§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
As the hon. and learned Member for Stockton (Sir H. Davey), and other Members, intended to oppose this Bill, and waited in the House a considerable time with that object, I think I must appeal to the sense of fairness of the House by moving, Sir, that you report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Stephens.)
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
I would appeal to my hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion. This is a Bill which, perhaps under a different form, has been before the House for a very long time, and although the hon. Gentleman may have some objections to the measure on matters of detail, I cannot think he can wish that the law should remain as at present in such a state that persons living in vans should go about 264 from one end of the country to the other without supervision either as to sanitary matters or education. This Bill, without inflicting any hardship on any class of the community, will provide for the sanitary regulation and education of these people. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persist in his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question proposed, "That Clause I stand part of the Bill."
§ MR. STEPHENS
I am strongly opposed to this Bill and as I think this clause in particular is entirely unworkable and most cruelly oppressive, I propose to vote against it. The authority under the clause is the County Council, and, as the House is aware, the County Councils are new bodies, and they already have duties more onerous and extensive than they are able to discharge. This is sufficiently proved by the fact that only a short time ago a Bill introduced into this House to transfer a great number of duties of various kinds to the County Councils was deprecated by the County Councils, or at any rate by some of them, and I was deputed, on the part of the County Council of Middlesex, to ask that the time for placing those duties on the County Council should be deferred. When you come to look into this Bill the extraordinary unworkable character of it is at once apparent. The County Councils in most counties meet at rare intervals. The County Council of Wiltshire, for instance, meets only about four times a year. This means that the administration of this Act will be practically transferred to an official, and that official cannot be under any effective control. There is no need to point out the very great risk of corruption which might ensue. How is the registration to be carried out? Is the van to be taken to the inspection, or is the inspector to go to the van? I presume that the van will have to travel to the office of the inspector. In many counties there will be a journey of some 40 or 50 miles to the office of the County Council, and if you take a van which is always horsed in such a manner as to travel only a few miles a 265 day an immense journey like that, the obligation of undergoing inspection will be of an intolerably oppressive character. The section includes tents, and I am told that, under its provisions, it would really not be safe in this warm weather for a man to sleep in his own garden under a large umbrella because of the way in which this clause is drawn. It is certain that those who camp out up the river will have to get their tents registered, and will have to take it to the District Authority for the purpose of registration. The whole thing is most vexatious and full of interference without any good purpose. It puts everybody under a kind of ticket-of-leave. For what advantage, I ask, are so much irritation and annoyance to be created together with such a desire to evade the law?
§ MR. CHANNING
rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but the Chairman withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. STEPHENS
As far as the main purpose of the Bill is concerned, of course it is to regulate the poor people who go about the country in these travelling vans, carrying goods from village to village, and often visiting places which are inaccessible by any other means of supply. It would be impossible for the van people to maintain themselves under the provisions of this Bill, and, I think, that if it is the intention that these persons should be in their present mode of life completely suppressed, that object should be carried out more frankly than is the case under this Bill. In many of these villages there is but one shop, and that rules the whole situation.
§ * MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
As the clause is now worded the owners of moveable dwellings have to apply to the County Council. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend how applications are to be made to the County Council when it is not sitting?
§ MR. RITCHIE
Really my hon. Friend must not hold me responsible, for all the details of this Bill. I imagine that the County Council for the purposes of the Act will appoint proper officers who will perform the duties under their supervision.
§ MR. T. C. BARING (London)
In the place in which I live, on the borders of Middlesex and Hertford, there are a great many of these vans which habitually travel to the villages.
It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.