§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Amendment, as amended [19th February] proposed to the Question, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, &c.—[See page 128].
And which Amendment, as amended, was—
At the end of paragraph 11, after the word "Scotland," to insert the words—" But we humbly submit to Your Majesty that the present mode of legislating for the domestic affairs of Scotland is unsatisfactory; that measures affecting the welfare of the Scottish people are not considered, in consequence of the pressure of business of the other portions of the United Kingdom; that when Bills relating to Scotland alone are being dealt with, the decision of the often contrary to the wishes of the great House is majority of the Scottish representatives; and that it is desirable, while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to devolve upon."—(Dr. Clark.)
And the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, as amended, was,
After the word "upon" to add the words "the Members of Parliament for Scotland, sitting in Scotland, the consideration of the domestic affairs of that Country, or to adopt some other means whereby Scottish affairs shall be entrusted to the control of the representatives of the Scottish people."—(Mr. Donald Crawford.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ Debate resumed.
§ (4.33.) MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
I move that the Amendment to the Amendment to the Address be amended by adding the words "at such 761 time, and under such conditions as may be desired by the Scottish people."I d sire not, Sir, to trouble the House on this question. I hope that when my Friend the hon. Member for North East Lanarkshire has heard my explanation he may be induced to adopt the Amendment without further discussion.
§ (4.35.) Amendment made to the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, as amended, by adding, at the end thereof, the words "at such time and under such conditions as may be desired by the Scottish people."
§ (4.36.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith, Strand, Westminster)
I wish at this point to say a few words as to the course which I venture to recommend the House to adopt with reference to this Amendment. We have now before us fragments of the Amendments proposad by the hon. Members for Caithness and North-East Lanarkshire, and it appears to me it would be for the convenience of the House if, without further discussing the principles involved in the Amendments, words were introduced so as to make sense of what is left of them, and that then the House should express its opinion on the Amendment as a whole. If that is done the voting will be perfectly intelligible.
Words, as amended, added to the proposed Amendment, as amended.
That the words 'But we humbly submit to Your Majesty that the present mode of legislating for the domestic affairs of Scotland is unsatisfactory; that measures affecting the welfare of the Scottish people are not considered, in consequence of the pressure of business of the other portions of the United Kingdom; that when Bills relating to Scotland alone are being dealt with, the decision of the House is often contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the Scottish representatives, and that it is desirable, while retaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to devolve upon the Members of Parliament for Scotland, sitting in Scotland, the consideration of the domestic affair B of that Country, or to adopt some other means whereby Scotland affairs shall be entrusted to the control of the representatives of the Scottish people, at such time and under such conditions as may be desired by the Scottish people' be inserted in the Address after the word 'Scotland' at the end of paragraph 11.
§ (4.41.) MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries)
I rise to a point of order, Sir. Is it not a fact that you are putting words involving a proposition which has already been negatived by the House on a Division?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House yesterday omitted certain words: the question now is whether other words shall be substituted, and I am now putting all the Amendments in their collective form.
§ (4.42.) The House divided:—Ayes 141; Noes 181.—(Div. List, No.[...].)
§ (4.53.) Main Question again proposed
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice, which was, in paragraph 12, to add the words "And we humbly submit to Your Majesty that the said Bill should apply to all Tithes and Tithe Rent-Charges, whether they be the property of any ecclesiastical or other person or Corporation."
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member cannot move the Amendment which stands in his name because it raises a discussion on a Bill of which notice has already been given by the Government.
§ (4.55.) MR. GEDGE
I am obliged to you, Sir, for having pointed out the fact, but I presume that I am in order in discussing this particular paragraph of the Address, without moving an Amendment or alluding to the Bill, which is the subject of it. I hope the House will believe I should not, as a warm, supporter of the Government, take up its time or move an Amendment to the Address, if it were not on a matter which seems to me to be of paramount importance. Now this paragraph runs—We thank your Majesty for the information that a Bill for improving the procedure by which Tithe is now levied, and for facilitating its redemption, will be laid before us.First, I desire to take exception to the terms of the paragraph, for it speaks of levying tithe—a term never before applied to that class of property—asthough it were a charge of the same nature as rates and taxes We no more levy tithe than we levy any other rent. That word "levying" first raised my suspicions, but those suspicions were increased and strengthened by the manner in which the leader of the House referred to the matter last Wednesday. On that 763 day the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian said—With respect to tithe, I feel that it is tender ground, but I venture to say one thing, and one thing only, upon it. I hold that we should carefully sever in our own minds those questions which relate to the present appropriation of tithe from those questions which relate to the tithe itself.I am entirely at one with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. But he went on to say—The tithe itself is a property which ought to be respected and preserved with due regard to the rights and position of all those who are concerned in the administration and the use of it—I think it ought to receive that consideration and respect from those who hold it, as I for one do, to be national property; and in giving it that consideration we must take care that in our disputes about modes and circumstances we do not allow it to be frittered away.There, again, I cannot make any objection to the statement that we ought not to allow tithes to be frittered away because of any disputes as to the future application or apportionment of them. It does not surprise me that the right hon. Gentleman calls them national property, although I believe it is the first time he has made such a declaration publicly, and that such a declaration is opposed to his previous statements and acts. But we on this side of the House are not responsible for what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Lothian, who makes many statements in which we cannot concur. If the matter had rested there I should not have taken part in this discussion. But the leader of the House, in his reply to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian spoke as follows:—The right hon. Gentleman referred in terms which I desire to echo to the question of tithe. He said that tithe ought to be respected and preserved as national property. I also echo that sentiment, and it will be the effort of Her Majesty's Government to present a measare to that effect. While I regard tithe as national property, I do not regard it as fitting that the owner or occupier of the land should appropriate it to himself, and whatever our difficulties may be as to the application of the fund, it is our duty, and the duty of the House of Commons, to take measures that the fund itself shall remain intact.Now, as to some of these opinions, I make no hostile criticism. But 'my right hon. Friend emphasised the statement that tithes are national property, and I hope 'I shall be able to elicit 764 from him an explanation of that statement. It certainly is the first time he or any other Conservative leader has made such a statement. I think I shall be able to show to him that, as a matter of fact, tithes are not national property. My authorities for this are Blackstone and Freeman, and Lord Selborne—who certainly is not a Conservative and who was Lord Chancellor in a former Liberal Government. If you consult any of these authorities, and especially Lord Selborne's last work, Ancient Facts and Fictions, you will find it is modern fiction—it certainly is not an ancient fact—that tithe rent charges are national property. You will also find it proved to demonstration by the learned Nobleman that tithes were given by individuals to different parishes and to different Ecclesiastical Corporations long before Parliament existed, and although Parliament has of course the power to regulate tithes, as it regulates the use of all other property, as it seems fit, yet tithe stands precisely in the same position with regard to ownership as any other property. I will take another witness—Professor Freeman—who shows that while the State has absolute right and power to deal with any property for the benefit of the nation—just as it has a right to deal with our lives—it has no more right to act in this way with regard to tithes than it has with regard to any other property held in trust or belonging to individuals. My right hon. Friend's observation has been made a text by the newspapers which represent the views of the "National Liberation Society," and unless my right hon. Friend can say that h is observation has been misunderstood, or unless he retracts it, I fear that a heavier blow has been struck at the property of the Church by my right hon. Friend than it has received for a very long time. I am not at all surprised to find that these remarks are cheered by the opposite side. If they were cheering me I should regret it, because I never wish to make a speech which will draw forth applause from my opponents. I regret to make these observations, and I should not do so if I did not consider the interests of the Church of England—I would rather say the interests of Christianity—in this country are far paramount to any other interests we have in this House. It is quite clear that if the tithes are national property the State is now using: that national 765 property in paying the clergy. The highest authorities tell us that the clergy are not State paid. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) lately wrote a letter, which has been quoted publicly and never withdrawn, to the following effect—" Mr. Gladstone, in reply to your letter, desires me to inform you that the clergy of the Church of England are not State paid." Lord Granville's Secretary recently wrote—" I am desired by Lord Granville to state that tithes existed in England before Acts of Parliament," and he refers his correspondent to an article on the origin of tithes in Blaekstone's Commentaries and other text books. The Commentaries lay down that the tithes are not national property. Tithes can be divided into three classes: First, there are tithes which belong to the parishes to which they were originally given for the support of the clergy. Next there are tithes on which the State forcibly laid hands, and which were given by Henry VIII. to private individuals. These tithes are, I believe, largely enjoyed by some Gentlemen opposite, who would like to take from the clergy the tithes they receive for doing their duty, but who, at the same time, desire to keep their own tithes though they do nothing m return. There is a third class of tithe, namely, the tithe which, having been taken away from its original destination by Henry VIII. and given to his favourites, has been purchased back within the last few years and handed over to the clergyman of the parish for which it was originally intended. A society exists for the purpose of buying or redeeming these tithes. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) has been for many years a member of that society. Until two years ago he was a trustee, and that society, with his authority, has been asking people to give money for the purpose of buying up tithes taken away four centuries ago, and handing them back to the parishes. Is it possible the right hon. Gentleman would have been a trustee of this society if he had been of opinion that when the tithes were handed back they would not belong to the Church but to the nation, which would then do what it liked with them? If so, I do not think there would be a clearer 766 case of obtaining money under false pretences. I think I may, therefore, fairly argue that as long as the right hon. Gentleman was a trustee of that society he did not consider the tithes national property, for if he did he perpetrated a fraud on all those who were induced by seeing his name among the trustees to contribute to its funds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) who is not a very Conservative politician has said that, in his opinion, when tithes have been legally alienated to private uses they acquire more the character of personal than of public estates. Are we to suppose that property which is no longer national, but is personal, becomes national again because it is brought back and restored to the use for which it was originally granted. I cannot believe that my right hon. friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) intended to imply that, and therefore I hope I am doing a kindness to him, and I am sure I am doing a kindness to the Christian Church in England, when I ask him to take this opportunity of explaining his remarks to the satisfaction not only of his supporters in this House but of the Church of England at large.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman cannot speak again, as he has already spoken on the main question, except with the indulgence of the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I intended. Sir, to throw myself on the indulgence of the House, as I am aware I have no right to speak again, having taken part in the debate on the Address. I am really surprised that my hon. Friend should have thought it necessary to call into question the words I used and to insist on an interpretation of them which certainly never occurred to me as being possible. I referred to the tithes as national property in contradistinction to tithes as private property. I look upon tithes as appropriated to the discharge of duties which are of the highest importance to the nation itself, namely the duties of the clergy of the Established Church, which is a National Church. If it is necessary to go into every minute particular in explanation of every phrase used in the course of debate, I am afraid 767 our discussions will be very much lengthened. But, Sir, I am sure the House and the country quite understood the distinctions I drew between national and private uses. I referred to tithe as being appropriated for ecclesiastical purposes to the clergy, whose duty it is to discharge certain functions of the highest value and importance to Members of the National Church, and as being in that sense national property. The House would hardly permit me to refer to the other portions of my hon. Friend's speech, and I only regret that my hon. Friend has attached so much importance to what I said.
§ (5.9.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I do not propose at present to move the Amendment which stands in my name. I hope I may have another opportunity.
§ (5.10.) MR. STANSFELD (Hafax)
The Amendment I have the honour to move runs in these words—And we humbly express onr regret to you Majesty that the Local Government Legislation of 1888 and 1889 is still left defective, and that no intention is announced either of proceeding during the present Session to the constitution of District and Parochial Councils in Great Britain, or of carrying further, in the Metropolis and elsewhere, the organisation and powers of Local Government.The proposition contained in this Amendment is a large one, but it is a distributive one. I have cited a number of cases in which local government has been left defective, and the effect of my Amendment is to express my regret that we have no distinct promise or any reasonable expectation of legislative proposals on the part of the Government with regard to any one of these various subjects. I do not suggest that Her Majesty's Government are to undertake to legislate this Session on all the subjects I have mentioned, but there is considerable reason why they should at least make some attempt in one or more of these directions. It is one of the misfortunes of our time that there are many urgent subjects which it is impossible for Parliament to dispose of immediately. But there is no reason why we should not make what attempts under present conditions are possible to do something at any rate to redaem the obligations which rest upon the House. Yesterday week the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) in answer to a question put by my right 768 hon. Friend, the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) gave us to understand that District Council Bills for England and Scotland were already drafted and that he saw no reason why such measures which were of a non-political character should not be introduced and passed during the present Session. I will only say with regard to the invitation then made by the right hon. Gentleman that he has every reason to expect assistance from us on this subject. He passed a Local Government Act last year largely with our assistance, and if he had had our opposition rather than our assistance the fate of that measure would have been very different indeed. I am quite sure that if another measure carrying further the same reform were now introduced, it would be treated fairly. We should have to reserve our rights as to points and bonâ fide differences, but I do not think the measure would receive anything but fair treatment on the part of the Members of the Liberal Party. I hope that before this debate closes we may hear something from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board on the subject of the District Councils Bill, which I understand has been prepared. We propose in the Amendment to express our regret that the Local Government legislation of 1888 and 1889 has been left defective. As the right hon. Gentleman knows County Councils or Boards are not county government, although they are good in themselves. They are only a part of county government; they are, so to speak, the superstructure, the crown of the arch which has been reared and at present left without any sub-structure to support it. When the Local Government Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was introduced, objections were urged against the principle of the measure—not from this side of the House, but from the right hon. Gentleman's own side—doubts being entertained as to the expediency of placing the administrative duties hitherto performed by selected bodies in the hands of bodies elected on a broad and popular franchise. It was pointed out, however, that if men of leisure and intelligence, who had hitherto formed the County Authorities, would take their places as representatives of the people in the 769 County Councils instead of nominees of the Crown, they would gain, and not lose, in influence in their respective localities. By this time those gentlemen must be satisfied of the truth of that view, which I shared with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board himself. I want to say with regard to County Government reform, that it means more than County Councils; it means, first of all, simplification of areas within the county, and this is not pedantry. This conception is based upon a practical knowledge of the difficulties of local administration and government with inlerlacing areas and crossing boundaries in the various counties and districts. As a matter of fact we have begun our simplification of Local Authorities at the top instead of the bottom of the structure. We should have begun with the unit of local administration and built upon that unit. In my opinion the unit from which we should have started is the parish. It is true that a parish is a variable quantity; some are too large and some are too small, but those that are too large should be divided, and those that are too small should be grouped together. What we should not do is to form the unit out of a congeries of portions of parishes, or the result will be great confusion with regard to boundaries and interlacing areas. All this is quite clear to those who have been in the habit of studying the question. When you pass from the unit of the future you will necessarily come to intermediate districts before you come to the county at large, and the principle of simplicity, not only for the eye upon the map, but for the knowledge of the working of public affairs, is that these districts should always consist of groups of the unit—and that in the constitution of a district of that kind no unit of local government should suffer division. At present you have a multiplicity of Local Authorities for sanitary, highway, Poor Law, and other purposes, exercising jurisdiction over districts that are not coterminous and that interlace each other. As far as practicable it is desirable that all these areas and authorities should be brought into line and placed on the same popular basis. I do not go so far as to say that all the Local Authorities should be united; as, for instance, it might be advisable that the functions of School Boards 770 should not be taken over by the ordinary Local Authorities. But in our view Parochial Councils and parochial organisation are of all things the most absolutely essential for the development of local government. For a great deal that I have been saying I can claim the support of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board. On March 19, 1888, in bringing in the Local Government Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said—It would be impossible for us to set up a new body for the management of the affairs of counties without extending our plan to the other bodies having control of local affairs within the areas, or to shut our eyes to the number of Local Authorities that now exist.With regard to the boundaries of areas, the right hon. Gentleman promised that the Reports of Boundary Commissioners should be considered with a view to bringing the boundaries into line, but he has now announced that the consideration of the Reports is postponed. On that decision I express no opinion, but I invite the right hon. Gentleman to explain his motives in arriving at it. The right hon. Gentleman further said— I think on the same occasion—that the Bill divided countiesInto Urban and Rural Sanitary Districts, and as it is obviously impossible that we should have a County Council elected on one franchise and a District Board on a more restricted franchise, we propose that the Local Board Districts should be elected on the same principle as Municipal Boards, and the same with Rural Sanitary Districts.If the House has been good enough to follow me it will have seen that the utterances of the right hon. Gentleman show that Her Majesty's Government are quite in accord with the views I have now put forward, except as to the parish being made the unit of area, and on that point there is some divergence of opinion. But let me deal with the parish. I have already given one reason why it should be organised. There is some public work for which the parish of the future is the fitting area, and it ought to be organised with a view to that work. But I am bound to say that our ideas and wishes go further than this. We want to bring local government home to the doors of the people. It is not simply that we think that the public work of the 771 parish needs organisation, but we desire that the organisation should reach the small men of the village and the labourers, in order that they may begin to have a training in public affairs on a small scale. They have a vote for the election of Members of Parliament, of County Councillors, and they certainly would have a vote for the District Councils. Is it not the best training, and a necessary training, that they should have something to do in the small area of their parish? The small country shopkeeper knows nothing about Local Government, except that once in three years he is called upon to vote for one candidate or another; he needs to be trained to take some part in local government, and in the smaller affairs of the parish. I venture to think that principle of local government is essentially of a Conservative character, and is acknowledged by all persons who have made themselves familiar with the subject. I believe that this concession would result, in most useful training, and in developing the public spirit and independence of the population of our counties. When the Local Government Bill was going through the House, I put some clauses on the Table which were not extravagant, dangerous, or large in character, but the right hon. Gentleman would not be persuaded to accept them. He was inflexible, but I must say that while he was inflexible he clearly put it on the ground that there was not time; he did not put it on any other ground. Before the debate closed we had the advantage of obtaining some admissions from the right hon. Gentleman. The first was this. On the 3rd of May the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the Government thought it desirable that at some future period all these questions of the parish, and oven the question of taking in the whole Poor Law system, as well as sanitary matters, should be administered by one Local Authority. That is a very remarkable admission of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman indicated that, sooner or later, when he had got the area fixed for the District Board, the functions of local government should be concentrated on the Board. At the end of the debate, in answer to the hon. Member for Rugby, the First Lord of the 772 Treasury said the Government recognised fully the desirability, even the necessity, of doing much for the improvement of the parish vestry, and of giving to it the strength and power that it once possessed. I have another admission which refers to district councils. The House will remember that the clauses relating to district councils in the original Bill were withdrawn. It would have been in our power to have discussed those clauses, and to have moved Amendments upon them, but we agreed to withdraw the Amendments in order that the clauses themselves might be withdrawn. On their withdrawal my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), spoke of them as a material part of the Local Government scheme, and trusted that it would be regarded as a paramount obligation that this part of the subject should be dealt with in the next Session. That Session, Sir, was concluded some months ago. The Member for Rugby (Mr. H. P. Cobb) said he understood the First Lord would bring in a Bill next Session in lieu of those clauses. The First Lord replied—Certainly, that was so, and he did not know what had occurred to give rise to any suspicion to the contrary. It was thus that the clauses were withdrawn without opposition. Now we know that a promise was made in the Queen's Speech, and that it was the intention last Session to fulfil the obligation. It was not fulfilled, and an obligation postponed becomes stronger and not weaker by the fact of postponement, and from that I do think that there is a considerable obligation on the part of Her Majesty's Government to proceed with this question. I now pass to a part of the Amendment which deals with the Metropolis. The Government has no proposal for carrying out the further organisation of London, or increasing its municipal powers. My case here is obviously not based so much upon any specific obligation on the part of the Government as upon the extreme urgency of this enormously complicated question. The utter want of any cohesive organisation in London is a great mischief, and a possible danger to the good government and safety of the Metropolis. Awakening London, for there are signs of a somewhat rough awakening, to employ again, a 773 phrase which is not original, however, "wants home rule;" it wants to be organised; it wants to set to work the ordinary powers of municipalities, so that it may know how to exercise those powers. You cannot organise London as a whole, but that you must have some organisation is a necessity: you must have District Councils. And here the very same rules and principles apply as apply in the case of the rest of the country. The district must be self contained. The great want of London from the point of view of Parliamentary representation is want of local individuality. As far as my own view goes, I think the functions of local government in London cannot all be concentrated in one Public Body in the future "Districts" of the Metropolis, but in London, as in the country, there should be no crossing of areas, there should be no Poor Law area sitting astride the vestry area or the Parliamentary areas. The only way to make every Parliamentary borough in London an area of municipal life is to organise the whole body of opinion, and to accustom the inhabitants to live together, and to have a common collective opinion—that is, the opinion of the majority of the people, on all subjects of local government and of representation. I will take such arrangements as are essential for the safety and organisation of a democratic town: I consider that nothing is more urgent than that there should be a new and complete organisation of the municipal life of London, such as exists in provincial towns and municipalities. Why, at this moment the whole of London has far less Parliamentary powers than many a petty borough. There is for that no excuse capable of presentation in argument except this—that we have not had time. That is another illustration of the way in which we are worked and overdriven, so that we cannot organise our local government. However, it is not to be supposed that London is content, or will rest content, with such treatment. Men are discontented, and will remain discontented, and they very naturally and rightly feel that, at the least, they ought to be put in a position to deal with their water and gas supplies. And in our view also, certainly in my view, they ought to be put in a position to control the police, a 774 power which belongs to many sister boroughs in the country. That is a question which gives rise to a difference of opinion. I put this simply by way of illustration, and I am not inviting him by my Amendment or trying to compel him to say "aye" or "no." My proposition really amounts to this: That we regret that no attempt is being made to deal with any one of these important matters in the course of the present Session. How long is the great Council of London to be deprived of the power and opportunity of dealing with this great problem of the dangerous poverty of the richest city in the world? We have been content for generations to live amid a huge population unorganised and hardly controlled, and circumstances might easily arise in which a population so unorganised might become a danger, not only to the Metropolis, but also to the State. No one can dispute the need and urgency of the great reforms I have indicated as far as the Metropolis is concerned. I should like, before resuming my seat, to touch, though briefly, on the question of the Liquor Law. I know, Sir, from your ruling that I am not at liberty to anticipate the discussion of any Bill which is before the House, and therefore confine myself strictly to the proposition that the proposals of the Government on this subject are evidence that, in their opinion, it is one which calls for consideration at their hands. I might be told that I have answered myself by showing the greatness and complexity of the task; but I would point out that I am putting forward the greatness of the task as a reason for the expression of our regret that the Government have not pledged, or committed, themselves to any definite attempt to deal with any portion of this important subject this Session. I admit that the subjects with which I have dealt are subjects of grave and serious importance; and I trust we shall hear before long from the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board something, if not as to his intentions, at any rate as to his hopes. I beg, Sir, to move the Amendment I have placed upon the Paper.
After paragraph 16, to insert the words, "And we humbly express our regret to Your Majesty that the Local Government Legislation of 1888 and 1889 is still left defective, and that
no intention is announced either of proceeding during the present Session to the constitution of District and Parochial Councils in Great Britain, or of carrying further, in the Metropolis and elsewhere, the organisation and powers of Local Government."—(Mr. Stansfeld).
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.47.) MR. H. P. COBB (War" wick, S.E., Rugby)
I must express my surprise that Her Majesty's Government have not announced their intention of dealing with the important subject mentioned in this Amendment. I may say I do not join with those who think the Government wise in not having touched it, because they do not entertain the same views as are held by the population of the rural districts. I know from what I have heard in this House, and have read in speeches outside this House, that Her Majesty's Government believe in a great many things in which the rural population do not believe. Her Majesty's Government believe in the system of rule which now appertains in the parishes; they believe in the administration of justice by the county magistrates; they believe in the existing Boards of Guardians; they believe also in the plural vote; in the Rural Sanitary Authorities; in giving those authorities the control and management of allotments; in the present administration of the Poor Law; in the management of public elementary schools; in the enclosure of commons; in the administration of charities; and in the present system of licensing. There is not one of these subjects with which the Government propose to deal; but, although the Government believe in all these things, the rural population have no belief in either of them. They have no belief in the magisterial system; they do not believe in the present mode of administering the Poor Law, or in the Guardians who administer it; they do not believe in the plural vote, by which the Guardians are elected, or in the property qualification, which is still insisted on; they do not believe in the Allotment Acts, or the me do in which they are carried out. They do not believe in the existing management of schools, in the election of whose managers they have no share. They do not believe in the system by which common land is 776 enclosed; they do not believe in the manner in which parochial charities are administered, especially as they see that that administration is, in the main, for the glorification of the Established Church; and they do not believe in the method by which the licensing system is controlled. They want to see these matters so dealt with by the Legislature that some real and effective popular control may be established. We can hardly wonder that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board should speak with so much contempt of the parish vestries, as vestry management is carried on under the existing law. That system is a scandal in itself, and it is impossible to recognise in it anything resembling a genuine right of popular control. We know that in the rural vestries the incumbent of the parish has the right to take the chair, whether the other vestrymen like it or not; and the whole system is so bad that one of the first things the Government should do in establishing a popular system of parochial government would be to institute an entire reform of the parish vestries. If Parish Councils were established they might deal with nearly every one of the subjects I have mentioned. The suggestion might meet with a good deal of opposition; but I do not see why the chief man of the village—call him chairman or mayor if you like—should not sit on the County Bench as a county magistrate. These Councils might deal with the Poor Law; they might, with the greatest advantage, deal with allotments, and manage the schools of the parish. They might have power, as Local Authorities, to deal with enclosures of land, and they might also be ex officio Trustees of every parish charity. I do not say they should have the whole responsibility as to licensing; but they might, for instance, be empowered to order the closing of public houses on Sundays, and upon the occasion of polls for Parliamentary or parochial or other purposes. The Government hardly seem to appreciate the great feeling there is in the villages upon these questions. There is very intense interest taken upon all these points, and the Government would do well to turn their attention to the matter. I have great pleasure in seconding the Amendment.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
I do not intend to go into the contentious matter raised by the hon. Gentleman; indeed, my only object in rising is to impress upon my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board the great disappointment which will be felt all over the country if we are not so fortunate as to get District Councils, or whatever will answer for them, set up this Session. It is not upon sentimental grounds connected with County Councils that I urge the speedy establishment of District Councils; but because the delay in constituting these bodies is responsible for inconvenience in the administration of the counties. This is especially so in the case of the roads. County Councils at present anxious to undertake or initiate a complete scheme for the maintenance of roads throughout their district are practically unable to do so on account of the uncertainty arising from the want of knowledge as to what will be done in the matter of District Councils. I do not think I need press the point at greater length. I know the President of the Local Government Board is alive to the importance of settling this point; and I only hope he will yet use his influence with the Cabinet to postpone a measure which is important I admit, but which bristles with difficulties, and which is not of such supreme importance to the country—the Land Transfer Bill—until the District Councils Bill is passed. If he does this I am persuaded he will give the utmost satisfaction to both sides of the House.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) has reference to the time when further reform in county government should take place, and I wish to confine my remarks to the question of urgency for the reform. One remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman requires notice. He said that the work, so far as it has gone, is defective. I scarcely think that is an opinion that will be endorsed by any Member of the House.
§ MR. STANSFELD
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I said the work was good as far as it went.
I am glad to have that explanation, because when the measure passed through the House dis- 778 tinguished Members of the Front Opposition Bench spoke of it in terms of highest praise. I think we must all agree that, as a piece of machinery, the Local Government Act is one of the greatest administrative reforms of modern times, because it gives to the rural classes those rights of citizenship which have been so long enjoyed by the people in municipal boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) has characterised it as the basis, or first instalment, of a great edifice. I think we might defer any criticism of the measure until we see the next instalment. We are told it is ready; and if I may judge from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment, he and the President of the Local Government Board seem to be very much in accord as to the principle on which that instalment should proceed. There is no doubt it is urgent that the next instalment should be granted. There are many valuable laws on the Statute Book affecting the rural districts which are not dead letters, but which are only partially effective, simply because they wait for a proper administrative body. There are laws affecting sanitation, housing of labourers, and so forth. Therefore, if this were a simple Resolution of regret that this measure is postponed, I think we should all be inclined to support it. But then we are obliged to remember that the right hon. Gentleman's Resolution amounts to a Resolution of Want of Confidence, and that if it is carried the Government would have to leave office. I wish to confine myself to the all-important question whether, by the carrying or the rejection of the Amendment, the people mostly affected are likely the sooner to obtain a realisation of their wishes. The next question we have to consider is, by what course the rural districts are to obtain these reforms. I will examine that question, because I wish to influence hon. Members on both sides of the House to adopt that course which will be most likely soon to realise those reforms which will confer such, benefits on the rural classes. Four years ago I moved a similar Amendment in direct and absolute terms. The Government was thrown out upon it, and our Government came in. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. 779 Stansfeld) supposes, I presume, that if his Amendment were carried the aspirations of the rural districts would be sooner realised; and I have always thought that when a Government comes into power on a distinct issue laid down in a definite form it is their duty to deal with that issue by means of legislation without delay. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman should defeat the Government on this point, and the Opposition come into power, one would think they would immediately drop everything else in favour of District Councils and Local Government. But that did not happen in 1886. The contrary happened. As soon as the Government got in upon a demand to benefit the rural classes they threw the subject aside, and we heard nothing more of it. On what ground, then, are we to suppose that if we vote for this Amendment, and thereby throw out the Government, another course will be adopted by the next Government? Every hon. Member knows that if this Amendment were carried the very measures for which the right hon. Gentleman now claims urgency would be postponed for Sessions, and perhaps indefinitely. The right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues say so in their speeches. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) has said, and almost every one of his followers has repeated, that all subjects would be sot aside in favour of one great question, to which I will not more particularly refer, but which "stops the way." I would appeal to hon. Members who represent county constituencies to say whether, in their wildest expectations, they think that that great question which all admit stops the way can be finally settled for one, two, or three Sessions, or before one or two General Elections have taken place? By voting, then, for this Amendment we should postpone for an indefinite period those great benefits for which the country districts have been so long waiting. I think I should have no difficulty in showing to a rural audience how important it is in their interests that we should defeat this Amendment, in order to prevent their reasonable claims being made use of as they were in 1886. I believe people in the counties are wise enough to see that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and that they are not foolish enough to stumble 780 twice over the same stone. What, then, will happen if the Amendment be not carried? In that case, I think, the reforms for which we are all anxious are at our very doors. [Opposition laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh; but, at any rate, they are not postponed for several Sessions and until after one or two General Elections. The Government have given us an earnest of their intentions in the constituting of the County Councils, which hon. Members all admit are excellent, and on a true popular basis. Reference has been made to the abolition of the Quarter Sessions. Well, what do we see now in the County Councils? Some of the members of Quarter Sessions did not seem to believe in the new legislation, being asked, as it were, to abolish themselves. In some other countries these gentlemen would have felt bound to make the new form of Local Government a failure. Here we see men coming forward and putting their own views in their pockets, being intent only on making this new legislation a success. It is a spectacle of self-abnegation, public spirit and patriotism, that cannot be equalled in any country in Europe; and I am sure everybody in this House is glad that the administration of the Act has revealed so much public spirit in our rural districts. We ought not to suppose that the remaining part of this legislation will not be of a satisfactory character. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government (Mr. W. H. Smith) said recently that measures have been prepared for constituting District Councils in England and Scotland, and gave us an assurance that, at the earliest possible moment, an attempt would be made to complete the legislation. The District Councils Bill is not in the Queen's Speech, but is a sort of postscript, made by a right hon. Gentleman who does not mislead the House, and who does not say what he does not mean or less than he means. He has entered into what I regard as a real business arrangement, to be carried out, if possible, this Session. For the reasons I have given, I think that if you carry this Amendment you put back legislation on this subject. As I have said, I should have no hesitation in putting these arguments before a rural audience, and showing them in which direction their interests lie. I regret 781 that some political and Party matters have been imported into the debate, but in the words I have uttered I have looked solely at the interests of the rural districts. In 1886 the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) said that this subject should be dealt with by a strong Government. I quite agree with him, and I would point out that, thanks to certain operations that took place in 1886, we have in power a strong Conservative Government—a Government which has been built on the ruins of the Liberal Party. That being so, and having personally some interest in these questions, as they affect rural districts, I propose to accept a course which makes sure at no distant time of the completion of county government reform, by the Government which has given earnest of its intention by an absolutely sound Radical measure, admitted by our opponents to be so. I prefer to have this state of things to realise what we inquire for the rural districts than to trust those interests to the direction of a Party who, I was going to say, deceived ns, but who certainly disappointed us in 1886 under stronger pledges; for in 1886 there was no intention expressed to interpose a great political question before dealing with rural government reform. Now, however, they are under a solemn pledge should they come into power to interpose this large Party question before undertaking these reforms. It is evident, then, where our true interest lies, and I have no hesitation on these grounds in opposing the Amendment.
§ (6.32.) SIR WALTER BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has placed very clearly before the House the position of those who support the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, and it will be agreed that, should that Party come into power, they certainly would not have the opportunity for years to carry out those reforms in rural government they are so anxious for now. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) always brings forward a proposal in a fair, temperate, and moderate way that always commends itself to the consideration of the House, but knowing, as he must, the complexities and difficulties that attach to the subject, I would put it to him whether he thinks that by raising this discussion now he is advancing the business of the 782 House? I suppose we all profess our anxiety to discharge the duties entrusted to us, but to raise discussion after discussion upon the paragraphs of the Queen's Speech must show the country that the only object is to prevent the Government passing measures they have shown their desire to proceed with. Why, if hon. Gentlemen are really earnest in their desire to carry on the business of the country, do they persist in preventing the Government from proceeding with those measures of great importance of which notice has been given? I have no right by the slightest word to attempt to lecture the House; but, at the same time, I do say that the country is looking at us anxious that we should go on with the business for which we are called together, and these discussions are preventing actual business from being approached. J hope the good sense of the House will recognise this. Let us look back at the older days and see how we got through business, especially that of the Queen's Speech, which we knew was only a form on which we had no right to delay the House of Commons. I hope we may be allowed to go to a Division, for we know this is a subject we cannot discuss now in all its details, and even if we could we should come to no satisfactory conclusion.
§ (6.35.) MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)
It is not every hon. Member who can speak from practical personal acquaintance with matters of rural government; but, as Overseer of the Poor and Waywarden, and as having taken part in many matters interesting to villagers, I wish to tell the House that so far as matters have been delegated to local control in villages, the result has been a success. The meetings of the people do not tend to strife; the people come together, and things are discussed in a quiet, business-like manner in these little villages, with less controversy and bitterness than in this House, and often to better purpose. I do earnestly desire, and whenever opportunity offers I shall urge it, that you should give to villages throughout the country some powers of self-government, something they can take an interest in, something by which village life may be made brighter and better than it is. So far as I know, and I have mixed in village life a good deal. 783 the inhabitants have all the capacity for making worthy citizens. If you took one of our village communities and transplanted it to Africa or Australia they would very soon choose a superior I do not know whether lie would be called a Mayor or not—and a good governing Council. Englishmen everywhere have the power of self-government. I do entreat the Government to delay no longer. This is not a Party question; it is a matter of material importance to the people, and it should have more interest to hon. Gentlemen opposite than to us, for it is truly Conservative to enable people to acquire little holdings of their own. In doing what we can to keep men in our villages, making their lives and homes happier and brighter there, no time could be better bestowed, and it is this with which the Amendment is concerned. We all know that we have no chance of turning out the Government; if we had, we should bring in a direct Resolution. We want simply to urge on every Member of the House measures that I am quite sure, if taken up in a proper spirit, could be worked out with great benefit to every member of the community.
§ (6.40.) THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG, Wilts, Devizes)
The Government have every reason to view the introduction of this Amendment not only without dislike or apprehension, but with absolute contentment and satisfaction, because it is not only not a Vote of Censure upon the Administration, but it is actually an expression of approval of what we did two Sessions ago in legislating in the direction of local self-government, and merely urges upon us to continue to carry to a conclusion the work we have commenced. Her Majesty's Government, therefore, have no reason whatever to complain of this Amendment having been brought forward, and still less to complain of the spirit and the manner in which it has been moved. As the hon. and gallant Baronet behind me has remarked, the right hon. Gentleman opposite is distinguished among many other things for the courteous and moderate way in which he brings questions before the House. We noticed with profound satisfaction that at the commencement of the right 784 hon. Gentleman's remarks he promised that if it should be our good fortune to introduce a measure for the extension of local self-government he and those who sit on the Opposition side of the House will do their best to assist the Government in extending still more those principles of local self-government laid down in the Act of 1888. Before I deal with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to refer to that of the hon. Member for the Rugby Division. He has told the House of Government opinions and beliefs, but he has not been good enough to take the House a little further, and say upon what authority he made these statements; nor did he trouble the House with any expression from the Government which led him to attribute to the Government opinions which, so far as I know, they have never expressed. He credited us with a general condemnation of local government, and even went so far as to say we had expressed profound contempt for parish vestries. I am not aware that any Member of the Government has expressed contempt for parish vestries in any form whatever; and I say, further, that so far as the Government are concerned, or so far as Members on this side are concerned, we no more entertain any feeling of contempt for parish vestries and those who form them or for the interests with which parish vestries are charged than do hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member, however, conducted his rather violent attack upon the Government in such a good-humoured fashion as to deprive it of half its bitterness, while there certainly was no poison in the weapons he used. He told us we believed a great many things which I am not sure we do believe, and went on to attack the Boards of Guardians and the system of Poor Law relief. I am not about to enter into any lengthened defence of the Poor Law, but I earnestly hope that no hon. Members in this House will give expression to hastily-formed opinions with regard to the Poor Law which may lead the poorer classes of the country to believe that those who administer relief are concerned chiefly in dealing harshly with the poor, and in safeguarding the rates with which they are entrusted. From what has been said by some Members, it might almost be inferred that guardians are not guardians of the rates as well as of the poor, 785 but that they are Charitable Associations set up for the purpose of giving relief to all who ask for it. The hon. Member told us that the state of affairs before the new Poor Law was not due to the granting of outdoor relief but to the system upon which it was administered. But that is a distinction without a difference. It is, I believe, admitted that the extreme state of poverty in the country, and the terrible pressure of the rates in rural parishes, was due to the fact that out-door relief was the practice and custom and indoor relief the exception. What do we find now? I appeal to hon. Members who are concerned with administration by Boards of Guardians. Do they not give the greatest care and attention to every case that comes before them, and try to administer the law without harshness and severity but at the same time so as to protect the rates of which they are guardians as much as they are guardians of the poor. After the experience of the past, I hope nothing may be said in or outside the House which would lead the poorer classes to look upon guardians with suspicion, or to believe that the House could help them to a more liberal system of relief than that which now prevails. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Government had admitted that the Allotments Act of the Session before last was a failure, and he supported that statement by pointing to the Bill for admitting an appeal from the Sanitary Authority to the County Council. It is a perfectly unfounded statement; the Government have admitted nothing of the kind.
§ MR. LONG
The hon. Member who says "Yes" was not a Member of the House when the Government introduced their Bill, and he has not taken the trouble to read the debates of the time, or he would be aware that when the Allotments Bill was before the House, my right hon. Friend said that the reason why power was to be conferred upon the Sanitary Authority was because it is the only available Authority other than the Court of Quarter Sessions; but he looked forward to the time when, following upon the formation of County Councils, there would be District Councils elected, upon whom these 786 powers would devolve. When the Local Government Bill was introduced, the District Council clauses which would have set up these purely elective Councils had to be dropped. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend brings in the measure of which he has given notice. It is not put before the House as an admission of failure in the Allotments Bill, and I hope it will be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered. We absolutely deny that the Act has failed, and our only object is to carry out the principle of local government, on which, from the first, it was our wish to act, by giving dissatisfied village] s an appeal to an elected authority, when the authority under the Act fails, as in some cases, we are told, it has failed, to provide the necessary allotments. That is the reason for the Allotments Act Amendment Bill; but neither by word or implication can we allow the opinion to pass unchallenged, that the introduction of this Bill is an admission of the failure of the existing Act. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld), in his very interesting speech, threw with great skill more than one fly over my right hon. Friend to induce him to give some details of our new Bill. It is not for me to take the House into our confidence now as to our proposals, and the right hon. Gentleman's experience ought to tell him that he is not likely to get very much information as to future proposals from my right hon. Friend. I should like to endorse what the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division (Mr. Collings) has said in reference to our experience of the Local Government Act. I am not concerned to deny the fact that doubts and fears may have been expressed, but I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that if there were any such doubts and fears with reference to the working of the County Councils, those doubts and fears have long ago disappeared, and the great majority of magistrates all over the country have co-operated heartily to bring about the success which has been achieved by the operation of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman told us some of the results he looked for by the passing of a District Councils Bill, and he told us that one of the most important questions is, and undoubtedly it is so, the division or amalgamation of parish areas. The 787 division and amalgamation of parishes that must attend the formation of District Councils presents many difficult problems, owing to the amount of local prejudice and sentiment which has to be overcome, which I believe cannot be overcome by the action of the Executive Government or by Commissions, but which will probably yield to the popular realisation of the improvements that would result from better local government and the re-adjustment of areas. I am not concerned to contend with the right hon. Gentleman as to the principle we ought to adopt. No doubt in some localities there is a strong desire for representative institutions; but having some knowledge of labourers, among whom I have some good friends, in spite of my belonging to the condemned class of landlords, I believe that in my own neighbourhood there is no pressing call for better local government. Of course, there is dissatisfaction, as I fear there always will be with many existing institutions, and with whatever we may constitute in place of Boards of Guardians or Highway Boards, or any other Local Authority. There is no doubt a desire that labourers should have the right to elect representatives to the control of local affairs which so intimately concern their happiness. As my right hon. Friend will, I am sure, tell the House later on, the Government are desirous and are prepared to give the House the opportunity of considering measures for the purposes laid down in the Amendment we are now considering. Nothing could please them more than to see such measures brought forward, but the decision as to when they shall be brought forward does not rest with the Local Government Board; it is a matter of the general policy of the Government; but when the right hon. Member for Halifax says we promised in the Session of 1888–9 to bring forward such a measure as he refers to in the following year, and that we went so far as to repeat that promise in the Queen's Speech, he tells us we are much more to blame because we have not repeated the promise for 1890. Far be it from me to venture to criticise anything that comes from sodistinguished a Member as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld), but I would ask him with great respect to look back over the many years during which he has 788 been a Member of this House, and during which for a considerable time he occupied a seat on this Bench, and say whether he does not remember a long list of measures promised Session after Session by the Government of which he was a Member, but as to which Parliament never saw an attempt made to bring them in? We have considered it better to limit our early proposals to measures that are likely to be considered, and to add to them if we find we can do so, instead of introducing more than can be dealt with, only to drop them at the end of the Session. This is not the time or occasion to discuss the exact details of a District Councils Bill. It is valuable and helpful to us to have drawn from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite what it is they want and what it is they are likely to criticise. It will enable us, I hope, to produce our Bill in a satisfactory form. We have had the opportunity, too, of hearing our Friends behind me, and our strength will be the greater because, if necessary, we have the time to improve our measure. One question an hon. Friend behind me has referred to—the question of highways. He called the attention of the House to the fact that very grave inconvenience does result in many cases from the want of Dictrict Councils to act with the County Councils in the management of main roads and highways. I agree with him, and believe there is no stronger reason for the creation of District Councils than the difficulty that does exist in the administration and management of the roads of the county. The Government are very sensible that we have thrown upon County Councils a very heavy responsibility in calling upon them to look after the main roads, and we feel it is due to them that they should have that relief they will have when District Councils are set up to act conjointly with them in looking after all the roads in addition to the main roads of the county. I have only, in conclusion, to thank the House for having allowed me to say these few words. I can assure the House I believe every Member of the Government to be actuated by a sincere and honest desire to complete the scheme of local government. We consider it a great privilege to have been allowed to introduce the measure which is on the Statute Book, and we shall be only too 789 glad to finish the work. I may add, in the words of the hon. Baronet, the Member for the Horsham Division, behind me, that it rests with, the House and the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to give us an opportunity of so doing, and if they will only give in that opportunity, we will do our best to make good use of it.
§ (7.1.) CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N.)
I did not say that the Allotments Bill had proved a failure, on my own responsibility, but on the responsibility of the Prime Minister, who, in a speech delivered at Nottingham, told the audience, in guarded language, that in some respects and in some places its working had not been altogether satisfactory. I think we all know what that means. That was the ground on which I ventured to contradict the hon. Baronet the Member for the Horsham Division. I Cannot think that the time of the House is being wasted in discussing this Amendment. I am glad that that is not the opinion of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches. I am glad that they think they can learn something from the opinions of hon. Members on this side, as well as from supporters on their own side. I am glad also to find myself following the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division. He did me the great honour in 1886 of asking me to second the Amendment which turned out the Government of that day, and I am happy to follow him, because I am very much in accord with him in many of the remarks he has made. In the first place he tells us that the question of time now comes in, and if the Conservative Government are left in power there is some hope for the labourer, but that if the Liberals come into office there is no chance of anything being dealt with except the great question of Home Rule. I should like to quote to him the old proverb, "Once bit twice shy," and to point out that the Liberal Government having once suffered through neglecting the claims of the agricultural labourer when brought forward by the hon. Member himself, are not likely to neglect those claims on a second occasion. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can to-day speak in the name of the agricultural labourer. He has told the House what he can do when he goes down among the agricultural 790 labourers, but I venture to think that if he goes down among them now he will find he is not in touch with them. I regret that fact, because I do not believe that anybody in this House has more at heart the welfare of the agricultural labourers than the hon. Member. I deeply regret that he is out of touch with these men, but I trust he may still reeover his position and be able to render further signal services to them. This Amendment ought not to be considered as a Party Question. I do not so consider it. I follow the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Leicestershire, in his remarks on that point, and I say, unhesitatingly, that I shall not scruple to vote against any Government that neglects the cause of the agricultural labourer. The claims of Party in my own case, and, I hope, in the case of many other hon. Members, must give way to sympathy with the great cause of the agricultural labourers. Something has been said about the decay of village life. Sir, the decay of village life is largely due to the villages being owned, in many cases, by one single proprietor. What would an hon. Member of this House feel if he lived in a parish entirely owned by one man who practically holds him in the hollow of his hand, and who can, when he likes, turn him out of his house and cottage? Yet that is the position of the agricultural labourer; and in many counties these cottages have been occupied by the same family from generation to generation, and are as dear to these poor men as are our homes to us. Now, these labourers know, as a matter of fact, that they will be sent away if they make themselves public nuisances in the village by interfering in public matters on which their opinion is not asked. That is the state of many of our villages to-day. There may be two tyrants in a village, the Clergyman, and the Poor Law Guardian; and when I say that these men are often tyrants, I do not wish to ascribe to them improper or unworthy motives. They grow to be so out of the very circumstances under which they live. Take the Case of the village clergyman. He begins by knowing the children in the school. His wife, too, in the early days of childhood gets influence over them, By these means the clergyman obtains knowledge of their private family history, which he does not scruple after- 791 wards to avail himself of. Then there is the question of the administration of charities which are again and again utilised for purposes of religious or political oppression. There is the well-known case of the Vicar of Winwick in which an allotment was taken away from a labourer because he had attended a chapel Sunday school. In that case the rector of the parish started these allotments expressly to use them for political and religious oppression. These cases are not rare, but it is not often that we get so open a confession of motive. Yet the motives are well known to the labourers. In the case of most of the charities the labourers have no voice whatever in their administration. The trustees are usually clergymen. Endowments left for educational purposes are often lost to the poor, and I can mention a case in which an endowment of £50 in one parish is so lost. One trustee is a gentleman 90 years old, now unable to attend to public business, and the other a gentleman of 80, who lives far away. Neither of them interests himself in the charity, and the money goes into the pockets of the rich.
§ CAPTAIN VERNEY
I have no objection to giving the name of the parish to the hon. Member privately. But I do not attack individuals: nothing is to be gained by holding persons up to obloquy; what is best to be done is to point out the evil itself and suggest a remedy. The remedy I suggest in such a case as this is that the House should take these powers out of the hands of individuals, and place them in the hands of duly elected representatives of the people.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN
I shall avail myself of the offer of the hon. Member to give me the name of the parish privately.
§ CAPTAIN VERNEY
Again there is tyranny in the matter of holding vestry meetings. The hour appointed is almost invariably in the morning, when it is impossible for the agricultural labourer to attend, although matters are discussed which are of the deepest interest to him. Further, there is the question of the control of the school buildings. In many villages the labourers have absolutely no place in which they can 792 hold a meeting. There is, of course, the village school, but the use of it is often withheld, or only granted on impossible conditions, such as that the vicar himself shall take the chair, that no resolution shall be put to the meeting, or that no matters of a contentious character shall be discussed and no vote taken. The consequence is that when we go down to address our constituents in the rural districts we have to do so in the open, and at night from a waggon, often times in pouring rain while our audiences stand ankle deep in mud. Nothing causes more bitterness and ill-feeling in a parish than the refusal to lend the school for the purpose of holding political meetings. And then again, the villagers are powerless in the matter of free libraries. I believe that not a single rural parish in the kingdom has availed itself of the Free Libraries Act. Such matters as these might be efficiently dealt with by Parochial Councils. Hon. Members who say that the labourers do not desire the establishment of Parochial Councils cannot be familiar with the wants of the labourers. If the Government will give us an opportunity of gauging the opinions of the labourers on the point I think we can soon prove that there is a great demand for the creation of Parochial Councils. And now I come to the question of District Councils. These will supersede the Boards of Guardians. The Poor Law Guardian is the second tyrant under whom the labourer suffers. The question of indoor and outdoor relief is naturally one of the greatest interest to every labourer, who has to take into account the probability or possibility that at some time or other he may be dependent on Poor Law relief, and he is consequently timid of offending the Poor Law Guardian. At present, however, the labourers have little voice in the election of their Poor Law Guardians. It is almost the only election now left, which is not by ballot, and which is not conducted on the principle of "one man, one vote." I know an instance of a man who has never since been able to obtain employment from any farmer in the district because he voted for me in 1885. I can give an instance, on sworn testimony, of a man who, during the election, went to the market place of one of the principal towns and 793 said that if the Liberal was returned he I would bring the labourers' wages down to 8s. per week. I attended a meeting in this recent election, where there were 40 labourers and one farmer, a Poor Law Guardian, who was watching to see which way the men voted. Seven bauds out of the 40 were held up in my favour, and three against me, a fact which shows that the other 30 labourers with a Poor Law Guardian watching them dared not give any indication of what their views were. Then the Guardians have to do with the question of insanitary dwellings. They press hardly on the poorer owners, but are afraid to tackle the wealthy ones. I know a wealthy man, one of whose houses was reported on for its insanitary and overcrowded condition. He is now, or was, at that time, a Member of this House; he was a man of great influence in the district, and the Guardians took no action on the Report. And then we come to the Allotments Question. It really amazed me to hear the hon. Gentleman opposite get up and say that there is no difficulty about the Allotment Question. Does not everybody know that the men of Twyford have for two years been trying to get their allotments? At last there came a day when the village was placarded with the news that these allotments were to be given. It was said that a letter had been received from the Rector of Lincoln College, and the placard was put all over Twyford. And what day was it? It was the day before the polling day. However, it did not much affect the labourers, who had been befooled for two years, and who have not got their allotments yet. I am astonished to hear anybody contend that the Act, as regards the compulsory clauses has been in any way a success. With regard to the voluntary clauses, the case may be different, because if a landlord voluntarily grants allotments that gives him a great pull over the labourers at elections, so it is we find that the parson frequently lets out his glebe lands for allotment purposes. Then there is the question of the ex officio Guardians, who troop down to the meetings when an appointment is to be made, in order to give a place to some protéegé of their own. If we had elective District Councils I think that scandal would be wiped out. T cannot see why, with a certain population, the chairman of the District or Parish Council should 794 not be a member of the County Bench during his year of office, for the County Councils in many respects resemble only the old gang of magistrates. In North Bucks we made the County Council election a political question and we got elected a bonâ fide agricultural labourer. I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite are as pleased at the fact as we are, for after all it only carries out the principle of the Bill to welcome the people into a share of the government of their own locality. We are all grateful to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) for the Local Government Act, which is a wise and statesmanlike measure. It may be, and it will have to be, improved, but the Act will always be associated with his name. It is not, however, enough for the agricultural labourer. It is not what he wants, I am reminded of the reply made by the newly-appointed boatswain to his captain who asked him to have a glass of wine, "Thank yon, Sir, I ain't dry; I will take a potato." It is the potato which the agricultural labourer wants. I am told that the adoption of this Amendment would mean the defeat of the Government. The Japanese nation have a method of avenging insult by what they call the "happy despatch," and underneath that there lies a very fine principle, namely, "that it is better to die honoured than to live dishonoured." If the Government are not prepared to fulfil their pledges to bring in a District Councils Bill, if they are deaf to the demands of the agricultural labourer, their memory will not be honoured in the rural districts. I am amazed at the patience shown by the labourers. The message which the agricultural labourer has given me to deliver to the House is not one of defiance, or anger, or bitterness, but a reasonable request that the Government will carry out the pledges already given to the House to bring in a District and Parochial Councils Bill. The lot of the English agricultural labourer is in many respects by no means a happy or satisfactory one. There is no opening for him into a higher and better life; you leave the door ajar for him to see things better worth living for than the public-house, but you give him no time to pursue his education, because he has to work from early morning till late at night. These 795 men lead a most unwholesome life, exposed as they are to all sorts of weather, and working as they do under all kinds of difficulty. In a letter recently published in the Essex Chronicle it was related how these men have to go out day after day without the opportunity of getting their boots dried. You may say it is a healthy life, but you would hardly hold that opinion if you really inquired into it. When the labourer reaches the period of middle life, at which hon. Gentlemen in this House are just commencing a career of public service in the full vigour of their physical faculties, he is almost bent double by rheumatism, with his eyes already turned towards the workhouse and the pauper's grave. He leads a sad and a hard life, but it has not produced any feeling of bitterness up to the present time among the labouring class, nor is it likely to do so if you would only listen to their cry, and pay some attention to their demand for a reasonable control in matters of local government. I am speaking perhaps under some disadvantage as a new member who has but just taken his seat, but hon. Gentlemen know how it is with a shot from a gun; it sets out in almost a horizontal line, but when it has got a few hundred yards it begins to fall. So it is with hon. Members of this House. When they first start they go very straight, but when they have been here a few years different pressures are brought to bear upon them, and they are not quite so keen and ready as they were at the outset. I have come straight from the cannon's mouth. The message given to me is not a message of defiance, or of anger, or bitterness and ill-feeling as between class and class; it is only a moderate and reasonable request that the Government should carry out the pledges they have given to bring in their District and Parochial Councils Bill. What I desire is to translate the inarticulate longings of the labouring class, and to express to the best of my ability what are their views on this important subject. I deny that they are actuated by feelings of hostility or anger against the squire of the parish or the village parson. They merely demand that they shall have some share in the management of their own affairs. Already we can see the enormous change which the new system of local government by 796 County Councils has produced. In Wales even labouring men have been elected as members of County Councils, and are sent up as representatives of their class from the villages of that province, and among them there are men who can write as good a letter, as well spelt and expressed, as any member of this House. Many of them are capable of speaking even in this House, were they elected to it, in clear intelligible language that would bring home to our feelings whatever message they might be charged to deliver. The rural population simply ask the House to pay some heed to their earnest petition for that measure of justice which they have a right to expect. They desire that at least some opportunity may be afforded them of rising in the social scale and of giving utterance to those views which they may entertain on questions of local government, especially in regard to those questions of education, parochial charities, and other matters in which they are so deeply interested. I support this Amendment with all the more confidence after the extremely kind and conciliatory speech we have listened to from the Front Bench. We want the Government to know that we are ready to support them in any well conceived measure. The labourer does not care from which side of the House he gets it. All he wants is that it should be given to him, and he will support those who are disposed to give it. If the Government need it we are quite ready to supply the steam. We are told that the President of the Local Government Board will not have time to bring in a measure, but I think he would be able to find time if hon. Members on that side of the House would agree with hon. Members on this to give him their assistance. Public spirit on this important question ought to rise superior to Party considerations. Why, therefore, should not both sides of the House join hands, and show a real determination to assist the Government in carrying any measure that will have the effect of organising such a system of District and Parochial Councils as would gladden the heart of the agricultural labourer.
§ (7.37.) ADMIRAL FIELD (Eastbourne)
I have no desire to intervene in the debate further than to say that I hope the question will be soon settled; but I 797 cannot sit quiet and hear my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken make such a speech as he has just inflicted on the House. I cannot let that speech pass without entering my humble protest against a brother officer speaking in the way the hon. and gallant Gentleman has done. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has alluded to straight-tiring and straight-hitting. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will permit mo to remind him that it is a cardinal principle in the Service in which we have both been trained that charges should not be levelled at men unless they were able to meet them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made an attack upon the clergy in his own constituency, and apparently also in all parts of the country with which he is acquainted. I venture to think it is unfair to attack public men charged with the most sacred functions, and charge them with being village tyrants. He coupled in that charge the village landlord, and included in his suggested system of tyranny the guardians of the poor. Well, I cannot pretend to much knowledge of North Buckinghamshire, or, indeed, of any part of Buckinghamshire, though for that matter I was born there; but certainly I know enough of it by hearsay to believe that all these charges have not one atom of foundation or truth at the bottom of them. I venture, therefore, to appeal to the good feelings of the hon. and gallant Gentleman—because among his brother officers he shared as good feelings as most of them—I appeal to his good feelings whether he ought to make these violent charges without backing them up by evidence? The hon. and gallant Gentleman, after making these charges against those he termed village tyrants, went on to speak of his election experiences. I do not think hon. Gentlemen want to hoar these experiences. It was enough to have the hon. Member back again in his place in the House, and it was to be hoped that the House would receive more assistance from him in the discussion of naval questions than on former occasions, and have the benefit of his naval training, without hearing from his lips violent charges levelled against men who could not answer them. In that part of his speech recounting his election experiences—and, by the way, the greater part of his remarks had no 798 reference to the Amendment before the House—the hon. and gallant Gentleman charged guardians of the poor with coercing men against holding up their hands for him in local meetings. The hon. Gentleman told them of one case of a meeting at which seven men held up their hands for him in spite of that coercion. I am astonished, for one, that the hon. and gallant Gentleman found even seven men willing to holdup their hands for him. Then the hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to attack the Government because the Allotment Bill was not perfect. Well, no man pretended to be infallible. Governments were as weak as other men, and they were not infallible, and no Bill, I presume, had ever passed that House that had not required amendment after some experience of its working. The Allotments Question was a new and very important question, and the measure which the hon. Gentleman attacked was passed after full discussion and consideration by Members on both sides of the House. No doubt some defects have been found in it, and the Government have shown a desire to bring in an amending Bill. It was not fair, therefore, to attack so fiercely the Government and those hon. Members who sat on the Ministerial side of the House, and tell them that the Bill was a sham, simply because certain men in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's own County of Buckinghamshire had been unable to get allotments, and because something was wrong with the Local Authority there. I wish, with all my heart, that the Local Authorities in Buckinghamshire had granted allotments, because then we would net probably have had the misfortune of listening to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. For my part, I am sincerely desirous to see this Act amended. I will heartily support the Government in their proposed Amendments, and I hope that no mistake will in future be made by Local Authorities, for I should be very sorry if we were made to suffer in consequence of the shortcomings of the measure, and have other hon. Members returned to the House to make similarly violent speeches. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke as though he had a monopoly of benevolent feeling towards the agricultural labourers. I deny him that monopoly. The 799 hon. and gallant Gentleman is, no doubt, a benevolent man—all naval men are benevolent: but I also represent an agricultural constituency, and I, too, know something of agricultural labourers and their wants. Agricultural labourers are not, as a class, discontented, and they do not feel that the squire and the parson are tyrants, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has stated. Indeed, I am afraid the hon. and gallant Gentleman must have been in very bad company lately. All Members from his County of Buckingham do not share his opinions. There was once an old and very revered gentleman in that House, a Buckinghamshire squire—the father of the hon. Member—and I have never heard that Sir Harry Yerney was a tyrant in his own district. Does not the hon. and gallant Member now regret making such charges against Buckinghamshire squires, of whom his father was one? When his revered father went to his rest, as we must all do at some time, the hon. Member will have a chance of doing better even than his father has done. In a word, then, I dispute the right of the hon. and gallant Member to speak in the name of the agricultural labourers of England. Let him speak in the name of those who returned him. I cannot, however, congratulate either them or him on the speech we have just heard; and while I am willing to welcome him in the hope of the future I believe that when his constituents and the country read this speech they will regard it as one of the most mischievous ever delivered by a Member of this House.
§ (7.45.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Eye)
I do not think the House will see in the speech which has just been delivered sufficient reason for rejecting the Amendment proposed by my right hon. Friend, nor can I see any ground for a refusal on the part of the Government to accept it. The hon. and gallant Admiral who has just spoken referred to himself as a Member representing an agricultural constituency. I know something of the constituency he represents, and I certainly must look in vain on the sands of Eastbourne for the agricultural labourers on whose behalf he has spoken. I think the hon. and gallant Admiral is hardly as great an authority on rural questions as the hon. and gallant Gentleman who preceded him, and who has come here 800 fresh from a constituency consisting almost entirely of agricultural labourers.
§ ADMIRAL FIELD
I would remind the hon. Member that I am not Member for Eastbourne, but for the Eastbourne Division of the county, which has a large agricultural element connected with it.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON
But I would point out to the hon. and gallant Admiral that Eastbourne is essentially of an urban character, and that the population of Eastbourne form by far the larger portion of the constituency. With regard to the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), it appears to me that no adequate reason has been assigned for a refusal on the part of this House to accept it. The hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Ceilings) did not once refer to the real merits of the question at issue. He has told us that the Government have given sufficient pledges to the House that they intend to deal with the question; but if he will refer back to the declarations made by the Government before the Local Government Bill was brought in he will find that so long ago as September, 1887, the Government gave very distinct pledges that they did intend to deal not merely with the question of County Government, but also with the entire question of Local Government in the small areas, and in the Bill they brought in proposals were made in that direction. The President of the Local Government Board stated on that occasion that it was the intention of the Government to bring forward a measure which would not only provide a local government for the counties, but would also deal with questions relative to Boards of Guardians, which he trusted would be placed on a more popular basis. In the Bill then brought in there was a clause dealing with District Councils, and those clauses furnished evidence that the Government had made up their minds that that was a matter which was pressing for solution. I may mention that on the 7th of June, 1888, I moved an Instruction on the subject of parish vestries, and the only objection to that made on the part of the President of the Local Government Board and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that before the matter could be properly dealt with it would 801 be necessary to arrange the readjustment of the boundaries. Now, I would remind hon. Members that the re-adjustment of parish boundaries has been going on for years. In 1881 there was only about 1,800 parishes which had less than 100 inhabitants, and since then the smaller parishes have been absorbed into the larger ones, so that at the present moment the number of very small parishes is considerably smaller than it was then. I cannot understand why that process should not have been hastened or accelerated. However, the question of boundary re-adjustment is after all only a small one. There seems to me to be no real difficulty why you should not deal with the larger parishes of upwards of 100 inhabitants, and extend to them the benefits of local self-government. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax draw a distinction between the large and the small parishes, because I think that that is a distinction which ought always to be observed. What, I ask, is the reason why, in spite of all the pledges given by the Government, their promised Bill is not put forward as a matter of urgent importance? I would remind the House that on the occasion when the District Council Clauses were withdrawn from the Bill of 1888, not only the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), but also the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) distinctly stated that that question would be dealt with in a measure they intended to bring in in 1889, as a matter of great importance. In 1889 we had a reference made on the subject of the District Councils in the Speech from the Throne. What, I ask, is the reason why the subject, having been mentioned in the Queen's Speech of 1889, it has not been thought fit to mention it in the Speech of 1890? But I would here call attention to another point. We have had before us the Reports of the Boundary Commissioners, which fills two volumes, and has been sent to the different County Councils. We have also had the letter of the Local Government Board, March 1889, asking the County Councils to report upon that subject. These bodies examined the question, and sent their Reports to the Local Government Board; and now we find that a portentous 802 document has been sent to the County Councils from the Local Government Board, saying they are not to deal with this question at all, and that it is indefinitely postponed. I should like to hear from the President of the Local Government Board an explanation of the reason why this course has been adopted. As far as I can see there is no adequate reason why such a postponement should take place. I should also like to understand why it is that we are not this year to be called on to deal with the question even as amended in the Queen's Speech. The Secretary to the Local Government Board has stated that the Board was desirous of dealing with the measure; and I should like to ask why is the desire of the Board to be subordinated to considerations of general policy, and what considerations of general policy have arisen since last year? The programme of the Queen's Speech this year is more meagre than that of last year; and I ask why is this question of District Councils, and the diffusion of the vestries into larger areas, to be indefinitely postponed? The hon. Member for Bordesley has said the measure is at our doors. If so, why does it not come inside? We shall all be glad to welcome it, provided it deals with the question of intermediate areas and the reformation of the parishes on the lines we believe are desired by the bulk of the population. We desire that the Boards of Guardians, as now constituted, should be abolished, and that property qualification should be done away with, and that the plural vote should cease. The people take the keenest interest in the management of local affairs, especially in questions relating to charity lands and allotments. Surely this is an important part of the work of local government, and it cannot be said that the edifice is complete, or even approaching completion, if you will not include in it those things which the people generally most keenly and strongly desire. The question has been agitated for years. No less than 19 years ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward a measure on the subject, and since then the progress of the question in other forms has been considerable, notably in regard to the establishment of County Councils, and to the increasing capacity of the labouring class to take part in the management of their own affairs. What they 803 want to do away with is the system under which vestry meetings are called at hours I when the parishioners cannot attend, and the incumbent of the parish takes the chair by virtue of his office. They also want to do away with the plural vote, and to substitute the system of one man one vote. They also think it would be safe and judicious in the larger parishes to institute a system of Parochial Boards, which would serve as a sort of executive to the vestries themselves. Why is it that no mention has been made of such a measure? If the tithe question is the obstacle, surely it was as much an obstacle last year when the production of such a measure was pronounced in the Queen's Speech. At any rate, the fault does not lie on this side of the House. We are quite prepared to welcome a measure of this kind and accord it the fullest consideration. For my part, I cannot see why any opposition should be offered by the Government to this Amendment. They say they are prepared to assent to the principle of local government in smaller areas; why, then, do they not propose a measure by which that principle would be carried out? I am unable to see the force of the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham. I remember hearing one of these agricultural labourers, for whose welfare we are so desirous and whose capacity for self-government we desire to increase, declare at a village meeting that the Government were vary much like wheelbarrows, and never would run unless they were pushed. Well, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax is designed for the purpose of pushing on the Government; and I trust that Members will be found, not only on this but on the other side of the House, to give it that support which it ought to receive.
§ (8.32.) MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
I very much regret that the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Verney), who has now left the House, should have delivered one of the most bitter speeches I ever heard in the House. I cannot go back many years; but I can say that for the past four or five years speeches such as his have been rarely uttered in the House. One of the most objectionable phases of speeches of this kind is that the hon. Gentlemen who 804 deliver them avail themselves of the privileges of the House to attack individuals—who, by the way, are unable to answer them—in a manner that they would not dare attempt outside these walls. I am one of those who regret, and have always regretted, that the Government were unable two years ago to pass a District Council Bill. Joint Committees of the District and County Councils would, I believe, save much of the difficulty that arises through multiplication of areas, and as to the necessity of arranging matters between Sanitary and Highway Boards. Another question which crops up in this connexion is that of allotments. Some alteration should be made speedily with regard to the carrying out of the Compulsory Clauses of the Allotments Act. Those who have had the necessity of putting in force the Compulsory Clauses find that the difficulties are overwhelming on account of the legal technicalities and the delay. My own experience teaches me that some alteration is necessary. I will give an instance to prove my contention. In a case with which I am acquainted the Sanitary Authorities from the first expressed the greatest anxiety to obtain laud for the parish, and application was made to the County Council to put the Compulsory Clauses in force. But what happened? Unnecessary delay. Notices had to be served at a time that rendered it impossible to enter on the land that year, and then other difficulties arose which rendered it impossible for the men to obtain possession of the land next year. I firmly believe that none of these difficulties would have arisen if the powers which are now vested in the County Council had been held by District Councils. I have listened with great interest to the speeches made not only on the Front Opposition Bench, but by gentlemen sitting behind that Bench in regard to some new idea as to Parish Councils. I do not object to their formation, provided it is said what these Councils are to do. In creating Parish Councils we shall be creating a new authority, and therefore new offices, involving further expenses in respect of clerks, surveyors, and all sorts of expensive officials. But what is the work that these Parish Councils are to do? I remember on one occasion it was 805 said that the Parish Council could have the management of the parish cricket club, cow club, and pig club; but beyond that I am bound to say I have not heard any practical suggestion made as to the employment of these Councils. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax said these Councils would be useful for the discussion of political subjects.
§ MR. LLEWELLYN
Then I was mistaken. Perhaps they may have powers with regard to the management of certain parish roads; but there, again, there will have to be employed extra officials. It has been suggested that these Councils should have the management of charities in the parish; but how are charities to be vested in the Council when the trusts distinctly vest them in other hands, as is always the case in these charities? Then it has been suggested that the Chairman of the Parish Council should be an ex officio magistrate; but I would ask hon. Members, who are likely to be made Chairmen of these small Parish Councils? Very often it will be the clergyman, and I object to clerical magistrates. They have plenty to do as it is, and I do not see how very much will be gained by that suggestion; while another objection is that the Chairman of such a Council, who is also a magistrate, will be practically disqualified from attending in the Council to matters which also come before him in his judicial capacity. I have often been obliged, and have indeed desired, to retire from as many as half the cases that came before me in local affairs, and upon which I had previously adjudicated. With regard to the terms of the Amendment, I contend that it rests very much with hon. Members opposite whether the Government are to be allowed to introduce Bills on these subjects, which I hope and believe they have in a very forward state. It is most absurd and ridiculous for hon. Members opposite to get up and move Amendments regretting (hat the Government do not propose legislation on various subjects, when we have direct statements from other hon. Members opposite that they consider it their duty to make legislation impossible.
§ (8.45.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ (8.48.)— MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Somerset (Mr. Llewellyn) made what I suppose he regards as an effective point against the Opposition. He said that while we asked the Government to introduce new measures we were prepared to oppose other measures of the Government. That is a most unreasonable suggestion on his part. Does he deny the Opposition the right to pick and choose between the measures of the Government, and to say which they prefer the Government to press? Most of the Members who sit upon the Opposition Benches think this Session might be far more usefully given up to the promotion of popular institutions, and to the consideration of one of the most important matters of English rural life—Poor Law administration—than to passing, by a vote of a blind and mechanical majority, a Bill sanctioning the squandering of £20,000,000 or £40,000,000 amongst the Irish landlords. The hon. Member seemed to be friendly to the idea of Parish Councils; but, at the same time, not to know much about the present powers of parishes. He asked what Parish Councils would be given to do. My hon. Friend the Member for the Rugby Division (Mr. Cobb) took the trouble to state to the House the various powers which might be handed over to the Parish Councils—information which was supplemented by my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk (Mr. F. Stevenson), whose acquaintance with the subject is well-known. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board took a course which we thought prejudicial to the interests of parish institutions. The various enactments which parish vestries still have power to carry into effect were by the District Council Clauses to be narrowed and circumscribed, and those powers which still are possessed by parish vestries were by those clauses to be handed over to bodies elected in a larger area. That is one of the chief reasons which make us anxious to take part in this debate. The hon. Member for Somerset said that if Parish Councils were established it would mean an 807 expansion of the cost of local government; that we should have new bodies of officials appointed, and that that would involve additional cost to the ratepayers. The hon. Member (Mr. Llewellyn) has, for a Representative of a rural district, shown a striking ignorance not only of the powers actually possessed by parish authorities at the present moment, but also of the history of this question. If he had been familiar with the admirable speech which the Chancellor of the Exchequer made in introducing his Bill in 1871, he would have known that the Chancellor of the Exchequer contemplated the creation of these Parish Boards, and the handing over to thorn of considerable powers. In that speech, too, the right hon. Gentleman drew special attention to the fact that the Parish Boards which he contemplated would not involve any addition whatever to the expenses. Now, the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham (Mr. Jesse Collings), who seems to me the very Cassandra of local government, said that if this Amendment were carried we should effect the disastrous result that all the objects we have in view in the Amendment would only be inimitably postponed. It is only fair to judge the hon. Member's prophesy by his statement of the history of the question. The hon. Gentleman said he moved an Amendment to the Address in 1886 which caused the fall of the Conservative Ministry, and that the immediate effect of the replacing of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian in power was to postpone and destroy the chances of carrying out reform of local government, and especially the granting of powers with regard to the provision of allotments and small holdings which he had at heart. But whose fault was that? The whole country knows perfectly well that the reason legislation was postponed was that the hon. Member, and Iris right hon. Colleague the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), ran away from their leader, ran away from their principles, ran away from the posts which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian entrusted to their charge. It is notorious that one of the first duties entrusted to the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division was to prepare a Local Government Bill with 808 powers for the provision of allotments and small holdings — a Radical and Liberal measure—and there was no reason why that Bill should not have been passed in 1886 if the hon. Gentleman and his friends had but supported our Home Rule policy. I will not echo the very extraordinary compliments, the almost injudicious compliments, which have been passed on the Local Government Act of 1888. I have always held the opinion, and I hold it still, that that Act was in its conception, and its carrying' out an anti-democratic Act, brought forward with a democratic profession. The policy which underlay that Act was to withhold from the people those institutions which go to the hearts of the people, and give the humblest man in the community an opportunity of taking part in local government. We remember well the withdrawal from even the body which the Act constituted—the County Councils —of those powers which would have made the Councils really popular bodies. The licensing question, the question of Poor Law administration, and the like, were withdrawn from the purview of the Councils. Last year a District Councils Bill was mentioned in the Queen's Speech: this year there is no mention of the Bill there. We have had almost enough of the sudden impromptu pledges of the First Lord of the Treasury. I had not the advantage of being present the other afternoon when the right hon. Gentleman suddenly made some promise to the House that the Government would deal with the question of District Councils; but it is an extraordinary spectacle to find no mention of the subject in the Queen's Speech, and then to have the right hon. Gentleman suddenly announcing that the measure is ready for introduction, and will be passed through the House. I think it is scarcely respectful to the House that it should be treated in this manner, upon so urgent and so important a question. We have seen something of pledges of right hon. Gentlemen in regard to other matters. My hon. Friend on my left, and those of us who fought through the allotments campaign of 1887, remember the cross questions and the crooked answers, both in this House and in the House of I Lords on this subject: how Her Majes- 809 ty's Ministers could not make up their minds on the allotments question; how the First Lord of the Treasury, when my hon. Friend the Member for the Rugby Division's Bill was before the House, announced that in a short time the Government were going to introduce an Allotments Bill in another place, and in the House of Lords a few days afterwards the Prime Minister said, in shelving the Allotments Bill brought in by Lord Dunraven, all these questions must practically be put off until the Local Government Bill was disposed of. We know perfectly well that the Gordian Knot brought about by these cross questions and crooked answers was only cut through by the incisive knife of the Spalding Election. We have in the present instance something of the same kind. Look at the extraordinary contradiction in the promise by the First Lord of the Treasury of a District Council Bill, and at the same time the introduction of a Bill to amend the Labourers Allotments Act. We were told by the Secretary to the Local Government Board, just now, it was contemplated when the District Councils were brought forward, or when District Councils were constituted, that they should be the authority to deal with allotments, and at the same time we are told we are to have an Allotments Amendment Bill introduced, the very principle of which is to continue the powers of the authority in the hands of Guardians, giving power of appeal from the Guardians to the County Council. Now, when a Government talks fast and loose in this way, and promises two Bills, one to constitute an authority which is to supersede another authority—and in the other Bill offers an appeal from that authority—we can hardly regard these pledges as serious or intended as anything more than stop-gaps to stave off criticism they may be subjected to in the country. I do not know that we should be entitled to deal with the question of allotments on the present occasion; and I will not detain the House with it, beyond emphasising the point that we must insist on going to the bottom of local government, and giving labourers a chance of taking part in this government. This question of land never can be fairly dealt with until you have an authority directly elected by the labourers in their own villages, 810 and on the same system as the elections for the County Councils—one man one vote—and the system of ballot; you must give this authority power to take land, and the only appeal you should give would be from this authority to the County Council on behalf of those farmers or landlords who might here or there be unjustly treated by harsh or hasty action of the Parish Councils. I heartily disapproved of the District Council clauses in the Local Government Bill, and I think this debate may be of some use in the House and in the country if we take the opportunity on this side of fearlessly, I will not say in a hostile spirit, stating to Her Majesty's Government what, I believe, we are commissioned to state by those we represent, the profound feeling in the country parishes against the constitution of District Councils on the lines of 1888, or an authority of that nature such as was contemplated in the Local Government Bill of 1888. I do not agree entirely with some of my hon. Friends, but I feel that I am only doing my duty to my own constituents in the various parishes and villages I represent when I lay their earnest feeling before the House, that instead of taking away any of the powers existing and now possessed by parish authorities the first object of local reform ought to be to expand and extend these powers, and the only powers that ought to be given to District Councils are those which cannot rightly be exercised within the smaller area. You must go for the Parish Councils first. Your District Councils may have functions in the future in regard to roads, and in regard to Poor Law administration when these are dealt with, but I am only speaking the feeling, the earnest feeling, of many agricultural labourers and village artisans when I say the first demand, and I say it without any Party spirit, the first demand is for local institutions, within their own parishes and villages. The feeling of many of them is, that it is very possible when you constitute such Parish Councils and get them into working' order in connection with Committees of County Councils, it is very possible you will find no necessity whatever for creating these District Councils, which District Councils certainly would involve an amount of expense, by the creation of 811 new officers and salaries, which Parish. Councils need not do. The necessity for these Parish Councils has been dealt with eloquently and in feeling terms by my hon. Friend the Member for North Bucks (Captain Verney), so I will not trespass on the time of the House further than to say this:—What would be these District Councils according to the Government proposals of 1888? The President of the Local Government Board during the debates on that Bill was challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Broadhurst) as to creating institutions which would enable labourers and artisans to take part in local government, and the right hon. Gentleman then interrupting my hon. Friend said, "There are the District Councils." Now, that is just what I want to push home to him. Let him give an authority that labourers and artisans can take part in. What would these District Councils be according to the proposal of 1888? They would meet under the same conditions as Boards of Guardians do, in some central market town, in the day-time and under conditions that would practically exclude the attendance of labourers and village artisans. Now we all know—those of us who are familiar, as I have been for the last four or five years, with the conditions of rural life—that labourers, after a long day's toil, return weary and filthy from their work from long distances in the dusk of the evening, and can only take part in Boards which meet in the evening. Those who have had to deal with these men know perfectly well that there are amongst thorn men of singular independence, force of character, and fairness of judgment. I have myself been greatly struck by the extreme moderation of tone of the English agricultural labourer in dealing with all questions as between man and man, the extreme consideration for the rights of others, and the good spirit they show. They are quite fit to be trusted, and I feel I should be justfied in using the strongest language in asking that they should have institutions placed within their reach which would really enable them to exercise and develop their great powers, their sound judgment, good feeling, and good sense, in work for the benefit of the locality in 812 which they dwell. There is one more matter I should like to touch upon before I part with this question. In his speech in 1888, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board in dealing with the Local Government Bill, alluded to many questions which he reluctantly—and I have no donbt he spoke sincerely—was compelled to leave out of that Bill. One of these questions was that of valuation. I hope I may be in order in referring to that question, for 1 should like to enter my protest on this occasion, perhaps the only one I shall have during the Session, against any further postponement of this most important question of valuation. I do so with the more earnestness because I read a short time ago—in December, I think—an account of the proceedings when a deputation waited upon the Local Government Board, and met with a fair and courteous reception from the right hon. Gentleman the President. He stated then his own belief that the valuation of property was not in a satisfactory condition; he regarded it as in an unsatisfactory condition; in fact not to detain the House by repeating all the right hon. Gentleman said, he certainly expressed his own feeling that the question was urgent, of enormous importance to taxpayers and ratepayers, and ought to be dealt with without delay. He regretted parting with these clauses in the Bill of 1888, but all he hoped was at some other time to get Parliament to consider and deal with this most important question, which all parties agree ought to be dealt with. Well, after long discussions and assurances that this question of rating and valuation should be dealt with, here we are in the second year after the passing of the Local Government Bill, and I think we have serious reason to complain that Her Majesty's Government still further postpone this question of valuation. I think the Government will have only themselves to thank, when this question affecting the purses of the ratepayers is discussed, if those who are opposed to them represent this as an interested policy calculated on the lines of considering the interests of the rich, not considering the interests of struggling occupiers throughout the country. On these grounds I am exceedingly glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax has thought it right 813 to start this debate. It has been a debate of considerable importance, and I hope it may bear considerable result, but I do feel, and what I wish to conclude with is this, that we do not think the Government have approached the problem of local government in a true democratic spirit. They have deliberately begun at the wrong end in order to postpone handing over local government to the people in their own homes and villages. I trust, however, that this debate may result in practical suggestions being laid before the Government as to the Measures I hope they will ultimately bring before Parliament.
§ (9.15.) MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
No doubt in considering the terms of the Queen's Speech, Her Majesty's Government must have felt themselves under the necessity of making a choice between a measure for constituting English District Councils and an instalment for Ireland of that local government extended to England in 1888, and to Scotland last year. It is impossible that two measures of such importance, of such detail and complexity, could be passed in one Session, and, for my part, I heartily congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the choice they have made. I had an opportunity of consulting my constituents lately, and I can testify to their opinion heartily in favour of the claim that Ireland should have such an instalment of local government as has been given to England and Scotland, and that the challenge of the hon. Member for Cork that the Irish people should have liberby to spend their own money on their own local affairs should be accepted—I mean, of course, that the local authorities in Ireland should be genuinely adapted for local business. I submit, therefore, that the question of fair dealing between the three countries makes the choice of the Government the proper one, and that local government in Ireland is more urgent than the question of establishing District Councils in this country. This policy will afford a practical opening for dealing with Home Rule in a practical way; it will afford an opportunity of coming to close quarters with the question, and will bring the people of this country face to face with the dangerous and impracticable part of Home Rule. I do not understand how it can be con- 814 tended that the remainder of the English Bill is really urgent. I am a Member of a County Council, and can, therefore, say from my own experience that the County Councils have not yet settled to their business. They do not understand what County Council business is, nor the real way of dealing with it. It would be most unfair to those new bodies to place upon them, with their present inexperience, the embarrassment which the creation of a new and untried body would inevitably bring. It is patent to the House that there are enormous difficulties in dealing with the question of District Councils, and I think the discussion has certainly shown this in an unmistakable way to the House and the country. The question of the union area, for example, is one of the greatest difficulty, because on an average in rural districts this area is not less than a hundred square miles. I am in favour of very large powers being given to parishes, because I feel that there must be local knowledge for local purposes. The union area, therefore, is too large and too unwieldy for anything like local knowledge. The Guardians of the Poor are very much interested in particular matters pertaining to their own parish, but they are neither interested in nor have they the requisite knowledge of matters in parishes adjacent to their own. There is the greatest possible difficulty in. getting persons to consent to serve as Guardians of the Poor, because of the great difficulties connected with attendance and the large amount of time which the duties consume. On that ground a measure of great detail and great difficulty, as to which much difference of opinion is sure to arise, ought not seriously to be attempted, unless the larger part of a Session can be given to its consideration. The first duty before the Government is to endeavour as much as possible to recover for the House of Commons the mastery of its own business, and in the selection the Government have made I feel that they have done a great deal to arrive at that result.
§ (9.20.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
I cannot congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken on his consistency. He now thinks that local government for Ireland is more necessary than the completion of local government for England, but when an 815 instruction was moved on the second reading of the Local Government Bill by my hon. Friend the Member for the Bye Division of Suffolk, I think he voted in favour of Parish Councils, and surely the matter must have been urgent then, to induce him to vote against his own Government and in favour of an instruction moved from this side. I think the Amendment must have a good deal of sympathy from the President and Secretary of the Local Government Board. I can quite understand that they should feel regret at this matter being postponed. Surely they are anxious to complete the work begun by the Local Government Act of 1888, an Act we always thought imperfect. Time has shown that it is so, and that its completion ought to be made as early as possible in the interest of the rural population of this country. There is another and a strong argument in favour of this Amendment. The President of the Local Government Board himself promises a Bill in reference to the question of allotments, because the Sanitary Authorities are inefficient, and is actually going to take from them, on the ground of inefficiency, certain powers now allotted to them, transferring those powers to County Council. So then we have from the right hon. Gentleman himself a condemnation of those authorities we want to reform. I want reform on several grounds, but mainly on sanitary grounds. It is necessary for the health of the people that these Local Bodies should be reformed in order that they may be enabled to cope with the insanitary conditions amid which the rural population in many cases live. We have ground for saying this question is urgent, for when the Royal Commission on the "Housing of the Working Classes" reported they admitted the urgency, and the hon. Member for the Bordesley division (Mr. Collings) was so convinced of this and the necessity of reform—though he does not appear to be so confident to-night—that he stated in an addendum or supplementary Report that one of his chief recommendations was that rural municipalities should be established without delay. But, what was urgent in 1885, must be matter of still greater urgency now. On sanitary grounds I mainly base my argument, though I am also anxious for 816 the reform on account of allotments and the administration of the Poor Law. The rural sanitary authority is elected on a wrong principle. It is elected on a property qualification, and the poor people in the villages have no sufficient authority over that body which has their lives and the lives of their families practically in its charge. What we want, therefore, is to give the people that power which will be of advantage to the sanitary condition of the rural community as a whole. The hon. Member for North Bucks (Captain Verney) has spoken of the tyrannies and evils of village government, but he did not refer, as he might have done, and I am glad he has left it to a member of the medical profession—to the insanitary condition of a large portion of the area he so well represents. Dr. Gresswell's Report to the Local Government Board on the general sanitary condition of the Buckingham Rural Sanitary District, deals with a population of something under 10,000. The population is decreasing-, as in rural parts it generally is, on account of the departure of the people to places where they can get better wages and better housing, and because of the serious diseases continually breaking out. The population of 13 of the larger parishes he mentions, was in 1871 7,274, and according to the last census (1881) it had fallen to 6,404, a decrease of 870, so rapid had been the diminution in a district within an easy distance of London. We cannot wonder at this when we know the sanitary circumstances under which these poor people live. In this district there are 1,969 dwellings of which 1,656 are described as cottages, and of these 1,378 are rated at yearly values under £5—They are four-walled two-storeyed structures built of mud and wattles, of brick, or of local stone, floored with, irregular flags or brick, and roofed half or more of them with thatch. They are divided into two or three compartments, the upper, approached directly from the ground-floor room, being quite commonly in the penthouse roof with the bare rafters presenting inside. In many cases there is an additional small compartment either within the four walls of the building or as a 'lean-to' or 'barn' outside, which is used as a back kitchen or as a store and wash-house.Some of these buildings are so bad that I will read one or two extracts from this Report to show their insanitary condition— 817Instances of dwellings which for one or two reasons are a source of nuisance or of danger to health, may here he mentioned. The 'parish house' of Charndon, a dilapidated one-storeyed thatched cottage, is rented of the Guardians for a yearly sum of twenty shillings. It is divided into three compartments, of which one formerly used as a 'barn,' is in ruins. The bed room occupied by the whole family (man, wife, and four children) has a cubic capacity of about 500 feet,"—not a quarter of what it ought to be—a single window of about three feet square (the whole of which, however, admits of being opened)"—but a window which opens is an exception in these hovelsand a floor formed of marl. Along the length of this cottage at the back, and immediately under the bedroom window, there is a ditch, in which various kinds of filth are placed, including human excrement, for the making of manure Another thatched two-roomed mud cottage hard by, with bulging walls, worn-out thatch, and marl flooring, is occupied by a family of six. A woman, her four sons (one 20 years-of age and another 16), and a daughter slept in one room, which is in the roof, and into which light and fresh air are admitted only on one side through the window openings, together about two and a half feet square.Now, are the ordinary decencies of life possible under such conditions as these? And then we go on,—At Beachampton, a cottage, much of which is in ruins, and which is deluged with rain in wet weather, is occupied by a man and his wife, at a yearly rental of 3os. The bedroom has no flue and but one window, which is about one square foot in area, and cannot be opened.At Padbury, a dilapidated cottage is occupied by a man, his wife, and four children, at Is. rent per week. The floor of the bedroom, which is in the roof, and in which all sleep, is so dilapidated that there is danger of its giving way almost at any time.At Thornborough, a cottage is occupied by a man, wife, and six children, at a rent of 1s. per week. It has two bedrooms, in which all the family sleep, and which together have a cubic space of 990 feet. Wind and rain pass freely through the roof, and walls and rafters, rotten and covered with toadstools, present on the inner surface.At Akeley a bedroom of 794 cubic feet capacity, with one small window, of which only two square feet can be opened, is occupied by a man, woman, and five children.One finds it almost impossible to believe that such a state of things should prevail within a journey of an hour or so from London. But so it is: again we find from this Report that not only is the housing of the poor thus disgracefully bad but the sanitary condition of the places is equally bad. For instance, we are told that— 818At Padbury there are several filth ditches in the proximity of dwellings, especially to be noted at Lower End and Lower Way. In the latter part, where there are some 15 cottages, the roadways are most unwholesome, owing to sewage matters being cast directly upon them, and to their being bordered by sewage ditches.I might go on making quotation after quotation from this report to show the horrible insanitary condition in which these poor people live. It is the same in other parts of the country. One of the most essential things is a good water supply, and the Report says on this subject—The wells, from which it is taken direct, are numerous; they are for the most part draw wells. In general they are six to ten feet deep, and are sunk on the cottage premises, in farmyards, or by the roadside. Provision has been but rarely made for preventing entrance of water from the surface, or (by puddle or cement) from the superficial layers of the earth; the walls of many of the wells are merely dry-steyned; several wells are but holes in the ground. And yet the soil about the wells is very generally permeated by sewage matters which have been thrown carelessly upon it, or which have escaped into it from badly-constructed drains, outdoor sink catch-pits, privy pits, slop and refuse holes, sewer ditches, muck heaps, or piggeries. And while the water of these wells is commonly muddy in wet weather, in dry seasons it commonly fails. The wells, moreover, are in very many instances not reasonably accessible; they are often distant 200, 300, 400 yards from the cottage.The supplies for the several villages are as follows:—At Adstock, where there are some 85 dwellings, the water for half of them is fetched from a pump well by the side of the road, sunk eight feet in sand and gravel. On one side of the well there is rising ground on which, not more than 12 yards or so from the well, are filth nuisances. Some cottagers have to go 600 yards there and back for this water. Six other cottagers get their supply from a shallow, roadside dip-well. The drainage from several cottages and from a slaughter-house passes close by this well, in an open ditch up to, in an open ditch up to it, and then by a pipe past it. There are also a few other pump and dip-wells amid filthy surroundings.At Gawcott Load some 16 cottagers (besides many others in the Urban Sanitary District of Buckingham) take their water from the Bath Lane Spout, where it issues in a copious, and it seems, a never failing stream. Specific pollution of this water in the lower part of its course by leakage from a drain was found by Dr. Parsons to have been the cause of the extensive outbreak of fever which took place among persons who drank of it early in the year 1888; and he advised the authorities that the spring which feeds the spout should be intercepted at the highest practicable point in the hillside, and the water there received into a tank and thence brought down to stand posts, with a view to secure the safety of the water from pollution and to afford a more readily accessible 819 supply. Instead of this, the upper part of the water conduit (some 25 yards long) has been allowed to remain, as it has always been, i.e., a mere rubble drain lying at a depth of only two to three feet in the field (a pasture and meadow field), and the lower part only has been replaced by galvanised iron pipes.Thus not only are the people disgrace fully neglected but even the directions of the medical officer are not carried out. The sanitary arrangements at the schools, too, are shocking. We find from the Report thatThe sanitary circumstances of the schools deserve special mention. At Thornborough the school, which has an average attendance of 86 children of both sexes, is supplied with but a single privy, and the receptacle (a vault) has evidently been overflowing on all sides. At Twyford the privy for the school-girls is so placed that emanations from it must needs enter the school-room. The privy receptacles at this school discharge into a closed cess-pit, the overflow from which is carried off by piping into a ditch. The gases formed in the cess-pit, which has not been cleared out for four years, can escape only by way of the privies. At the Padbury school the privy receptacles are vaults; the urinal discharges, it seems, directly into the roadway; and the pump, from which the children obtain water while at school, is not 10 yards from the privy vault. Other schools have defective privy arrangements, as at Maids Moreton, and the ventilation of several schools is insufficient.A more disgraceful condition of things I have never before heard of in my life. The House will not be suprised to find that, as a result, there are numerous deaths from typhoid fever. For a period of 20 years, from 1868 till 1888, there were only throe years in which there were no deaths from typhoid; and as each death signifies that there have been at least 10 cases of the disease, it may easily be understood how prevalent was the malady. In addition to that, there was prevalent another disease due to the pollution of the air and water—I meandiphtheria; that, too, was practically endemic in these villages; children constantly died of the malady; and others, when they grew up, fell victims to respiratory diseases. In the worst place these latter deaths represented 7.2 per 1,000 of the population: in another village the rate is only 1.9 per 1,000. The Report continues—The figures presented show that typhoid fever is, as would be expected from the sanitary circumstances of the district, of frequent occurrence. At Maids Morton, in 1887, there were 17 cases of enteric fever with three deaths, all at about the same time. Seven of these cases 820 'apparently began on the same day.' This outbreak began in that part of the village called Well More, the drainage of which is still defective, and the water supply for which is as unsatisfactory now as it was then. The sequence of multiple cases in one and another restricted locality suggests inefficiency in the remedial measures adopted by the authority, a matter to be reverted to below for dealing with this readily limitable disease. At Padbury, in 1880, a man fell ill of enteric fever, then his wife, then his mother, aged 53 years, took it and died, and her two sons also, who lived with her, took it; and 11 other persons in different parts of the village fell ill of it, and a woman aged 32 years died. In 1881, in the same parish, a woman died of this disease; and her son, aged 21 years, died shortly afterwards of it. In 1883 there were five cases of enteric fever there.Now, Sir, the conclusion of the Report is given on the deliberate authority of a Government official, and it is as follows:—The repetition and multiplicity of cases of sickness and of death from the above causes in particular localities is a strong indication that the Sanitary Authority has not properly exercised the functions for which it was constituted.This, Sir, is a deliberate condemnation of one authority; but I venture to say that there are scores of similar authorities equally neglectful of their duties. Before I leave this part of the subject I should like to point out that the medical officer reports that this work is carried on under great difficulties, for it is difficult to get the authority to enforce the alterations he makes. The authority gives to sanitary work half-an-hour once a month. In Essex similar conditions exist: we are told of dwellings where the people have not proper sleeping accommodation, and where a man and his wife and grown-up children all have to sleep in one room, making morality impossible. In Hertfordshire we hear of houses unfit for habitation, and described in a Report by a competent observer as "miserable hovels." This state of things accounts for the depopulation which is going on in our villages. In showing the absolute neglect of sanitary laws in rural districts I think I make out a strong case for Parish Councils for the rural population. They are citizens and voters of this Empire, and have a right to have their grievances attended to. Surely it would be easy for the Government to find time to pass a simple Bill giving the people more power of regulating these authorities than they now possess. Again 821 there are great inequalities in the matter of rating, and not long since I had the pleasure of presenting a memorial from Long-Eaton, a model little town, which although it contributes a seventh of the rates has only one-twentieth of the representation on the Board of Guardians. Again, there is the matter of the administration of the charities. In many little villages there are several charities under the control of Trustees, and these little gifts add sunshine and gladness to the dreary life of the poor. But the Trustees often neglect their duties altogether, with the result that the charities are lost to the people. I find from a Return moved for last Session that in four counties—Devon, Derby, Suffolk, and Cumberland — 164 rent-charges belonging to the poor have been mostly lost through inattention of the Trustees. This would not be the case if every village had its own Council. On the contrary, we should have hundreds of these charities saved to the country, and the starving and misery of the poorer classes would be greatly lessened.
(9.50.) MR. SEALE-HAYKE (Devon, Ashburton)
I wish to say a few words in support of the Amendment. I must myself plead guilty to being a landlord, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts (Mr. Walter Long) did; but I do not entertain the same views as those which he has expressed as to the wants and aspirations of the agricultural labourers. The hon. Gentleman, too, said that he considered that the Allotments Bill had been a success. Well, if the Allotments Bill has been a success, I want to know why, two years after it was passed, it requires amendment? If the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had only accepted my Amendment, to the effect that any applications for allotments should be evidence of the desire for allotments, and that upon receipt of applications the Local Authorities should take the necessary steps in order to obtain allotment ground, the act would have been a success, and he would not have had to come 822 to this House to amend it this year. Then, Sir, reference has been made to the County Councils, as being evidence of the Government success in dealing with local government. I admit that it is a step in the right direction, also that there is great activity at the present time among members of County Councils, and as a new toy they claim a considerable amount of attention. But I do not think that the County Councils will be satisfied unless they get the control of the police in their own hands. Then Sir, we have had no promise whatever of those further powers with which the County Councils were to be endowed, namely, the powers of Parliament in dealing with small local Bills—such as Gas and Water Bills, &c. And I think hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will agree with me that the County Councils may fairly be entrusted with powers such as these. I was very glad that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts did not deal with this as a Party question; I can assure him that we desire to see something done in this matter, irrespective of Party. I am sorry, however, with all due respect to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), that he should have addressed this? House in the spirit in which he did, and which I think is lamentable. For for about the hundredth time the hon. Gentleman treated us to an oration of his grievances against the Liberal Government of 1886. It seems to me a sufficient and complete answer to the hon. Gentleman to point out that he happened to be a Member of the Government in question, and his repeated accusations against it appear very much like fouling his own nest, which is a very congenial occupation on the part of gentlemen from Birmingham. He threatened us that he could persuade rural audiences that it is better to support his Government than to vote in favour of the Resolution now before the House; but all I can say is this—and I 823 speak from experience, for the hon. Gentleman has frequently addressed audiences in my neighbourhood—that the result of his so addressing them is that he only makes himself a laughing stock, and I certainly should welcome his advent into my constituency, for I am perfectly certain that by coming he would render my seat perfectly safe. I observed that the hon. Member for Wilts only promised to deal with the question of District Councils. He said nothing whatever as to the establishment of Parochial Councils. Now, I believe that the people will not be satisfied until they get these Parochial Councils, for they are the root and bases of the reform which is desired. I am confident, from my knowledge of the agricultural classes, that what they desire is to get into their own hands complete control of parish affairs. They wish to elect for themselves all the parish officers. At the present time they are governed by an aristocracy. It consists generally of two members, one being the parson and the other the Poor Law Guardian, and occasionally the squire forms a triumvirate. But I am sorry to say that squires do not now live in the country so much as they used to do, and I welcome the Amendment which is to be proposed by the hon. Member for Carnarvon shire, in which he proposes to divide the rates between the landlord and the tenants, because I am certain that when the landlord has to pay the rates directly one of his own pocket he will take a much more active part in parish affairs than he does at the present time. Now, I observe that the reference made to what may be called the parsonic domination in many of our parishes by the hon. Member for Bucks was received on the other side with scorn. I can only say, for my own part, that in many of our rural districts the domination of the parson is resented most deeply by the agricultural classes. The hon. Member for Bucks was asked for a list of places and names; but you can hardly open a paper except you see, especially on burial questions, evidence of the intolerance of the parson, which is entirely unintelligible at this present day. Now, Sir, what we want is to establish a Parish Council upon the lines which were shadowed out in the 824 excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby. We want that Parish Council to have the control of allotments; I will go further, and say that we not only want them to have the control of allotments, but we want them also to be in a position to give small holdings to those who require them. In rural districts, at the present time, we want the power of local government which existed in this country in historic times, and which has now, I am sorry to say, passed away. I think that by giving the agricultural population power to control their own affairs, you will certainly prevent them from leaving the country districts, you will give them an interest in their villages, and you will find that the population of the rural districts, instead of diminishing, will increase. If Her Majesty's Government will only attempt to deal with this question beginning at the right end, namely, at the foundation, by reforming the parish, I am perfectly certain that they will earn the gratitude not only of Members who represent agricultural constituencies but of the people of England at large.
§ (10.13.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
Before any reply is given by the Government, I desire to occupy the attention of the House for a very few minutes by putting the case as respects Scotland. We have had something done in regard to allotments in England; we have also had something done in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.; but for the general agricultural constituencies, which I and others represent, in the Lowlands of Scotland, we have had nothing done whatever. Certain pledges were given by Her Majesty's Government, and by the First Lord of the Treasury as representing Her Majesty's Government, during the discussion of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill. On that occasion it will be in the recollection of the House there were certain clauses, similar to the clauses granting allotments in England, introduced to this House by the Lord Advocate. My hon, Friend the Member for the Ilkeston 825 Division then intervened on behalf of allotments in England, and my hon. Friend representing the Kirkcaldy Burghs also intervened in the debate. The consequence was that the First Lord of the Treasury rose in his place and said that we could only have these clauses applied to Scotland if they were received without any discussion; and in order that there might be no mistake as to the position in which the Scotch Members were placed on that occasion I will quote the words used by the First Lord of the Treasury. He said—We are anxious that the power of granting allotments should be extended to Scotland. The Government will consider it during the recess, and endeavour to submit a measure which will meet, as far as possible, the views of hon. Gentlemen.Now, the First Lord referred to the hon. Gentlemen representing Scotland, and upon that occasion, having accepted in good faith the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury, they were willing to facilitate the Act generally they were then endeavouring to pass on behalf of Scotland, and they supported the Government in withdrawing those clauses under the most distinct pledge that the matter would be brought before the House in the present Session of Parliament. And in order that there may fie no mistake about it, the discussion went on, and because certain Members had expressed doubt as to the good faith or, at all events, the ability and full resolution of the Government to introduce the subject in the coming Session of Parliament, the President of the Local Government Board spoke as follows:—We shall, of course, keep our promise; if we can see our way to introduce a measure next Session we will be extremely glad to do so.On that occasion also my right hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow stood up in his place and said that these undertakings of Her Majesty's Government were as clear as a Minute. This House, as well as the Scotch Members, accepted these pledges, of Her Majesty's Government in full faith, and on that occasion we went into the lobby in favour of the Resolution of the First Lord of the Treasury 826 to withdraw these clauses. I desire to bring very seriously to the attention of the President of the Local Government Board these circumstances of our case, and I am sure he is acquainted with many of the circumstances. In regard to allotments, all that has been said on behalf of England is as true on behalf of Scotland. In regard to District Councils, our parochial and local affairs in counties are, as to management, in exactly similar circumstances—no worse and no better practically than they are in the English communities. But in regard to dwellings we are placed under most unfortunate and exceptional conditions; and I. can hardly hope to engage much the attention of the House, because the grievances to which I refer are exceptional and local. In our fishing villages along the East Coast of Scotland, the men who pursue the fishing industry have built themselves hundreds of houses with their own money, and on ground which they hold from year to year at the pleasure of the landlord. They are bound to these localities by the exigencies of their industry, and they are prevented from holding property in their dwellings by reason of their holding from the superiors of the soil their tenancies from year to year. I am most desirous that this discussion should not be unduly prolonged; but I believe it is still in the power of Her Majesty's Government, though they have made no reference to it in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, to fulfil the covenant, which cannot possibly be denied. In relation to having ground for allotments, I could give most painful instances which have occurred throughout the constituency which 1 represent. We have still the Law of Entail and Settlement in regard to many of the estates there. There is one parish in my constituency where the land had been acquired for two or three houses at the time when the estate was not under the Law of Entail. It has since come under that law, and now the proprietor is offering these tenants, who have built their own houses on leases of 99 years on the understanding that the proprietor would be bound to renew or take the houses at valuation, £10 for the capital value of their houses for which he is to receive an annual rental of £10. I could give you many more instances 827 occurring in the fishing towns along the East Coast of Scotland. I am, however, quite sure that both the Lord Advocate and the President of the Local Government Board are perfectly well aware of the circumstances; and I call upon the Government, in the name of those who believed in their promise last year, to renew at least the pledge that some opportunity will be given for putting the counties of Scotland in a position not inferior to the English counties.
§ (10.17.) MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
, who had the following Amendment on the Paper:—As an Amendment to Mr. Stansfeld's Amendment to the Address, par. 16, at end to add the words' or of making the promised division of rates between owners and occupiers,'said: Before I deal with the subject of the Amendment which I have upon the Paper I must say just one word or two by way of making protest against a portion of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby, in which he advocated, as one of the benefits arising to the poor, an extension of the system of outdoor relief. No more cruel injustice can by any possibility be done to the labouring people of this country than to extend the system of outdoor relief. I am certain that I will be borne out by everyone who has laboured among the poor, and who has watched the effect in these days of outdoor relief, when I say that anything more effective in demoralising the people and lowering wages, and making men paupers and women prostitutes, it is impossible to find in the whole course of our legislation. And when the hon. Member alludes to it as a matter which is to be gained by democratic reform I think he must be utterly unaware of the course taken by other countries in regard to this subject. In America, where you would suppose that pauperism would be impossible, by a certain amount of laxity in the administration of relief it was 828 artificially created, and no one in this country would dare to propose the stringent measures for remedying this matter that have been adopted in the United States of America. I was surprised to hear anyone who had considered at all what is beneficial to the population advocate such a dangerous measure. By all means let us give relief outside the workhouse to those who are suffering, but with that relief we ought to give up our time, and attention, and sympathy, to avoiding the disadvantageous effect of pauperising people, which invariably accompanies the lax administration of outdoor relief. What I rose particularly to advocate was the matter of which I have given notice on the paper. In putting this notice on the paper my motive was to induce the Government to take up the subject, and to make that change in the incidence of rating which, nineteen years ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) told us was necessary, in justice to the poorer part of the community, and for the security of those who owned property. Both he and the leader of the House promised, two years ago, in the debate on the Local Government Bill, that the matter should be dealt with as soon as possible, and again, at the earliest possible moment. In that debate the Chancellor adhered to the opinions he had previously expressed, when he urged that as you do not allow people to contract themselves out of Imperial taxation, you ought not to allow them to contract themselves out of local taxation. I most emphatically agreed with him when he said that he valued the division of rates, not merely for the sake of relieving ratepayers, but also for bringing the owners, who are, of course, the leisured classes, into bearing their fail-share, not only of local taxation, but also of local administration. At present the rise in rating in times of pressure and hardship falls exclusively on the occupier, that is, on the poorer class, which is cruel and unjust. On the other hand the owner, who does not feel the first impact of the rise and fall of local taxation, as a rule neglects to take the part or interest in it which he otherwise would do, and only awakes to find large loans and indebtedness incurred, for which his property is ultimately responsible. This is not a mere money 829 question; it is not even a mere question of physical comfort and well being, though these are seriously imperilled by the present system. Louse, careless expenditure is not only accompanied by bid, inefficient administration and increased taxation, but it means corruption and demoralisation, and these evils of corruption and demoralisation are worse in local than in Imperial administration, as affecting a larger number of persons, and acting on the individual life of every part of the nation. Now, I wish the Government to remember this very important point; that is, that the pledges which were drawn from that debate came not only from this side, but from the other side of the House. Friend after friend on the other side of the House got up and said that they had over and over again discussed these things in agricultural districts, and had pledged themselves to this great reform; and I would really urge the Government to pluck up its spirit and to deal boldly with this question. The Chancellor of the Exchequer maintained that representation ought to go hand in hand with taxation. Well, I entirely agree with him, and I agree with him because I think it is important from the point of view of producing better administration. Representation accompanying taxation would force the leisured classes into a more active part in local affairs. Now, I am perfectly aware that on our side there is a very considerable objection to the institution of aldermen, but I am quite convinced that if you would have the courage of your own convictions, and introduce a system of division of rates between owners and occupiers, oven if yon accompanied that as you think it necessary to do with some direct representation of the owners, for instance, by enabling owners to choose the aldermen, you would not find it very difficult to carry such a measure through the House. Bear in mind those who are interest ed in this matter. They are the ratepayers, and who are the electors of this House? Why these very ratepayers. Now, I would ask you whether it is likely that those who are elected by these ratepayers would refuse so very great a boon if accompanied by some new mode of appointing aldermen? Many Friends around me would rather have the aldermen chosen in the manner 830 proposed than by the present system which is very strongly objected to. One' other point. You will be obliged to introduce shortly a Local Government Bill for Ireland. Now, I defy anyone to draw up a system of local government for Ireland without introducing this system of division of rates between owners and occupiers accompanied by representation. One of the most prominent leaders of the Radical Party says in an article that it would be impossible to introduce any system of local government in Ireland which would work without the introduction of that principle. It seems to me that there is no difference of opinion on either side of the House on this question. The principle has been admitted as freely by Gentlemen on the other side of the House as on this side. If the principle has been admitted to be just as regards the poor, and to be necessary also to the safety of the wealthier classes, is it not absurd that we should go on from year to year without having courage to carry out the principle to which I have referred 1 I do not propose to move my Amendment, of which I have given notice, because I am informed it might interfere with the discussion of questions relating to London.
§ (10.30.) MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
I apologise to the House for interfering in this debate, which I did not intend to take part in, but I am bound to take notice of certain remarks made by the last speaker, because I utterly and entirely dissent from them, and they were received with such rapturous applause by a few hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, that I cannot allow them to pass without a protest. I allude to what he said about indoor as opposed to outdoor relief. I know it is not of much use to make any appeal to the doctrinaires who are always pointing to the reckless manner in which outdoor relief used in other days to be given, and defending the system which to-day is constantly forcing the aged poor into the workhouses by offering them the "workhouse or nothing." [Mr. RATHEONE was understood to say that his observations 831 referred to able-bodied paupers only.] The hon. Member said that the system of outdoor relief "made men paupers and women prostitutes;" and I protest on behalf of the working class population, against that great calumny. I have lived among the poor in rural districts all my life, and I think I know something about their feelings on this question I say that the system of the Poor Law is a system which is simply hated and detested by the agricultural poor as it is administered in many parts of the country. It is a system under which, after a life on starvation-wages, the old people go into the workhouses to end their days, and the next generation are made more poor and more wretched than they otherwise would be by being obliged under the Poor Law to contribute towards the support of those poor parents whose only crime has been that they have been fools enough to work for the wretched wages given them. There is a Gloucestershire case tried last week in which a poor fellow earning 9s. a week had been ordered to pay 1s. a week towards the support of his old father and mother, and was summoned for 37 weeks' arrears. The magistrates slid they would take a very lenient view of the case and ordered him to pay a pound! A pound on 9s. a week! And this man had his family, including a crippled son. This is a common thing in the village life of England, and it is one of the things villagers hate and detest. It costs, perhaps, 3s. 8d. or 3s. 9d. to keep a poor old person in the workhouse, and he would far rather have 2s. or 1s. 6d. and a loaf, so as to be able to live among his friends, to sun himself in his little bit of a garden and keep his little home about him. I say, Sir, this system of the doctrinaires which declares that people must go into the workhouse or have no relief at all is one of the curses of the rural life of England. Now I am on my legs I should like to say a word or two on a point which has not been sufficiently alluded to by previous speakers. One of 832 the things which the villagers of England want is a little more independence in the exercise of the vote which has been given them by Parliament. They want a little less intimidation and a little less boycotting. With regard to allotments the Government have promised us a better system, and I am glad to to bear testimony not -only to the able but to the moderate and considerate way in which this question was dealt with by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. W. Long). Another point which requires attention is the tenure of cottages. Many of the English cottages are held in the rural districts at a week's notice. I want to ask hon. Members now that these labourers have votes, now that we are all agreed that we want to better their condition, is it a wise thing to allow them to continue in a state of dependence consequent on a week's tenure of their cottage? I should also have liked to speak on the question of free education, but as that is to be dealt with in a separate Amendment, I will not deal with it now. I think this debate will result in no waste of time, because it will bring home to the Government the opinion which I believe is held on both sides of the House, that there is nothing they can give their time and attention to more pressing and important than the needs of our rural population.
§ (10.35.) MR. DUFF (Banffshire)
The Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax refers to the provisions of both the English and Scotch Local Government Bills, and it is, therefore, not out of place for a Scotch Member to intervene in the debate. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) took considerable credit yesterday for the success of the Local Government Act in Scotland. I think, however, if he had watched the elections in my part of the country, he would hardly have done so, because almost every candidate, whatever his politics, who stood for the County Councils, declared that he wished to see the Act very largely extended and additional powers given to the County Councils with regard to the 833 licensing system and the control of the police. I entirely agree with what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Fast Aberdeenshire (Mr. Esslernont) with regard to the omissions in the Bill of last year. There is one point I wish particularly to allude to. No power has been given under the Bill to harbour authorities in Scotland. This leaves many of the fishing villages in country districts in a very unfortunate position. Many small harbours have been made by poor men who have raised considerable sums of money, but are unable to take advantage of the provisions of the Loans Commissioners Act, and I know cases where it is impossible to carry out the necessary extensions of the harbours because no administration is provided under the Act. Last year I put down an Amendment to the Bill on this subject, but as there was no provision in the measure dealing with it, my proposal was ruled out of order. The Government, however, admitted that it was an extraordinary thing to leave the harbours without any management whatever. In many cases the local authorities are raising rates to pay for the harbours, but in so doing they are acting illegally, and they have no power to enforce such rates. The right hon. Gentleman, the Lord Advocate, admitted this was an anomaly, and that there had been an omission in the Bill. The Solicitor General for Scotland, writing to one of my constituents, pointed out that an attempt had been made to deal with the matter, but that the Amendment proposed had been ruled out of order. I would put it to the Government, however, whether the fact that the matter was not dealt with is not really owing to an omission in the Bill? We have in Scotland a large fishing community having considerable interests, but no means of obtaining that which is essential to the success of their industry. I do not say that the Lord Advocate made a definite promise last Session, but he held out hopes that the omission would be rectified this year. The grievance is felt so keenly in many 834 parts of my own constituency that I was rash enough to say that if the Government would not undertake to deal with it I would endeavour to bring in a Bill myself to give these people power to deal with the subject. Under the circumstances I would appeal to the Government as to what action they intend to take in the matter. The grievance is felt not only in my owu constituency, but along the whole of the east coast of Scotland, and I am sure any measure of the kind I indicate, so far from meeting-opposition on this side of the House, will receive the general concurrence and support of all hon. Members whore present constituencies such as mine. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board when he gets up to reply will tell us what the Government intend to do in this matter.
§ (10.45.) MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol, F.)
I do not think that people are justified in moving Amendments to the Gracious Speech from the Throne unless there is a distinct issue to raise, but I think that there has been that distinct issue raised to-night, and that the Amendment has elicited a most important and practical debate, from which the Government must have derived much benefit. I am strengthened in that belief by the cordial speech we had from the Secretary to the Local Government Board, which gave me a great deal of encouragement to hope that the Government have not lost sight of this question of District Councils. Having seen the subject mentioned in the Speech from the Throne last year, and having lost sight of it this year, I confess I thought the Government intended to leave it out of view; but there is every reason to believe now that, though the subject is omitted from the Queen's Speech, the Government have not abandoned their intention to carry out a measure setting up District Councils throughout the country. The County Councils Act will never be complete until we have District Councils 835 as the complement of it. At present the County Councils are like a great machine with little work to do. We want to see the control of the police brought within their purview, because I foresee that friction will arise with the present Joint Committee arrangement. The care of the poor should be entrusted to the County Councils, also the provision of allotments and the questions of education, the housing of the poor, and the management of the churchyards. I was glad to have the admission of the hon. Member for North Somerset that the compulsory clauses of the Allotments Act have not worked well, and because they have not worked well, we are justified, I maintain, in regarding the measure as a complete failure. No doubt many allotments have been given by arrangement, but I believe I am right in saying that not one has been provided under the compulsory clauses of the Act. Therefore, if compulsion is the essence of the measure, I think we may say it has been a failure. I hold that another advantage we should derive from a District Councils Bill would be uniformity of voting. I hope nothing will prevent the Government from fulfilling their pledges and from carrying' this measure of local government to complete the scheme of 1888.
§ (10.50.) MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
I and my Colleagues connected with the Metropolis delayed speaking on this proposal until the other part of the discussion had come to an (aid, because we thought it for the convenience of the House that the two parts of the Amendment should, to a certain extent, be treated separately. The proposal as it stands before us deals not only with the constitution of District and Parochial Councils in Great Britain, bat s leaks to carrying further in London and elsewhere the organisation and powers of local government. Now, when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board introduced his measure in the year 1888 he dealt with the questions 836 which had been touched on during the First Reading of that measure in a remarkably liberal spirit, and though the Bill he produced was, to some extent, less liberal than he had foreshadowed in that speech, there has been more or less a drawing back on the part of the Government from the attitude which he then took up. We had a scheme of District Councils in that speech and in the Bill, and in the following year, after that scheme had been withdrawn, we had a mention in the Queen's Speech that such a measure would be introduced. In the present year it has dropped out of the Queen's Speech. It is not only on this general matter, but on the matter more particularly of London that we had hoped that something' more definite would have been done ere now. London has two particular claims to attention; in the first place, because it is so far behind rest of the country in its organisation that it has been out of measures which have brought in and carried through on the understanding that it should be omitted. London has suffered in the matter of local government from both sides of the House since the time when, in 1835, the Metropolis was thrown overboard by Lord John Russell, in order to carry through the Municipal Government Bill of that day; yet London, although a very large subject, offers peculiar facilities for any Government to deal with, because it presents a homogeneous problem. Another point is that Members on this side of the House, and the House generally, have shown themselves very willing to lend every assistance to the present Government in their endeavour to deal with a scheme for London government. I have to complain that, excepting the President of the Local government Board, and the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, Conservative Members generally have scarcely had a good word to say for the County Council of London. ["No!" from the Ministerial Benches I am glad to hear contradiction from that 837 quarter. This Amendment now before the House looks in two directions; that is to say, towards the completion of loyal government in the Metropolis and the creation of District Councils. We London Members have brought in several Bills dealing with the difficulties connected with the government of London, but we have not ventured to bring in a Bill dealing with the formation of District Councils in London, partly because we had the foreshadowed expectation that the President of the Local Government Board was to do it himself, and partly because we feel that any measure of the kind must emanate from the Government. In respect to District Councils in London let me state certain main lines upon which I think I may say most of us in this quarter of the House are fairly well agreed. The number of individuals composing District Councils ought, in my opinion, to be less than the number, for the most part, of the present vestries. It is ridiculous to go to a poor quarter in London, where there may be 120,000 people, and expect to get 120 men who are able and willing to devote the time that ought to be devoted to the government of the locality. Again, I am perfectly clear that the property qualification which at present exists for vestries ought to be removed, inasmuch as at present a lodger in the east end of London, for instance, may be the Parliamentary Representative of his district, and yet cannot sit on the local vestry. It is nonsense to say that lodgers are uninterested in the question of rates. They are more interested, if possible, than the occupiers. In the next place, the areas over which the District Councils in London should have jurisdiction ought to be co-terminous with the Parliamentary divisions. I do not say they ought to be the same size as Parliamentary divisions, but that there should be no, cutting in and out of the boundaries. At present there are parishes each belonging to some portion of the system of local government, but distributed amongst several Parliamentary constituents. Not only is that bad from an Administrative point of view, but it is particularly bad from the point of view that was touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax. One of the difficulties and dangers of 838 the Metropolis is that while you have the great collocation of 5,000,000 of people you have not got so many men per 1,000 in the Metropolis as you have in a great self-governing town who are capable of taking the burden of government on their shoulders. There is an extraordinarily small number of people in London who have had any opportunity whatever of learning how to manage local affairs. Hon. Members who have had to do with local government know that when a committee is formed for a charitable or any other purpose in a self-governing town there are found one or two persons fairly indicated by their position in the town to take the chair or to take the lead in the committee. We find that when a committee is brought together in London for similar purposes, there is an extraordinary absence of natural leaders, an absence which largely arises not only from, the want of district government but from the non-coterminous character of the Government districts for different purposes. Another point I wish to urge upon the attention of the President of the Local Government Board is, that the District Councils ought to have real powers and real responsibilities; they ought to keep in close touch with the County Councils; but you cannot get people to take the interest they ought to take in affairs unless they have real powers and responsibilities. Take the question of the housing of the poor, and notice in how many instances Local Bodies have grossly neglected the duties imposed upon them by Act of Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman will see in that matter alone what a large amount of jobbery exists in a large number of Local Bodies. In the case of charities, too, the right hon. Gentleman will find much need for the creation of better bodies, rendered more efficient by the adoption of some such general principles as I have endeavoured to indicate. The County Council may be compared to the top of a building with an insufficient structure below to support it, as long as the District Councils are not set up, and you will not provide in London either the proper men to go to the County Council, and you will not provide proper men locally to be Parliamentary Representatives in London, unless you create true and real local life, which can only be done by 839 reformed district government in London. I do not speak from a Party point of view. There is nothing more advantageous than that there should be a wide distribution of political efficiency, no matter on which side it is. There are other lines on which the right hon. Gentleman might have proceeded. There is the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the Poor Law Question. When I introduced the matter the President of the Local Government Board said the time was not far distant when the Metropolitan Asylums Board would be (or very possibly) absorbed in the County Councils. I do not know that it is altogether desirable that it should be absorbed in the County Councils. I am not at all clear that it is in the end desirable there should be one, and only one, central government in London; but however that may be, it is quite clear the Metropolitan Asylums Board is non-representative, or very nearly so. It is choke full of many of the faults we found in the Metropolitan Board of Works, and its existence affords a great opportunity for the exercise of the right hon. Gentleman's skill in carrying further the organisation of the powers of local government in the Metropolis. A Bill is to be introduced on his own side of the House for adjusting School Board dues. That Bill proceeds on the general lines I have endeavoured to indicate. At any rate, it provides for co-terminous areas if nothing else. Then, the consolidation of the Sanitary Acts is a matter which I welcome. But the consolidation of the Sanitary Acts is not enough. We require to have more power in respect to the houses of the poor in this Metropolis. I proceed now to the question of the powers of the London Council. The present Council is founded more or less upon the lines of a Council of an ordinary county. I do not say entirely, but the Government have treated London more as if it were a county in the ordinary sense than as if it were a great borough. London is much more one whole county than any county one could name. But whatever view the right hon. Gentleman may take of that, we want the London Council to have more powers. For instance, it is very necessary we should have control of the police. The police force of London is 840 dearer per rateable value, per inhabitant, and per inhabited house—the three principal tests which you can apply—than the force elsewhere. But not only in that respect is the Metropolitan force dearer than any other. There is a 9d. rate allowed to the Police Authorities for expenses. I pointed out last year that that 9d. rate was in danger of being exceeded, and I got but cold comfort when I read the reply of the Home Secretary to my hon. Friend the Member for Fins bury (Mr. J. Rowlands), "that it was not perfectly clear that the police expenses would be kept within the 9d. rate." There is a great question in London, and that is, where we are going to get money for local government proper. I hope to have an opportunity shortly of showing upon what the rates may be properly placed, and more particularly the rates for the cost of permanent improvements. It is quite clear that whenever you can put into the hands of towns the possession of any of the great monopolies which involve no competition, you may in that respect aid the receipts of the town. I believe there are something like 160 towns in England which have the control of their own gas and water supplies. London, however, has no such control, and we think the time has come when the Government ought to enable the County Council to take over under proper conditions, and if they desire to do so, these supplies. The history of the matter in this House is not altogether creditable to the Government. When, during the discussion of the Local Government Bill of 1888, we wished to propose, not that power should be given to the new Council to take over the water supply, but that the Council should be able to inquire into the water supply, and to spend money for that purpose, we were prevented by the ruling of the Chairman of Committees from making that proposal. The County Council had not the right to spend a single penny in investigating even the possibility of an improved water supply. Not only did the right hon. Gentleman and the Government prohibit this power being given, but a Bill was introduced last year that had a very peculiar history. The Bill was the County Council Borrowing Bill, and in it was a clause giving to the Council power to expend money on the 841 investigation of the water supply. That Bill was withdrawn by the Government and re-introduced under circumstances in which we had practically no opportunity whatever of criticising its provisions. The Government have, therefore, stood in the way of the County Council doing anything they could to investigate the condition of the supply of water to the Metropolis. The funds which might come into the hands of the County Council from the possession of such monopolies are great. If we follow the analogy of other towns we have reason to expect the proceeds would very considerably relieve the rates, and in that respect, therefore, we feel we have a right to claim some further concession of powers to the County Council. I am astonished that the Government have not been goaded on to do something on these points by the 47 Tory Members who sit for London. We Liberal Members are left like voices crying in the wilderness, endeavouring to urge on a Minister who, I believe myself, is very willing, but who would move along much more efficaciously if a single Tory Member would raise his hands and give him a push. But there is scarcely an occasion when the Tory Members for London have anything but a hard word to say for the London County Council, which I firmly believe is setting itself to do the best it can with the powers in its hands for the benefit of the London people. London is a town with common interests, but at present it is still a vast congeries of persons without cohesion, the natural prey to jobbery, and the happy hunting-ground for personal ambition. If, on the other hand, we can only complete the central government of London on something like the lines I have endeavoured to lay down, we have the potentiality, I believe, of one of the finest examples of Corporate life which this country or any country can produce.
§ (11.23.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
Country Members are in some respects in a more advantageous position in dealing with this question than the Representatives of London, because the Local Government Bill of 1888, as originally introduced, dealt with District Councils. The country Members know what the proposals of the Government are 842 in that respect, and are able to criticise them, whereas we London Members are almost entirely in the dark ns to the lines on which the Government propose to establish analogous institutions in the Metropolis. Indeed, the position of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board is somewhat peculiar. In past years the right hon. Gentleman has stood forward as the pronounced advocate of the vestries; and in 1884, when the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) was before this House, the present President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) told us that, by means of the vestries, London had been converted from a badly-lighted and badly-drained city into the healthiest city in the world. The right hon. Gentleman, I believe, relied for that statement upon the death-rate in the Metropolis. But I should like to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the general death-rate of the Metropolis is a most fallible criterion of the health of the Metropolis, owing to the particular circumstances of the Metro polis. On the other hand, the infantile mortality is the true test of the health of any society; and if the right hon. Gentleman will compare the infantile mortality in London with that in other towns, he will find that the results are results which I think may very well appal those who lire interested in this great city. I was much interested recently in reading a paper based on the observations if a distinguished medical man who lays down a proposition which may seem to be extravagant, but for which he gives a considerable basis of fact, namely, that the English lace can no more perpetuate itself in London than in Calcutta, and that if it were not for the constant introduction into the Metropolis of new blood from Westmoreland dales and Yorkshire words the population of London would die out altogether. The last speaker referred to the public spirit and the hearty co-operation shown by all classes in working the 843 machinery of the County Councils in the country. That is not altogether so in London. There is a considerable degree of loyalty and co-operation in working the great Metropolitan County Council, but to this general co-operation and loyalty there is a most remarkable exception. The Conservative Members for London never miss an opportunity of reviling the County Council. Possibly they may have entertained the idea that they would be able to work the machine they had created—if this has been their idea it has been, I confess, most lamentably disappointed—or it may have been that the result of those contests we had in the early part of last year is regarded by them as a kind of writing on the wall which presages their own doom at the next election. As recently as Friday last so distinguished a Member of this House as the Solicitor General said that the London County Council appeared to have been brought into existence for the purpose of showing how foolish a public body might be. I would respectfully ask the hon. and learned Solicitor General whether it is quite consonant with either his personal or his official position to join with the Conservative small fry in this spiteful denunciation of a great popular representative body. There is one respect in which local control in London has been left deficient. I refer to the absence of control of the police. I would press on the right hon. Gentleman the urgency of this question. I have never joined in any general attack on the rank and file of the Metropolitan Police. Properly directed, I believe the Metropolitan Police are as fine, and, I will add, as honest a body of men as any in the country. But it is undoubtedly true that the administration of Sir Charles Warren demoralisod the Metropolitan Police in their relations with the public to an extent which, I am afraid, many years of the present official régime will not suffice to blot out. But my immediate point is this: Every one must have seen with pain recently in the newspapers on many occasions the evidence of police constables treated as untrustworthy, and on many occasions they have incurred the express censure of metropolitan magistrates. One case I may refer to as an example, a case in which four men had been, as it turned out, unjustly convicted at the Middlesex 844 Sessions, and when a person who h been concerned in the matter was tri for purjury at the Central Crimin Court a. fortnight ago both the learn counsel who represented the Pub Prosecutor and the Recorder of London condemned the conduct of the police in the strongest possible terms. I am aware that such scaudals may equally occur in boroughs having their own police control; but there is this distinction, that immediately a Committee would go to the root of the matter, and the ratepayers would have the satisfaction of knowing-that the inquiry was being conducted by their own Representatives elected for this among other municipal duties. I think, therefore, that the position of the Metropolitan Police is a matter that demands, and urgently demands, the transfer of the control to a representative body. One other matter I desire to refer to. We have been promised in the Speech from the Throne a Bill relating to sanitary matters in the Metropolis. That is so far good, but the Government seem to have overlooked the machinery by which the sanitary laws are to be put into operation. There are two. Sanitary Authorities in the Metropolis—the Metropolitan Asylums Board and the vestries. But three-fourths of the members of the Metropolitan Asylums Board are not directly elected, and the remaining fourth is not elected at all; and nearly every Member of the House will agree that the London vestries have grossly failed in the administration of the sanitary laws. The Government may have on paper the completest system in the world, but it will be practically a dead letter until the machinery of local government is amended. I hope the representations made to-night will induce the Government to produce their Bill for extending local government in the Metropolis, and give the House an opportunity of criticising it during the present Session.
§ (11.35.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I think the importance of the London interests involved in this question justifies the speeches made from this side of the House, and I can only express regret that our Colleagues on the other side do not think it necessary to back us up in the endeavour to get 845 the system of local government in the Metropolis completed. Those of us who take an interest in the local government of London are fully aware of its present chaotic state. London has suffered as no other part of the kingdom has suffered. For over 50 years it has been debarred from that amount of municipal life which is given to a great many towns under the Municipal Corporations Act. True, the Government have given us an instalment of municipal life by the London clauses of the Local Government Bill, but we have not yet got anything like the same power in London to control local affairs that is enjoyed by any of the large municipalities throughout the country. We were thrown over by the Government in 1835 and allowed to get into the most terrible state of misgovernment a large town could be in. It was necessary for Government to do something in 1855, and their action brought into existence the Metropolitan Board of Works, whose existence, many of us are pleased to say, has ceased, its place long occupied by the 'London County Council. We also had the London vestries brought into existence. At the present time there are 38 minor authorities, either vestries or District Boards, carrying on the local government of London, with authority over areas of very disproportionate dimensions, and with varying qualifications for members of each, vestry, hi one of two adjacent parishes, for instance, the qualification is £40. while in the other it is £25. This is a very high qualification, compared with the qualifications for members of Boards of Guardians; while the latter have far larger spending powers, yet the qualification is only £30. If there is any justification for the property qualification, assuredly that qualification should be higher for the Board of Guardians than the vestry. But we know when the Government do 846 bring in their Bill dealing with District Councils, they will follow the plan adopted in their larger measure, and property qualification will "go by the board." I feel so confident that the right hon. Gentleman will do this that for the last three years I have not troubled the House with a little Bill of my own to abolish vestry qualifications. These vestries are not the bodies to carry on the local government of London. I might go to some extent into the question of expenditure; but I will only mention an instance where a large vastly, covering a large area, has adjoining it three smaller vestries, and these last, though combined they do not equal the area of the larger vestry, yet hare each a similar staff of officials. We want a consolidation of the smaller areas, and I would recommend the right hon. Gentleman also to turn his attention to the extra-Parochial Boards which have a jurisdiction of their own. All these should be included in larger areas under the control of District Councils. I rather differ from my hon. Friend (Mr. Stuart), and I think it will be much better for us to make the County Council strong enough to act as the Central Authority, with delegation of authority to the District Councils. That view I judge the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ritchie) to hold from the language he used in the discussion on the Local Government Bill. There should be the same facilities in regard to membership of the new bodies as now exist with respect to the County Councils, and the franchise should be extended to lodgers. These last are an important section of the community, and often pay high rents, and, indirectly, rates, but they are excluded from the rights of citizenship simply because thay happan to live in a part of a house where the landlord also lives. The rooms in model dwellings erected for artisans have separate assessments, and the head of each family is considered a householder, with a vote for the County Council, the School Board, and the Board of Guardians. Then there is the great question of markets and 847 market rights. This should be settled once for all, and the authority vested in the County Council. Is it just that power in a matter of this kind should remain with a small body whose jurisdiction extends over a small of a mile on the banks of the Thames with a non residential population? When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby brought in his Bill in 1884 he dealt gently with the City and gave the City enormous powers. The City successfully opposed that Bill, and I think some of the friends of the City must regret that action now, for certainly the present Government does not show a disposition to place the City in that unique position the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby would have accorded it. I, as a cockney, am proud of the historic traditions of the City, and I do not forget how, in the dark periods of our history, it has been within the City that our liberties have found protection, but the City puts itself out of Court when it claims to have its little area severed from the rest of London. I join heartily in the protest against the position we were placed in last year when Clause 8 was withdrawn from the London County Council Money Bill. I hope that this year the Government will include this clause, giving the Council power to inquire into the water supply of the Metropolis. What an undignified position that the London Council should have to come to the House and ask to be allowed to spend as the representatives of 5,000,000 of people £5,000 in the year to see what the London ratepayers are paying for one of the first necessities of life! In this matter London stands apart from other municipalities in the country, which have power to come to Parliament to promote or oppose Bills. One other question there is I desire to mention; and that is, the control of hackney carriages and their duty. I do not mean the Excise Duty, but the duty levied under the powers of the Metropolitan Carriage Act, under which the control of hackney carriages is fixed. We have a poor struggling man in London compelled to pay £2, where in other towns 5s. is sufficient. I do not think you ought to make a source of revenue from these men to meet some extravagances in the administration at Scotland Yard.
§ It being midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.