HC Deb 21 December 1893 vol 20 cc133-87

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

[Sir J.GOLDSMID in the Chair.]

Clause 19x (Election and Qualification of Guardians).

Amendment proposed, In pane 12, line 30, before the word "there." to insert the words "the Local Government Board shall appoint to he members of each heard of Guardians a number of persons not exceeding one for every five elected Guardians, and not exceeding three on anyone Board."—(Mr. Rathbone.)

Question again proposed, "That those words he there inserted."

Debate resumed.

* MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)

said that, after what had passed from the Leader of the Opposition, it would he simply waste of time for the House to attempt to divide upon the Amendment. But he might he permit led to point out that the Practical Authorities on both sides almost all admitted the necessity of some such safeguard as he had proposed. The Government had slated their willingness to consider any reasonable proposal, and the Front Bench opposite had slated pretty plainly that they were anxious to have something like this Amendment, if not the Amendment itself. It was clear that the Government, having agreed to consider some safeguard, the Opposition ought to say what they would propose us representing the landed, interests of the country.

MR. WHARTON (York, W.K., Ripon)

desired, before the Amendment was actually withdrawn, to say a few words on the subject, he was very glad the Amendment had been placed before the Committee, because, although he did not altogether agree with it, and did not regard tile suggestion of the hon. Member as very workable, still it had enabled the Committee to discuss the question as to what ought to be done, and would no doubt have assisted them in coming to a, wise conclusion in the end. What they were aiming at was to provide something which should take the place of the ex officio elements in the Boards of Guardians. He did not defend the present proportion of ex officio Guardians on the Boards, but, at the same time, without men of that character, some of the Boards would be badly off, and that opinion, he believed, was largely held on both sides of the House. What the House had now to consider was how they could best form Boards of Guardians so as to get the best men to serve upon them and administer the Poor Law to the best of their ability. Now that the constituency of the Boards was about to be changed, it was more than over necessary to have some controlling power on the part of those who hail been hitherto ex officio. In the first place, he would ask this question: Up to the present lime had the Boards of Guardians or not done their duty fairly well? He thought, with few exceptions, they had. There had been up to the present time a gradual and growing feeling in favour of the present system of indoor relief as compared with outdoor relief, and what many of them feared was I hat, there would be in the future under the scheme in Clause 19 a fur more general tendency in favour of outdoor relied' than there had been hitherto, and that would he made use of in a way that would not be conducive to the best interests of the country. Hon. Members opposite might think that was a groundless fear, but it was a fear shared by everybody who had been officially connected with the Boor Law up to the present time, and he ventured to say the officials of the Local Government Board would be of the same opinion. The present system of Boards of Guardians was a good one, whilst the system desired by the Bill might be a very dangerous system indeed. On the question of expense, if they were to add to the expenses of election and the various rates under the adoptive Acts an indiscriminate system of outdoor relief, be thought the people might look forward to a substantial increase in their rate. There was, therefore, good reason why they should attempt to retain in some shape or another those who had been ex officio Guardians in the past. A Return which had been recently presented stated that in 242 cases the chairmen of the Boards of Guardians were ex officios at the present time. Surely that showed the Boards of Guardians themselves had, to a very great extent, trust in the ex officio members, and these were the men who ought, if possible, to be retained. He hoped, therefore, they would be able to formulate some Amendment to this clause by which the services might be retained of those who had discharged their duties so well in the past.

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

said, he should not have spoken at this stage if the President of the Local Government Board had not in his speech invited them to deal with the general question. The short, but very important speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer also gave a tone and turn to this Debate, because the right hon. Gentleman very pointedly expressed a, desire on the part of the Government that the Opposition should state what class of persons were to be substituted for Magistrates and nominated Guardians, and how it was proposed to appoint them, and the tone of the right hon. Gentleman seemed to indicate that he was conscious of the destructive character of the clause as it stood, and ready to modify it in some way. The Member for Carnarvonshire had had great experience in the administration of the Poor Law, and he thought has proposal might have received a more cordial reception from the Government Bench. If the hon. Gentleman went to a Division he should certainly support him. What was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to minimise the alteration which it was proposed to make with regard to the Boards of Guardians? They were told there were 28,000 Guardians, and at one stroke of the pen 8,000 were struck off, while as to the 20,000 the change proposed was enormous. The constitution of the Boards of Guardians was the crux of the whole matter. He admitted that there was a sort of cynical propriety in the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. The light hon. Gentleman with marked emphasis contrasted the rigidity with which the Lords Lieutenant nominated men for the Bench from 1830 with the laxity with which the Lord Chancellor had thrust men on to the Bench only the other day. He said that 50 years ago Magistrates were comparatively a small number, whilst at present they were a large number. It was a curious thing that no sooner did the right hon. Gentleman's Colleague take upon himself to place Magistrates on the Bench for religions and political reasons than the right hon. Gentleman in this House struck off a very large proportion of their duties. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have thought that Magistrates were no longer fitted as they were in days gone by to discharge important duties in connection with the Poor Law. The right hon. Gentleman said he would uphold the principles of the new Poor Law, but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman truly or accurately represented what the new Poor Law did. The policy of the new Poor Law Commissioners was to get rid of the parish, and to substitute for the parish the Union, and what they claimed as having done with the greatest advantage was the creation of the Boards of Guardians. What did Sir George Nichols, one of the Poor Law Commissioners, say as to the Boards of Guardians? He said— The tribunal of a Board of Guardians, generally consisting of the principal persons in the district (the resilient Magistrates being members ex offfcio and the others elected by the ratepayers) was not only more distant, but necessarily more impartial, less open to suspicion, and less likely to excite revengeful feelings in dealing with the labouring poor than the executive of a single parish. The Commissioners were pleased with the results of what they had done, and in their first Report in 1835 they thus described the Boards of Guardians as they had constituted them, and which the right hon. Gentleman now wanted to alter— The Guardians are, in respect of education, interest in good management and station, far superior to the Overseers… At these Local Hoards the chief occupiers, the yeomanry, the gentry, and we may add the nobility, meet and act together. This is the first time, we believe, in the history of the country, that these classes have ever habitually met in rural districts for the transaction of public business.' This inter-communion of the most intelligent men of the different classes and parties within each district must itself be productive of the most beneficial consequences. The right hon. Gentleman met the contention of the Member for Carnarvonshire with three arguments: First of all, he declared that the Local Authorities must be constituted by popular election, pure and simple—One Man One Vote; and he spoke largely on an arrangement which would be based on the people's will. It so happened that out of the 30,000 Local Authorities in England, not one of them was based upon the same line on which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to base these new Boards. The Municipal and County Councils had Aldermen; the School Boards were elected on a different franchise, and the Conservancy and other Boards for administration in towns were all elected and constituted on methods quite different to the one the right hon. Gentleman proposed. Although the right hon. Gentleman desired to have everything simple and uniform, he was proposing what was without precedent and perfectly novel. What was the second argument of the right hon. Gentleman? That they must never have two authorities where they could have one. But the Boards of Guardians were not to have the same area as the District Boards, and there would thus be two Boards working on entirely different lines. The third argument of the right hon. Gentleman destroyed altogether his first. The first argument was that there should be popular local control against centralisation, but his third argument was this: "The Local Boards are my servants and the machinery by which I carry out the Poor Law." All the real authority was with the right hon. Gentleman, and popular and local control were nothing but make-believe simply for platform oratory, and had no existence in Fact at all. One of the results of the new poor Law was the appointment of these Commissioners in Whitehall, but so great was the unpopularity attaching to them that after five years their services were dispensed with. The right hon. Gentleman, however, seemed disposed to revert to the system of central control. The Union of Atcham in his (Mr. Stanley Leighton's) own constituency had been mentioned in the course of these Debates. That Union had one ex officio chairman from its beginning to the year 1871, and he did not think it would have been possible for the work to have been done but for the long-continued attendance of one chairman not liable to be turned out. Since 1871 they had had their chairmen all ex officios. The Committee appointed to inquire in the condition of the agricultural labourers reported to the House the other day, and what did Mr. Cecil Chapman say regarding the Atcham Union?— The best evidence as to the condition of the district is to be found in the Poor Law statistics. In 1831 the rate per cent, of population was 7.3, and in 1831 it was only 0.8. And yet the right hon. Gentleman proposed with a light heart to strike out the system which had produced such admirable results. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would pause before striking out a system which had been productive of so much good: and he would remind him of the words of Lord Althorp in 1834, that— No Member of the Government would be justified in bringing forward a measure that would apply generally to the whole collective system of the Poor Law without investigation by Commission on the spot.

* MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

said, speaking from some experience of administration of the Poor Law in London and in the country, he thought it was not necessary to make the proposed change with reference to ex officio Guardians so sweeping at the present time. In one case that he was aware of, a, County Court Judge was among the most prominent of the members of a Poor Law Board, and it was undesirable that one holding such a position should enter upon a contested election. In another case a retired Navy officer became a Magistrate and a member of a Poor Law Board, But he would not have taken the trouble of going through an election. If they were to make a change it should be made gradually. The ex officios had rendered very valuable services in the administration of the Poor Law. They brought to the discharge of their duties knowledge, ability, and practical experience of life, as well as independence. He viewed with great apprehension the change which was suggested, and trusted that, at all events, some exception might yet be made in the direction of retaining the services of the present ex officio Guardians. The retention at least of any chairman or vice-chairman as an ex officio would be of great benefit in the administration of the Poor Law.

* MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)

said, there was a, local peculiarity in London connected with these Poor Law elections which ought to be borne in mind. It was the great difficulty of getting any appreciable number of voters to take part in local elections. During the last five years the elections for Guardians in Chelsea had only brought out a half of the electors to record their votes, and in the Vestry elections only one-sixth of the electors recorded their voles. The inevitable effect of the election of Boards of Guardians under the system proposed by the Bill, unless it was modified in some respect, would be, not only in the East End Unions but throughout all the Unions in London, owing to the small number of well-to-do electors who would go to the poll, that the Guardians elected would necessarily be the advocates of rather extreme views. That was a grave danger, for the Guardians would be elected by one class which contributed but little to the poor rate, and would certainly outvote on the Board all other classes which together paid the rate.

MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square

) said that, having been President of the Poor Law Board soon after the passing of the Act by Mr. Gathorne-Hardy, he desired to say a word upon this question. The Act was passed in 1867 in consequence of the very great agitation in London with regard to the administration of the Poor Law, which was not directed against excessive outdoor relief, but against Poor Law administration generally, on the ground that it was harsh, ineffective, and bore hardly upon the deserving poor. One reform introduced by that Act was the appointment of nominated Guardians in some parishes, and the result was a change in the system and spirit of the Poor Law in the direction of humane and good administration. Power should be reserved to the Local Government Board, if the Act was not properly administered by the Boards of Guardians, to strengthen the Boards of Guardians by a, certain number of nominated Guardians. The President of the Local Government Board would bear him out that the system of nominated Guardians in London had worked admirably; for not only had it saved thousands of pounds in poor parishes, but it had also led to better management of hospitals and infirmaries, and to greater control over the rough element among workhouse officials. Many of these Boards of Guardians had become models for other Boards. Who were the nominated Guardians? They did not go on to these Boards in order simply to protect the ratepayers and see that the rates were kept down. That was not their main object. There was no great honour, privilege, or comfort in being appointed a Guardian in an East End parish; but the men who went on these Boards threw their whole souls into the work, and were anxious that in the administrative treatment of the poor a little more civilisation and humanity should be introduced. By the nomination of men of leisure as Guardians men were brought to look at it not as a duty, but rather as a privilege to be able to exercise some good influence and assist the poor in some of the poorest parts of the Metropolis. The abolition of nominated Guardians in the poorer parts of the Metropolis—


There are only 28 nominated Guardians in London and 705 elected ones.


said, that might be so; but the 23 might exercise an extremely good influence in the parishes where they were now, and one which the Government would wish to maintain. In abolishing these Guardians the Government would be destroying what was in many places a safeguard, and they would be reversing the experiment which had been one of the most successful in the administration of the Poor Law.

MR. STEPHENS (middlesex, hornsey)

said, he thought the system of out-doer relief was the most successful part of the poor law administration. It was true that its administration by magistrates and overseers had broken down in a short time, but its administration by the parishes had been thoroughly good, magistrates had jurisdiction over an area which made local knowledge of the poor impossible, but parishes with small areas had such complete knowledge find could do a great deal towards individual treatment of cases, while in the unions they had to treat the paupers as a sort of mob—


The hon. Gentleman is going beyond the very wide limit of the right hon. Gentleman in dealing with this question.


said, he thought, as the right hon. Gentleman was allowed to go so far, he would be entitled to follow him. If that were not so, he would not occupy the time of the Committee.

SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

said, he desired to ask one question. It would only take a minute to ask and a, minute to answer. Would the right hon. Gentleman listen to the appeal made to him by the Mover of the Amendment? Though the proposal could not be accepted in the form in which it now stood, the Government acknowledged that there was something worthy of recognition in his contention. ["No, no!"] That was what he understood, and if he was wrong the Minister m charge of the Bill would correct him. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to indicate something practical in the direction of the Amendment, so as to facilitate the further progress of the clause?

MR. J. GRANT LAWSON (York, N.R., Thirsk)

said, he desired to dispel an illusion created by some figures given by the right hon. Gentleman opposite on Friday night. The right hon. Gentleman, quoting from a Return he held in his hand, said there were a great many ex officios in some places and very few in others, and he gave instances. And having done that, he' said he would commend these figures to the attention of anyone who was prepared to bring forward the argument that outdoor relief was less favoured by ex officio than by elected Guardians. He (Mr. Lawson) had taken those figures and examined them with the Return on pauperism presented to the House in March last, and so far from carrying out the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion they showed an opposite result. The amounts mentioned could be divided into two groups—where the ex officios were in a majority and where they were in a minority. In the first group, if the right hon. Gentleman's contention was right, they would find more outdoor paupers than indoor paupers—


said, that was not his argument. The hon. Member had misunderstood him. He had been showing that the presence or absence of the ex officio element threw no light on the efficiency or inefficiency of Poor Law administration.


said, that that being the case, he contended that the figures given to the Committee by the right hon. Gentleman had no bearing on the question before them, because no one attempted to set up a defence of the present irregular attendance of ex officio Guardians at the meetings of Boards of Guardians; but what they were contending for was that this matter should be dealt with in a practical manner. They were not content with the present system, but they submitted that when the ex officio members were in a majority there was less outdoor relief than when they were in a minority. An error had crept into the discussion, for several hon. Members had taken up the ground that before the year 1834 the Magistrates—now the ex officios—were responsible for the miserable state into which the Poor Law had drifted. If that charge could be brought against the Magistrates, why was it? It, was because the pauper could take the relieving officer before the Magistrate at his own discretion, if he considered himself unjustly treated, and unfortunately the Magistrates who had to deal with the cases sought popularity. But was there not a danger of reverting to that condition of things? The whole body of Guardians that the Government proposed to set up would be seeking popularity, and they would seek it through the medium of outdoor relief, which would consequently be greatly increased.


said, that in reference to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square (Mr. Goschen), he did not wish to underrate the value of the nominated Guardians in London. As a matter of fact, during his own administration he had increased their number from 21 to 23. There were a largo number of Unions in the Metropolis in which there were no nominated Guardians at all. Out of the 30 Unions only nine, in fact, possessed nominated Guardians. There were none, for instance, in Camberwell, Chelsea, St. George's, St. Giles's, Bermoudsey, Lambeth, Hackney, Lewisham, Marylebone, St. Paucras, and Woolwich. There were 705 elected Guardians, and although there was power to appoint 121 nominated Guardians, only 23 were, as he had already stated, now appointed, owing to the fact that successive Ministers had not exercised their power except to a limited extent.


said, it appeared to him that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman cut two ways. Why were no nominated Guardians appointed in the Unions to which the right hon. Gentleman had alluded? It was because there were so many ex officio Guardians there doing the very work for which the nominated Guardians were appointed under the Act of 1867. What had happened in this case? It seemed to him that the ease as to the Metropolis had been conclusively put before the House by his right hon. Friend the Member for Hanover Square. In some of the Unions there had always been a considerable number of ex officio Guardians, and in those Unions, for what reason he would not now inquire, the administration of the Poor Law was efficient and economical in the main. In oilier Unions, notably in the East End, there was a dearth of ex officio Guardians. In 1868 he was Secretary to the Poor Law Board, and at that date the scandals in regard to the management of certain of the workhouse infirmaries in the East End were well known. Parliament, therefore, supplemented the Guardians in those Unions by enabling the Poor Law Board to nominate Guardians to serve on the Boards. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had declared, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would not deny, that some of the best administered Unions now were those to which nominated Guardians had been appointed. Why, then, should the Local Government Board divest themselves of this power, which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had himself shown need only be exercised where required: and why should they not, in the Metropolis at least, retain this security for good and humane administration which Parliament had placed in their hands? He admitted that there was force in the contention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Govern- ment Board, that it would impose considerable responsibility and difficulty on the Local Government Board if they were charged with the appointment of nominated Guardians throughout the country at large. Well, there were other suggestions which might be made to the same effect which would be more consistent with the local government character of the Bill. He could not discuss them on this Amendment, but he entreated the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of the good administration of the Poor; Law, not to abdicate this right, which need only be exercised where it was seen to be required.


said, that the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, had suggested to him that possibly, although the Amendment was one that could not be accepted because it would throw too great a burden upon a Central Authority, yet it might be desirable for the Government to consider whether they would continue a power in the Local Government Board to nominate Guardians in cases where they thought such a course would result in the efficient administration of the Poor Law. They had all felt that the Amendment suggested by the hon. Member opposite which would compel the Local Government Board to appoint some thousands of persons, throughout the country was one which would throw too great a burden on any Central Authority. He, therefore, threw out the suggestion to which he had given expression. He did not ask the Government to arrive at a decision upon it at once, but threw out the suggestion tentatively.


said, he had an Amendment on the Paper dealing with the point to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said, he desired to move to amend the clause by inserting in line 30, before the word "There," the words— The County Councillors elected for any electoral division, wholly or partly included in the Union under the jurisdiction of a Board of Guardians, shall be, by virtue of their office, additional members of such hoard. Provided that a County Councillor for a division included in more than one Union shall only be qualified to sit on one such Board, and shall, in writing addressed to the chairman of each Board, elect on which Board he will sit. This Amendment was unlike the one just disposed of, its object being to introduce into the Boards of Guardians ex officio members who had been already elected to the County Councils. No one would deny that in this case the persons it was proposed lo add had some sense of electoral responsibility and stood in a different position to those who were admitted by nomination. His chief object in making the proposal was to promote harmony and smooth corking between the County Councils and the Local Authorities. In the old days this harmony had been brought about by the presence of County Justices on the Boards of Guardians. The Act of 1888 interfered with these relations. A good many of the Justices ceased to belong to the County Authority, and though they had still performed their duty very efficiently on the Boards of Guardians, yet there had not been quite the same harmonious working between the two authorities owing to the want of so many common links between them. But the present proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would make things a good deal worse. It would remove from the Boards of Guardians a large number of men who were members of the County Authority. There would no longer be the same knowledge on the one authority of the proceedings of the other, and consequently there would be danger of misunderstanding and friction. He would call attention especially to the question of assessment. For some years the law had been in a very anomalous condition, the County Authority having to make an assessment for county purposes in a different manner to the way in which it was made by the Guardians for parochial and Union purposes. He sincerely hoped that on the early day the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would himself attend to this question. He (Mr. Hobhouse) merely mentioned it now to show the right hon. Gentleman that he was going to make matters a good deal worse than they were on this particular question. At present, under the Union Assessment Act, there had to be a certain proportion of Justices on every Assessment Committee—namely, one-third. That ensured a good many members who took part in the settlement of the county rate having also something to do with the assessment for Union purposes. That was a convenient practice. It, avoided a great deal of the expense and trouble of re-assessments. He felt certain that if the Bill passed in its present form the assessment for county purposes would no longer be as easy to make, and there would be far more chance of misunderstandings in these matters between the Guardians and the County Authorities. They had had experience in his own county of misunderstandings that had arisen in the matter of county rates between Guardians and County Councils owing to want of knowledge on many Boards of Guardians as to the exact purposes for which the county rate had to be levied. So far as he had been able to observe, it was on those Boards on which there were no County Councillors, or very few County Councillors, that there had been the most serious complaints—very often unfounded—of the weight of the county rates. The Bill, if it were not altered, would aggravate the state of things. His proposal, besides placing on the District Boards men who had a knowledge of the action of the County Authority, would also give them a very useful class of men with wider experiences, whom they would not get otherwise—for there were very few men who were already serving on the County Authority who would care to go through a second election in order to serve in the district. His Amendment was strictly limited in its character. He did not propose even to add the County Aldermen, though he confessed that his own feeling would have led him to propose that. But he had been most anxious in putting down his Amendment to reduce it to what he might call a minimum—that was merely to add to the District Authority the actual men already elected by the popular vote within the divisions in the Union. He did not believe that the proportion of County Councillors so added would be more than about one in nine. In some cases it would be less and in some a little more. He did not think any difficulty would arise as to the selection of the Board on which the County Coun- cillors should sit in cases where Unions overlapped in County Divisions. He had provided for such contingency in his Amendment. The Amendment, if accepted, would not infringe any democratic principles.

Amendment proposed, In page 12, line 30, before the word "there," to insert the words "The County Councillors elected for any Electoral Division, wholly or partly included in the Union under the jurisdiction of a Board of Guardians, shall he, by virtue of their office, additional members of such Board. Provided that a County Councillor for a Division included in more than one Union shall only be qualified to sit on one such Board and shall, in writing addressed to the chairman of each Board, elect on which Board he will sit."—(Mr. H. Hobhouse.)

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


said, he was hound to say the Amendment had upon the face of it a great deal to recommend it, and that it had received the most careful attention of the Government. They had looked at it in all its hearings, and had not arrived at a decision with regard to it without full consideration. So far as the Amendment was concerned it was confined to Boards of Guardians, but presumably, if it were carried, the hon. Member would propose to extend it—in order to effect what he had called harmonious working between the County and Local Authorities—to the Rural District Councils. No doubt it is desirable that there should be some connection between the Rural and the County Authority. He thought that the feeling that would he created by the County Councillors being ex officio members of Rural Councils would he more likely to create friction than allowing, say, chairmen of Rural Councils to be ex officio members of County Councils. But that was not within the scope of the present Bill, and he hoped on some future day to be able to deal with that and many other points that required to be legislated upon in connection with county government. The law of assessment was in an unsatisfactory condition, and he did not know any branch of local administration of a financial character that wanted more radical and drastic treatment than that. They had different principles prevailing in different parts of the country. Hon. Members had been good enough to quote from his Report. If they would refer to the last two or three pages of the financial portion of it, and note the difference between London and the rest of the country in the matter of the discrepancy between the assessable value and the actual rentals, they would see that there was a wide margin, and that either the one was assessed too high or the other was assessed too low. His ideal system would be one valuation all round, all local rates being assessed on it. But that, of course, was not within their purview at present. What he understood the hon. Member to propose was, that the County Councillors elected for any electoral Division wholly or partly included in the Union should practically be ex officio Guardians. Now, there were three points to which he would call the attention of the Committee in dealing with the Amendment. In the first place, there was no real connection between the duties of the County Councils and the Boards of Guardians. They were elected for different purposes, and the work which fell on the Councillor was a, different class of work from that which fell on the Guardian. He was not sure that the same class of ability which would make a man a great success as a County Councillor would make him a success as an administrator of the Poor Law. Next, County Councillors were fully occupied with the duties they already had to discharge. And his belief was that Parliament would, in future, very largely extend the area of County Council administration. Thirdly, it was impossible to work out the system suggested by the lion. Member on anything like a fair basis. He was much taken with the proposal when he first saw it, but he had b, number of counties taken out, and had found that the inequalities in the working of the system would be hardly more defensible than the inequalities under the present ex officio system. In one county he found that one Union would have six additional Guardians, another would have three, another eight, and another only one.


What would be the proportion—six to how many?


said, he had not worked that out. He was speaking of such places as Bridport, Dorchester, Poole, Chard, and so on. In another county he found that one Union would have 12 additional Guardians, another four, another five, another three, another one. In Gloucestershire one Union would have eight, another four, another two, another three, another six, and another one, and so on. In the North of England—in Northumberland—the discrepancies would be extraordinary. In one Union there would be 22 Guardians added, while an adjoining Union would have one; another would have seven, another six, and so on. In Somersetshire he found similar discrepancies; also in Suffolk. It would be seen, therefore, that a system founded on the principle advocated by the hon. Member could neither be defended nor commended. Obviously, if County Councillors were to be added it would have to be under a different system to that proposed by the hon. Member. Another objection to the proposal was that by it the county boroughs would be altogether excluded, and some of the largest and most important Hoards of Guardians were those in the county boroughs. There were 62 county boroughs which would be excluded altogether. The Government, therefore, did not see that any compensating advantage would result from accepting the Amendment: they did not think it was workable, and they believed that, if it were carried into effect, it would involve inequalities, differences, and difficulties almost as great as those with which the Committee were now endeavouring to grapple. In those circumstances the Government, after the fullest consideration, bad come to the conclusion that the Amendment was not one to which they could assent.


said, be thought it would be desirable that something should be done; in the nature of the proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Somerset, so that there should be a connection established between the County Councils and the Boards of Guardians, or District Councils. If this connection were established there would be less friction and greater harmony. Still, he was very much disposed to agree with the objections which the President of the Local Government Board had urged against this particular proposal. He was sure it would very much astonish members of Town Councils in county boroughs if they were told that, in addition to the duties they had to perform on their own bodies, they would also have to be members of Boards of Guardians, without special appointment or election. He was anxious that there should be some such element as the ex officios added to the Boards of Guardians in the interests of good and sound Poor Law administration; but he would greatly prefer that that element should be directly added by the choice or nomination of somebody else than that persons elected to one public office should, because elected to that office, be ex officio members of another body. There was one other objection to the Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had not alluded. It occurred to him in connection with the Union where his own property happened to be situated, that not only were both the County Councillors non-resident within the Union, but they resided at such a distance that they could not attend the Board of Guardians if made ex officio members of it. Therefore, he confessed, he could not support the proposal.


said, he had no alternative, after the speeches of the two right hon. Gentlemen, but to withdraw the Amendment. At the same time, be thought that now that all their local machinery was being overhauled and put to some extent out of joint by the present Bill the Government should find some alternative for this Amendment—some proposal which would secure harmonious action between the County and District Authorities in the future. If he had proposed that every chairman of a, District Council should be an ex officio member of the County Council be was almost sure the right hon. Gentleman the President, of the Local Government Board would have stated as a good reason for rejecting the proposal that it would not be acceptable to the County Councils. There was no force in any of the objections taken by the right hon. Gentleman except that bearing upon the discrepancy between the numbers of added Guardians in the different Unions. The number of County Councillors ought to depend on the population. He imagined that the number of District Councillors must also depend upon the population. Therefore, the numbers of the two sets of Councillors ought to correspond to some extent in the same district. He looked forward at an early day to having the reform of local government carried a little further, and having the areas of Unions made to correspond with the areas of large towns. He thought, however, it would be a long time before any machinery of this kind was again devised, and that a great deal of misunderstanding, friction, and difficulty would be caused owing to the want of having some such connection as had now been twice proposed in the Committee. He asked leave to withdraw his Amendment.

SIR R. PAGET (Somerset, Wells)

said, the arguments in favour of the Amendment were those which supported the object the hon. Member had in view—namely, the provision of the connect-ting link between the various Local Bodies. He could not entirely approve of the Amendment because one of its effects would be to make every County Councillor a member of a District Council, and it was not every County Councillor who would be disposed to attend the meetings. For instance, he himself should not be able to attend to the duties of the District Council, and at the same time he know there were many ex officio members who desired to remain members of Boards of Guardians, but who would not be affected by the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

* MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)

said, he desired to amend Sub-section 1 by inserting— The Local Government Board shall have power to nominate Guardians of the Poor, provided the persons nominated have hitherto acted as ex officio or nominated Guardians in the same Union. The fact was, the ex officio Guardians had not been at all unpopular amongst their fellow-Guardians. In something like 250, or nearly one-half the total number of Boards existing in the country, an ex officio member had been chosen as chairman, while in a very considerable number of cases the offices of vice chairman had also been filled with ex officio Guardians. Anyone who had had experience in the management of Poor Law business knew how essential it was to have at the head of the Board a man well versed in the work to be done, and it was an undoubted fact that those Boards which had been most successfully managed were the very ones which had for their presiding officers ex officio members who conducted the proceedings on businesslike lines. That the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Boards of Guardians had done their duty was, he thought, generally admitted, and he did not think anyone would deny that Unions where Magistrates had filled the position of chairmen of Boards of Guardians the work, as a rule, had been satisfactorily performed. Some very distinguished men had considered it their duty in their various neighbourhoods to occupy the position of chairmen of Boards of Guardians, and not only that, but had made it their business to attend. Take, for instance, the Union in West Sussex, of which the Duke of Richmond and Gordon was chairman. His Grace made it a point to be present at the meetings of the Guardians whenever his other duties would allow him, and there were other Unions in which men of high social position acted in a similar capacity. He (Mr. Bolton) maintained that the success of many Boards of Guardians in the past had depended upon the very satisfactory way in which the chairman and vice-chairman had discharged their duties. They had something like 250 Boards of Guardians presided over by chairmen who were ex officio Guardians, and it was very desirable that their important influence should be preserved. There were a considerable number of Magistrates in the country who took an active interest in Poor Law work. On a Board in the country with which he had been connected there were Magistrates who nearly always attended. At the present moment the chairman of the Board was a Magistrate. He was free to admit that on some Boards the Magistrates did not attend in large numbers, but on very many others two and three and four Magistrates made it their business to attend, and their presence added weight and character and usefulness to the deliberations. Was it not desirable that upwards of 250 gentlemen in various parts of the country on these Boards should be continued? When they were making this experiment by altering the character of the Boards, he would suggest that so far as they could they should preserve the continuity of the policy. Nothing would do that better, without restricting or restraining the popular influence, than the presence of these gentlemen of position and standing and influence. The right hon. Gentleman had not suggested any change of principle or policy. On the contrary, he had, in effect, said that no change of principle or policy would he permitted by the Central Board in London. Therefore, the right, hon. Gentleman's sympathy must he in favour of a practical suggestion which would help to secure the present principle and policy of the Poor Law administration. It was said that ex officios, if they were so useful and their ability was so recognised, were sure to be elected. The Committee had to consider, in the first place, whether it was possible in many places always to elect I hem. As a rule, when a, man was once made a Guardian, if there was nothing against him, and he was willing to serve, he was continued. It was considered an unusual and unkind thing to offer opposition to such a man. That feeding prevailed considerably, and there was no doubt that the old Guardians throughout the country would be generally re-elected. That all militated against an opening for men who had been ex officio members. Besides, the ex officio, it might be the squire of the parish, would not like to oppose the re-election of an old Guardian. The present proposal was of a limited and temporary character, inasmuch as it provided that the Local Government Board should have power to appoint only from a certain class. As the present ex officios died out the number of possible nominees would become reduced, and would ultimately disappear. The Amendment would give an opportunity for a gradual transition. There would be nothing to prevent the Local Government Board from getting the opinion of the elected Guardians as to the nomination of ex officios if that was thought desirable. The thing need not be done offensively, but in good temper. If the Government would not accept his Amendment, they ought at least to do something to meet the wishes of many Members of the Commit lee in the matter. The President of the Local Government Board must see that there was a, very strong feeling in the House—a feeling, too, which widely prevailed in the country—that, in the interest of the efficient working of the Poor Law, the ex officio element should be continued, to some extent, on these Boards.

Amendment proposed, In page 12, line 30, before the word "There," to insert the words "The Local Government Board shall have power to nominate Guardians of the Poor, provided the persons nominated have hitherto acted as ex officio or nominated Guardians in the same Union, and subject thereto."—(Mr. T. H. Bolton.)

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


Perhaps I was not strictly in Order, but, with the in-diligence of the Committee, I thought the moving of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon a favourable opportunity for stating the views of the Government on this question of ex officio Guardians. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool, who has conducted the discussion of the Bill from the other side of the House, expressed his approval of the step I took, and he himself addressed the Committee on the subject with great force. The Debate on that Amendment was continued, and to-night the Amendment was withdrawn. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras now moves an Amendment which re-opens the whole question, and he must not think me discourteous if I decline to follow him over the old ground. This Amendment is, of course, in Order, as it has been allowed by the Chair; but there is but little difference between it and the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Carnarvon, which the Government, out of respect for my hon. Friend, did not negative, but allowed him to withdraw; and as the Amendment was withdrawn, of course, the subject can come up again in Order. The difference between the two Amendments is, that the first one was compulsory and this is optional. The first allowed the Local Government Board to select the nominated Guardians from any persons they thought proper in the locality, and this confines them to persons who have acted as ex officio Guardians, which, though it limits the area of selection, is still an area of very wide extent. Now, I have to say that, every objection raised against, the Local Government Board acting in the first case applies with equal force to their acting in this case. There are 600 Unions in Great Britain, and you want the Local Government Board to select from the ex officios of all those Unions persons whom they think proper to appoint as nominated Guardians. There has been a great deal of criticism on the Lord Chancellor with reference to the appointment of Magistrates. It was said that he did not proceed with sufficient rapidity in the appointment of Magistrates. Sow the Local Government Board are asked to nominate Guardians in every Union, and no limit is fixed, for under the Amendment they might appoint five or 50 on every Board.


The number is limited to the present ex officio Guardians.


And that means 8,000. The proposal is unpractical, and we cannot, under any circumstances, accept it.

* MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)

said, that the President of the Local Government Board, when he complained of the action of the hon. Member for St. Pancras, forgot what had taken place since the initiation of the Debate on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carnarvon—namely, that the Opposition had been specially invited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday night to make some proposal on this subject of the ex officio element which might be capable of consideration by the Government. The Amendment might be open to the objection urged by the right hon. Gentleman—that there was no limit fixed to the nomination of Guardians. But the difficulty which the appointment of the Guardians would lay on the Department had been exaggerated by the right hon. Gentleman, for surely the right hon. Gentleman would admit that the information which the head of the Department for the time being could set from the Poor Law Inspectors, who had been well termed the eyes and ears of the Department, would very much facilitate such work as this if it became the duty of the Department to discharge it. The right hon. Gentleman had been a little hard on the hon. Member for St. Pancras when he suggested that his Amendment had been practically covered by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Carnarvon. He did not presume to say what would have been the ruling of the Deputy Chairman, supposing that that Amendment had been negatived instead of withdrawn; but he thought the present proposal differed a good deal from the proposal of the hon. Member for Carnarvon, and was one that might be very well accepted by the Government without laying themselves open to the charge of having changed their minds on the matter. It had been admitted in many quarters of the House that this Poor Law question was the most difficult one they had to contend with, and he, therefore, thought the Government had no reason to complain of the attitude taken up by the Opposition, and because Amendment followed Amendment in rapid succession. He believed that amongst a great number of Members of the House on both sides there was a feeling that there was, at all events, some risk in the scheme of the Government—it might be in the direction of increased Poor Law, or, what was still more deplorable, in the direction of a return to the old inhuman administration of the Poor Law which had been referred to by his right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's earlier in the evening; and, that being so, there was good reason for considerable discussion of the matter in the House. Besides, the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday night indicated, as plainly as a speech could indicate it, that the Government were alive to the difficulties and risks of the situation, and that they were prepared to consider some compromise which would minimise these risks and difficulties. He did not know whether the President of the Local Government Board, who had an immense deal to do in connection with the Bill, had had his attention called to a letter which had appeared in The Standard of the 19th instant, signed by S. Wyndham, Chairman of the Farnham Union, in reply to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that the true check to outdoor relief was the central control. In that letter it was pointed out that the expenditure in outdoor relief in the Union for the year ending Michaelmas, 1882, had been £8,932, and for the year ending Michaelmas, 1892–10 years after—it was £1,540, showing a decrease of £2,392. This most satisfactory result was due entirely to the wise and energetic action of one or two Guardians. That case was well worth the attention of the Committee, He entirely endorsed the statements of the writer of the letter. Everyone who knew anything of the administration of outdoor relief was aware that the action of one man who urged his views on the Board in plain simple language might be marvellous, and often was most beneficial. Fie hoped, therefore, that the Government would endeavour to meet the feeling in the House and in the country that great risks were to be feared from this scheme, which would revolutionise the constitution of Boards of Guardians in the future, by introducing some safeguards such as that suggested in the Amendment. To him it seemed a most moderate proposal; and if the Government accepted, or put forward some alternative proposal of their own based on the same foundation, they would not alone be acting ill the best interests of the Bill, but in the best interests also of local government and the wise administration of outdoor relief.

COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)

said, it was plain that the Committee were endeavouring to find some, common ground on which they could agree on the difficult application of this principle of nominated Guardians. For his own part, he could not say that he preferred the Amendment before the Committee. It was open to the very grave and serious objection that it proposed to give the Local Government Board power to nominate gentlemen all over the country; and also to the further objection that in some Unions the Local Government Board would have a large field, and in other Unions a small field for choice. He should like to emphasize what his hon. Friend had just said with regard to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That was a very important speech, and indicated a desire on the part of the Government to find some compromise, if possible, by which the difficult question could be settled. For his own part he rather preferred an Amendment standing in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury, which appeared in the Paper somewhat later on, but which he would of course be out of Order in now discussing. This question was of far greater importance in populous towns than in the country.

MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)

suggested the addition, at the end of the Amendment, of the words "not exceeding one-fifth of the whole body." That would meet the objection of the Government as to the unlimited power given to the Local Government Board by the Amendment. The Amendment simply said that the Local Government Board should have the power to retain on all Boards of Guardians the men who had acted well in the past. That was what all Parties in the House were anxious to do; and if the Government did not see their way to accept the Amendment before the Committee they might put an Amendment of their own on the Paper.


said, that the Government, had only placed before the Committee one destructive proposal, he did not think the Government desired to sweep away all the members of the Boards of Guardians who had done good work in the past. And yet they did nothing but put forward ibis clause. What, therefore, could the Opposition do? Surely they could only bring forward new arguments in favour of the different proposals they advanced in order to modify the destructive proposal of the Government. All the Amendments being put forward were designed to keep up the continuity in the work of local government. The Opposition could not help pressing these Amendments on the Government so long as the Government maintained their irreconcilable attitude in the matter. The right hon. Gentleman had scarcely done justice to the Department of which he was President, when he said that the Local Government Board was incompetent to do what they were asked to do in the Amendment. He did not believe that, the Local Government Board was incapable of making a selection out of a, small number of men which would be satisfactory to the Boards of Guardians. In a very large number of instances those who came on the Board from their position other than that of elected Guardians were chosen to act as chairmen, and the argument against Magistrates being satisfactory as ex officio Guardians on account of their enormous number, was taken out of account by the Amendment of the hon. Member for St. Pancras (Mr. T. H. Bolton), because the Amendment said that the President, of the Local Government Board should select those who would be likely to help in the matter. That removed both the objection that there were too many and the objection against the varying character of the Board. He thought the local business knowledge of the hon. Member would support him in this—that there was nothing so unlit for genuine work as a weak Board, as a weak Board was always under the control of its clerk; therefore, if they placed upon the Board men who were in a superior position to their clerk they strengthened the Board, and consequently he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see the importance; of introducing upon a representative Board others who were equally representative, though not popularly elected. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not go on forcing them to bring forward new arguments in favour of each of these Amendments, bill would bring forward himself something that would be acceptable to the Committee.

SIR H. FLETCHER (Sussex, Lewes)

said, be would urge the President of the Local Government Board to listen to the appeal of the hon. Member for Liverpool, who had asked that something might be done to meet their views. He (Sir H. Fletcher) had for many years been an ex officio Guardian engaged in the administration of the Boor Law. He did not often trouble the House, and he had not, before spoken during the whole of these Debates on this Bill; but for a period of about 35 years he had been an active Magistrate. He had been Chairman of Petty Sessions for 22 years; he had been Chairman of a large Board of Guardians comprising some 40 or 50 members, and, though not speaking on behalf of himself, he was sure that in the opinion of many Guardians it was most desirable that men of a different class in life to the Urban and Rural Guardians, of which so many Boards were composed, should preside over their proceedings. He was satisfied that on many occasions it had been the means of creating peace between the Urban and Rural Guardians, who sometimes, he regretted to say, took rather a Party view when measures were brought forward which were of interest to one side or the other; therefore, when a man presided over them who was not altogether mixed up with either of those classes he was able, by a little tact and firm judgment, to pacify both Parties, and bring the subject to a successful issue. He felt that ex officio Guardians were doomed, and had to pass away; but having presided over a Board of Guardians for 22 years, He felt that he should like to continue his work on the Board for some years longer if the light hon. Gentleman could possibly see his way to save him, and allow him to carry out his main idea, for a few years longer. He did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept this Amendment, but he did ask him to accede, if possible, to the views that had been thrown out. He hoped the right lion. Gentleman would inform the Committee as soon as he could what measures he proposed to take in order to secure that nominated or ex officio members might in some way still be kept on.


said, that during the past few days I hey had been discussing the Amendments they seemed to have been making an effort to save the ex officio members of various Hoards of Guardians throughout the country—a vain effort it seemed to be to the minds of many gentlemen who spoke from the opposite side of the House—but he claimed that in supporting the opinion of Her Majesty's Government they were really doing the best that could be done to obtain the object they all bad in view. He admitted that gentlemen like the hon. Member who had just spoken bad rendered most valuable—he might say invaluable—service in this department of public life, but were these gentlemen afraid that the services and benefits they had conferred upon the community were not to be recognised by their neighbours amongst whom they lived? He believed that if these gentlemen were still willing to give their services to the country under the Poor Law administration, they would be amongst the first to be elected under the new system. He himself had bad the honour of serving on a Board of Guardians for many years as a colleague of his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvonshire (Mr. Rathbone), and even in the hon. Member's presence be would venture to say there was no man in the country whose services had been so valuable in Poor Law administration as the hon. Member. It might be supposed by those not familiar with Boards of Guardians in the neighbourhood with which the hon. Member was so conspicuously connected, that be was himself an ex officio member sitting in his capacity as a County Magistrate, but that was not the case. If his memory served him rightly, for 22 years, or even more, the hon. Member had served in the parish, and been returned by the voles of the open Vestry; never in any one year had the hon. Member served on the Board as an ex officio Guardian, He would venture lo prophesy—though he did it on the principle that it was never sale lo prophesy unless they knew—thai the experience of the hon. Member would be the experience of those ex officios who ventured on the rough sea of an open election, and that they would be returned by their neighbours to still continue the valuable services they had rendered in the past.

SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)

said, the sentiments expressed by the last speaker undoubtedly commended themselves to hon. Members who were supporting the view of the Government, but he wished to point out there was another view from which the question should he regarded. There was no doubt that in many cases the ex officios, if they wished to stand, would be elected by their own parishes; but those who had done good service to the community, and filled these posts with distinction, had other duties to perform in other places, so that they would not be able to enter into a contested election. He was speaking with the knowledge of a particular case in which the present chairman of a Board of Guardians, an ex officio member, had told him he would not be able to continue his services as an elected Guardian, because the duties of an elected Guardian would require him to he intimately acquainted with the particular parish which he would represent; therefore he would not be able conscientiously to undertake the duties, because he would not be able to give the time to satisfy himself as to the position of those asking relief, consequently he could not perform what would he double duty. That being so, this gentleman would be shut out, and be no longer able to retain the office of chairman. He added his appeal to that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, that this was too serious a matter to be lightly dealt with. In the interests of the poor, in the interests of good administration, however much they remembered the popular idea, of everything being done by popular election, of the popular vote being absolutely supreme, he thought that cither through this Amendment or that of his hon. Friend the Member for Somersetshire (Sir R. Paget), which came next, some means of qualifying the representation, of introducing an element of stability and knowledge should he adopted by the Government.


said, those Amendments were not unimportant, and yet they were not answered from the Treasury Bench.


I have made a speech and done my best to answer them.


said, he had not been in the House during the whole of the evening, but the right hon. Gentleman had not answered the first Amendment, at any rate.


Yes I did.


said, in that ease he begged pardon. He was aware that the right hon. Gentleman had given very respectful attention to the proceedings in Committee, but before the Amendment was disposed of he should like to make one observation in answer to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Crosfield). The hon. Member spoke of the good services rendered by ex officio members in the past, and slated they might be satisfied they would continue to render them in the future in another capacity, and that the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone) had for a long time been an elected member of the Liverpool Board of Guardians. He had no doubt the hon. Member was right about the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathboue), whose reputation was so high in Liverpool, and who was practically certain of re-election, and that those elected members who had rendered such good service in the past might, as long as they chose, render similar service in the future, but the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Crosfield) made a confusion between that part of the question and that they were trying to urge. They said that those who had been ex officio Guardians would not be certain to be elected in the future, because there would be no room for them. Was it to be supposed that Guardians who were now elected would stand aside in order that their places as elected Guardians might be taken by those who were now ex officio or nominated Guardians? He failed to understand why the Government, knowing the good work that had been done by ex officio and nominated Guardians, wished, without advancing any substantial argument, to make a clean sweep of the present state of things. If the Opposition were to be met with a non possumus they could only regret it; but he hoped that a concession might even yet be made by the Government. It was not the way to make progress with the Bill to allow the Opposition to move Amendment after Amendment just to see how the Opposition would shape their course. If the Government had any proposal to make let them submit it to the Committee. If the Government would not do that the Opposition could do nothing but go on moving Amendments and supporting them by whatever arguments they could adduce.


said, that as be felt he had sufficiently presented the case of the present ex officio Guardians, and hoping that, it would yet receive further consideration from the Government, he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


The next Amendment in Order stands in the name of the hon. Member for Aston Manor (Captain Grice-Hutchinson). The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Sir R. Paget) ought to be moved as an Amendment to that of the hon. and gallant Member.


said, the Amendment which he proposed contained this cardinal difference to former Amendments: that it proposed to extend the power of nomination to the Boards of Guardians themselves, subject to the approval of the Local Government Board. This, he thought, was a considerable improvement on former Amendments, and he hoped the Government would be able to assent to it. The system of the Local Government Board nominating ex officio Guardians had, no doubt, worked very well in London, but in rural districts it was impracticable to delegate this power to the Central Authority. As it was only natural to suppose that the Boards of Guardians themselves knew the wishes and aspirations of individual members of the Board, he thought they were the best persons to say whether they should have any nominated person upon the Board or not. He was afraid they must consider the ex officio member by this Bill was dead and buried; but, still, he thought it would be a grave calamity to the administration of the Boor Law if Boards of Guardians were to be altogether deprived of the ex officio's services, and, therefore, he considered that Boards of Guardians should be permitted to decide whether nominated members should come into their ranks. That was what his Amendment aimed at, and be believed that if a poll were taken of the various Boards of Guardians throughout the country they would be in favour of some such proposal as that. The Boards of Guardians in his constituency could not be accused of holding retrograde ideas, and they had sent him a Memorial, in which the principle contained in his Amendment was embodied. He need not reiterate all that ex officio and nominated Guardians had done, or that their services had not been amply recognised, but, with all due respect to the President of the Local Government Board, he thought his able statement, on Friday night, about the preponderance of ex officios in one particular area and their absence from another had nothing to do with the question whether Boards of Guardians wanted the system continued or not. He believed that the Boards of Guardians were strongly in favour of having some system of nomination such as he proposed in his Amendment, and he knew perfectly well that if the chairman of the Board of Guardians in his district was ousted from his position he would not enter upon a fight and go to the expense of a contested election. Thus the services of a good man might be lost to the Board, and he therefore asked that the President of the Local Government Board should not take up a cast-iron position with regard to this question. His Amendment embodied the principle of co-optation, and it would apply not only to Justices of the Peace and ex officio members, but also to County Councillors, Parish Councillors, or any private individuals of capacity whom the Guardians might think would he of service and give strength to their deliberations in the administration of the Poor Law. On that account the Amendment was a broader and wider one than any that had yet been proposed. He asked the Government to try and meet them in some way and not to take up this stone-wall attitude. They were prepared to make this Bill a, thoroughly good Bill if the Government would only give them the chance, and he was convinced that the more freedom and liberty they gave to these Local Authorities the better would be the Pill, and the greater the benefit to the parish. They were putting the agricultural labourer in very tight loading strings by this Bill. No doubt that was right in the case of newly-elected bodies. But they ought to give every freedom to Boards of Guardians, composed of men of experience in Poor Law administration, especially as regards nominating outside members. It was on this account and in the hopes of making the Pill better and a thoroughly good Bill, likely to he an advantage and benefit to the rural population, that he urged the Government to accept his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, In page 12, line 30, to leave out Sub-section (1), and insert the words, "Any Board of Guardians shall be empowered to nominate co-optative members in the proportion of one co-optative member to six elected Guardians."—(Captain Grice-Hutchinson.)


The hon. Member for the Oxford University has complained that the Government have assumed a stone-wall attitude, and allusion has been made to what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday night. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer said was this: He asked gentlemen who wore dissatisfied with the proposals of the Government to make proposals of their own, which he promised should receive the most careful consideration of the Government. That is no pledge on the part of the Government to make proposals of their own. The Government have made their proposals; they are in the Pill. At the same time we will carefully consider any proposals made on behalf of the Opposition. We have had three proposals to-night. First of all there was the proposal of the hon. Member for Carnavon-shire, which was, perhaps, more completely demolished by the speech of the Leader of the Opposition than by any other speaker. He would have none of it. Then there was the proposal of the hon. Member for East Somerset, but the Member for West Bristol would not have that. The last proposal seemed to have no friends at all, except in so far as it served as an occasion to raise the general question, and that was withdrawn without anybody wishing to press it to a Division; therefore we have had no proposal on behalf, at all events, of the official Opposition, and as representing their case. Up to the present time the challenge to hon. Members to put their proposals on paper has not been accepted. With reference to the present Amendment, the hon. Member proposes that the Boards of Guardians shall co-optate, in addition to their existing body, a certain number of other members. We are told that the dangers of this system we are now proposing is that it may interfere with the wise administration of the Poor Law, and that it class of Guardians may be elected who will prejudicially administer the Poor Law. Will the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Paget) look what the effect of his proposal which he has on the Paper would be? The effect of a proposal of this sort is simply to give a small majority a large majority on a Board of Guardians. If you have—and mind I do not believe all this; I am only putting your arguments, and I cannot believe that there is this danger to the administration of the Poor Law. Assuming for a moment that a majority of a Board of Guardians is elected in favour of extravagant or unwise outdoor relief, and that this majority consists of one—supposing it is a large Board of Guardians of, say, 30 members—what does the Amendment propose to give them? It proposes to immediately add five to their majority, and possibly make it a safe working majority. I cannot conceive a mode which would be open to many more objections than this. You simply give the majority, if you have a dividing Hue, the power of converting a small majority into a large one. I very much doubt whether in that way you would secure what you desire and what I desire—namely, the very best men to servo on the Boards of Guardians. I have been listening to what is really the practical objection to the proposal of the Government, which is weighing on a great many hon. Members' minds, and I find in every speech it is this: There are a very large number of gentlemen who have been doing important and good service, who have been chairmen of Boards of Guardians for a long series of years, and who would not be disposed to go through either the fatigue or the other, perhaps not pleasant, circumstances of a contested election, and sooner than stand they would retire from the Boards of Guardians. Therefore, it is said, in 240 or 250 cases you are to lose the services of these gentlemen. Now, am I not putting it fairly? Is not that the case which comes home to their judgment, that there are a large number of gentlemen who at present, and for many years past, have most wisely and ably administered Poor Law affairs, who possess the confidence of their fellow-Guardians, whoso services their fellow-Guardians would like to have, but under the operation of this Bill these services would be lost. ["Hear, hear!"] Yes, but that is not the Bill. Hon. Gentlemen have not read the Bill. Under the Bill every one of these chairmen can be retained. The Boards of Guardians can elect them, and I am quite certain my hon. Friend overlooked that point. Under this Bill he could be elected and could continue to be chairman for another 22 years. That is a point that I think has been lost sight of in this Debate. I am free to confess I do not attach any blame to hon. Members for not having discerned this provision in the Bill. It is perhaps not in the best place in the Bill. It is not in a very prominent part of the Bill. It is in Clause 46, and I think, myself, it should have been in Clause 19. Nevertheless there will be very little difficulty in putting it in Clause 19. I will put another point. Under the Poor Law Regulations Boards of Guardians are obliged to elect not only a chairman, but every Board of Guardians is obliged to elect a vice-chairman. Now, Sir, my judgment is this: that the Committee will be well advised if it extended the power of election outside the Board not only to the chairman, but to the vice-chairman. That would leave to every Board of Guardians in the Kingdom, entirely in its own option, the power to elect, if they thought proper so to do, two gentlemen of great Poor Law experience and knowledge, and so far as I can make out it is only a small number of ex officio Guardians who do attend. A gentleman sent me up a case either yesterday or this morning from a large Union in the South of England. He sends me particulars of the Guardians, and speaks most highly of the chairman, who is an ex officio, and has held office for a great many years. He says that the idea that the ex officio Guardians had control of, or in any way influence the policy of, the Boards of Guardians is a great mistake; and after telling me of their other qualifications, which he says are very good, he tells me, last of all, that he is a Conservative; therefore he does not regard the proceedings of the present Government with any great approval. He sends me a Return, for two years, of the attendances at the Board. I find in one of these Returns that there are in this Union 10 ex officio Guardians. The chairman has attended 10 times; another ex officio Guardian once; another, four times, and not a single oilier one ever attended a single meeting; whereas, in the case of the elected Guardians, out of a total of 12 meetings, their attendances range from 12, 10, 9, 7, to 6, and so on. I am only giving that as an illustration among many others to the same effect—namely, that what I may call the regular attendance of the ex officios for Poor Law administration purposes docs not extend to a large number of meetings. It is a very limited number who do attend, and I therefore think, if the House should see fit to ensure that the Boards of Guardians should have the opportunity of electing two gentlemen from outside, they will secure, what has been all through desired, not a majority, but the influence of a strong man experienced in the work of a Board of Guardians. What I venture to submit to the House is, that the proposal I have made will carry out that desire. One half of it is in the Bill already. I find no fault with anybody for not having discerned it, because it is not, I confess, in the proper place, and ought to have been elsewhere. The House will quite understand the immense labour and trouble of a Bill with its many details, and perhaps some excuse may be made for me. At all events, it is in the Bill already so far as the chairmen are concerned, and I am willing to extend if to vice-chairmen. That is the proposal I submit with some confidence to the Committee, and I hope one will accuse the Government of a non possumus attitude, or of assuming a stone-wall position. The present Amendment I cannot accept, but I throw out this suggestion.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had at last revealed to their anxious eyes the proposal of the Government. After examining Amendment after Amendment they at last came to the Amendment of the Government, and if accusations were levelled at the Opposition for wasting the time of the Committee, surely they had the most complete reply on this occasion. They had had the evening entirely devoted to the consideration of Amendments which, alter they had been discussed and placed for formality before the Committee, were severally dismissed one after another until the Grand Turk was ready to throw his handkerchief and had led his own favourite on the scene.


I thought it more respectful to hon. Members to discuss their Amendments.


said, he regretted that the Amendment which he had down on the Paper had not an opportunity of being discussed before the Government let out of the bag their extraordinary cat. The proposal of the Government was, that Boards of Guardians in the future were to have the power of electing themselves the chairman and vice-chairman, He did not know whether they were to be additional members.


Yes, if the Boards of Guardians think proper. I do not propose that a Board of Guardians should be compelled to elect their chairman or vice-chairman. I adopt the spirit of the Amendment, and provide that it shall be within their power, if they choose, to elect as chairman one who has been elected to the Board, or, if they think fit, to exercise the power of appointing a chairman or vice-chairman from outside the Board; then I suggest that they shall be additional members of the Board.


Assuming that it Board of Guardians elects to these places two of the elected members, will there be any opportunity for filling the two places of the elected members?


No: in that case there would be no opportunity of electing others.


said, their desire was to make this Bill as effective as possible, and he thought the view he bad expressed in his Amendment would be more effectual than the recommendation of the light hon. Gentleman. He knew of Boards of Guardians where the ex officio element existed, where the Magistrates hi tended regularly, and were selected to serve on the Committees which did the principal part of the work. It would not be unreasonable to add as additional members Justices to the extent of one-sixth of the number of Guardians on the Board. The Opposition was very anxious about this matter, because they feared that unless the Government adopted their suggestion the administration of the Poor Law would, under the new system, be endangered, and that the demoralisation of the poorer classes which was brought about previous to 1834, and which ii required something like a revolution to expel, would again occur. The poorer classes of the country, prior to 1834, became imbued with the notion that nothing was to be done without constant relief, and the effect of it was to reduce their wages, and there was a condition of things which was a shame to the country. There was no duty more difficult and delicate than that of the administration of outdoor relief. The welfare of the country was intimately bound up with the question of the administration of the Poor Law. The new Board of Guardians, elected on an entirely novel principle without any qualification, with no ex officio members, no official experience, could not possibly be the same body as those who now administered the Poor Law; and the Opposition merely asked that this untried body should at least be furnished with such aid as the present Board of Guardians had. If the right hon. Gentleman could obtain a Return to show the number of ex officio Justices who were elected by Boards of Guardians to serve on the Committees which did the work, he would find that in every Board there was a large number of ex officios, not alone selected as chairmen and vice-chairmen, but to serve on the various committees, the ex officios being really the working bees. At any rate, that was the case in a great many Unions. He did not think the power of electing the chairman and vice-chairman from outside would be a sufficient guarantee for that good and sound administration of the Poor Law which they all desired. In his opinion it was a fatal error on the part of the Government to introduce the Poor Law clauses at all, and whatever Amendment might be suggested he should hold himself perfectly free to vote against Clause 19 as a mischievous clause which had enormously lengthened the proceedings on the Bill, and had touched the fringe of a great question in a way which might possibly endanger the system which existed and be another step in the direction of the demoralisation of the country. The Committee could not dismiss this subject in a light-hearted fashion. It was far too deep and serious a matter for that. He did not quite know how the Committee stood with regard to this Amendment. The Committee had before them an Amendment, and a suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that he means to propose something else. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman put his Amendment on the Paper? The right hon. Gentleman had not told the Committee what were its terms and when he posed to bring it forward.


said, that he should propose an additional sub-section to the clause providing that the chairman and vice-chairman might be chosen outside the Board, and would become thereby additional members.


said, that he had to complain that that important Amendment would appear on the Paper next day, when there was no one left to discuss it. If it were on the Paper now the Committee might have been able to discover some common ground of agreement.

MAJOR DARWIN (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said, he regretted that the Government could not see their way to accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend. He could see the value of the provision that the vice-chairman and chairman might be chosen from outside the Board; but if they were not so chosen no outsiders would be elected at all. If it was right in one case to elect outsiders to the Board, why not in all cases? Everything that helped to get the best men on the Board was an advantage. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that the Amendment would do no good in the case of an extravagant Board. He thought that in the Debate too much stress had been laid on the desire to bring back some of the old ex officio Guardians. No doubt that was an extremely desirable object, and he hoped it would be brought about in some way; but what he should like to do was to make the Board of Guardians of the future as good as they possibly could. There were many reasons-why the addition of the outside element to Boards of Guardians would be valuable, even though they were to put aside the ex officio element, whose merits he fully recognised. As his right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin had pointed out the other day, any member of a Board of Guardians who did his work conscientiously might, under certain circumstances, incur unpopularity; but the members of the Board who worked with him would know the value of his services, and even though he was unpopular would, in many cases, elect him on the Board. That was a very strong reason for power being given to the Guar- dians to add outsiders to the Board. It was desirable also to have on the Boards a number of members who had not to look back on electioneering speeches, or to look forward to electioneering speeches. Nominated Guardians would be independent of electors and pledges, and could look entirely to the duties they had to perform. Such members would be representative members just as much as the members of the United States Senate; and the argument that they would not be representative had not been sustained. It had been said, too, that a good many of the good men would not stand. But that was not the point at all. What the Committee had to do was to give every encouragement to good men to join the Boards. In the future elections would be more and more political. He regretted it; though there would be the advantage that more interest would be taken in the elections under those circumstances. The evil was that good men would come to be rejected merely because they belonged to the wrong Party. The Amendment would correct that evil. He hoped too that when a Party victory had been gained the elected Guardians would have wisdom enough to co-opt the most useful man on the other side. On the whole, he thought there were sufficient arguments in favour of the Amendment to make it a desirable one to adopt.

MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)

said, he objected to ex officio members of every kind whatever. Experience was entirely against them. In the City of London the Board of Guardians, consisting of 92 members, had not a single ex officio, because Justices in the City had not the right to sit on the Board. Though he was not a member of that Board, he understood it bore the highest character of any Board of Guardians in the country, or at least a character as good as any Board in the country. There were no complaints about them, though they had to deal with four millions of assessments. That showed that ex officio Guardians were not required at all: and if elected Guardians were good for the City of Loudon they ought to be good for every other part of the United Kingdom. If ex officio Guardians were so good, why did not the Tory Party propose that there should be ex officio or co-opted Members of the House of Commons? Simply because the country would not stand it, and the House itself would not hoar of it. He should say also that he was not in favour of the chairman or vice-chairman being elected from outside, because he believed it was a very bad practice. Let the House give the country responsible Boards of Guardians, composed of people who would feel their responsibility by having to go before their constituents at least once in three years. That was the only way to prevent extravagance, and compel the Guardians to do their duty. For his part, he intended to vote against ex officios of all sorts and sizes.

MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)

said, the hon. Member for Peterborough had naturally praised the Board of Guardians of the City of London. It was about the worst administered Board in the country, and its Poor Law relief was about the highest. He should like to ask the President of the Local Government Board whether he agreed with the praise which had been given to the City Board?


Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to ask whether here has ever been a complaint against the City of London Board?


said, he should be willing to allow the hon. Gentleman to ask him any questions; but he would use his own discretion in replying to them. He could not understand why the right hon. Gentleman opposite should oppose the principle of co-optation generally when he accepted it in the ease of the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the Boards. Some better reason ought to be given for the rejection of the Amendment.

MR. J. LOWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

said, he was surprised at the way the discussion was going. The Government had made a concession, and, like all concessions, it had been received in the most sneering manner by the Opposition. They did not thank the right hon. Gentleman for having made the concession, because he had not gone further. He was not afraid to say distinctly that he did not agree with the concession, and that he was utterly opposed to co-optation. He knew Public Bodies in London on which the members were co-opted, and he knew the evils which resulted from that system. The evil on one of the Boards to which he referred—a Trustee Board—was that gentlemen were appointed who did not attend to their duties, and as the qualification was a £75 rating, he and other residents in the parish were not allowed to become members, though they might become Members of Parliament. Why should they not be the electors to elect Boards of Guardians, as well as other Public Bodies? Every argument in favour of popular election to the House of Commons applied with equal force to Boards of Guardians. Members of Parliament made promises which they did not intend to perform, and they traded on these promises when they thought there were votes to be got. In fact, Members of Parliament often changed their opinions three times in the week. He thought there was only one standard that they could follow, and that was to give the people the full control of their own affairs. With regard to the attacks which hail been made on the system of outdoor relief, he would point out that there was another side to the picture. Almost in every Union huge buildings might be seen in the course of erection for the accommodation of indoor paupers, and people were asking themselves whether the money might not be more judicially and more beneficially spent in relieving the people outside by a system of discriminate outdoor relief. He was not one of those who thought that when a man fell by the roadside in the struggle for life they should send him to a workhouse and break up his home and family when, by a little temporary outdoor relief, they might enable him to start afresh and keep the homestead over his head. He hoped the Government would not give any more concessions, but stand firmly by the Bill and allow the people to elect their own Poor Law Guardians, the same as the members of the School Board and the County Council.


My right hon. Friend has been condemned by some hon. Members of the House for his proposal to allow the chairman and the vice-chairman to be elected from the outside. I would remind them that the power of electing outside has existed ever since the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act. It was given to the County Councils in 1888, and it has already been given in the present Bill to Parish Councils, and if it is not given to Boards of Guardians they will be the sole exception. What we suggest is that the Amendment should be negatived, and that we should then have an opportunity of bringing under the consideration of the Committee the proposal which has been made by the President of the Local Government Board. The proposal has been made with the view of meeting the difficulty that has been raised and of making progress with the Bill, lint if hon. Members opposite are not disposed to regard the proposal with favour, we will withdraw it, and no more time need be spent upon it.


said, he did not rise to discuss in any carping spirit the proposal of the President of the Local Government Board. He desired to consider this and all other suggestions affecting the Bill in a practical way with the view of obtaining the best possible administrative Boards for the rural districts. While he deprecated the introduction of Party feeling into the consideration of the Amendment, he should also say that it sometimes reduced one to despair to see hon. Members picking up abstract principles and running them to death. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury objected to co-optation because on a Board of Trustees, with a high and restricted qualification, the co-opted members did not attend to their duties. That bore no relation at all to this proposal which applied to Unions where there was no qualification at all for membership. The President of the Local Government Board had suggested that the vice-chairman as well as the chairman might be allowed to be elected from the outside, just as the Corporations were allowed to elect their Mayors from the out- side. That proposal admitted the principle of co-optation in a restricted fashion. As to the statement that good men would he co-opted, the scheme in that respect would be likely to be a nullity, because it would be rarely acted on. On Municipal Councils it was a very rare occurrence to take a Mayor from without. He admitted that the limitation would secure rather a high standard on the part of the added members, and so far he saw an argument in its favour; bill, on the other hand, it was pretty sure to make the whole matter a nullity, because, as a rule, they would not get Boards of Guardians to give this honoured distinction to men who were not members of their own body. If they allowed two members to be added, why not allow two to be added at large? What was considered the argument against that had already been given—namely, that where they allowed two to be added at large they would give the majority the power of adding two more to their own side, which was not exactly what was wanted. They would be adding to the majority, but would have no security whatever of obtaining those conditions of experience and knowledge which it was so desirable to have on Boards of Guardians. Well, was it impossible, as a working problem, to secure what he wished to secure with the avoidance of what he wished to avoid? They could add two members, not to fill the post of chairman and vice-chairman, but who, at the same time, would be added with regard to qualification, the action of the Hoards of Guardians being limited to useful members. For example, if it were provided that the Guardians should he able to co-opt two members qualified by reason of having served two or three years on those Boards. If that were done the country would start with new Boards of Guardians capable of discharging all their duties, the co-opted members forming a connecting link between the new and the old authority.

SIR J. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)

said, the question before them was whether Boards of Guardians should have power to nominate co-optative members. They must bear in mind the remarks made from the opposite side of the House, that it was extremely probable that these elections in the future would become more and more political. In view of that, he was bound to say he attached considerable weight to the argument of the President of the Local Government Board that there was great danger of a bare majority being increased in this way to a large majority by the election of members of the same political complexion. He confessed he agreed very much with the hon. Baronet the Member for Somerset that they had lost a good deal of time in not having had the proposal of the Government before them until now, but it was a very great improvement to the Bill. It was an improvement which the Committee should be thankful to accept. It would enable a Board to secure the services of two valued ex officio Guardians instead of losing them altogether. He did not think that the power would be rarely acted on. The Boards, in the first place, would not be composed of men much accustomed to public business. They would be thankful to be able to get men of experience from outside. He shared the apprehensions which had been expressed as to what these men and untried bodies would do, but be was of opinion that there would be some security for continuity if the proposal of the Government were adopted.

* MR. LEES KNOWLES (Salford, W.)

said, he did not think the proposal to give Boards of Guardians power to elect chairmen and vice-chairmen from without was of any importance, because, in the first place, as had been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, it was extremely unlikely that Guardians would look outside their own body for persons to fill these posts of honour. The temptation to them would be to confer such posts on themselves. That was a point which struck him very forcibly; and not only that, but if they did away altogether with these ex officio Guardians, one would wonder who the Boards of Guardians would appoint from without, because there would be no one outside who would have experience in Poor Law administration. It would be highly desirable if, at till events for the present, the ex officio element were allowed to continue; or, least, that the Guardians who were at present ex officio Guardians should not be discontinued. If they liked, abolish the appointment of ex officios for the future, but allow those now in existence, so long as they continued qualified, to remain ex officio Guardians. One point he would call attention to was that in the Bill itself there was as yet no provision relating to the election of a chairman. What would happen when one of those new Boards met? What would they do? They could not appoint a temporary chairman, for there was no provision for that. He had put down an Amendment to provide for nomination and election according to Rules framed by the Local Government Board.

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

There are Local Government Board Rules already in existence.


Not under the Bill.


There are existing Rules which cover the point.


said, that if that were the case his object would be met. On that (the Opposition) side of the House hon. Gentlemen thought that the election of Guardians would be fought on political lines. He himself thought that that would be the case. In an extremely able article which had appeared in the December number of The Economic Journal, Mr. Loch, secretary to the Charity Organisation Society, had written— If the franchise for the election of Guardians be lowered as the qualification has been, it is likely that in many places elections will turn solely on political grounds. Already there are signs of this. Even if the present proposal were not accepted, some such Amendment should be agreed to in order that some businesslike element might continue to be on the Boards. He himself had a proposal on the Paper which, if accepted, would have the effect of retaining the present ex officio Guardians, whilst preventing new ones being appointed.

MR.LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)

said, hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side were glad that the Government had not accepted the Amendment. Many of them were sorry that the Government had made any concession at all. They had considered this to be a good opportunity for abolishing ex officios on the Boards of Guardians, and thought it was time that all these Poor Law functionaries should be not ex officios, but in officios, chosen by the people at large. He would point out to the Government that if they accepted Amendments of this sort they must be careful that they did not find themselves in the position of ex officios.


I do not know what occasion the Government have given for these violent threats on the part of their supporters that they will be promptly pitchforked out of Office, in order, presumably, that the gentlemen who make the throats may take their place. I take it that the Government have not made any undue concession. They have treated the Opposition with courtesy; but the concessions have been made to their own supporters. I do not see why we should be visited with these thundrous threats from Olympus on account of the humble attempts at conciliation made by the Treasury Bench. Hon. Members opposite seem to have an extremely violent prejudice against anything in the nature of a secondary election. They seem to regard it as horrible and revolting to say that an assembly chosen by the people shall choose anybody else. They do not reflect that the most important body in this country is simply selected by the House of Commons informally, but practically and substantially by secondary election. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite realise—does the hon. Gentleman who has just threatened the Government with exclusion from Office realise—that they themselves have helped to elect the Government? Has the right hon. Gentleman never so far grasped the fundamental although unwritten principle of the Constitution under which we live as not to have realised that the Cabinet who conduct the whole business of the country are themselves elected by secondary election?


I would point out that Ministers are appointed from the inside and not from the outside.


That is just the point I was endeavouring to explain, though in more prolix language. They are elected from the inside.


This House cannot choose people from the outside.


I do not admit that, because the Cabinet includes Members of the House of Lords. They are certainly not selected in accordance with the will of the House of Lords—hon. Gentlemen will admit that at all events. Therefore we are governed in this country by a body which is co-optated by this House, partly from its own Members and partly from amongst the privileged Members of another place.


I should like to point out that, although we may have a Government elected partly from the inside and partly from the outside, the whole of the Ministers in this House are elected from inside this House.


I am delighted to carry on this dialogue. The hon. Member appears to forget for a moment that there is such a place as India, that we have Colonies, and that we have a Navy; that we conduct foreign affairs. The Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the India Office, and the Admiralty are managed by Peers co-optated by Members of this House, of whom the hon. Gentleman who has just interrupted me is one of the most distinguished. Is this in accordance with Radical principles? [Cries of"No, no!"] Gentlemen have only to express that opinion in the orthodox fashion by Resolution to have the Administration selected from inside this House. There is no constitutional difficulty in such a procedure: there is not the slightest objection to it if hon. Gentlemen have the courage of their opinions. There is a certain absurdity in all this—I will not call it cant, because the word is offensive, and I mean no offensive reference to anyone in this House—talk about democratic institutions. After all, what are you dealing with? You are dealing with a body which is elected by popular representation. It is assumed, ex hypothesi, that an elected Board is fit for every administrative duty except choosing a member or two of its own body. Is that common sense? Is it consistent with any principle, democratic or otherwise? It is utterly absurd. I think we ought to consider this question, not from the point of view of rather worm-eaten theories, but rather from the point of view of the practical efficiency of the body we desire to get. But I rose primarily, not to discuss with the hon. Gentleman opposite an abstract theory, but to reply to the invitation given to us on this Bench by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to what we think of the suggestion of the Government as an improvement in the Bill. I cannot honestly say that I think it a great improvement. The improvement consists in this: that whereas, under the Bill as it now stands, the Chairman of the Board of Guardians may be selected from outside, under the new proposal the vice-chairman may be selected as well as the chairman. It cannot be maintained, even by the Government themselves, that this is likely to have a material effect upon the constitution of Boards of Guardians. I accept it as far as it goes, but I should be acting unfairly if I pretended that it settles the great difficulties raised by the Bill or provides an adequate substitute for some of the proposals placed on the Paper by other hon. Members. If I may add one further remark, it is that I think it would be an improvement in the Government suggestion if they accepted the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin. That right hon. Member has pointed out that Boards of Guardians will be very reluctant to choose their two chief officers from outside. Where these officers are at present ex officio the Guardians will probably desire to keep their services. But when that race comes to an end, as under the Bill it must necessarily do within a measurable period. I do not believe Guardians will be willing to elect from outside men, presumably untried, who will not merely help them, but will preside over them. It is a strong order. I do not think they will do it; therefore, if the Government ask me if I think the suggestion they have made will bear any important fruit in the future, it appears to me subject, to what the Boards will have to say on the question. I, however, am sure that the Government mean their proposal in a spirit of conciliation, and in that spirit I desire that the Committee shall meet them.


said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had forgotten the object many hon. Members on the Ministerial side had in view. The object of the proposal of the Government was to secure that the experience some men had gained in the offices of chairman and vice-chairman of Boards of Guardians should not be lost to the districts with which they were connected. It had been no easy task to arrive at a, solution which would not conflict with free election. This proposal was one which, to his mind, would least conflict with the principle of free election, because the men who had been freely elected would be those to whom the opportunity would be given of securing the services of the specially competent persons whose services might otherwise be shut out. In time the elected Guardians would gain sufficient experience themselves. They would be able to select a chairman and vice-chairman from their own body, and would not find it necessary to go outside for those functionaries. The only object the Government had in view was to prevent the shutting out of the experience of men who had done good work on the Boards of Guardians in the past. This proposal was one which secured that. He hoped that hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial side of the House would not take an exaggerated view of the concession which had been made. It did not seem to him to be one which would conflict with those principles which they desired to see put in form in the Bill. It was the mildest concession that could be made.

MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)

—[Cries of"Divide!"]—said he sorry there should be signs of impatience on the Front Ministerial Bench in the case of a Member who had not opened his mouth on the Bill before. He desired to say he objected both to the Amendment and to the proposals of the Government. This was a matter which he had had under careful observation for 20 years in the Municipalities of Liverpool and South-port, and he ventured to say that anyone who had carefully observed the effect of this system of the co-optation of Aldermen in Liverpool and in Southport in connection with the management of municipal affairs must come to the conclusion that the system was a distinctly had one. Certainly, as far as he was concerned, no vote of his would assist either the Government or the Proposer of the Amendment to maintain anything of the sort. What had been the effect in Liverpool? It was this: When a man had been rejected by the ratepayers, looking back upon his conduct for the past three years, he had time after time been elected to the position of Alderman, and had been given a vote in the expenditure of the ratepayers' money, and in the management of the affairs of the city. He conceived that if people believed in popular election at all, they must be of opinion that that was an improper system of government. The suggestion of the Government was that there were a certain number of people who had experience as members of existing Boards of Guardians who were too delicately matured to undergo the excitement of an election. He confessed, after a considerable observation of people of that class who had got into aldermanic seats in Liverpool and Southport, that management of local affars was infinitely better without that kind of people. They had had a remarkable statement from the Leader of the Opposition as to the effect of co-optation on the House. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the House of Commons co-optating the Cabinet. But did they by that system add a, single Member to the House? No; and the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that the House had nothing to do with the election of the various Members of the Government. The majority of the House had to do with turning out an existing Administration, but the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly well aware that they had nothing to do with the selection of the man who was to form the Administration, that man being selected by a person much higher in the realm than anyone in the House of Commons or in the House of Peers. There was no co-optation in the matter at all. How the Prime Minister acted in forming his Cabinet the House of Commons did not know. There was no record kept of the operation. The Lender of the Opposition suggested that the formation of a Cabinet was an example of co-optation. He must either have forgotten what co-optation meant or was endeavouring to throw dust in the eyes of the House. Was the right hon. Gentleman laughing at the intelligence of hon. Members? The Government, by their proposal, were introducing a principle into the Bill which had proved to he bad in the past, which was contrary to true Liberal principles, and which would not work well.


I should explain that the hon. Member has quite misunderstood my point. The hon. Member behind him stated, or led the House to understand, that in these matters the only system be approved of was the direct action of the popularly elected body. I pointed out to him that in the ease of a most important body dealing with the affairs of the people of this country they do not act directly, but through selected Members of the House. The hon. Member says that the majority to which he belongs have nothing to do with the fact that Members of the House of Lords are Members of the Cabinet. I have only to point out to him that if he moves a Resolution dissenting from the appointment of Members of the House of Lords on the Cabinet, and carries it, either those Members will leave the Cabinet or the Government will resign.


said, the right hon. Gentleman now took a totally different point from that taken by him before. He was, however, perfectly prepared to deal with the new point. At the present moment there was no way of getting rid of the Peers who were now Members of Her Majesty's Government without a General Election; but when the next General Election took place he understood that this would be the proposition made by a very large number of the Party which sat on the Ministerial side of the House. The majority of Members on that side of the House were of opinion that the Cabinet would be infinitely improved if it contained no Members who had received no vote from the country. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of a Cabinet being selected by some system of co-optation he forgot that every Member of the Cabinet who sat in the House of Commons did not so sit by reason of his election, but on accepting office had to obtain re-election. As regarded the concession the Government intended to make, if they persisted in it they would introduce a, principle into the Bill which had been proved to be bad in the past, which was contrary to good Liberal principles, and which would not work well.


said, he understood that the Government simply proposed to insert the words "and vice." The right hon. Gentleman had, he believed, stated that there were thousands of chairmen who were elected members. Would the right hon. Gentleman say what the exact numbers were, so that the Committee might lest the value of the proposed Amendment? If the great majority of the vice-chairmen were elected Guardians, he did not see how the proposed Amendment would improve matters.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 69.—(Division List, No. 392.)


proposed an Amendment providing that each Board of Guardians should have power to elect as additional members of their body Justices of the Peace resident in the district, not exceeding one-sixth of the number of members of the Board.

Amendment proposed, In page 12, line 30, after the word "Guardians," to insert the words "but each Board of Guardians shall have the power to elect from time to time as additional members of their body such number of Justices of the Peace resident in their district as they may think fit, not exceeding one-sixth of the number of members of such Board."—(Sir R Paget.)

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


I do not think I need trouble the Committee on this Amendment after I have expressed so fully and frequently the views of the Government on this question. I need only say that it is utterly impossible to accept this Amendment. I think I have made a fair proposal to meet the difficulty which has been suggested by hon. Members, and by that proposal we intend to stand without any variation.

SIR J. DORINGTON (Gloucester, Tewkesbury)

said, he very much regretted the conclusion stated by the right hon. Gentleman, because by what he had said he had passed sentence upon that system of Poor Law administration which it was at one time the glory of the Liberal Party to have set up. By doing away with the plural vote the Government had altered the whole character of the Guardians, and by doing away with the ex officio members, who had been the mainstay of the Boards of Guardians in many places, they would leave in the hands of an utterly untrained body the administration of a sum of £5,000,000 a year, and would leave that body, perhaps, to drag down Poor Law administration to the condition it was in prior to 1834. He did not think the country had yet realised what was being done. To whom was to be attributed all the great improvements that had taken place in Poor Law administration in the past? Certainly the ex officio members had taken the lead in the Poor Law conferences that were set up 10 or 15 years ago, with the full approval of the Local Government Board, for bringing together men who were skilled in local administration.

It being Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow at Two of the clock.