§ Bill considered in Committee. (In the Committee.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2.
§ *(3.0.) MR. OLDROYD (Dewsbury)
I beg to move, in line 12, page 1, after "parish," to insert "not being within the limits of a borough as defined by The Municipal Corporation Act, 1882.' "I think the Amendment is one of considerable importance, its object being to restrict the operation of the Bill within a borough. Under the principal Act the 268 Sanitary Authority of any district, on the representation of six electors, are placed under an obligation to provide allotments, and under the measure now before the House, on the default of such Sanitary Authority, an appeal is con-ceded to the County Council of the county. It is against this broad and indiscriminate appeal that I take objection. I quite admit the view put before the House by the President of the Local Government Board on Friday, that this Bill does not open up the general question of allotments. It is merely an Amendment Act introduced with the intention of giving greater efficiency to the provisions of the original Bill; and I submit that the Amendment which I am moving does not in any way frustrate the design of the Government to render the original Act more efficient. My object is not to exclude boroughs from the benefits of the principal Act, but simply to exclude them from what I conceive to be the disadvantage of the appeal instituted by the Bill. I will not deal with the question of the county boroughs. I have been given to understand that the Government are disposed to agree to another Amendment on the Paper excluding the county boroughs from the operation of the Bill. I propose, therefore, to confine my remarks to the Amendment, so far as it affects the non-county boroughs. I do not move it in any spirit of hostility to the Government, because I fail to see that there is any Party question involved in the matter, and I hope and expect to receive support from both sides of the House, and especially from those who are the friends of municipal government. I wish the Committee thoroughly to understand that I have no intention of excluding the boroughs from the benefit of the principal Act. I do not object to an appeal from the Sanitary Authority to the-County Council elected on a proper basis, but I am opposed to an appeal from the Municipal Council to the County Council elected on identically the same franchise and with no higher sanction than the authority from which the appeal is made. I fail to see any reason whatever for the institution of an appeal of any sort from the decision of the Town Councils. They are an authority above suspicion. and if they prove recalcitrant and refuse to comply with the wishes of the people 269 in regard to making provision for allotments, the remedy is a very simple one, and will be in operation on every 1st of November, when one-third of the Town Council has to submit itself for reelection. Therefore, a Court of Appeal is already established, namely, the electors themselves. If it is necessary to institute an appeal, I venture to think that it ought not to be to any authority more remote from the place concerned and the parties interested than the Town Council itself. No authority can be in more intimate touch with a place and with those concerned than the electors and the representatives of the ratepayers in the Town Council, and I think there could not be a better appeal than to the constituency itself, which has all the responsibility of the matter, knows its own mind, and is supposed to know its own business. There is no appeal from this House to the House of Lords or to the Crown; but the appeal is back again to the people, who are the source of the power and the authority of the House. I object to an appeal from an authority which has full cognisance of the affairs of the town, and maintain that in all cases it should be to the electors rather than from them. If a Court of Appeal is to be instituted, why should it be to the County Council, which has no higher sanction than the Town Council, and which must, from the very nature of the case, be less fitted for the consideration of the question of allotments than the Town Council can be? It is less in touch with the electors and must know less about the matter than those who live on the spot. It may be urged that the Town Council, according to the machinery of the Bill, will be represented in the County Council, which is to adjudicate in the matter. But the Town Council is only very fractionally represented. Take the case of the West Riding of Yorkshire. The County Council consists of 120 members; but by the machinery of this Bill the Committee will consist of not more than one-fourth, or 30 members, and the two solitary representatives of any particular borough will constitute a very fractional part of that Committee, and they may, individually, be directly opposed to the expressed will of the Town Council itself. Then, again, the representatives will be elected for county and not for 270 local purposes. It may be urged that the County Council will not rush to a conclusion in these matters, but will institute an inquiry on the spot, and will be guided by the evidence brought before them. In reply to that, I say that the very necessity for inquiry is condemnatory of the principle laid down in the Bill. The Town Council would have no need for inquiry, because they would know all the concerns of the place and every interest that affected the ratepayers. Therefore, I submit that the arrangements and machinery of the Bill will lead to the all-important factor of local knowledge and local opinion being swamped by the opinion and views of those who are comparative strangers to the interests of the district concerned. I further maintain that if the opinion of the County Council is opposed to that of the borough it will, if put in force, engender a great deal of friction. The opinion of the County Council cannot be operative except in a case where it is opposed to that of the Town Council, and in the very nature of the case it would be a gratuitous affront to the Town Council and a reflection upon its judgment. What justification is there, I would ask, for making these offensive proposals? The Town Councils in the past have proved themselves equal to all the demands which have been made upon them and their duties have been numerous and multifarious—some of them vastly more important than questions which are now sought to be taken out of their hands. Municipal Government is acknowledged on all sides to be the best form of Local Government, and it has proved itself effective both in small and large matters. I believe that the institution of an appeal from the Town Council to the County Council will establish a bad precedent and one that will be not only dangerous but insidious, leading to greater development on the same lines in the future. If we once acknowledge the right of the County Council to interfere in the local matters of a borough, it will end in the Town Council being completely overshadowed by the supposed greater importance of the County Council. What will the consequence be to the Town Council itself? It will be shorn of its powers and necessarily weakened. It will become a subsidiary 271 body and be converted into a consultative Committee from whose judgment an appeal may be made to the better judgment of the County Council. That will be a heavy blow to the efficiency and independence of the Town Councils generally, and the result will necessarily be that the best men in the borough will refuse to serve on the Town Council, when they feel that all influence is withdrawn for them. I think that we cannot be too careful not to allow anything to pass this House in the shape of legislation which will tamper with our Municipal Government—an institution which has done more than anything else to train the people of this country in the art of self-government—an institution which has been encouraged and fostered by past legislation, and which has proved worthy of the confidence reposed in it. It will be a blow not only unseemly, but premature. It will constitute an appeal from an old authority which has been tried for many centuries to one which has not yet proved itself worthy of confidence, an authority yet untried and which has yet to win its spurs. Public opinion will? effect every remedy that is necessary, because on the 1st of November in every year one-third of the Town Council must be re-elected. If the Town Councillors are opposed to public opinion, public opinion will know how to bring its influence to bear upon them. Then, again, the question of time may be urged in this case—that it may take a long time to bring round the Town Councils to a knowledge of their duties and a desire to perform them. The proposal, however, as it originally stood in the Bill, has been considerably altered by the President of the Local Government Board. Whereas time was to have been given, now, in the case of opposition by the Town Council, the affair is to be taken wholly out of their hands, and put into those of the County Authority. Therefore, as the Bill stands, it is even worse than it was when originally drafted. If an appeal from the Town Council is to be given to the County Council, we shall be adopting the principle of an untried authority, possessing a less intimate knowledge of the locality, usurping the power of the Local Authority, spending the money and pledging the credit of the authority which has been specially 272 appointed to administer the local affairs of the district. That is both a dangerous and an un-Constitutional principle; and a proposal not only arbitrary, but one which casts doubt upon the wisdom and the sense of responsibility possessed by the Town Councils. Yet that is the view which the right hon. Gentleman has taken of the Town Councils, which he says have not in the past performed their duties satisfactorily.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
I have no desire to interrupt the hon. Member, but I did not make any statement of the kind.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
What took place was this: An hon. Gentleman on the opposite side urged that Boards of Guardians had not performed their sanitary duties in a satisfactory manner, and drew from that fact the conclusion that the Boards of Guardians ought not to be entrusted with the administration of this Act. In reply to that assertion, I said that no doubt there had been Boards of Guardians which had not administered satisfactorily the powers conferred upon them, and I added that there were also Municipal Authorities which had not performed their duties satisfactorily.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I was not referring to the administration of the Allotments Act at all, but to ordinary sanitary administration—water, drainage, and so on.
§ *MR. OLDROYD
I naturally thought that the application of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks were to the Bill before the House.
§ *MR. OLDROYD
I do not propose to deal with the county boroughs in the matter. They are quite capable of taking care of themselves. There are 226 non-county boroughs, and I have addressed a communication to each one of them in regard to this Bill. I have received replies in 160 cases. In 124 of these, Town Clerks report that no application for allotments has been made under the original Act. But in 36 cases such application has been made. In 20 allot- 273 ments have been provided, leaving only 16 to be accounted for. Of these 16, four have the matter at the present moment under consideration, and are awaiting further information on the subject. Of the remaining 12, Abingdon has not put the principal Act in force because there are plenty of allotments already available; Bewdley did not put it in force because land is already provided; in Buckingham the Town Council hesitate to take compulsory powers because voluntary measures have not yet been exhausted; in Jarrow the matter has been carefully considered, but it is found that land cannot be provided, except at too costly a rate; in Louth there have been a considerable number of applicants, but they refuse to give a market value for the allotments they desire to have; in Lyme Regis considerable difficulty has been found in securing land at a sufficiently low rent to make the Act workable; in Newbury the matter has been postponed; in Tenterdon compulsory powers have not been exercised, and landowners have not yet offered their land; in Tunbridge Wells the Act would have been put in force, but it was found that the only land available is at too great a distance from the cottages occupied by the applicants; in Weymouth an advertisement was inserted in a local newspaper, resulting in 100 applications, but it was found that the applicants were not disposed to pay a price which would cover the cost of acquiring the land and administering the Act; at Wokingham the same remarks apply; and in the case of Workington the Act has not been put in force because the applicants wore found not to be bond fide labourers, but a class for whom the Act was never intended. I maintain that these oases show that the principal Act has been put in force wherever it was possible, consistent with the interests of the locality, and that the Municipal Authorities have not shown any spirit of opposition to the working of the Act. I leave the case now in the hands of the Committee, and I hope that the President of the Local Government Board will see his way to leave the question an open one, so that Members may discuss it and vote upon it without feeling themselves trammelled by Party ties.
In Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after the word "parish," to insert the words "not being within the limits of a borough as defined by 'The Municipal Corporations Act, 1882.'"—(Mr. Oldroyd.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted"
§ *(3.26.) SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
A similar Amendment stands on the Paper in my name, and I therefore beg to second the proposal of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Oldroyd). In doing so I hope I may appeal to the President of the Local Government Board to have regard to the wishes of a very large portion of the House upon this subject. Almost without exception the feeling in the Municipalities is extremely strong and unanimous, and I believe that my right hon. Friend will both serve the State and the interests of his own Party if he will consent to recognise the prevalence of that feeling. I am quite sure that if we are compelled to divide upon the question there are many of us who will have regard to old municipal feelings— which are even older than Party feelings. As far as the county boroughs are concerned, the right hon. Gentleman has intimated to me that if the Bill is doubtful as to their inclusion in this clause a new section will be inserted to make it clear that there is no intention of establishing an appeal from the county boroughs to the County Councils. I hope that concession will not be limited to the county boroughs. I think there are the strongest reasons for extending it to the non-county boroughs. It is a distinct innovation to give an appeal from one representative body to another, especially when the latter is a collateral representative body. I do not hesitate to say that if the boroughs have to choose between an appeal to a Public Department and an appeal to a collateral tribunal of a similarly representative character to their own, they will choose the former. If I wanted to illustrate the strength and universality of the feeling in this matter I could not do better than refer the right hon. Gentleman to his own Transfer of Powers Bill of last Session, which encountered so much opposition because it was based on similar lines to the present proposal. The clause would have a tendency to make an inroad on the sense of responsibility of Town 275 Councils. It must be remembered that the responsibility of these Councils has been exercised by them for a very long period—many of them have existed for centuries. The County Councils, much as we esteem them, are but the creations of yesterday, and have not that experience, that prestige, and that responsibility which attaches to the Town Councils. My second objection to the clause is that this is a distinctly local question, and that it is a matter to be dealt with in small areas and by communities themselves on the spot. What are the questions on which Local Bodies are called upon to act in this matter? The first is, whether there is a need of allotments; and the second is, can they be obtained on voluntary and reasonable terms? Surely these are essentially local questions. Who can know better than those who reside in the locality whether there is a need of allotments and how they can best be obtained? I hope our action on this point will not be misinterpreted. The more people we can associate with an interest in the land the better for those principles we support on this side of the House. It may be information to this House that the best illustration of the application of the allotments principle in this country is the case of the City of Nottingham. I know of no instance in which a progressive Municipality has done so much in various directions, and especially in the direction of providing allotments close to the floors of the people. I ask whether, if the wishes of the labourers are overlooked by their own representative body, it can be expected that they will appeal to a distant tribunal? If they do and are successful, there will be great friction; and whether they are successful or not there will be great feeling. I believe the feeling against this proposal is not confined merely to the boroughs. You will, I think, find it expressed even by those representatives who represent county constituencies. They feel that if the County Councils are to be called upon to interfere in a number of local matters, the chief reasons for their establishment will be jeopardised. I can quite understand that new bodies, which are themselves on their trial, which so far have succeeded admirably, and which have a great deal to do in the future, 276 should say in this matter "Save us from our friends." I hope this demand will not be persisted in, and that the Government will see their way to assent to the Amendment.
§ *(3.42.) MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
I hope the Committee will not be carried away by the two very able speeches which have just been delivered so as to overlook the very serious disadvantages this Amendment, if adopted, will produce all over the country. I think there is a general agreement that we should not spend much time in discussing the case of the county boroughs, because they have been already left outside the present county system, and it would be absurd to include them in it under this Bill. But with regard to the small boroughs the case is entirely different. There are at present over 200 of these boroughs which are fairly represented according to population in the County Councils. At least half of them have a population of less than 10,000, whilst 72 have a population of under 5,000, and 14 of under 2,000. The proposal is, therefore, to exclude from the operation of the Bill a large number of towns with extremely small populations, and which, by the deliberate judgment of the House two years ago, have been included in the county system for all purposes, whilst at the same time leaving within the operation of the measure a large number of towns of infinitely more importance in point of population. There are no less than 34 sanitary districts with a population of over 20,000, and these are not touched by the Amendment. I wish briefly to call attention to the extraordinary anomaly that will be produced in every county if the Amendment be carried. In Glamorgan, for instance, I find there are Local Government districts with populations of 33,000, 48,000, and 55,000 respectively. These would be included within the operation of the Bill. On the other hand, there are two boroughs with populations of less than 5,000, which, under the Amendment, would be excluded from its operation. Almost as great anomalies would be produced in every county in England and Wales. This Amendment, if carried, will be taken as a precedent in the future for excluding the non-county boroughs from almost every new proposal giving fresh powers to the County 277 Councils. Everyone familiar with the working of the County Councils must admit that the concession made two years ago by the Government in excluding the large boroughs from the county system has been a very serious blow to the administration of county government, and has crippled it to a very considerable extent by taking out of counties like Lancashire a large number of their most important towns. I trust the Government are not prepared to carry that principle further. There is no danger of the boroughs being unfairly treated. We are always anxious to get as many representatives of the boroughs on the County Councils as possible, and under Clause 4 of this Bill the boroughs will always be very largely represented on the Allotments Committee of the Council. I beg to propose the Amendment of which I have given notice.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
To leave out the words "borough as defined by' The Municipal Corporations Act, 1882,'" and insert the words "county borough as defined by' The Local Government Act, 1888.'"—[Mr. Hobhouse.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
As a Member representing a county constituency in which there is one very small borough, I wish to support the original Amendment. If you exclude municipalities from this Bill, it seems to me you will carry out the principle that the people who live in the localities should be called upon to deal with matters which affect the localities. I know I am speaking the opinion of my -constituents when I say they heartily support this proposition to exclude the municipalities for the operation of the clause.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
As a Representative of one of the boroughs which at present are included in this Bill, I wish most earnestly to press on the attention of the Government the extreme irritation that will be caused should the measure become law in its present form. The hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse) has founded his argument mainly on the 278 population of the different boroughs. It seems to me that, besides population, he ought also to look at the prestige of and the good work done in the past by Municipal Authorities. This is by no means a Party question. It seems to me to be as fully a Conservative as a Liberal policy to support institutions which have been in existence for a long time and have carried out the duties imposed upon them in an efficient and satisfactory manner.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)
Hon. Members who oppose this clause argue as if it would interfere with the working of our Municipal Bodies. As I understand it, it goes no farther than to establish a Court of Appeal in case Local Authorities do not endeavour to carry out the Act. If the work of the County Councils is to be limited to the subjects which the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. H. Gardner) seems to suggest, namely, only those matters which affect the whole county, I think the County Councils will have very little work to do. I quite concur in the suggestion that the self-contained municipalities should not be included in the clause. I would point out, however, that the proposition contained in the clause is an advance on real municipal life. The hon. Member for Islington (Sir A. Rollit) admitted that there must be a Court of Appeal even for Municipal Bodies on certain matters. The proposal now is that, instead of having that appeal to a Central Body, we should have it to a Local Body. That is decentralisation, and follows, as I contend, strictly municipal lines. If the Amendment be carried, the result will be that in large districts, with populations of 10,000, 15,000, or 20,000, the agricultural labourers will have a right of appeal if the authorities refuse to put the measure in operation, whilst in districts with populations of, perhaps, 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000, the labourers will be able to obtain no benefit whatever under the Bill if the Local Authorities refuse to Act. As to the opposition to the proposal to give this work to the County Councils, I would remind the House that we have been crying out continually, "What are we going to give the County Councils to do?" For my own part, I cannot fancy that the County Council would be the 279 most effectual Court of Appeal in the small rural boroughs; but what I mainly look to is the supply of allotments to the agricultural labourers. If the Amendment be carried, and if all these small boroughs—many of them not larger than mere agricultural villages—are to choose whether or not they are to put the Act in force, the labourers who live in them and who, although a minority, are a large minority, will derive no benefit from this legislation. Therefore, while there is ample ground on municipal lines for excluding the larger boroughs which are self contained, and are properly represented in the Town Councils, there is every reason on the principles of municipal government why the small boroughs should have a right of appeal to the County Councils for the districts of which their localities form part, though an exceedingly small part as compared with the county areas themselves. Therefore, in the interests of the labourers who would have no benefit under the Act if the Government decline as they are doing to take action— because I know of several cases in which action has been indefinitely postponed —I say they might as well have no Allotments Act at all as be denied the right of appeal. Where the Act is carried out there is no hardship, because, if the Local Authorities carry out the Act, no appeal is necessary; but will anyone say that if they decline to put the Act in force these poor men should have no means of ensuring that it should be enforced?
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
I would suggest that we are now discussing a larger question than would at first sight appear. Two hon. Members who have spoken in favour of this proposal from this side of the House have suggested a feature in the municipal government of the smaller towns which I think will surprise the residents in those places when they see the suggestion in print to-morrow morning. I understood one hon. Gentleman to say that in order to promote the harmonious municipal life of the counties, the municipal life of the towns should be merged and sunk in the counties. I ask, is that proposal one which at all follows the linos of municipal life as it now exists among us? It appears to me that the proposal is that in every Act of 280 Parliament which confers a possible benefit on the residents in the towns there ought to be an appeal to the County Council; that in the case of Free Libraries where a Free Library is refused by the ratepayers there ought to be, according to the argument we have heard, an appeal to the County Council, and that the same principle should apply in the case of baths and wash-houses and other establishments of a like kind, which are not at present under the initiative of the Corporations. I trust the Committee will pause before sanctioning such a suggestion as this. To my mind, the reasonable view of this matter is that the provisions in relation to this subject, as they appear in this Bill, are simply attributable to a mistake in the drafting of the measure, and that it was certainly not intended by Her Majesty's Government that they should bear the construction put upon them; but this, I think, will be seen if hon. Members have regard to the discussions that have previously taken place on this matter. There has not been a single charge made against any Municipality in reference to this question, and I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board affirms this. Surely, then, we have a right to ask that some strong case should be made out for the new legislation now proposed. I claim that, in fairness to the boroughs we represent and to the Governing Bodies of the counties, this question ought to have been introduced in a very different manner, while in the discussion on the Second Reading of the Bill not a word was said regarding this proposal. Perhaps some of us are to blame for this, but it never entered my mind to suppose that the Bill intended to set up an appeal from the Corporations to the County Councils. I thought the Bill went completely in a contrary direction, and never supposed it contained provisions of this nature. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire stated that the failure of the Allotments Act has been due to the want of a Court of Appeal from the Boards of Guardians, and the President of the Local Government Board said, in speaking on the Second Reading, that an appeal to the County Councils was justifiable only on the ground that that body was elected on 281 a broad franchise, which the Sanitary Authority was not. Consequently, both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member I have quoted grounded the whole of their case on the special circumstances of the difference between the franchise on which Boards of Guardians and County Councils were elected. Now, Sir, I would venture to ask, is it conceivable that a measure which is viewed with great apprehension on the part of the boroughs should work well? We are abolishing dual ownership in Ireland because of the friction it creates between landlord and tenant, and to propose a dual arrangement between the Borough Authorities and County Councils is to propose a scheme which I do not think would work, and which I cannot but regard as a most extraordinary one. I think that in every way this is a most undesirable proposition, and I trust that Her Majesty's Government do not intend seriously to press it upon us. No case whatever has, in my opinion, been made out for so great a change, and I trust the Committee will seriously pause before anything is done in the direction proposed.
§ *(4. 14.) MR. WHARTON (Ripon)
I think we are bound to recognise the non- Party tone of the hon. Member who has moved the Amendment, and I must say that, in my judgment, this is a non-Party question. All we are anxious to do is to advance a mode of acquiring allotments in a reasonable and proper way. It seems to me that, with regard to an appeal from the Municipal Borough Authorities, that is an entirely new question, and might well be deferred until the County Councils themselves have had the opportunity of discussing the view they may take of it. As far as I know, the question is one which has never yet been submitted to the County Councils for their opinion, and I should be only too glad if the question were deferred until that opinion can be taken. Another point on which I feel strongly is that the proposal is one which may possibly give rise to a considerable amount of friction. Though the County Council over which I preside consists of various component parts, it works in the most harmonious manner. Many of the Members come from the large boroughs, being Town Councillors. But I cannot help fearing 282 that if this proposal were carried out, it would lead to friction, where harmony now prevails, and I respectfully urge the Government to pause before proceeding further. I believe the feeling of the municipal boroughs is unanimously against the proposed Court of Appeal; and I believe the Government would certainly not wish to disregard the opinion of the large municipal boroughs. In view of the friction that would be created, and in view of the fact that the matter has not been submitted to the County Councillors themselves. I would ask the Government to consider the representations that have been made.
§ *(4.16.) MR. RITCHIE
My hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding has had so much experience in connection with the administration of county affairs, and is one who always forms a judgment well deserving consideration on all matters on which he addresses the House, that I am sure his appeal must naturally have very great weight with the Government. Certainly it is the very last thing to be desired that any action of ours should create any friction between the members for the boroughs and the Representatives of the rural parts of the counties on the County Councils So far as our information goes, we have every reason to believe that these two elements on the County Councils at present work harmoniously and agreeably; and certainly it would be a matter of great regret to us if we disturbed by our action that state of things. The Government are entirely at one with hon. Members in their appreciation of the manner in which Municipal Corporations have fulfilled their duties, and I think the fact that the Government took the pattern of the Municipal Corporation as the ground work of their Local Government Reform, is sufficient guarantee that the proposals of the Government cannot be, and are not, intended, to use the word of an hon. Member opposite, to affront the Municipal Corporations. The object the Government had in applying this Bill to the towns situated in the counties was to secure a regular and organised administration throughout the country, upon lines similar to those which we hoped would be adopted for all matters in which town and country are concerned. We desire to transfer to an 283 elective body, on which all the Local Authorities within the county would be represented, the powers which are at present in the hands of the Central Department. The main object of the Local Government Act was decentralisation. As the House is aware, boroughs in the exercise of the powers conferred upon them are not altogether independent. If they fail in the performance of their duties, the Local Government Board can apply to the High Court for a mandamus compelling them to fulfil those duties. It is perfectly certain that the Local Government Board is not the authority to determine appeals, and we thought the County Council was exactly the kind of body to discharge that duty. But it is perfectly obvious, from what has taken place to-day, that this proposal is regarded with the greatest amount of jealousy by the Municipal Corporations, and the objection is largely supported by representatives of the rural parts of the counties on the County Councils. It is a view which, obviously, the Government cannot disregard. I think what has transpired inflicts a serious blow on the whole plan of Local Self-Government in this country. While I acknowledge, so far as this very question is concerned, that it stands on a somewhat different footing to other matters which the House might possibly have to consider in connection with Local administration and county administration, yet, by the House assenting to the proposal now before the Committee, I feel that it will do much to weaken the hands of the Government in transferring to the County Councils the various powers and duties which at one time they proposed or hoped to transfer. My hon. Friend who has moved an Amendment to the Amendment will have gathered that his proposal is one not likely to find acceptance. I would represent to him, therefore, the advisability of withdrawing his Amendment, and allowing the Committee to accept the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Dewsbury. I do not wish to conceal that I am suggesting something which I greatly regret. But I hope when the County Councils have been longer in existence, and when the administration of the powers they possess has created more confidence in 284 them, the feeling of the municipalities will change. After the expression of opinion from all parts of the House, I think my hon. Friend would do well to withdraw his Amendment and to allow the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dewsbury to pass.
*(4.25.) SIR U. KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that by the adoption of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dewsbury a serious blow will be dealt to Local Self Government in this country; but I do not think the fault, if fault it be, is to be attributed to the step which the right hon. Gentleman is now taking; rather I think it is due to the form of his Bill to establish a Court of Appeal. Although in the marginal note to the clause the word "appeal" is used, I should say that the power which the Bill gives the County Council in certain circumstances is the power to over-ride the decision of the Local Authorities. That is rather more than an appeal. The Bill, in its original form, was to make the County Council the Court of Appeal in the event of the Local Authority not carrying out the Act; but the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has on the Paper proposes to give the County Council power to over-ride the decision of the borough, and it is itself to carry out the decision. Nobody will regard me as unwatchful of any attempt by the boroughs to diminish the power and authority of the County Councils. In Committee, on the Local Government Bill, I endeavoured to resist, as far as possible, what seemed to be encroachments on the rights conferred upon them. Yet I join in the appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for East Somerset not to press this point. After all it is a small matter. Questions may arise on which it will be necessary to maintain the powers and rights of the County Councils. I doubt whether this is a matter sufficiently large to be worth fighting for. County Councils, I think, do not feel strongly on this point. It is important that borough and county members of County Councils should continue to work well together, as happily they do, as the hon. Member for Ripon has explained. There is some danger, if a clause of this kind is passed, of causing friction between the county and the borough members in reference to small matters. To my 285 mind this Bill is scarcely of the slightest importance. I do not think it will have much effect, and I certainly do not think that in bringing in County Councils to over-ride the decisions of the boroughs in respect to these allotments you would accomplish anything at all. I would join in the appeal to the hon. Member for East Somerset not to press his Amendment to the Amendment.
*(4.31.) VISCOUNT EBRIMGTON (Devon, Tavistock)
I desire to point out the extraordinary state of things which will result in some counties if the Amendment is accepted as it stands. The smallest municipality will be free from appeal to the County Council, while the largest Local Board district will still be subject to appeal. In my own County of Devonshire, Torquay, which has a population of something like 40,000, is under a Local Board, and if the Amendment is accepted, there will be on the question of allotments an appeal from the Local Board to the County Council. The same thing will happen at Stonehouse, which has a considerable urban population: and, on the other hand, there is in another part of the same county a small municipality which is joined with seven other parishes to make up a sufficient area for the election of a County Councillor, and that municipality will be free from appeal. I venture to submit to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Local Government Board that if he accepts the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Oldroyd), he ought to extend it to places which have urban districts under Local Boards. I would further suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the operation of the Amendment should be limited in both cases to places with a population of 10,000 and upwards.
§ (4.35.) MR. LLEWELLYN (Somerset, N.)
I shall feel inclined to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset if it is pressed to a Division. Some of the larger municipalities, no doubt, could be trusted—perhaps better than the County Councils to give an opinion in these matters, but, under the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dewsbury, it seems to me that some of the smaller boroughs would refuse to listen to the demands of the labourers, who would be absolutely without appeal 286 at all. Under the Amendment large Local Boards, representing a population of 17,000, could be compelled to give the labourers allotments, whilst small municipalities, representing no more than 2,000 people, could ride rough-shod over the petitioners.
§ *(4.37.) SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
I think that in discussing this matter we ought to remember that the Franchise is very different in Local Board districts and municipal districts. We regard the whole of the difficulty that has arisen to-day as due to the fact that the Government have not carried out their promise to give us District Councils. Until we have such bodies the Allotments Act will never be administered to the satisfaction of the labourers; but as to the Amendments before us, it must be borne in mind that, in the case of a municipality, if a Town Councillor does not respond to the wishes of the labourers, though they be a small minority in the constituency, they have the means, at election time, of testifying their disapproval of his conduct by their votes—and the desires of a minority, such as these labourers, are very likely to be supported by the bulk of the electors. The case of Torquay has been quoted, but I protest against singling out an instance of a town which has been so backward that, although it has 40,000 inhabitants, it has not yet obtained a charter. Take an instance, in Warwickshire, there we have three boroughs in close proximity—Coventry, Warwick, and Leamington. Two old boroughs and a modern one. Why should Coventry, as a county borough, be independent. but the ancient borough of Warwick and the modern borough of Leamington be made subservient to the County Council? Is there any reason why there should be an appeal against their decision in this matter? I do not think so, but, on the contrary, I think that the more responsibility you place on the shoulders of such municipalities the better will they do their work. It is because I believe that small boroughs are able to do their work well, and that. under the pressure of public opinion, they will do it well, that I support the Motion of the hon. Member for Dewsbury. The boroughs, as has been shown in the course of this Debate, have responded very satisfactorily to 287 the demands made upon them by labourers under the Allotments Act— much more satisfactorily than the Rural Sanitary Authorities—and that being the case, I think they should be saved from the degrading review of the County Councils.
§ *(4.41.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
I hope that, as the Government have stated their intention to accept the proposal of the hon. Member for Dewsbury, the hon. Member for East Somerset will be content to withdraw his Amendment. On the whole that seems to be the course which will best forward the interests of allotments, and the Committee may proceed then to make some further progress with the Bill.
§ *(4.42.) MR. HOBHOUSE
After the appeal, made to me by both Front Benches, I should not be justified in putting the House to the trouble of a Division; but in withdrawing my Amendment I would ask the Government whether, at some future stage of the Bill, they could not take some step such as was suggested by my noble Friend (Lord Ebrington), for classifying the Local Authorities in a more satisfactory manner.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Amendment again proposed.
§ *(4.43.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I attach some importance to the proposal made by my noble Friend the Member for Devonshire as to Local Boards, and I would suggest to the Government that as the Bill is confessedly a temporary measure it should be confined to rural parishes. I can bear testimony from experience in my own Division as to the fitness of Local Boards to deal with the Act.
§ Amendment put, and agreed to.
§ *(4.44.) SIR WALTER FOSTER
I beg to move the Amendment standing on the Paper in my name, namely Clause 2, Page 1, line 12, leave out "six," and insert "two." On the Second Reading of the Bill, I pointed out that one of the difficulties we experienced in obtaining a proper administration of the Act, was that labourers in many parts of the country were afraid to take the initial step for obtaining allotments, lest they should offend the members of the Rural Sanitary Authorities, frequently 288 including, as those bodies did, their own employers. It is surprising on looking down the list of such Public Bodiesas have not put the Act in motion to find what a large proportion of them are Rural Sanitary Authorities. The farmers are, in many cases, opposed to their labourers having allotments, and the labourers are afraid very often to go before the body largely composed of the farmers, to request them to put the Act in force. Well, if it is hard for six labourers to sign the original application, it will be doubly hard for them to sign an appeal against the Local Authority. The labourer ought to be able to trust not to generosity or to patronage but to his rights under the law, and he ought to be able to enforce those rights without being-obliged to get five other persons to support him. I move my Amendment with the object of limiting, as far as possible, the odium which will necessarily attach to those labourers who seek to put the law into force in opposition to an unwilling authority.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 12, to leave out the word "six," and insert the word "two."—(Sir Walter Foster.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'six' stand part of the Clause."
§ *(4.48.) THE SECRETARY TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. LONG,) Wilts, Devizes
The Government cannot accept the hon. Member's Amendment which, I may say, I scarcely think he is serious in moving. It is absurd in these days to talk about labourers being afraid of enforcing their rights or of signing a requisition. It is a remarkable fact that it is only hon. Members opposite to whom labourers have expressed any fear that they will run a risk of losing their places or incurring any odium by signing such a requisition. I do not think that the County Councils ought to be set in motion under this measure unless there is a reasonable representation on the part of the district that there has been a failure to take action on the part of the Local Authorities. The principle here is the same as that in the original Act, and to that I am afraid we must adhere.
§ *(4.53.) MR. CHANNING
I give the hon. Gentleman full credit for sincerity when he says he is not aware there 289 is any sense of intimidation amongst the labourers of the country.
§ *MR. CHANNING
Amongst those with whom he is personally acquainted. If hon. Members opposite have not received communications from labourers expressing the fear they have to sign requisitions, it only shows that the labourers are unwilling to explain their grievances to Conservative Representatives. What is the position of the men who appeal in this case? They have already been, by the action of the Government, brought before the Guardians, and received a refusal from the Guardians. The people who are interested in getting allotments have made themselves obnoxious to a powerful body of men on whom very generally they depend for a livelihood, and, therefore, I submit my hon. Friend is right in suggesting that a smaller number of persons should be entitled to make this representation to the County Council. If the Government do not yield on this point, I trust my hon. Friend will press his Amendment to a Division.
§ *(4.56.) CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N.)
The Secretary to the Local Government Board (Mr. Long) has not given us any reason why the number should be "six;" he has only said he does not see any reason why the number should be "two." There would be no difficulty in many parishes in getting six men to sign, but three or four of the six Would assuredly suffer for the action they had taken. This is a small point after all, one in which the Government might very well give way. If there is prima facie evidence by two people, surely that is enough.
§ *(4.58.) MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)
I should like to put a practical point before the President of the Local Government Board. The hon. Member for the Ilkeston Division (Sir W. Foster) thinks, as I do, there will be more difficulty in getting six signatures to a representation complaining of the action of the Sanitary Authorities than there would be in the original case—in getting six ratepayers merely to sign a representation that allotments are required. I admit that, in many cases, there would be no difficulty in getting six men to sign a re- 290 presentation to the Sanitary Authority that allotments are required. That is a very simple matter, but it is a totally different matter when you come to complain of the action of the authority. I think we made a mistake in the original Allotments Act in not reducing-the number. When I moved an Instruction to the Committee on the Bill last Friday, I called attention to the large number of very small parishes, and I was told by Gentlemen opposite that it would be an insult to small parishes to join them to larger parishes. It is quite clear that, in a great number of parishes, it is impossible to get six ratepayers to sign a representation to the Sanitary Authority, because there are not six ratepayers in the parish. The Secretary to the Local Government Board laughs, but from a Return which one of the officials of the Local Government Board was good enough to provide me with. I find that in 1881 there were 331 parishes in England and Wales, the population of which did not exceed 25, and it may fairly be assumed that only one-fourth or one-fifth of these were ratepayers. There wore 852 parishes in which the population was under 50, that means where there were only 12 ratepayers, and surely every one can see there must be considerable difficulty where there are only 12, and still more where there are only six, ratepayers in getting six ratepayers to sign a representation, firstly that they require allotments, and secondly complaining of the Sanitary Authority for not providing them with allotments, If there is only one man who requires an allotment, surely it is the intention of the Allotment Act that he should have just as great a right to have the Act put, in force as a large number of men.
§ (5.5.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 222; Noes 160.—(Div. List, No. 72.)
§ Amendment proposed, after "and" in line 16, insert "suitable in quality and position." (Mr. Charming.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
I would ask the Government to accept a verbal Amendment to line 17. As the clause reads "such persons may petition the County Council;" well, of course they can do this, any person may petition the County 291 Council, and it does not require an Act of Parliament to declare that. I submit that the word "if" should be inserted after the word allotment; "if such persons petition the County Council" and so on to the end of the clause "the County Council shall proceed, etc., as hereinafter mentioned." It makes it mandatory instead of permissive.
§ Amendment proposed, line 17, after "such" insert "if."
§ Question put, and House cleared.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I beg-to say I would not have challenged a Division but for the discourtesy of Members of the Government, who refused to make any answer when the Amendment was moved.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ (5.20.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
On behalf of the right hon. Member for Derby I desire to move the omission of the words. From "on," in line 22, to "petition," in line 23.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Member for East Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse) has given notice of a similar Amendment, the omission of these and other words, for the purpose of making the clause apply so that the County Council shall act at once; perhaps it would be better to allow the hon. Member for East Somerset to move his Amendment, which embraces the omission the right hon. Gentleman desires to make, and then when we arrive at the proper point the consequent Amendment to line 23 may be moved.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON
This Amendment stands in intimate relation to the proposed Amendment to line 23 to insert the words "within two months after the receipt of such petition." I think it best to move the Amendment, that the Government may express their intention as to the course they will take.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
As a matter of convenience the hon. Member may raise his Amendment on the Motion to omit these and other words of which the hon. Member for East Somerset has given notice. The omission of words is the preliminary Amendment.
§ *MR. COBB
Do I understand that if the hon. Member for East Somerset moves his Amendment my hon. Friend (Mr. Stevenson) can move the insertion 292 of the words suggested by the right hon. Member for Derby? It will be observed that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Somerset goes to the omission of words beyond the omission now proposed.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The operative part of the clause follows, but first it is a question of the omission of the words. If the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset is accepted these words disappear from the clause, and then will follow the question of inserting other words, as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby.
§ *(5.25.) MR. RITCHIE
The word proposed to be inserted should the Committee accept the omission would be "forthwith," having a more immediate effect than the words "within two months." The object of the Amendment as I understand is to make the operation of the clause more immediate, and that is also the object of the hon. Member for East Somerset, and either hon. Gentleman can carry out that object by moving the insertion of words.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON
There are two objections to that course, and both on the same ground—that the proposed words are vague. There is something explicit about the words "within two months," but there is a vagueness about the word "forthwith," and that also attaches to the phrase "on prima facie evidence being given," which occurs both in the body of the Bill and in the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Somerset.
§ MR. RITCHIE
These words the hon. Member will move to strike out; it is then for the hon. Member to move the insertion of such words as he may desire.
§ MR. F. S. STEVENSON
I think, to prevent subsequent misapprehension, I had better move the Amendment now.
The hon. Member can absolutely move the same Amendment subsequently; he is in no way prevented from carrying out his object by postponing it.
§ *MR. CHANNING
Will not that exclude the words "shall cause a local inquiry into the circumstances"?
No; the proposition in the Amendment to line 32 is that there shall be a reference to the Standing-Committee.
§ *MR. HOBHOUSE
The object of my Amendment is the same with that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby—to accelerate procedure. Under the Bill as it stands the petition must first be considered by the Council as a whole, and then referred by order to the Committee: but if my Amendment is adopted, then, as a matter of course, and without delay, it will go first to the Standing Committee, and it will be obvious this will be a saving of time. The Standing-Committee will be called together with more ease and much more quickly than the Council itself.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 22, to leave out from the word "Council" to the word "and," in line 24.—(Mr. Hob-house.)
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Consequential Amendment in line 24, —(Mr. Hobhouse,)—agreed to.
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 26, to leave out from beginning of line to end of Clause, and insert—
Shall pass a Resolution to that effect, and thereupon the powers and duties of the Sanitary Authority under the principal Act, so far as regards that district or parish, shall be transferred from the Sanitary Authority to the County Council, and the County Council, in substitution for the Sanitary Authority, shall proceed to acquire land in accordance with the principal Act, and otherwise execute that Act in the said district or parish.
Provided that this section shall not affect the property in, or any powers or duties of the Sanitary Authority in relation to, any land which before the passing of the said Resolution was acquired by the Sanitary Authority under the principal Act."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ *(5.30.) MR. COBB
I do not rise to oppose this but simply to ask a question. I rather gathered from the right hon. Gentleman on Friday that he differed from me in the opinion I expressed that the effect of the operation of the Bill would be, in certain cases, to oust the authority of the Sanitary Authority and substitute that of the County Council for administering all the powers under the 294 Act of 1887. I am not quite sure of the meaning and intention.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
The hon. Member is, no doubt, quite right as to the powers with which the application under this Bill is concerned, but should there be any other allotments they would still remain under the administration of the Local Authority. The County Council may, if they think fit, re-transfer the power.
§ *MR. CHANNING
There is an Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Devon (Mr. Seale-Hayne) in relation to this provision which I should like to move as an Amendment to the Amendment now before the Committee, that is to strike out the word from "provided" to the end of the Amendment.
First, we have to decide on the omission of the words; the Amendment will come in on the words proposed to be inserted.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ *(5.33.) MR. STEPHENS (Middlesex, Hornsey)
I have an Amendment to propose which does not, as an alternative course, interfere at all with the Act of 1887, or affect the Bill so far as it is an Appeal Bill. It is only directed to the new face placed upon the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman, when the Bill becomes, as I think I can show, an Administrative Bill of enormous dimensions under circumstances full of difficulty. Originally it was contemplated that this appeal from the Sanitary Authority should be heard, and that the matter should then, if desirable, be referred back to the Sanitary Authority as the Executive. In fact, there would be communications passing, during which the Sanitary Authority under pressure would have time to re-consider its decision. I feel there is likely to be, under this provision, a very large transference of action under the Act of 1887 to County Councils, because, rightly or wrongly, and probably because of much that has been said about them, Rural Sanitary Authorities are heartily sick of the Act. Now, the Amendment must be read in the light of Section 4 of the Bill, and then it will be seen that the County Council is to keep separate accounts, and, in fact, to have 295 all the machinery for administration of the Allotments Act, and to create a vast bureau nominally directed by the Standing Committee of the Council, but only nominally, because it cannot be said that the County Council will know anything about allotments in, it may be, 200 or 300 parishes throughout the country. Therefore, although the Standing Committee will be supposed to bear the brunt of responsibility, really you are going to create under the Act an enormous agency of inspectors, lawyers, valuers, clerks, a long, tortuous, cumbrous machinery, through which I think very little of the wishes of the inhabitants will filter. It must be the view of most hon. Members you are going to create on an immense scale a system of State landlordism or County Council landlordism throughout the country, which, I think the Committee will agree, is uncalled for and unnecessary. The County Council will have to manage allotments, make rules and enforce them, collect rents, and when allotments fall out of occupation the County Council will become occupier. All this will be diffused throughout the country in relation to matters often of very trifling value. I feel very seriously that, by refusing to the inhabitants of a district the management and responsibility to which the people are entitled in reference to a purely local matter, you will keep up a seething mass of dissatisfaction. I know it is said you are to proceed by way of local inquiry, but I know something of these local inquiries. An Inspector goes down to a place altogether strange to him, and he has to collect evidence. The agricultural labourers to whom this gentleman will appear in the guise of a lawyer hold aloof in suspicion, and will have nothing to do with him; he then makes acquaintance with others in the district, is fed mentally and bodily, and returns to concoct a Report for the edification of the County Council. How natural is the alternative! It is only to give the inhabitants of the parish power to agree among themselves. And I believe that such a provision would be operative. I have had a good deal to do with allotments, and I say that this question can only be dealt with properly by those who live in the parish, and who, of course, know whether the land to be utilised for the purpose is suitable or 296 not, who know with whom arrangements can be made, and whom it is useless to approach for the purpose. No mere local inquiry by a Committee appointed by the County Council could extract the necessary information. And, again, the inhabitants of a parish have many advantages for dealing themselves with such a matter. Why, then, cannot they be allowed to do it, with the restriction, of course, that what is done shall be voluntary. I agree that nothing could be more unwise than to give parishes compulsory powers which they are entirely unfit to exercise. Such a policy could only give rise to great difficulties. But I believe there are good prospects of the inhabitants agreeing among themselves, if only the President of the Local Government Board exercises the pressure which he will be enabled to, and I am confident that the result will be to secure general co-operation among the villagers. Supposing the parishes are small, you have good security for the good management of the allotments in the fact that it becomes almost a personal and private affair in which everyone is interested. And suppose that you have only two or three tiny allotments, is it not less rational, is it not less endurable, to put in force the cumbrous machinery which the County Council will employ? I believe that the machinery I have to suggest will prove one of the most successful forms of Local Government. I hold that, in the first place, if you appoint a Committee for a specific purpose you get the work done a thousand times better than if you appoint a body for general purposes and for a definite period; because, if, you find your Committee neglecting its duty, or going outside the limits of the reference to it, you can promptly bring it to book, whereas if your general body is elected for a year, you may have to wait months before you can deal with it, Under the proposal of this Bill you will not enjoy the advantage of local knowledge, nor will the body you appoint be in harmony with the inhabitants of the village. How, then, can you expect the plan to work successfully? My personal experience in the matter of allotments has shown me how very Conservative men are in these matters. Some years ago a body of men applied to 297 me for land for allotment purposes, and I lent it on the sole condition that they should manage it themselves by a committee of allotment holders and allotment workers. For two years I never went near the land; but when at last I did go I found everything in must satisfactory order. One entrance gate was locked, and near the other was posted a notice, which I commend to hon. Members opposite, that "Rents is now due, and must be paid according to Rule 20, or the lots will be forfeited." I found that the plots had been admirably managed by the committee of holders and workers. Now, I think we must all confess that the Act of 1887 has not proved a success. I am sure we are all anxious, both on this side of the House as well as on the opposite side, that this Bill should be a success. We are anxious that its provisions should be taken advantage of; we are desirous to take this opportunity of retrieving the mistake made in 1887. I do not believe that the Government will prevent our utilising the opportunity for so doing. I wish this Bill to meet with general approval throughout the country. I wish the Government to avoid the discredit and danger which must follow from "failure No. 2." I wish the Bill to be on lines which will accord with the general sense of the country. And having this desire I appeal to the Government to accept the suggestions I have put on the Paper.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, after the first word "authority," to insert the words "in an urban district."—(Mr. Stephens.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ (5.47.) MR. QUILTER (Suffolk, Sudbury)
May I, as a point of order, ask you, Sir, what we are discussing now? I was under the impression that we had not yet reached the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hornsey.
§ MR. STEPHENS
I asked the indulgence of the House to make the remarks I did because the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman now under Debate is inconsistent with the Amendment which I have put down, and if the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment were passed it would be incompetent for me to move mine.
I shall have to put to the Committee, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, the insertion after the word "authority," of the words" in an urban district."
§ *(5.55.) MR. LONG
Nobody desires to question my hon. Friend's practical experience in allotment matters, or his bond fide desire to make this Bill satisfactory: but I do not think that he has shown to the House any reason for believing that the Act of 1887 has been a failure. When I find hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have distinguished themselves in connection with this subject by advocating the most extreme views as to the extension of the Local Government, cheering the hon. Member for Hornsey I am led to the conclusion that extremes are, indeed, meeting under this particular Bill. But while hon. Gentlemen opposite advocate the setting up a Parish Council, to be elected by ballot on the principle of one man one vote, and placing in their hands the control of all parochial affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey makes a very different proposal. In his proposal there is no voting by ballot, no one man one vote, and the result of the adoption by the Committee of his suggestion would be, in my judgment, to seriously delay any advance and reform in the system of Parochial or Local Government; because, as the hon. Gentleman must know fall well, one of the greatest difficulties in the way of reform exists in the complexity and number of existing areas, and of the powers they already hold, and the obligations they have already incurred. Now, my hon. Friend's proposal, if adopted, would have this extraordinary result: that it would, in the case of urban districts, transfer the power to the County Council; but in the case of rural districts it would set up a new authority on the old system of election. and would add a new authority to the sufficiently large number of authorities already existing I contend that my hon. Friend has not given the House any reason to believe that a greater prospect of success attends his proposal than that of the Government, which does not add to the existing authorities, and proposes the same machinery for the urban and the rural districts. My hon. Friend has drawn a painful picture of the terrible expenditure incurred under the Act of 1887. 299 And when he says that all admit that Bill to be a failure I am not sure that he speaks for anybody but the hon. Member for Hornsey, at any rate on this side of the House; and I think my hon. Friend can safely leave hon. Members opposite to give expression to their own views. But to return to the question of cost. I should like to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that there are standing in the name of my hon. Friend certain Consequential Amendments; and I think the Committee, after hearing the remarks of my hon. Friend with reference to the cost of working the Act of 1887, will be astonished when they read the last of those consequential Amendments, whereby my hon. Friend proposes that the new authority—Shall appoint and may remove at pleasure such officers and servants as shall be necessary for the business of the Committee, …and with the approval of the vestry may appoint reasonable salaries, wages, and allowances for such officers and servants.If the proposal of my hon. Friend is agreed to the result will be to set up new authorities with power to provide salaries and allowances for the officers whom they may appoint, and this might very well lead to increased expenditure. There are, I hold, sufficient Local Authorities already, and it would be unwise to add to their number. Therefore, the Government recommend the Committee to adhere to our proposal, and not to adopt the somewhat remarkable recommendations of my hon. Friend.
§ (6.4.) MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
I desire to support most heartily the proposal made by the hon. Member for Hornsey. I confess that, as a matter of order, I do not know the exact position in which we stand with regard to it, and so I will state broadly my opinions on this matter. I believe the Amendment before us deals with the urban districts, but I am more particularly concerned with the rural districts. I say distinctly that if the entire control of allotment matters is given to the County Councils they will have a great deal too much to do. Allotments should be regulated by committees appointed by the allottees themselves; and, therefore, although the Amendment put on the Paper by the hon. Member for Hornsey is not all we desire I shall support it as 300 strongly as I can. I know that in the case of allotments in which a rev. friend of mine is interested they are governed by a committee appointed by the allottees themselves, with the vicar of the parish as chairman, and everything works admirably. Such committees have the local knowledge which is so valuable an element when allotment questions are under consideration. The fear that needless expenditure will be indulged in by such committees is groundless. At Stockton, near Rugby, where a system of the kind has been tried, a great success has been achieved. It has been said this afternoon that the Allotments Act is not an admitted failure. The Member for Devizes said the hon. Member for Hornsey was wrong when he declared it to be an admitted failure. No; the failure is not admitted, but it is a gross and notorious failure all the same; and if the hon. Member had used the word "notorious" instead of "admitted" he would have been strictly accurate. The acceptance of the present proposal would introduce a beneficial change, because it will convert a wretched fiasco into something like a benefit to the working classes.
§ *(6.11.) MR. CHANNING
The situation at which we have arrived is a somewhat surprising one. The hon. Member for Hornsey is evidently giving the Government a last chance of obtaining salvation. I do not for a single moment suppose that he binds himself to every letter and every sentence of the Amendments he has on the Paper; I suppose, rather, that he is offering the Government a chance to carry out in connection with the rural districts the principle which we have this afternoon decided to apply to the urban districts, and to ensure that the allotments question is dealt with by a Committee possessing local knowledge. I admit several of the contentions of the hon. Member for Wiltshire, and I agree that a Committee constructed on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Hornsey would hardly be strong enough to deal with the financial questions involved. But I would urge the Government to give further consideration to this matter, and to see if they cannot, on the Report stage, bring up a clause for the creation of a Local Authority for the purposes of allotments in small areas. Having 301 some knowledge of this question, I say that the Bill, if passed in its present form, will prove a mere fiasco, and will not achieve the objects which the Government have in view. I cannot support the Amendment in its present form; but I do urge the Government to apply to rural districts the principle which we have decided to apply to urban districts.
§ (6.15.) MR. COBB
I should like to know if the Government are willing to re-consider their decision in this matter. I am not going to discuss whether the Act of 1887 is or is not a failure. We have sufficiently discussed that point already, and we all have our own views upon it. It seems to me that the only difference between what I advocated on Friday last and the proposal of the hon. Member for Hornsey is one of name. He proposes to appoint a Committee which is to be elected by the Vestry. I know that there are objections to the mode of election by Vestry; but I venture to think that if the hon. Member's suggestion is accepted it will be necessary to elect the Parish Committee or Parish Council by ballot, and on the principle of one man one vote. The Secretary to the Local Government Board has suggested that a Parish Committee might incur expenses for offices. We shall want nothing of the kind, because in almost every village there is a schoolroom, partly maintained by the State, and these can be used for the purpose. I do not know if the hon. Member is aware that before the Bill of 1887 was brought in a proposal was made, in a Bill which I introduced, to appoint these very Committees, and that it was met by a promise on the part of the Government to deal with the question in a more satisfactory way. When the Bill was produced, however, it turned out that the Government thought Boards of Guardians to be more suitable authorities than Village Committees. The inhabitants of the villages hold a very different opinion. They prefer a Parish Council or a Local Committee. The hon. Member for Wiltshire has twitted us with giving up compulsory purchase. But I and my friends do not wish to abandon compulsory purchase; we leave that to the hon. Member for the Bordesley Division, who having for many years loudly advocated compulsory purchase as 302 essential in dealing with allotments and small holdings, omitted altogether the Compulsory Clauses in his Bill last Session, and gave evidence in the same direction before the Select Committee on Small Holdings. I join in the appeal of my hon. Friend to the Government to consider whether some agreement cannot be arrived at.
§ *(6.21.) MR. RITCHIE
The Government cannot undertake anything in the direction the hon. Gentleman suggests. The same question was discussed on the proposed Instruction to the Committee, and the right hon. Member for Derby said—The Government might well flinch from accepting the proposal of the hon. Gentleman to set up a new authority in the parish for that particular purpose. If a new authority were set up it ought to he for other purposes. It would require great consideration, and, under the circumstances, he was not surprised at the Government declining to accept that portion of the proposal—the proposal which we are now discussing. The Government are now asked to embark in the creation of a new authority, and that in the face of the fact that hon. Members are not agreed as to what kind of authority it should be. I ask the Committee to consider the difficulty and complexity of the question we are asked to take up at this stage. It means practically the abandonment of the Bill. It may be a good Bill, or it may be a bad one. Hon. Members have different opinions on that point; but the Government think it a good Bill and much wanted. We are asked to set up that new authority, not for the purpose of managing the new allotments generally, but only those which shall be supplied by the County Councils on appeal. I cannot imagine that the Committee will ever consent to any such proposition as that of the hon. Member.
§ *(6.23.) CAPTAIN VERNEY
The authority which the hon. Member for Hornsey proposes to establish is not altogether new; it is identical with that established under the Free Libraries Act. In many counties, and especially is it the case in North Buckinghamshire, the County Councils are largely composed of Guardians, in North Bucks two-thirds are Guardians, and the appeal would, therefore, be from Guardians to Guardians. I do not think that the 303 right hon. Gentleman realises the time which would be lost in taking action if his proposal is carried. At least, two years would be lost before a spade could be put into an allotment by the Twyford labourers, who have already waited three years. In the first place, the advertisement of action must be published in August or September; then the meeting cannot be held till December; then the Provisional Order can have no force until it is passed in this House in the next Session; and then at the succeeding Michaelmas a year's notice must be given to the tenant. And all this is supposing the proposal meets with no opposition, and that everybody is willing. Now we want a sharp and prompt remedy. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the decision just come to by the House is a blow against Local Government. I say it is precisely the reverse. Whoever heard of one Elective Body appealing to another Elective Authority?
§ (6.27.) MR. HALLEY STEWART (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
I hold that two divergent principles are embodied in the Amendment; in one case you transfer certain powers from Urban Authorities to the County Council, or from a lower to a higher authority, and in the other you transfer power from the County Council to a Parish Committee, or from a higher to a lower authority. I think we should have an opportunity of dividing on each of the principles. I am opposed to the transfer of the powers under the Act to County Councils, but in favour of those powers being given to the Parish Authorities.
§ (6.29.) MR. STEPHENS
The Act of 1887 only placed compulsory powers in the hands of the County Authority; and as a parish is not a County Authority, I do not propose to give the parish compulsory powers. There is the greatest possible difference between what I propose and the proposal of the hon. Member for the Rugby Division. I propose the ancient operative Executive Body of the parish—the oldest authority we have, and which has exercised these powers with success, and never failing in their use. As to the officers, I admit the unfortunate slip 304 made in the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded; but, of course, these officers will never be wanted; all the powers have been taken, and it is quite absurd to suppose that any expense will arise. It will be possible for this Body to administer the affairs of the parish without officers. That may be a grievance, but it is not one which will be felt by the ratepayers.
§ *(4.46.) SIR. WALTER FOSTER
I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to the position in which we stand. We have an Amendment of very wide range and great importance moved by the hon. Member opposite. That Amendment, as pointed out by the hon. Member for Spalding, raises two contradictory propositions. In view of the attitude taken by the Government towards the Amendment of the hon. Member and your suggestion, Sir, that we should be allowed to draw up an Amendment to avoid the difficulty, I beg to move, as that cannot be done in a moment, that you now report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Walter Foster.)
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I hope the Committee will not assent to the proposal. We have been engaged now for a very long time in considering the matter, and the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, though apparently complicated, is in reality very simple. What he proposes is that the Urban Sanitary Authorities shall remain as the Bill has placed them; and, so far as the Rural Authorities are concerned, he proposes that when an appeal has been made to the County Council, and they decide that allotments shall be supplied, they shall go to the Vestry Committee appointed by the rural vote; but that the Committee shall have no power whatever of acquiring lands if they have to acquire them compulsorily. If this matter goes to a Division, you will divide on the question whether the County Council shall, by their Committee, acquire the allotments, or whether it shall be referred to the Parish Authority elected in the way the hon. Gentleman proposes, to carry out the behest of the County Council, but with no power of compulsory acquirement. I hope the Committee will now be allowed to come to a decision.
§ (6.40.) MR. CHANNING
If I am in order, I would suggest the division of the Amendment, and the question which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to settle could at once be brought before the House. Will the hon. Member for Hornsey accept the following Amendment, to leave out the words after the word "authority" in the fourth line of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman, and insert after "authority" the last five lines of his own Amendment, beginning with the words "in a rural district to a Committee," and so on, down to the end of the latter? That would at once raise the question whether the Committee would consent to the creation in a rural sanitary district of a Local Committee for this purpose. It is a perfectly plain issue to put before the House. I do not see why we should delay one moment if the right hon. Gentleman and the Member for Hornsey will consent, and in this case I would suggest to my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston to withdraw his Motion. Then I would suggest that the question of the Urban Sanitary Authority could be dealt with in a reasonable form which would command general support.
§ MR. STEPHENS
I think the suggestion of the hon. Member is a perfectly reasonable one. It is quite obvious that the Urban Authorities stand upon a totally different footing. I beg to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Another Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment,
After the first word "authority," to leave out all the words to the end of the proposed Amendment, in order to add the words "in a rural district to a committee appointed by the inhabitants in vestry of such parish as hereinafter provided, and the parish committee, in substitution for the sanitary authority, shall proceed to acquire land in accordance with the principal Act, and otherwise execute that Act in the said district or parish."—(Mr. Changing.)
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."306
§ CAPTAIN VERNEY
May lask whether the right hon. Gentleman accepts and adopts my statement that if his Amendment is carried the labourer cannot got his spade into the land until next Michaelmas two years?
§ MR. HALLEY STEWART
I only wish to state the issue which is before the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman says we are going to divide on the question of whether or not compulsory powers shall be included. I have explained that in voting for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Hornsey I am voting; against compulsory powers.
§ *MR. RITCHIE
I was dealing with the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman. Now we are dealing with a different proposition.
§ (6.40.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 223; Noes 146.—(Div. List, No. 73.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate arising.
§ It being after 10 minutes to Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.