as Municipal Councils; two-thirds would retire annually. He had now, he thought, answered all the questions put to him, but he could not sit down without expressing his thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. B. Gladstone) for the kind and handsome way in which he had spoken of the way in which he (Mr. Ritchie) had performed his duty to-night. He assured the right hon. Gentleman that, however much they differed on political questions, he very greatly appreciated the compliment which the right hon. Gentleman had been good enough to pay him to-night.
§ MR. W. BECKETT (Notts, Bassetlaw)
said, he desired to address a question to the right hon. Gentleman relating to finance. The present County Authorities raised capital by mortgages on the rates, and that was a very cumbersome mode of raising money, and it would be a great convenience to all if the right hon. Gentleman would introduce a clause in the Bill empowering County Authorities to create a county stock. Such a stock would be very popular in every county, and its existence would save a great deal of the trouble and expense connected with the present system of raising money.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, that his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) had dealt with the Municipal Authorities and great Local Boards, but there were other authorities which gave great trouble in the great controversy upon local government, and they were the Improvement Commissioners appointed under Acts of Parliament. The condition of these bodies was extremely anomalous, and he (Mr. F. S. Powell) would greatly rejoice to see an end put to their corporate existence. At present they might be entirely abolished by a Provisional Order which gave power to alter a local Act, but he was anxious to know whether the Go- 1692 vernment would not take advantage of this great opportunity, and put an end once and for ever to these most anomalous, and, he thought, in many cases most inconvenient authorities? He hoped he might be allowed as one who had had the honour of being for eight years a member of the London vestry to congratulate the Government on taking in hand the cause of local reform in London. He was sure that whatever were the opinions of hon. Gentlemen who took part in this debate, they would all agree in thanking the Government for the courage with which they had dealt with this part of this very great problem. He had rather hoped that in the course of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman they would have heard some more in detail respecting local areas. This was, of course, too large a subject to discuss at this late period of a preliminary debate, but he hoped that in the course of a few years the anomalies in local boundaries would be terminated, and that there would be some symmetrical system. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman did not intend that the areas for local government should hereafter be equal in size or in population. For political purpose no doubt areas of the same uniform size were desirable, but for administration local circumstances differ so much, and there is so much diversity in the local wants, that variety rather than uniformity should be sought. He could, if time permitted, have given illustrations in support of his view, but he thought that it was right in the course of a discussion like this to be as brief as possible, and merely to indicate a few leading ideas which had occurred to his mind.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
said, he desired to put one question to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and that was whether there would be any proposals in the Bill affecting the present government of parishes? Whether the power now possessed by Vestries would be altered by the Bill, and whether any powers at present existing or any other powers within the parishes would be given by the clauses of the Bill to the new District Councils?
§ MR. JASPER MORE (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said, he wished to ask if the right hon. Gentleman intended to extend 1693 the disturnpiked roads grant to those roads disturnpiked since 1870? He wished, too, that the right hon. Gentleman would kindly state what was to be the position of those small boroughs which he alluded to—namely, those with a population under 3,000 which still had a mayor and corporation of their own? He desired also to ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he would consider whether he could cause a plan to be prepared showing the amount of the revenue derivable from the licences which would fall to the lot of the several county districts?
§ MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
said, he agreed that it was somewhat inconsiderate to further ply the right hon. Gentleman with questions, although there were one or two points upon which he would like further information. He could not refrain from congratulating the right hon. Gentleman and the Government upon the measure they had introduced, and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman of the approval which would be felt all over the country of the mode of relief he had suggested with regard to the payment of capitation grant for indoor poor. The proposals of the Government in that respect would not only be received with great satisfaction by all Poor Law Guardians, but would add very considerably to the economical carrying out of the Poor Law. The right hon. Gentleman dealt in his speech with the subject of the constitution of the proposed County Boards. He (Mr. Llewellyn) knew that the minds of a great number of people for a considerable time had been exercised as to what part the Justices of the Peace in counties were to play, and he was heartily glad the right hon. Gentleman had tackled the matter in the way he had. He had no doubt certain magistrates would feel somewhat disappointed and perhaps concerned that they were not to be members of the Board by virtue of their position, but the majority of the people in the country would be thoroughly satisfied with the way these Boards were to be constituted—namely, to be purely elective. He did not think any magistrates who took interest in county matters need feel at all that their services would no longer be required. Where magistrates took to the work, and stuck to the work, and were fit for 1694 the work of Boards of Guardians and similar bodies, they would find that on account of their leisure and of their fitness plenty of employment would be put in their way. His own idea was that not only on the District Boards but on the County Councils the magistrates who hitherto had taken an active part in the administration of the Poor Law and in county matters would find plenty of work, and that their services would be appreciated and sought.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, he was very unwilling to trouble the right hon. Gentleman with an additional question, but there was one point which he had altogether omitted to notice. It was commonly thought that the County Council was to be charged with the great question of elementary education. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to deal with that subject. If he would state at once what it was proposed to do, it would be very interesting to those who were engaged in the question.
§ MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)
said, he wished to thoroughly understand what was the authority which would regulate the matter of Sunday Closing in ordinary large boroughs which were not Quarter Sessions boroughs—whether the existing borough magistrates would settle the matter, or whether the authority would be the County Justices in the settlement of the question of Sunday closing?
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, that he explained to the House that the whole question of dealing with licensing and the sale of intoxicating liquors would be entrusted to the County Council. His hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. J. G. Talbot) asked him a question respecting education. He was sorry if he had omitted to state what was to be done in that respect. He had intended to state that it was not proposed to deal with the question in this Bill. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Channing) had questioned him with regard to parishes. That was one of the matters with which the Government would have been glad to deal had they had time, but they did not think they could deal in this Bill with the many questions arising in connection with parishes. Their size varied so much that no measure dealing with parishes could have dealt with them in a satisfactory manner unless there was 1695 some means by which amalgamations could have been brought about. The County Councils, he hoped, would consider matters of that kind for themselves, and suggest in many cases alterations of the law which might be readily made. The hon. Member for the Ludlow Division of Shropshire (Mr. Jasper More) asked whether they proposed to extend the grant for main roads. No; they proposed to leave the question exactly as it stood now, and so far as this and many other matters were concerned he might say they did not propose to alter the existing law. Their main object was to create new authorities and to transfer to them the administration of the existing law. If they had begun to amend the various laws connected with local management in this Bill, they would have made it such a Bill as it would have been totally impracticable to pass in a Session. His hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) asked what they proposed to do with the Improvement Commissioners? He did not think it necessary to allude to Improvement Act areas as well as Local Board areas, but, of course, what he said with reference to Local Board areas applied also to Improvement Act areas. They would become District Councils elected in precisely the same way as all other District Councils and the Improvement Commissioners would disappear. His hon. Friend also asked whether the areas for Local Government were to be equal in population. As far as possible they did not propose to make any alteration whatever in the areas of local districts.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) was to be congratulated upon the admirable manner in which he had introduced his measure to the House. He could not help, however, expressing his regret that they had not heard from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), or from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, some words about the simultaneity in the laws relating to England and Ireland. The Government were to be congratulated upon the measure, speaking, of course, as it were upon the first blush. In his opinion, the measure showed a considerable amount of ex- 1696 pansion upon the part of the Government, and he did not think he would be accused of ill-feeling when he said that he and his Friends expected that some reference would have been made to Ireland. There was no Government more charged with the duty of extending Local Government in Ireland than the Unionist or Conservative Government. The Irish Members had expected, as compensation for the rejection of the measures in which they were specially interested, that the Government would drop some word of comfort to them on the great subject of Local Government, because they had been told over and over again that while the Government were opposed to setting up a separate Parliament in Dublin, they felt that something was necessary to be done to extend the same principles of Local Government which existed in England to Ireland. Speaking for himself, he should have been very glad if the head of the Irish Office had seen his way to introduce for Ireland a measure as promising—he did not say it was sufficient—as the measure the right hon. Gentleman had introduced for England and Wales. He admired the facility of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board for dealing with the particular questions of areas, boundaries, and matters of that kind, and he could not help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman could have projected his mind into the question as regarded Ireland he would have found there was not a single difficulty in his way. In extending this measure almost as it stood to Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman would have found no difficulty as regarded areas or boundaries. If any person acquainted with the subject were given two or three hours he could easily have made this Bill applicable to Ireland, and therefore he (Mr. T. M. Healy) greatly regretted that the Government had not seen fit to introduce a Bill for Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), speaking some time ago upon Local Government, spoke of the great advantage which would be gained by his dealing with the question as regarded England; but he (Mr. T. M. Healy) did not think there was any principle—of course, there were some omissions in the Bill which out to be inserted if it were applied to Ireland—which they 1697 would not have gladly seen extended to Ireland. He had, however, one complaint to make from a financial point of view. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) would soon have an opportunity of stating his financial proposals, and, of course, he did not expect the right hon. Gentleman to state now exactly what he proposed to do; but they had seen reliefs extended to the local taxpayers of England and Wales, especially in regard to disturnpiked roads, while nothing of the kind had been done in the case of Ireland. He was sure he could appeal with confidence to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this point, as being a point entirely outside the domain of Irish politics. If they were to be denied for 12 months or two years, or Heaven knew how long, the benefits of local self-government, he trusted that at some period of this discussion the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to inform them what was the measure of financial relief the Irish people were about to have extended to them under his scheme. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on finance had no politics, and he asked him and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) to bear in mind the important fact that the people of Ireland desired the relief to be in aid of the county cess instead of the poor rate. He did not know how it was proposed to deal with the question of the poor rate in this country, but he presumed that the relief afforded would be relief to the occupier. But, be that as it might, the disparity between England and Ireland on this important point was so great that the 4d. it was proposed to grant by way of relief to the occupiers in this country would in Ireland suffice for the maintenance of all the paupers. But it was proposed to relieve the local taxpayers of England in respect to a whole series of burdens. Where was the relief of a similar kind for Ireland? He was sure he should not be asking too much if he asked the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to anticipate in some slight degree the Statement he must make in the course of two or three days by saying where was the equivalent relief they in Ireland were to get. He congratulated the right hon. 1698 Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board upon the breadth of his scheme, and also on having included the women householders. He knew that in this country women suffrage was supposed to be a Tory proposal; but in Ireland they would be very glad to have women voters. It was, unfortunately, the fact that women householders in Ireland had increased to a large extent by reason of the fact that the landlord party, instead of recognizing the eldest son as the tenant in case of the father's decease, had recognized the widow. In that way Ireland had been denied much masculine franchise, and, there being no feminine franchise to take its place, real occupiers had been denied altogether the right of a vote. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board seemed a courageous scheme, and entitled to a large measure of success. It seemed to him that the Government had introduced it as a House of Common's scheme rather than as a Party scheme, and that they were disposed, if they were beaten by their own Party, to rely upon the good sense of the House of Commons at large. While, of course, he did not bind himself in the least degree, he was bound to say that if there were Gentlemen upon the Government side of the House who were not prepared to support the right hon. Gentleman in his proposals upon what might be called the licensed victuallers' taxation portion of the scheme, the right hon. Gentleman might rely upon a large amount of general support. Indeed, he believed that the President of the Local Government Board would find himself supported upon the main principles of his Bill by the general sense of the House as a whole. In Ireland they took considerable interest in the question of licensing. The Nationalist Party had been attacked as being more or less the publicans' party, but there was no man less of a publican party man than he was. At the same time, he confessed that he was not, as at present advised, in favour of extinguishing a publican's licence, unless upon grounds of fault on the part of the publican himself, without giving compensation, although it was for the State to say whether higher licence duties, having necessarily a restricting effect, should not be imposed. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local 1699 Government Board would probably find considerable diversity of opinion upon this particular subject; but as far as they in Ireland were concerned—and they had been charged with being the publicans' champions—he would be glad if the licensing proposals were extended to Ireland. He thought the Government inclined to act reasonably on the whole question, and he trusted that when they came to deal with Ireland they would be animated with the same spirit.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot discuss in any detail the circumstances of Ireland.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, that perhaps he might be allowed to say, in conclusion, that the Irish Members did expect some statement from the Government with regard to the question of finance at least.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
said, he would not follow the hon. and learned Member over what he might call the broader part of his speech, but confine his remarks to the question of finance. The Government were duly sensible of the importance of the question of finance. It was impossible for his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie), considering the enormous range of subjects he had to deal with in his speech, to deal also with the question of Irish and Scotch finance in relation to the new distribution of Imperial and local taxation. He (Mr. Goschen) could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman and his Friends that he had given the greatest possible attention to the question as to how Scotland and Ireland could be treated simultaneously with England as regarded the question of finance. The hon. and learned Gentleman would not expect him to anticipate the Statement he would have to make on Monday next; but he might now tell the hon. and learned Gentleman he (Mr. Goschen) started from this basis—" No change in the contributions made to English local finance, and no variation in the system of levying taxation, shall bear prejudicially either upon Scotland or upon Ireland." He maintained that Scotland and Ireland should derive the same benefits as were conferred by this measure upon the English. As to the mode by which 1700 that might be accomplished, he trusted the hon. and learned Gentleman would not expect him to speak. He only spoke generally. Full financial justice should be done, so far as the Government could possibly do it, to all parts of the Empire.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer illustrated very strongly indeed the inconvenience of the course adopted by the Government. They could not give Ireland any terms in regard to local finance which would at all equal the terms given to England, because of the manner in which local finance was administered in Ireland. The administration of local finance in Ireland would simply result in corruption, jobbery, and waste. He could not understand how satisfactory relief was to be given to local finance in Ireland as long as the administration of local finance in that country remained in the hands of the present authorities. That being so, he thought the probability was that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when coming to deal with this matter, would find that he had to face a very considerable and difficult problem. He thought it right to point out that it was the custom for a Minister of the Crown, in introducing any great or wide measure of reform dealing with England and Wales alone, to state to the House in the opening portion of his statement the grounds on which the Government confined the measure to England and Wales, and did not extend it to Scotland or Ireland. If that had been so in the past, it seemed to him that the reason for the continuance of the custom by the present Unionist Government was tenfold stronger, because what was it they were told was the object of the present Government? They were told over and over again that the object of the Government was to sink as rapidly as they could all distinction between the Three Kingdoms, and to treat England, Ireland, and Scotland, as one and the same United Kingdom. That was matter of common statement on public platforms, and it was considered a strange thing that a Minister, so far from advancing in that direction, should distinctly depart from the custom by introducing a great measure like this, con- 1701 fining its operation to England and Wales, and omitting to make the smallest reference to Ireland, and omitting to say on what grounds Ireland was excluded from the operation of the Bill. He had not the slightest intention to enter into this question in detail. An opportunity undoubtedly would arise hereafter on which the whole of this great and vast question could be discussed at great length. At the same time, he thought it would be unreasonable to expect that this opportunity should be allowed to pass without a word or two being said upon the Bill. What was it that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board said? He said that one of the remarkable features with regard to this great measure of reform was that there existed in England no great or pressing demand for the measure at all, and he said that it was a very sound Constitutional principle to bring in a measure of reform before the public demand for it became very pressing or urgent, in order that they might secure for the measure that amount of calm consideration which the Bill deserved. That was a very good principle undoubtedly, but it was one which had not been generally acted upon by the Tory Party in the past. Did the right hon. Gentleman think how that statement was likely to be viewed by Irishmen? The statement was viewed by them as an argument of unanswerable force that the Irish Bill should be introduced first.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must remind the hon. Member that his observations are entirely irrelevant to the subject of the introduction of an English Bill. As the hon. Gentleman has himself pointed out, he will have an opportunity of discussing this question at another time. He is quite out of Order, upon the introduction of a Bill relating to England and Wales, to make such constant reference to Ireland.
§ MR. DILLON
asked if he would be in Order in referring to the question why Ireland should be excluded from the Bill?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG) (Wilts, Devizes)
Early next week.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
said, he would like to know on what day it was proposed to take the second reading?
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he rose in no spirit of opposition to the Bill, for he admired a great part of its construction. He thought, however, it was desirable that full time should be given for the consideration of the Bill, not only by hon. Members of the House, but by the country at large. He believed that if full time could be given now, it would prove, on the whole, an economy of time. He did not think—judging from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, and judging from the nature of the Bill itself—that there was any intention to smuggle the Bill through the House. If it went through the House it must go through on its merits, and it would require all the support it could get. For all these reasons he hoped that ample and sufficient opportunity would be given for the consideration of the Bill by the country.
§ BARON DIMSDALE (Herts, Hitchin)
said, he thought it was very desirable that the Bill should be thoroughly discussed at Quarter Sessions. Nobody would be so much affected by the Bill as Quarter Sessions, and therefore it was very important that they should have an opportunity of considering the Bill in all its bearings. The next Quarter Sessions took place in Easter week, and therefore he trusted that the second reading would not be taken until after the Easter Recess.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Ritchie, Mr. William Henry Smith, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Matthews, and Mr. Long.
§ Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 182.]