§ As amended, considered.
§ (2.35.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
I beg to move to add at the end of Clause 63 as a new sub-section—Any scheme or schemes passed under this section shall be forthwith laid before both Houses of Parliament and printed.It will be within the recollection of the House that when this Bill was before us for Second Reading, I urged that an Instruction should be given to the Committee to include in the measure the scheme of superannuation which was proposed to be established. The matter was, I believe, considered by the Committee; but although Amendments have been inserted which are an improvement of the Bill as it originally stood, there is no detailed scheme given and no indication as to how the scheme of superannuation is to work. The question is a large one, seeing that hundreds of thousands of pounds may be involved in the pensioning of the 1305 staff of the London County Council which now, I believe, numbers from 4,000 to 5,000 persons. I still feel bound to complain that there is no scheme defined in the Bill, although the President of the Board of Trade admitted on the Second Reading, that some scheme ought to be put forward. The Committee, however, did not include any detailed scheme, but they have given the London County Council an absolute power to frame a scheme in their own way, and I believe their proposal is that the employés shall pay a share and the ratepayers another share. That is not a bad plan in itself, but if correct I should like very much to have seen it before the Bill went through Committee. I have, it may be said, and truly said, no great amount of affection for the County Council, but I think it is only reasonable that in asking this House to sanction a great scheme of superannuation they ought to be required to lay it on the Table in order that we may know what at least the general principles are.
Amendment proposed, at the end of Clause 63, to add as a new sub-section the words—
Any scheme or schemes passed under this section shall he forthwith laid before both Houses of Parliament and printed."—(Mr. Bartley.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ (2.38.) MR. S. WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock Burghs)
As Chairman of the Committee which considered the Bill, I desire to say a few words. Rules founded on recent Legislative Acts, such as the Tyne Improvement Act, 1890, were embodied in the Bill, and special provisions have been inserted in the measure to safeguard the interests of employés, of whom there are now about 4,000. The number is being constantly added to; but the Committee considered that it was undesirable to require the County Council to frame an exact Schedule which, in the present position of the Council, would act with cast-iron rigidity. We thought that any scheme which might be framed might be allowed to remain subject to such additions and modifications as might subsequently be found to be desirable. The scheme proposed by the Council has been drawn upon the lines of the Public 1306 Improvement Acts; but we considered that a large measure of pliability would be very advantageous. In the case of the Corporation of Liverpool, their Improvement Act of 1882 contains a clause empowering them to grant superannuation if they think fit, but not otherwise, and if a Corporation such as Liverpool has such discretionary powers, why should the London County Council be called upon to frame a rigid cast-iron scheme. Without speaking on behalf of the Committee or of the London County Council, I wish to express a hope, on my own behalf, that the House will not accept this Amendment.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE,) Tower Hamlets, St. George's
The hon. Gentleman says that it would have been unwise that the London County Council should be bound down to any cast-iron scheme. I think that is a good reason why a scheme should not have been embodied in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman, no doubt, has considered the matter from that point of view, and having heard all the evidence brought before them the Committee probably arrived at a proper decision. But the present proposal does not involve the question of any cast-iron scheme at all. It simply says that any scheme or schemes which may be framed shall be laid before the House. The House has always dealt differently with questions of London finance than in the case of Local Administrations in other parts of the country, and the House has always expressly required that details of London finance not exacted with regard to other Corporations shall be annually placed before Parliament. This proposal is, therefore, only in accordance with the practice of Parliament, and all that would be done would be to circulate the printed information among Members of Parliament. It would not lie on the Table for the purpose of review by the House —nothing of the kind; it is merely a matter of affording information, and the London County Council, so far as I understand, do not object to the proposal of the hon. Member.
§ (2.44.) MR. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin
It is impossible to feel very strongly upon this matter. The London County Council accept the proposal, although they do not like it.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I would ask the House, however, whether it is wise to accept the Amendment. I do not think it would be of any use to the employés of the Council, and as far as the interests of the ratepayers are concerned they can well look after them themselves at the triennial elections. The proposal seems to be an illustration of one of the great vices of the House of Commons—the love of appearing to regulate that which it cannot regulate, and I hope, in spite of the attitude of the President of the Local Government Board, the Amendment will be rejected.
§ MR. LAWSON
Although the London County Council do not entertain any strong objection to the Amendment, they do regard it as a mischievous innovation. The scheme has been framed in exact accordance with the provisions inserted in other private Bills, and I agree with the Chairman of Committees that it would be a mistake for this House to attempt to relieve the Members of the County Council of any portion of their responsibility to the constituents they represent, and to whom they will have to go at the end of every three years. Therefore I think we are justified in opposing the Amendment.
§ MR. RITCHIE
I desire to be understood that I have had a distinct intimation from the County Council that they would agree to the Amendment.
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
I can quite understand that the County Council take no objection to this Amendment because it will be entirely inoperative as exercising any control over the scheme. It merely means a Return which it is perfectly competent for the House to order at any moment, namely, a Return of the proceedings of the London County Council. I have no objection, if the House wishes to see this scheme, that it should be laid on the Table and published; and it may be that other County Councils and Local Authorities who frame similar schemes may be also asked to present them to Parliament. At the same time, I think that to order the Return of a document in advance by an enactment of this kind is an innovation, and an unnecessary innovation.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I would ask whether the House is not proposing to place itself in a somewhat ridiculous position? The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is an active member of the London County Council. He does not object to the Amendment, because it will be inoperative, but I want to know whether if we adopt it it will not place us in a ridiculous position. I think the hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) will be well-advised if he will withdraw the Amendment.
§ (2.50.) The House divided: —Ayes 55; Noes 80.—(Div. List, No. 254.)