§ MR. FORWOOD (Lancashire, Ormskirk)
, in moving— 11That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of Seven Members, Four to be nominated by the House, and Three by the Committee of Selection,said: Mr. Speaker, the subject on which I desire to invite the attention of the House is connected with a Private Bill, yet, as it affects the welfare of a population that exceeds 500,000, I am sure that it will receive every consideration at the hands of the House. If I am a little lengthy in my remarks I must claim the indulgence of the House; for as the Forms of the House do not allow me the right of reply, I must endeavour to anticipate any arguments that may be raised against the Motion which I now submit to the House. Sir, there is before the House at present a Bill promoted by the Liverpool Corporation which consists of three parts. The first deals with municipal government; and another part is of a more far-reaching extent, for it proposes to extend the time for the redemption of the debt of Liverpool to a period on the average of 20 years. By that extension of time for the redemption of the debt the present ratepayers would benefit in rates to the amount of £28,000 a year, which would be thrown on the ratepayers of the future. The 2nd clause of the Bill proposes an arrangement under which all the rates levied in Liverpool, for whatever purposes they may be required, will, after a certain date, be equalised. When the Municipal Act of 1835 was introduced the ward system was very properly a prominent proposal in that measure. The object of the ward system was, in a measure, to decentralise power—that is to say, whilst forming a Central Body for discussion, to have representatives for each part and district of the city. The importance of having a fair representation of each part and district of the city could not be gainsaid. The condition of the streets, the health of the people, the cleanliness of the district, the lighting arrangements, are all matters that appertain particularly to individual districts; and if the ratepayers of any district have a grievance, or have reason to complain of the want of attention shown to their district, it is of great advantage to them that they should have individual representatives to whom to go with their grievances, for they would have a better chance of having these 12 grievances redressed by bringing their case before the attention of individual representatives than before the collective attention of a large Central Body. The importance of the ward system could not, therefore, be exaggerated. I will take one illustration. In one district of Liverpool the death-rate is as low as 16 in 1,000 per annum, whilst in another it is 39 per 1,000. It is of the utmost importance to the health of the town that each district should be looked after by some person more particularly connected with the district, so that its condition may be brought distinctly to the attention of the Town Council. Then, again, the members of the Town Council have the expenditure of a common fund. It is their duty to attend to the wants of the whole city, and to distribute their expenditure out of the common rates of the city, in such a manner as shall be equitable to all districts alike. Now, for the sake of that equitable distribution, and for the sake of a proper attention to the health of the city, it is of the most essential importance that there should be an electoral distribution in the ward system of Liverpool. I will now, with the permission of the House, show the basis on which the City Council is formed to-day. In Liverpool there are 16 wards, each of which returns three Councillors to the Town Council. This division of the wards was made 58 years ago. At that time the population of Liverpool was only 234,000, but to-day it is 518,000. The number of electors 58 years ago was 6,000, but now they number 75,000—a change which has, to a great extent, been brought about by extension of the franchise. When the division of Liverpool was made in 1835, what is called the parish of Liverpool—which is the town proper—was divided into 12 wards. It contained an area of only 1,500 acres, the population being 180,000. The other portion of Liverpool—the outskirts—had then an area of 2,900 acres and a population of only 49,000. Therefore, when in 1885 the out-townships were divided into four wards, it was almost a mathematical division proportionate to the population of the townships and the population of the wards of the parish of Liverpool. A remarkable change has, however, taken place since then. I think the decline in the parish that has occurred is largely due to the fact that Liverpool 13 is the great centre for trade and railway enterprise, and that residences were taken down to make room or trade and railway extensions; and while the parish of Liverpool, with its 36 representatives, has in the 58 years diminished in population by nearly 30,000 people, the four out-townships, which only return 12 Councillors, has risen from 49,000 to no less than 360,000 people. So that we have to-day this curious anomaly: that two-thirds of the population of the city has only one-fourth of the total representation in the City Council. The 36 members who represent the wards within the parish of Liverpool have control over the expenditure and the spending departments, and naturally their inclination is to devote a larger proportion of that expenditure to the wards they represent than is just or right to the out-townships. Anyone who visits Liverpool will be struck with the brightness and the cleanliness and the good order of the streets in the central part of the town; but if he will go out to the heights of Everton, to the district of West Derby, or Toxteth, he would find the lamps few and far between and the scavenging operations not carried out with efficiency or in a satisfactory way. The reason is to be found in the want of sufficient representation of those districts, which really want the scavenging operations and the lighting more than the central districts. Now, Sir, Parliament has contemplated that these anomalies in connection with the division of our great Municipalities into wards will arise, and it has in its wisdom provided a means under which they can be rectified. That means is provided under the Municipal Corporations Act, but it requires that a full two-thirds of the entire Town Council should petition Her Majesty in Council for a Commissioner to be sent down to investigate the matter. Something like eight or nine attempts have been made since 1878 to induce 43 members of the Town Council of Liverpool to join in that Petition, but always without success. It is under these circumstances that I have to bring this matter before the House. In connection with the present Bill, I daresay Members of the House have received a Memorandum signed by the deputy town clerk of Liverpool explaining the reasons why the Motion 14 I have made should be rejected, and why the Bill should go on in its present shape. Of course, Members of the House are accustomed to receive these ex parte statements; but I venture to say that of all the ex parte statements it has been my lot to read, the present Memorandum is the most ex parte. Yet, with all that, the particulars which the deputy town clerk has furnished to the House clearly vindicate the action I have taken, because he points out that though attempts have been made to induce the Town Council to put in force the powers they possess they have not succeeded from one cause or another. When this Bill was submitted to the ratepayers in January the town's meeting was adjourned by a resolution requesting the Town Council to take steps to petition the Queen to remedy the scandalous position in which the wards are at present placed. That request was brought before the Town Council in January, but only 27 members, including the Mayor, attended, and one attended simply to say that his colleagues would not join in the Petition. The Petition was, therefore, only signed by 25 members, and it fell to the ground. A Petition has been lodged in the House signed by over 12,000 of the ratepayers of these aggrieved districts. They ask for justice to be done to every district, and this they submit cannot be done unless they have a fair representation in the Body which controls the expenditure of the rates to which they contribute so largely. Last year a Bill was introduced by a Member of the House which would have had the effect of modifying the requirement that two-thirds of the Council should petition Parliament, and would have given power to the ratepayers to put the machinery of that Bill into operation. That Bill was opposed by the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and one of the grounds of his opposition was that as the Tories were in Office they would appoint the Boundary Commissioner, and that there was a risk of the boundaries of the new wards being "gerrymandered" to suit the wishes of the Tory Party. The circumstances have now completely changed. A Liberal Government is in power; the Commissioner would be appointed by them, and I do not share the anxiety displayed by the hon. Member 15 as regards my political opponents, for I believe that the Commissioner appointed to inquire into the matter would do his duty rightly and fairly and justly. Another Member objected to the Bill on the ground that in Liverpool all the Aldermen were of the Conservative Party, and that, therefore, they more than balanced the difference in the representation between one set of wards and the other. That, too, has been remedied, and the Aldermen are now equally divided between the two Parties. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division (Mr. R. Neville), in opposing the Bill, said it would be unwise to alter the general law to suit one particular case. I do not ask the House to alter the law, but simply to apply to a particular case the law now in force. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool, and another hon. Member — Dr. Commins—who is no longer a Member of this House, declared that a re-arrangement of the wards could not go alone without a redistribution of rating, or at any rate an equalisation of rating. My reply, if that objection is made to the Bill before the House now, is that in it provision is made for the equalisation of the rating. I come next to the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, who, I assume, to-day represents the Town Council so far as this Bill is concerned. That Amendment is in direct opposition to the Motion I am now about to submit to the House. He suggests that instead of adopting this plan we ought to proceed by a separate measure, or that the matter should be dealt with in the forms prescribed for such cases by the Municipal Corporations Act. I have this to say: that if the hon. Member will, on behalf of the Liverpool Town Council, undertake that they will put in force the clause of the Municipal Corporations Act which empowers an inquiry into the matter, I am satisfied, and will not proceed with the Motion of which I have given notice. I know that the House in its corporate capacity is rightfully attached to precedents, and has become more and more so, even while it has been growing more democratic and more independent, so far as, individual Members are concerned. Now I have a precedent before me which is on all fours with the case I have now to submit. In 1887 the City of Belfast 16 promoted a Main Drainage Bill in this House, and the hon. Member who then sat for the Western Division of the city (Mr. Sexton) proposed that there should be incorporated in it a clause for dealing with the franchise of Belfast as well as with the extension of its boundaries and an alteration of the wards. He pointed out that the ward distribution was made 50 years ago, and that the population had since quadrupled, and he asked the House to accept an Instruction which was mandatory to the Committee. I simply ask the House by my Motion to refer the matter to a Committee for consideration.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman is now discussing his Instruction. It would be more regular, first, to decide the first paragraph which proposes its reference to a specially-constituted Committee.
§ MR. FORWOOD
Then, Mr. Mayor [laughter]—like the President of the Local Government Board, I have been very much associated with municipal matters, and that is why this error has slipped from my lips—then, Mr. Speaker, I will move the first paragraph—That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of Seven Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Three by the Committee of Selection.I would say this: I do not wish to interfere with the regular course of this Bill. When I put down this Motion the Police and Sanitary Committee had not been set up, but I should be quite satisfied if the Bill goes to that Committee. Shall I be in Order in amending my proposal by moving that it be sent to the Police and Sanitary Committee?
§ MR. FORWOOD
Would it be open for me to proceed with the Instruction without reference to any Committee?
§ MR. FORWOOD
Then I ask leave to withdraw the first part of my Motion, and to move the rest as an Instruction to the Committee in charge of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of Seven Members, Four to be nominated by the House, and Three by the Committee of Selection."—(Mr. Forwood.)
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. FORWOOD
Now, Sir, I beg to move the second paragraph of the Motion—That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Liverpool Corporation Bill to consider and report to the House whether in their opinion the existing division of the City of Liverpool into wards affords to the Ratepayers a fair and equitable representation, with power to the Committee to make provision for a rearrangement, if they deem the same inequitable.I was—when interrupted on the point of Order—justifying my action in bringing forward this proposal for an Instruction by a reference to the course of procedure adopted in regard to the Belfast Main Drainage Bill. When that Bill was under consideration in this House the then Member for West Belfast argued that the wealthy districts of the city were over-represented, and that money was lavished on the richer districts, while the poorer districts were unrepresented and neglected. I am endeavouring to show that the same argument is applicable to Liverpool. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall, who was then Chairman of Committees in this House, objected to proceeding by means of such an Instruction on the ground that it was sought to alter the general law by a Private Bill, and also to extend the borough of Belfast (it was then a borough and not a city) by embracing within it adjoining districts which had not consented to such a union, and consent for which is required from them by Parliament whenever a borough seeks to change its boundaries. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool on that occasion supported the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast, while the Chairman of Committees moved the Previous Question, which was carried. The progress of the Bill was, however, closely watched by one of the ablest Parliamentary hands, by a Member of apparently never-tiring energy. I am referring to the hon. Member who at the time represented West Belfast, and he on the Third Reading proposed and carried a 18 clause which added to the Drainage Bill provisions altering the franchise and increasing the electorate from 6,000 to no less than 35,000. That proposal was, in the first instance, objected to by the right hon. Gentleman who now fills the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland; and Sir James Corry, who was then a Member of the House, offered to assent to the postponement of the Bill if the Government would undertake to do all they could to promote the passing of a Municipal Franchise Bill. As a fact, the consideration of the Bill was postponed; but on the resumption of the Debate the clause altering the franchise was carried by 128 votes to 98 votes, among the Ayes being the present President of the Local Government Board, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Home Secretary, and the Attorney General, the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool, and other supporters of the present Government. Clearly we have here a case on all fours with the matter which I have ventured to bring before the House. The proposal then carried was to alter the law as regards the franchise in a particular town. I only ask the House to-day to instruct its Committee to inquire if there is sufficient reason for calling upon the Liverpool City Council to put in force permissive powers with which Parliament has endowed it, and to take steps to remedy a great injustice by which a large proportion of the people of Liverpool are greatly and grossly misrepresented. The result of the action with regard to the Belfast Bill was that the clause was ultimately taken out of the Bill, and the Government of the day undertook to push forward a Bill altering the franchise in Ireland. That Bill became law when the clause had been eliminated, and the wishes of those who desired to alter the franchise were satisfied by a separate Act. If the hon. Member for the Scotland Division will undertake that the Liverpool Town Council will of its own volition take steps to have the evil which I have pointed out remedied, or if the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board will adopt with regard to Liverpool that action which the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary for Ireland took with regard to the Belfast Main Drainage Bill and promise Government support to the measure which 19 has been introduced by the hon. Member for South Islington, I shall be willing to withdraw my Motion altogether. I thank the House for the considerate attention it has given to what has proved a dry, and it may be uninteresting, subject, and I beg to move the Instruction which stands in my name.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction to the Committee on the Liverpool Corporation Bill to consider and report to the House whether in their opinion the existing division of the City of Liverpool into wants affords to the Ratepayers a fair and equitable representation, with power to the Committee to make provision for a rearrangement if they deem the same inequitable."—(Mr. Forwood.)
§ MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
On a point of Order, Sir, I wish to know whether the result of the right hon. Gentleman's action is not to send this Bill to a Private Committee in the ordinary course, and whether, therefore, his Instruction is in Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the Bill goes before the Police and Sanitary Committee the Instruction is in Order.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
The right hon. Gentleman in moving his Instruction has not spoken in any way in a partisan spirit, and I propose, in asking the House to reject his Motion, to speak in exactly the same spirit. I am not altogether hopeless that I shall succeed in inducing hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House to see the uudesirability of adopting the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. I cannot accept some of the statements of the right hon. Gentleman. The law of the country provides certain methods for doing that which he proposes; as he has said, any Corporation in the country has a right by a vote of two-thirds of its members to petition the Queen for a Commission to deal with the question of changing the areas of wards. When he asks me to pledge the Liberal majority in the City Council to take certain action he invites me to give a pledge which not even that majority would be entitled to give, because the law safeguards the rights of ratepayers in these matters in a most direct manner, and insists that they, as well as the Council, shall assent to any proposal of this nature before Parliament can sanction it. It would, therefore, be an impertinence on my part to make any 20 statement until the ratepayers of Liverpool had been consulted according to the prescribed form. I cannot accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that it was impossible to alter these wards before. Forty-three constitute two-thirds of the entire City Council, and for several years the Party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs had at least as many as 43 representatives on the Corporation; indeed, at one period, I believe their total was as high as 49. For at least 10 years the Liberal members of the Council implored the right hon. Gentleman and his friends to consider this matter; but they implored in vain. Now in the days of his weakness the right hon. Gentleman wants us to consider and take up a matter which in the days of his strength he refused to deal with. I think we must look with suspicion on any proposal which seeks to go behind the back of the City Council and to get the Imperial Parliament to do work which the Corporation ought itself to do. This very Bill is the creation of a Motion of the right hon. Gentleman himself; but although that Motion deals with various corporate duties of great importance, it contains not a single syllable about a change in the wards. If the right hon. Gentleman intended to raise this question, he ought surely to have raised it in the Municipal Corporation itself, especially as, at that time, the right hon. Gentleman was a most prominent and powerful member of that Body, and he and his friends were in a majority in the Corporation. He could, therefore, have secured the necessary majority for its adoption. Why, the Conservatives themselves by their own action showed how little importance they attached to the question; for when a Motion in regard to it was put forward, they did not attend the Council meeting in sufficient numbers to form a quorum. The Bill is a most important one. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman, who is responsible for many of its provisions, will deny that it is urgently required in the interests of Liverpool; but does the right hon. Gentleman think that, if the present Motion is carried, the Bill will have the slightest chance of passing into law this Session? The fact is, the adoption of this Instruction means the indefinite postponement of urgent and necessary 21 reforms in the city. The ward system in Liverpool is, no doubt, open to reform, but this is not the time or method for carrying out that reform. The majority in the last Parliament did exactly what I am now asking this Parliament to do—namely, to abstain from effecting, by a private measure, what really belongs to a Public Bill. Some wards in Liverpool may, perhaps, be over-represented, while others are under-represented; but the fact remains, that all sections of the population—Conservatives, Liberals, and Irish—possess a representation upon the City Council. That was not the case in Belfast. There the Catholics, although numbering between one-fourth and one-third of the entire population, were without a single representative upon the Corporation of that city. I cannot imagine anything more ruinous to the interests of any community than a system of constant change, accompanied, as it almost certainly will be, by continual gerrymandering, and, therefore, I think we ought to maintain the existing safeguards in regard to changes in ward areas. As to the principle of the Bill of the hon. Member for South Islington, I shall be happy to consider it when it comes before the House. Until that comes before us, or until the Government see their way to propose some modification in the present system, I submit it is undesirable to make an exception in the case of one city. As I understand my Amendment is not in Order, I shall simply ask the House to reject the right hon. Gentleman's Instruction.
§ MR. NEVILLE
My hon. Friend has put the case so plainly that I need not occupy many minutes in stating why I think the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman should not be accepted by the House. I cannot myself see how the right hon. Gentleman could have had any reasonable hope of effecting a redistribution of the wards in Liverpool by the course which he has adopted. The almost inevitable result would have been to sacrifice the Bill, which has been read a second time by this House. That Bill was initiated by the Finance Committee in the year 1892, when the Party of the right hon. Gentleman was in a majority on the Corporation, and it received the unanimous assent of the Committee, both Liberals and Conservatives joining in approving it. It went before the Council, 22 where also it was unanimously approved, at two special meetings convened in accordance with the provisions of the Borough Funds Act. Under the provisions of the same Act two meetings of the ratepayers were held, and at each of those resolutions were unanimously carried in favour of the promotion of the measure, and that not without having before their minds the question which the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to raise now, but after a discussion and adjournment of the meeting in order that the Council might consider whether the provisions for the alterations of the boundary might properly be introduced in the present Bill. And it does seem to be asking a great deal too much to ask the House to interfere with a practically unanimous decision of the Council in Liverpool and the unanimous decision of the Liverpool ratepayers. Let me point out to the House what seems to me would be the result of adopting the right hon. Gentleman's Instruction. Parliamentary notices having been given in this House, except so far as it is freed from its obligations by this House, outside these Parliamentary notices the Corporation cannot go in promoting their Bill. No instructions were given to include in these Parliamentary notices questions relating to the redistribution of these wards, and the result would be that any attempt to introduce alterations now must inevitably be fatal to the Bill. Suppose the House thought it worth while to interfere with the ordinary course of the Committee in regard to this Instruction, what will be the fate of this Bill when it comes before the other House? And the same objection will meet it in Committee. Then it will be pointed out that it will be contrary to the Standing Orders that the Instruction proposed should be introduced; and the result will inevitably be that even if the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman were not fatal to the passing of this Bill, it would, at any rate, be quite fatal to any possibility of its becoming law during this Session. That alone is a good ground why we should ask hon. Members in this House not to interfere with the decision of the Liverpool Corporation. Surely we have sufficient work to do in this House without being called upon, upon the initiative of a Member who does not even represent a division of the city which makes 23 the proposal—upon the initiative of an outside Member—to go into a re-consideration of the question whether or no the Corporation has acted properly in promoting the Bill in the form before the House or whether it would not be better for the Corporation to have undertaken some additional labours besides those the result of which appears in the Bill? Why should the Liverpool Corporation be placed on a different footing to any other Corporation? If this House once admits the principle that it is part of their proper duty to investigate and interfere with the administration of its business in the ordinary way by a Municipal Corporation, why then we should increase the business of the House—which we already find too heavy—fivefold, and it would become absolutely impossible to get through it. I ask hon. Members to consider what it really is we are asked to do, and to ask themselves whether it would be wise to take the step suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact already pointed out, that the general law provides means by which a redistribution of wards can be attained. It is suggested that these means are not available in the present instance. What I would point out is this: The existing state of the divisions has lasted upwards of 50 years—I believe for 58 years. Until last November, I think during the whole of that time, the Party to which the right hon. Gentleman belongs were in power in Liverpool. Year after year, mouth after month, they had, if they pleased, for years the opportunity of introducing these reforms; and now when, for the first time for nearly 60 years, the Liberal Party is in power, this House is asked to depart from its usual course, and to interfere with the administration of business in Liverpool, when, if they had chosen to do so in the days of their own power, the Party of the right hon. Gentleman might easily have attained what they are now pressing forward. I am not going into the merits of the question as to whether the change should be made, but I say no case has been made out to this House which would warrant hon. Members in departing from the reasonable and just course of leaving Municipal Corporations to manage their own affairs, and not interfering with the unanimous decision of 24 both Parties. I hope the House will not be misled by the right hon. Gentleman, but will see that, in truth, the course he is pursuing is an obstructive policy—a policy which cannot effect the purposes which it professes to aim at, but which, if the right hon. Gentleman persuades the House to adopt it, would be destructive of the very necessary reform proposed by this Corporation.
§ MR. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
I do not propose to trespass for more than a moment, but I want to call the attention of the House to the fact that the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool fell into an error when he told the House, presumably speaking on behalf of the Corporation of Liverpool, that he was unable to give the assurance my right hon. Friend asked him for, behind the Council and the ratepayers of the city. What I want to point out is this: It has been said that the Town Council have the power, if they desire, to effect this change in the redistribution of power in the wards, by the adoption of a resolution to present a Petition by a two-thirds majority in the Council, and on confirmation by a meeting of ratepayers. That confirmation is required solely for the payment of expenses for the promotion of a Private Bill, and does not arise in connection with the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
What I meant to convey in my observations was that this particular Bill had been brought before the House after adoption by the City Council and adoption by a meeting of the ratepayers, and that it would be going behind the ratepayers and superimposing on this Bill matter as to which there had been no consultation.
§ MR. LONG
That is another matter. I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that it was impossible for the Town Council to proceed without confirmation by the ratepayers. The hon. Gentleman is probably not aware of the fact that my right hon. Friend was compelled practically to adopt the line he has adopted to-day, because at the meeting to which the hon. Member refers he pledged himself to bring forward this Motion in the House, and to press its adoption by this House. The Member for the Exchange Division has told us that if this Amendment were carried this Bill must be lost. Why must it be lost? We were told it 25 would be a hardship upon the Corporation of Liverpool, and those who are opposed to these proposals, that they should be called upon without due notice to go into this question of redistribution. I would call attention to the fact that all that is asked by the Amendment is that a Commissioner should inquire whether there are good grounds for this redistribution, and, if so, to take such steps as might be necessary. All the views entertained on the question could, if an inquiry were held, be submitted before the Commissioner appointed by the Government.
§ MR. NEVILLE
I thought I had explained why it would be fatal. The Parliamentary notices could not sustain this matter; and, according to the Standing Orders of the House of Lords, that must be fatal to the Bill when it went there.
§ MR. LONG
If this House saw fit to introduce a change of this kind on the grounds of public advantage brought forward by hon. Gentlemen in this House in all probability a similar course would be followed in the House of Lords. If this change were desirable, not on grounds of public policy but on grounds of advantage to the city itself, I imagine the House of Lords would enter no objection. It has been said there is no ground for the change, and taunts, hardly worthy of hon. Gentlemen, have been flung at my right hon. Friend, who has been asked, "Why did you not do this when you were in the Council"? I am informed that the Corporation of Liverpool was only for a short period in a position to have secured this two-thirds majority when the Conservative Party held the majority in the Council, and at that time it was the intention of the majority in the Corporation, if they had proceeded in this matter, to include in it an extension of the boundaries, and it was only because they desired to make the change a complete one that this particular step was not taken. Nobody desired that this Bill should be lost; but what was 26 desired was that the representation, either Parliamentary or municipal, should be equal and fair. The present state of things in the City of Liverpool is neither equal nor fair, and nobody will deny that a change ought to be effected. We are told that this is not the way to proceed in the matter; but the only other method is by the promotion of a Private Bill, and it is not likely that anybody will again undertake the risk and expenditure of doing that. Then there is the obtaining of a two-thirds majority of the Council, but it is unlikely the Council will reduce its majority and effect the change itself; and I think my right hon. Friend, in the interests of those he represents in the Corporation and the House, was bound to bring this Amendment forward in order that the House of Commons might itself have an opportunity of expressing the opinion whether or not they thought this redistribution of wards should be made.
§ MR. HERBERT GLADSTONE (Leeds, W.)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has told the House that the right hon. Gentleman who has moved this Instruction has brought it forward because he was compelled to do so in consequence of a pledge given by him in Liverpool. He did not tell us why he gave the pledge, or why he gave that pledge on his own responsibility. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Forwood) has endeavoured to bring in the case of the Belfast Main Drainage Bill as a precedent in favour of his action on the present occasion. But there is a great distinction between the two cases. I do not suppose that he himself would argue that the state of things in the Municipality of Belfast is parallel to the state of things in the Municipality of Liverpool. There were grave grounds of public policy to warrant even unusual steps on the part of this House to govern Belfast. In Belfast there was a large Roman Catholic minority, and they had not got one single member on the Town Council. That is a startling condition of things, which would justify this House in any action which might be taken to remedy the grievance. [Mr. SEXTON: And it was done by a Public Bill.] There is no such ground for interference in the present case. The right hon. Gentleman will not tell us that he has any complaint with regard to the representation of 27 Parties in Liverpool. For 50 years there was a large Tory majority on the Corporation, and no change was made, whilst the change is proposed now that the Liberals have only just been returned. It is pretty clear to the House that the state of Parties in Liverpool in local affairs is almost on a balance, and that there is no reason for interfering. The right hon. Gentleman says that the statement by the town clerk or deputy town clerk of Liverpool was an ex parte statement. We may, however, take it that such a statement is published by the deputy town clerk as the representative of the Corporation which he serves, and in that statement he has brought the views of the Corporation before the House. The right hon. Gentleman tells us there are 12,000 ratepayers who signed the Petition in favour of the Instruction, but he did not tell us anything about the 63,000 who did not sign it. I cannot imagine any new circumstances that have arisen since last September to make us pass this Instruction. Previously when there was a Conservative majority in the Corporation, they did not move in this direction; and even when the notices were lodged in conformity with the Borough Funds Act, no reference whatsoever was made to the proposal now before the House, and the Corporation of Liverpool naturally resent the loading of their Bill with an Instruction which is perfectly alien to their purpose, and which is not desired by the majority of the Corporation and the citizens. The Member for West Derby (Mr. Long) said no other course was open to the Mover of this Instruction than the one he had pursued. The hon. Gentleman omitted the case of the Bill brought in by the Member for South Islington (Sir A. Rollit)—the Municipal Corporations Act Amendment Bill. That Bill stands in this position. It has advanced a stage, and has received the support of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. And my hon. Friend mentioned that Bill as an alternative method of proceeding. As far as I can see, no adequate reason whatsoever has been urged in support of the Instruction moved by the right hon. Gentleman, and I sincerely hope the House will reject it. I might point out that if this change were desired, Liverpool stands in an especially favourable position with regard to this 28 matter, because it had a local Bill passed in 1885, according to which a Petition might be presented for altering the boundaries. The step the right hon. Gentleman is now taking is a very curious step; and seeing that his Party have been in a majority in Liverpool for a period of 50 years without proceeding in this direction, I hope the Instruction will be rejected. If you carry this Instruction, it may, in the first place, sacrifice the Bill; in the second place, there is no ground of public policy for interfering with a municipal matter; in the third place, it is not alleged there is any inequality of Parties in Liverpool which requires interference; in the fourth place, the question can be better dealt with in connection with the Bill brought in by the Member for South Islington; and, in the fifth place, we should deal with questions of this kind in a Public Bill, and not in a Private Bill by means of an Instruction.
§ SIR GEORGE BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has shown he is friendly disposed to the Municipal Corporations Act Amendment Bill, and I hope his example of friendliness towards that Bill will be followed by other hon. Gentlemen on that Bench. At the same time, I should like to deprecate in the strongest language the appeals which have been made by hon. Gentlemen to Party politics either in this House or in Liverpool.
§ MR. H. GLADSTONE
It was because I said there was no Party feeling in Liverpool in this matter that I asked the House to reject the Instruction.
§ SIR GEORGE BADEN-POWELL
What I alluded to were the observations as to the Conservative Party being in power all these years, and yet never introducing a Bill. I think myself that any project for providing a fair and equitable representation in the Municipal Council of Liverpool and for doing justice to the people is a matter which ought to be settled before any new arrangements are made in regard to the finances of Liverpool. My right hon. Friend, at the meeting to which allusion was made, distinctly made the pledge as to bringing on this Instruction, otherwise the Bill itself would not have been ap- 29 proved by that meeting. It has been found impossible to obtain the two-thirds majority of the Council so as to proceed in that way, and it is necessary to secure an equitable representation by the means we now ask this House to adopt. I happen to represent a district which is little less than one-half of one municipal division. In that municipal division there are 24,000 electors, who elect three members to the Municipal Council, whereas in another there are only 700.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS (Mr. MELLOR,) York, W.R., Sowerby
It is no part of my duty to express any opinion whatever on the merits of this scheme, but I wish, under present circumstances, to call the attention of the House to the nature of the precedent it is sought to establish. It seems to me it would be an unfortunate course to take; the course which is generally taken is plain. If a Private Bill or a Local Bill is about to be promoted by a Corporation or persons, they give certain notices at a particular time and set down all the provisions of the Bill. If the course now suggested be taken, it will be perfectly possible for anybody to give notice for one Bill, say a small Bill, and then without giving Parliamentary notice, and going behind the Standing Orders of the House, to come down to the House with Instructions of this sort and seek to engraft upon the Bill a very much more important scheme, which the ratepayers have not had the advantage of considering, and which a Corporation would find themselves in considerable difficulty in dealing with by reason of the Borough Funds Bill. What ought to be done? The law has provided a remedy for this state of things. That law is provided by the Municipal Corporations Act. The proper course to pursue for those who wish to make alterations of this kind is to get the Corporation to assent and petition by a two-thirds majority. Objection has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution that it will be difficult or impossible to get that number. But if that be so, surely the remedy is not to proceed by an Instruction of this kind. The true remedy is either to get the Corporation, by persuasion or representation, to change their mind and petition in favour of this scheme, or do as one of the speakers has suggested— 30 amend the Municipal Corporation Bill. I should be disposed to think that if it is impossible to get a Corporation to do either what they ought to do, or many people think they ought to do, that then the true course is to seek for a remedy not in a Private Bill such as this, but by endeavouring to get an amendment in the Municipal Corporation Bill. With regard to the precedent of Belfast, I have to say it seems that the right hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), who moved the Previous Question, thought it undesirable to establish such a precedent. The House on that occasion, I understand, absolutely declined to accept the Instruction or to establish a precedent, because they thought that it was undesirable to go behind the Standing Orders of the House. That being so, there seems to be no real reason for the course suggested, which I think undesirable, and I shall feel it my duty to oppose this Instruction.
§ MR. FORWOOD
In view of the benevolent attitude which the Under Secretary to the Home Office has taken with regard to the Bill before the House for the amendment of the Municipal Corporation Act, I will ask the House for leave to withdraw my Instruction.
MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. Member for Leeds was in error in stating that the Municipal Corporation Bill had been read a second time. It would have been but for the Leader of the Opposition, who blocked it, not knowing whose Bill it was, and a second time it was blocked by the hon. Baronet the Member for Wigton (Sir Herbert Maxwell). I would suggest to the Tory Party that after 12 o'clock at night they should wake up a little so as to see what the are blocking.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.