HC Deb 03 June 1891 vol 353 cc1549-68

Considered in Committee

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2.

(12.35.) MR. JOSEPH C. BOLTON (Stirling)

moved, in page 1, line 7, after "burgh," to insert "the population of which is not less than five thousand according to last Census." The hon. Member said: A clause to this effect was inserted in the Bill of 1888, and I have no doubt that if that Bill had been proceeded with it would have become law. I think that the Amendment which I now propose may be fairly accepted by the House as a settlement of the question. It will then become a matter of arrangement between the burghs and the counties as to whether the localities shall take on themselves the expense of maintaining the roads within their own burghs. There are some burghs, which are small in extent, where it is of importance that they should not only have good roads in the burghs themselves, but very good roads outside. This question of roads, however, cannot be taken up without reference to the other financial arrangements between the burghs and counties. I have here before me a statement which shows that the assessment for police within a burgh in one rural parish amounted to £82, while the expenditure upon the police was £187. If the expenditure were less than the assessment the burghs would not take advantage of the Act, but would leave the county to pay the excess; but there are other rural parishes in which the figures are reversed. For instance, there is a parish which is assessed at £208, whereas the actual expenditure is only £45. This, I think, will show how unfairly the rural parishes have been compelled to contribute to a large assessment for police, while the burghs have escaped with practically a very moderate contribution indeed. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 7, after "burgh," insert "the population of which is not less than five thousand according to last census."—(Mr. J. C. Bolton.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(12.40.) MR. H. ELLIOT (Ayrshire, N.)

I think we have a right to complain of the course which the hon. Member has taken. This Bill was read a second time several months ago, but the Committee stage was deliberately delayed, at the request of the Lord Advocate, so that the counties should have time to consider their position in regard to the Bill. The hon. Member now proposes a most important Amendment, which certainly ought to have been placed upon the Paper much earlier, so that the different police burghs might have had time to consider the matter. I, for one, cannot accept the Amendment, principally on the ground that it would really fail to be a settlement of the question. I am confident that if the Amendment were accepted it would be no settlement. The population limit proposed is utterly unworkable and arbitrary, and would be likely to lead to inconsistency and incongruity. That would be the state of matters in the county which the hon. Member himself represents. There are two police burghs there, one with a population of 5,200, and another—the Bridge of Allan—with a population of 4,970. The hon. Member proposes that the Bill shall apply to one of these burghs and not to the other, while royal burghs, with a much less population, are to be allowed to manage their own affairs. If this Amendment is accepted all police burghs with a population above 5,000 will be taken entirely out of the county.




If that is so I rest my case on the principle that every burgh, great or small, when it becomes a burgh, should have the management of its own streets, although it may be required to make some contribution to a fund for general purposes.

(12.45.) MR. ASHER (Elgin, &c.)

The effect of the Amendment will be this: that the benefit proposed to be conferred on the burghs by this Bill will be taken away from all burghs with a population of less than 5,000. Every police burgh having a population of less than 5,000 will be altogether excluded from any benefit whatever under the Bill. I hope the Committee will not accept such a proposition, which, if it were adopted, would go a long way towards destroying the advantages contemplated in the introduction of the Bill. There are at present in Scotland 88 police burghs which do not enjoy the administration of their own roads, and if this Amendment is adopted it will exclude from the benefits of the Bill 42 police burghs. This population limit has no principle whatever to justify it, and it is absolutely impossible to state any principle that will make it right and proper that a burgh with a population of 5,000 should have the management of its own roads, while another burgh with a population of 4,800 should not. In the police burghs, which it is proposed to exclude, all the grievances exist which have led to the introduction of the Bill— a double administration, double assessment, and the Commissioners of Towns having control of one part of the burgh while they are excluded from any control in the other. These are grievances which exist without reference to population at all, and if they are grievances why should they be regulated by a population limit? The circumstances of the Scotch police burghs are infinitely various. No doubt if the Amendment were carried it would exclude some which desire to come under the Bill, as well as those who do not; and it takes no notice of the fact that at different periods the population of Scotland varies in accordance with the seasons. The only argument which my hon. Friend put forward in favour of the Amendment was the financial one. He said, "You are dealing with the financial arrangements with regard to roads, but not with the other financial arrangements which exist between the counties and burghs." But there is no relation between a population limit of 5,000 and the financial objection which has been brought forward. As the Amendment is entirely against the principle of the Bill, I hope the Committee will not accept it.

(12.58.) COLONEL MALCOLM (Argyllshire)

I think it would not be difficult to meet most of the objections which have been urged. The fact is that the Amendment which stands in my name, taken in conjunction with others which stand on the Paper further down, does not exclude any burgh from having charge of its own roads and streets, but all that it does is to lay down certain conditions. I have a clause on the Paper which proposes to place all police burghs, having a population exceeding 5,000, in the same position as burghs under the Act of 1878. I do not propose to make that a stereotyped condition, but simply to provide that when the population of any burgh reaches 5,000 it may take over its own roads and streets. We have, I think, to a certain extent afforded a justification for such a proposal by the clause which we inserted in the Scotch Local Government Act of 1889, which allows the Sheriff of a county to take a Census and determine whether a burgh, having reached a population of 5,000, shall be allowed to have the control of its own roads. Below the limit of 5,000 I think the provisions of Clause 2 may be applied, and I have a further Amendment to provide that where the population of a police burgh does not exceed 3,000, a resolution of the Commissioners to undertake the management and maintenance of the highways shall have no effect without the consent of the County Council of the county or counties within which such police burgh is situated. I throw out this suggestion, which I think may meet the general feeling of the Scotch Members better than the fixing of a hard and fast line at a population limit of 5,000.

MR. DUFF (Banffshire)

I think there can be no doubt that if this Amendment is parried it will be tanta- mount to throwing out the Bill. According to the figures which I have before me, and which have already been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire (Mr. H. Elliot) if the limit is to be a population of 5,000, the provisions of the Bill will only be extended to eight burghs. Since 1878 there has been a considerable extension by Parliament of the principles of Local Self -Government, and I fail to see any relation between the police assessments and the maintenance of the roads. Each stands upon a different footing, and, therefore, I cannot help regarding the Amendment as something that would amount to the rejection of the Bill. But I wish to know what course the Government propose to take in regard to the measure. From what passed on the Second Reading I believe that it has their approval. The Lord Advocate supported it; all he said was that before it went through Committee the House ought to know the opinion of the County Councils in regard to it. It is now something like three months since the Bill was read a second time, and the Government have had plenty of time for obtaining the opinion of the County Councils. The Banff, Kincardine, Caithness, Wigton and Ayr, County Councils have petitioned in favour of the Bill, while several other counties support the Bill with amendments; the County Council of Perth being the only Petitioners against the Bill. I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend will be guided by their opinion. As a county Member I support the Bill, and I have no doubt the majority of Scotch Members will do so also.

MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)

I appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling not to interfere with the compromise which has been come to in the Burgh Police Bill. If it is well to give these aggregations of population the power to manage their own affairs, I appeal to my hon. Friend whether it is worth while to boggle about the roads. In my opinion, it is not "worth while to carry on a litigation in regard to the rating of gas pipes and water pipes, and other municipal matters, as between the road authority and the police authority. My hon. Friend is raising a difficulty which will make the Bill inoperative. I hope the question will be settled on broad, lines, and I suggest to my hon. Friend that he would do well to withdraw the Amendment.

MR. SOMERVELL (Ayr, &c.)

I am also opposed to the Amendment, which I believe will have the effect of entirely emasculating the Bill. There are 85 burghs whose roads are managed by the counties, and when we passed the Second Reading of the Bill it was on the distinct understanding that while counties were to be treated fairly, these 85 burghs were to obtain the benefits of the Bill.


My Amendment was nothing more than a clause in the Bill of 1888, which was a compromise between the counties and the burghs.


But there has been a great change made in the administration of the county roads since that time under the County Council.


At that time the roads were managed by an elected Road Board, and now they are managed by the County Councils, which are also elected Boards. In effect, therefore, the roads in Scotland are under the same control now as they were in 1888. [Mr. ESSLEMONT: No.] I believe there is not a burgh in Scotland that has not a representative on the County Council, and in all probability on the Road Board too.


This question is purely a matter of social and administrative convenience. The competition, if there be competition, arises between a rural popular Body and an urban popular Body, and in considering the matter we must not leave out of sight the unfortunate roads which are the subject of controversy. The proper object of legislation should be to secure the efficient administration of the roads which are continuous roads—main roads passing through certain burghs, and through the counties which surround them. I must own that I do not entertain a very strong opinion on this subject; but I have looked at it fairly from the point of view of convenient administration. I am a strong supporter of the Bill, and I think it is very desirable that something should be done in the direction proposed by the hon. Member for Ayrshire. I am bound to say I am not a supporter of the view of the hon. Member for Stirling, and cannot support his Amendment. There are one or two general questions which arise upon the Amendment, and which must be considered. Does the hon. and learned Member for Elgin (Mr. Asher) mean to say that the smallest burgh should have power of its own motion and without the consent of the County Council to assume the management of every scrap of highway which passes through that burgh?


I said, "May have the power."


That virtually means that they shall have the power. I am not prepared to give my consent to that proposition, and I do not think it will conduce to the convenient or efficient administration of the roads. We have police burghs which at the last Census had a population of under 800. I think it is rather a strong proposition that a highway passing through a county is to be subject to the management of a great number of Bodies, some of which represent a very small population. I sympathise very much with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Argyllshire and the hon. Member for Forfarshire, who desire to discriminate between the circumstances of the burghs according to their size. The hon. Member for Stirlingshire makes a distinction as regards burghs of 5,000, and he proposes the universal condition that all burghs under 5,000 are not to have the management of their roads, even if they wish it, unless they get the consent of the County Council. I shall be prepared to support the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Argyllshire proposes as regards those burghs which have a population of 5,000. The hon. Member for Argyllshire also proposes that all burghs below 5,000 should be entitled to go out on the payment of some compensation to the county. I see great fairness in that. I think that the County Council who have the manage- ment of the roads in small burghs are entitled to some say in the matter. There is a great deal to be said for the proposal that in the case of burghs between 5,000 and 3,000 the provisions of the Bill should apply as they are. The hon. Member for Stirlingshire in his Amendment proposes to fix a hard-and-fast line—that, against the wish of the County Council, which represents the enormous preponderance of the population, there should be a separate administration of a burgh of, say, under 1,000. I think 3,000 is perhaps a fair limit. It has been said that the Royal Burghs already share in the administration of these roads. There is a number of privileges which these burghs enjoy, still I do not think they constitute a reason for perpetuating an anomaly. I shall individually support the words from this point of view. I wish to do more for these boroughs with 5,000 of population than this Bill does, and I would distinguish between those with a population of 5,000 and those with a population of 3,000. It is not a matter in which I desire to express more than the opinion of an individual who has given some attention to the subject and considered all the representations which have been put forward, and it is certainly a matter which ought to be settled by the canons of good sense of the Committee.


Order, order! I think it would be convenient, before continuing this discussion, to settle this Amendment.


I shall have no objection whatever to withdraw my Amendment in favour of that of my hon. Friend, if the act of withdrawal will not exclude that Amendment. On that understanding, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


I now beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name. The reasons in support of it have been clearly expressed by the Lord Advocate, and I need not take up time by going over the ground again. It will practically allow all burghs, whose population does not exceed 5,000, to have the benefits of this Bill in their entirety. Afterwards I shall propose a slight alteration with regard to burghs under 3,000.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 7, after the word "Burgh," to insert the words "the population of which does not exceed five thousand, ascertained as herein mentioned."—(Colonel Malcolm.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."

(1.34.) MR. J. B. BALFOUR (Clackmannan, &c.)

I understand this Amendment to be introductory to those which my hon. Friend will shortly propose. As the Lord Advocate discussed not only the Amendment, but also other parts of the Bill, I desire to say a few words on the general question. I am one of those who are averse to any limit of population being introduced, because it appears to me that any limit, which must necessarily be arbitrary, will involve a departure from a sound and intelligible principle. The modern police burghs are very much the successors of the old Royal burghs; and when they are constituted they acquire a practical local autonomy, with the exception of the main roads. That necessarily implies a double administration within the burgh as regards roads. At the first blush it is an objection to have, within, one territorial area, two administrations, when one would suffice. It seems to me that any risk of unfairness to the counties is amply guarded against by the provisions in the Bill, because it is not proposed to allow a burgh to assume the administration of the highways passing through it except upon terms which may be agreed upon, or, failing agreement, to be settled by the Sheriff. There is ample provision for justice being done. It is extremely difficult, by fixing a population limit, to say that there may not be considerations that would make it desirable that certain burghs should, upon fair terms, assume the administration of their own roads; and when they have the safeguard of terms being allowed, a burgh will not put itself under obligations to the county if it is better or cheaper or more advantageous to it that the main highway should remain under county administration. I do not know that there is any body which has a greater, or as great, an interest in having the main street of a burgh in good order as the inhabitants themselves, and not only is provision made for justice being done to the county on the assumption by the burgh of the care of its roads, but it is contemplated that the burgh may have something to pay on settlement of terms for the use of the highways outside. There are many burghs in Scotland, some of them county towns, which have not a population of 3,000, which are yet important places, and which have a strong desire to secure the management of their own roads, and may very well be entrusted with it. I submit the Bill is founded on a thoroughly intelligible principle, is duly safeguarded, so that there shall be no injury done to any interest external to that of the burgh, and that, practically, the good sense of all interested is the best security against the assumption of the right of administration of highways in cases where it is not for the general advantge.

(1.41.) MR. BARCLAY (Forfarshire)

I have an Amendment to the same effect as that before the Committee, only I have put the limit at 4,000. After the concessions the Government have made I do not intend to move it.

MR. A. ELLIOT (Roxburgh)

It strikes me that hard measure is being dealt out to the counties if the Amendment is accepted. The provisions in the Bill have been very favourably received by the greater part of the County Councils in Scotland, and now it is proposed for the first time to withdraw the burghs of 5,000 without the consent of the County Council in any way, and without terms being considered by the County Councils or the burghs themselves. I do not know how many such burghs there are.


There are eight of them.


At any rate, it is a great change to the prejudice of the County Councils, and I protest against such a change, as I hold that notice should have been given of such an important alteration. As other matters which have been referred to by previous speakers will probably come up on sub- sequent Amendments, I will not now take up the time of the Committee by referring to them.

(1.45.) MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)

I think there is a good deal of justice in the observations of my hon. Friend. Undoubtedly, this point is an entirely new one. It has never before appeared in the Bill—


I rise to a point of order. Is it in order, in a discussion upon an Amendment fixing a limit of population, to discuss subsequent provisions of the Bill?


As these matters are closely linked, I think it is convenient to allow the discussion.


What I wish to say is that I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that this point is so new that it ought not to have been introduced without ample notice to the County Councils, so that they might have given their opinions on it. The County Councils, as a whole, have dealt with this Bill in a very generous spirit. They have not shown any desire to oppose the burghs by the management of their own roads. But I would like to point out, not only to the Mover of the Amendment, but also to the Lord Advocate this: It seems to me the proposal might produce a very serious anomaly in practice, as we might have burghs with a population of just under 5,000, which, on reaching that limit, would at once be free from the payment of contributions to the county. I think it is quite unfair to draw this sharp distinction between a burgh of 4,900 population and one of 5,000, and make one pay a heavy contribution to the county while the other will go free. For these reasons, I hope the Amendment will not be pressed.

MR. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c)

I desired to call attention to the same point. There are two burghs— Bridge of Allan and Crieff—both within 100 of the population of 5,000. Bridge of Allan is within 24 of that limit, and within a month or two of the passing of the Bill it might be discharged of all liability to pay the county contribution.


The principle of this Amendment has been already embodied in the Roads and Bridges Act, 1878, and I do not see how we can now place burghs of 5,000 population in a worse position than they occupied in that year. After all, this Amendment is merely carrying out the principle of the Act of 1878, and I see no reason against it.

(1.50.) MR. ASHER

I assent to the view that we must consider the interests of the burghs in the roads. It has been urged that if no limit of population is introduced, then the Bill will be applicable to police burghs, however small. Reference has been made, too, to the Royal burghs; but it is an undoubted fact that some of these very small Royal burghs have successfully administered their own roads, although they have a population of less than 2,000. No doubt many hon. Members are personally acquainted with some burghs in which the roads are infinitely better kept than in the county adjacent. I have not the slightest doubt it will be found that in those burghs it is much better the main street should be administered by the Local Authority and not by the county. What has been well done in the Royal burghs should be allowed in small police burghs.


I do not agree with my hon. Friend as to the condition of the roads in the small Royal burghs. If he will do me the honour to accompany me to Fife, I think he will come to a very different conclusion. Bat whether or not the Royal burghs have the power of maintaining their own roads, it does not at all follow that, under the new system of county administration, it is desirable that the plan should be continued and extended. What is wanted is to preserve an efficient Local Authority, and that, I think, is best to be secured by placing the management of the roads in these burghs in the hands of Parish Councils acting under the County Councils. In Fife we have recently purchased some steam rolling apparatus, and if you are to restrict its use to the county district the main roads through the burghs will suffer. I think the compromise offered by the Lord Advocate is a reasonable one. Any burgh which seeks to take charge of its own roads should come to terms with the County Council. Unfortunately, there is a disposition on the part of the inhabitants of comparatively small areas to use the roads of their neighbours without contributing to the cost of maintaining them, and, therefore,I think safeguards are required.

(1.55.) The Committee divided:— Ayes 47; Noes 71.—(Div. List, No. 260.)

Amendments made.

(2.6.) MR. BARCLAY

I beg to move to leave out the words— And as to the cost of maintaining the highways in the neighbourhood of such burgh. I object to these words because they seem to me to indicate a bias against the burghs, and to amount almost to an Instruction to the Sheriff, that the burghs are to bear a part of the cost of maintaining the roads outside of their areas. I do not know of any case where there is any excessive traffic on the roads outside burghs, in the neighbourhood of the burghs, which is not due to the counties and not to the burghs; such traffic is due to the wealth of the counties, to quarrying, the cutting, of timber, or mining. If a burgh has the misfortune to stand between the county and a railway station, or a port of shipment, it suffers the disadvantage of having its streets cut up by traffic from which, practically, it derives no benefit. I do not wish to make the passing of the Bill any more difficult than is necessary; but I must point out that it is proposed in the clause subsequently to give the Sheriff power to take all the circumstances of the case into account. I think the matter should be put into the hands of the Sheriff without prejudice, and with a general direction that he is to consider the whole circumstances of the case. If the words I propose to omit are retained, the Sheriff may consider them an indication that Parliament thought that in all cases burghs should pay part of the cost of maintaining the roads outside their own areas.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 15, to leave out "and as to the cost of maintaining the highways in the neighbourhood of such burgh."—(Mr. Barclay,)

Question proposed, "That the words 'and as to the cost of maintaining the highways in the neighbourhood of such burgh' stand part of the Clause."

(2.10.) MR. H. ELLIOT

I am not very favourable to this Amendment, and for the reason that it seems to strike rather at the counties. This Bill has been considered by the counties, and to a certain extent has been approved in its present condition by the police burghs. I, therefore, do not like the proposal to omit these words. Perhaps it would be agreeable to the Committee that these words should be struck out, and that the words— Including the cost of maintaining the highways in the neighbourhood of such police burgh,"— which stand in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Malcolm), should be inserted in line 20.


I think that the words ought not to be omitted altogether. They would, in my belief, come in better after "case," in line 20, the place I have indicated in my Amendment. If they are omitted here, I will move my Amendment later on.

Question put, and negatived.

Amendments made.


In accordance with what I said just now, I beg to move to insert, after "case," in line 20, "including the cost of maintaining the highways in the neighbourhood of such police burgh." As it has been pointed out, this Bill has been considered both by burghs and County Councils, and it is well this provision should be made to avoid any heartburning.

Amendment proposed, In page 1, line 20, after "case," to insert "including the cost of maintaining the highways in the neighbourhood of such police burgh."—(Colonel Malcolm.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I should like to hear from the Lord Advocate what, in his opinion, would be the effect of the insertion of these words on the mind of the Sheriff.

MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain how far the roads are to extend? is it to be a few hundred yards, or a mile, or what? The terms are very indefinite.

MR. LENG (Dundee)

In many cases the roads within these police burghs are really of great value to the county. In the case of the burgh where I reside—that of Newport—the whole traffic of a large district of Fife converges at the ferry. One of the elements of consideration also ought to be the value of the roads within the burgh to the rest of the county.


I think it is better that those words should stand part of the clause. I rather think, if they do not stand part of the clause, it is doubtful whether this was a consideration which the Sheriff might ultimately have. The words merely permit the Sheriff to have regard to these things; they do not prejudge the question. The hon. Member for Forfarshire asks me to express an opinion on a statement of facts which are entirely specific and local. I am afraid I cannot do so.


On the assurance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the insertion of these words will not prejudge the question, I shall not press my objection.

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendments made.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 3 amended, and agreed to.

Clause 4.

Amendments made.

(2.20.) Amendment proposed, In page 2, line 24, leave out all after "burgh," to "same," inclusive, in line 29, and insert "means a popular place the boundaries whereof have been fixed and ascertained under the provisions of 'The General Police and Improvement (Scotland) Act, 1862,' or of the Act first therein recited, or have been determined by or under any local Act."—(Mr. Hugh Elliot.)

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


I have an Amendment to move to the Amendment. The clause as it stands defines police burgh as a populous place, the boundaries of which have been fixed under the Act of 1862 or under a local Act. There are some police burghs, however, the boundaries of which have been fixed by charter. I myself represent a police burgh the boundaries of which were so fixed. I move that the words "charter or" be inserted.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, in line 5, after the word "under," to insert the words "charter or."—(Mr. Asher.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."


I really want some information on the subject. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will communicate with me before the Report stage, and if I am not then satisfied with the Amendment it may be omitted.

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Further Amendments agreed to.

(2.26.) MR. A. ELLIOT

I beg to move the following clause:— In the event of the Commissioners of any police burgh not resolving to undertake the management and maintenance of highways as aforesaid within the police burgh, it shall be lawful for such Commissioners to claim annually from the County Council of the county within which such police burgh is situated a fair and reasonable contribution towards the expense of managing and maintaining such streets and roads within the police burgh as are maintained by the said Commissioners; and it shall be lawful for the said County Council, if in its opinion the said claim is a reasonable one, to agree with the said Commissioners as to the amount of the said contribution, and to pay the amount so agreed upon to the Commissioners out of the rate levied for the management and maintenance of highways within the division or district or parish (as the case may be) in which the said police burgh is situated. The object of the proposal is to enable an old practice to be reverted to. It will enable a County Council to give a contribution to the Police Commissioners of a burgh, which does not wish to be constituted a separate Local Authority, to assist them in the maintenance and management of their streets. In the police burgh of Kelso the position of things is such that it is probable the Police Commissioners will not care to make use of this Bill, because there are there certain important bridges, and they will be very much afraid, in case of anything happening to those bridges, that they will be saddled with the whole cost of maintaining them. Up to 1878 it was every year agreed between the county and the burgh that so much should, be paid to the latter by the former in respect of the streets. Doubts arose as to whether the practice was thoroughly in accordance with the law, and counsel agreed that such payments could not be continued any longer. The clause I now propose is purely permissive, and cannot damnify the county in any way.

New Clause (Agreement between Police Commissioners and County Council,)—(Mr. A. Elliot,)—brought up, and read the first time.

Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

(2.29.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON

I see that there are cases in which an arrangement of this kind would be convenient enough. The Committee has, however, hitherto been dealing with highways, and it has been decided that all police burghs have a right to assume the management of highways. But this clause proposes that the county, which has nothing to do with the streets of burghs, should be entitled to grant what is nothing more or less than a subsidy to a burgh in respect of the streets. The House will bear in mind that under the Act of Parliament the powers relating to these matters are vested not with the County Councils, but with the Police Commissioners. This clause, however, now proposes to deal, not with highways generally, but with roads within the burghs, and that the County Council, which has nothing to do with the burgh streets, should be entitled out of pure good nature to grant what would be neither more nor less than a subsidy to the burghs. If my hon. Friend will allow me to say so, this seems to be a very strong proposal to be brought for ward at so short a notice, a point with regard to which my hon. and learned Friend has complained with respect to other clauses.


I would suggest to my hon. Friend that he should agree to leave out of the clause the word "streets," and insert the words "roads and bridges."


The question of bridges is only of importance in affecting the willingness of these burghs to come in or keep out of the Statute. It is purely an enabling clause, and I cannot find that any substantial objection has been taken to it. I must press it upon the Committee.


I must oppose this clause, which I think will have the effect of inducing burghs not to adopt the Bill. It is said to be hard that the burghs should have to keep up main bridges in the county, and with that I quite agree. But this clause does not remedy that grievance.


It seems to me that the hon. Member does not understand the object of this clause, which is not to enable the County Authority to give money to the Police Commissioners to keep up their bridges. It merely enables the Police Commissioners to come in or to stay out from the operation of the Act in certain cases. Where the two parties find a certain course extremely convenient and the representatives of the county outside deem it just that they should pay a certain sum for the purpose, not only of bridges, but also of maintaining the streets of the burgh, what argument in the name of common sense can be urged against their doing so? Until some such argument is found, I think I have the advantage of the discussion on my side. I must, therefore, insist on pressing this clause, which is a perfectly innocuous one, and which, while it may do much good, can by no possibility do any harm.

(2.38.) MR. ASHER

No doubt it is correct, as stated by the learned Lord Advocate, that the notice of intention to introduce this clause was only given this morning; but, at the same time, I think the clause is one that can do no harm, while it seems to me to be likely to do much good. If I thought it would operate to the prejudice of the counties I should not support it, and I cannot but think that the meaning and effect of the clause has been somewhat misunderstood. The clause, as I understand it, provides that in the event of a police burgh not wishing to exercise the powers given to it by the Act, the Commissioners may claim a reasonable contribution from the County Council in whose district the burgh is situate towards the maintenance of its streets and roads. There may be cases where the assessment of the burgh to county rates is very large, and that, no doubt, will form an element of consideration in determining whether the Police Commissioners shall adopt this Act. I understand my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh to propose this clause as an alternative arrangement. Where a Burgh Authority thinks it pays in excess of what it should pay, this clause will enable the burgh and county to come together and effect an arrangement. The clause seems to me to be of a purely permissive character; at any rate, it imposes no obligation on the burghs, and can by no possibility do any harm. If my hon. Friend presses the clause to a Division, I do not see how I can refrain from supporting it.

MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)

I hope the hon. Member for Roxburgh will press his clause to a Division. He has referred to the county he represents as an illustration of the manner in which the clause will operate. The hon. and learned Member for the Elgin Burghs has already referred to the permissive nature of the clause, and it is therefore unnecessary that I should enlarge on that subject. I believe I am correct in saying that the County Council of Roxburgh are perfectly willing to contribute towards the maintenance of the streets of Kelso if permitted to do so under this Act. For my part, I cannot see any objection to this clause, and I trust that, even now, the Lord Advocate may see his way to its acceptance.


The initiative in this matter is not with me, but with my hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill. The point is, whether Parliament will sanction County Councils using the ratepayers' money for the purpose of extraneous burghs. I have already pointed out the serious character of the precedent it is now proposed to establish; but as I understand that the hon. Member in charge of the Bill is willing to assent to this Amendment, and as he is supported by a number of Scotch County Members, I do not propose, as far as I am concerned, to carry further my opposition to the hon. Member's clause.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added.

Bill reported; as amended, to be considered upon Wednesday next, and to be printed. [Bill 350.]