HC Deb 15 February 1894 vol 21 cc476-568

Lords Amendments considered. Page 1, line 10, to leave out the word "two" and insert the word "five," the first Amendment, read a second time.


said, the Amendment now before the House was an Amendment to alter the number, in respect of population in a parish where the Parish Council was compulsorily established, from 200 to 500, and perhaps the House would allow him for a few-minutes to recall the circumstances under which the figure of 200 was inserted in the Bill. The original proposition of the Government was that the number should be 300, and that the parishes under that figure should be grouped so that they might secure to every parish, in a greater or less degree, the advantages of the Parish Council. Now there were in exact number 13,235 rural parishes in the country, of which 4,373 had a population of over 500, leaving 8,862 under 500. Of those 8,862, there were 4,423 under 200, so that the Lords Amendment would deal with 4,439 parishes. The House would recollect that very great objection was entertained against compulsory grouping, and a strong opinion was expressed that the Government in selecting the number of 300 as the limit had fixed the figure too high. On the Second Reading of the Bill he told the House that the Govern- ment would endeavour to carry out, as far as they could, what appeared to he the general sense of the House on the point, and there seemed to be a strong consensus of opinion in favour of 200. The Government accepted this view. They were now asked to raise the number to 500. If this Amendment of the other House was adopted many counties would be seriously affected. The number of parishes which would be affected in Cheshire was 125, in Devonshire 153, in Essex 122, in Gloucester 127, in Lincolnshire 244, in Norfolk 293, and in Suffolk 228, and ho could give information to show that if the Amendment was accepted considerable disadvantage would be inflicted on those parishes. He was quite aware that it might he said that those parishes between 200 and 500 would have the power of obtaining the Parish Councils if they chose to exercise it. There were two ways of looking at this question: One was to look at it as a question of principle, and the other as a matter of practical expediency. The principle he took to be that all parishes should have, as far as possible, full powers of self-government and complete local organisation, and that they should only be deprived of them where the practical difficulties— that was to say, the question of population—were so great as to make them unworkable. He had previously stated in the House that it was estimated that about 20 per cent. of the population would be parochial electors, and the question was what was the limit of number of parochial electors to whom it would be convenient or inconvenient to give the machinery of a Parish Council. He would no doubt be told that the parishes that did not have a Council would have a parish meeting, and that to that parish meeting considerable powers had been given by the Hill; but the House would recollect that where government by parish meeting was conceded, that parish meeting was to be worked by means of a committee. They could not govern anybody or any place through 40 or 50 men attending together to do business, and the House had provided that the parish meeting should have a committee. But this was an imperfect organisation, and would be subject to certain restrictions. The Parish Council would have larger rating powers than the parish meeting, and therefore they would have, side by side, parishes with such rating powers, and large parishes under 500 deprived of those powers which their neighbours possessed. [Opposition cries of "No, no !"] He was merely stating his own opinion. It might be asked why they should compel those people to have a Parish Council, and why they should not fix the limit of population at 500. But if they were to introduce this principle why should they not go beyond even 500,and say that the whole thing should be optional, and that no parish should have a Parish Council unless it wished to, which would practically be making this legislation to a great extent inoperative. The population limit of 500 could not be defended, and if it were entertained there was no reason why they should not go higher. What Parliament had to do was to carry out the wish of the country without subjecting it to the annoyance, trouble, and vexation which would arise and the friction that would be involved if there were to he a contest in every village. He did not wish to say anything that could be in the slightest degree offensive to the Opposition or suggestive of differences; but among hon. Gentlemen opposite there was considerable difference of opinion as to the value of these Parish Councils, and some had said that they attached very little value to them. He did not think it would be right or fair to expose the parishes to a conflict of opinion — he might use a stronger word—knowing certain influences that would be brought to hear upon them—as to the advantage of these institutions. This Amendment was not one which came from the other House with a very strong expression of opinion in it. favour. There was large difference of opinion in the House of Lords upon this Amendment; and the Government themselves had no hesitation in asking the House to adhere to the figure which this House had already adopted. He therefore moved that the House disagree with the Lords Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)

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

said, the right hon. Gentleman had spoken with great moderation and courtesy, and he need hardly say that the Opposition would endeavour to follow his example, while expressing their views as clearly and strongly as he had done. He would remind the House that the raising of the limit from 200 to 500 was strongly supported on that side of the House; and there were very good reasons why the higher figure should be adhered to. He was quite prepared to admit that even a larger number might be desirable; but as the House had accepted the general principle that Parish Councils should be formed in the larger parishes he accepted the limitation of 500, with the option between that number and 200. The right hon. Gentleman was quite mistaken in asserting that the result of the action of the House of Lords had been to deprive the people of the villages of Parish Councils. No doubt there was on the other side a belief, based upon ignorance rather than knowledge, that in the parishes in which Councils were left optional there would be a contest between owners and occupiers on one side and the agricultural labourers on the other side. That was believed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. But surely they must admit that Members of the Opposition who represented agricultural constituencies believed they were carrying out the wishes of those constituencies to whom they would have to appeal for reelection. There was no foundation whatever for the idea that owners and occupiers desired to act against the labourers in this matter; and the House might safely leave to these rural communities the power of deciding for themselves whether they would have Parish Councils or not. Anyone acquainted with agricultural districts would realise that in many-parishes of 300 or 400 inhabitants there would be considerable difficulty in securing the return of a Parish Council if they compelled them to elect one. He had in his mind many rural villages where the population amounted to 300 or 400, but it was brought up to that number by adding together three or four small collections of cottages, many of them lying a considerable distance from the centre of the village, and having little or nothing in common with the life of the village itself. The limit of 500 would allow these scattered cottagers to decide for themselves whether they would have a Parish Council or a parish meeting. The right hon. Gentleman had said that they ought to go further. That was not the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman in 1888. A very similar arrangement had to be made in the Act of 1888. In that Act certain powers were proposed to be conferred upon boroughs. The opinion of the right hon. Gentleman then was that there should be some definite limit. The Government in their original proposal suggested that the limit should be 100,000. It was suggested and supported by the President of the Local Government Board himself that the limit should be 50,000, and the House found that there was good reason why there should be a limit in respect of special powers being conferred upon these urban communities. In the Act of 1888, which the right hon. Gentleman supported, it was compulsory that below a population of 50,000 the privileges of a county borough should not be possessed by the towns. It was just as difficult to argue that there was a distinction between two populations of 50,000 and 48,000 respectively as it was in this case to defend the limit of 500 against that of 600. It was necessary to make a limit, and the Opposition believed that a limit of 500 was a better compromise than that of 200 without option, as fixed by the Bill when it left this House. He must say one word before he sat down with regard to the action outside this House of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to be in his place, but no doubt he was in the neighbourhood, and would be well aware of the fact that some allusion would probably be made to a speech which he had delivered. He imagined it was desirable that they should approach the consideration of these questions in the spirit which had animated the President of the Local Government Board—that of fairness and courtesy, and with a desire to get rid of the difficulties that presented themselves with as little friction as possible. He ventured to say, however, that if that be the desire of hon. Gentlemen opposite—as it certainly was the desire of hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House—they had found a most unfortunate champion in the Chancellor of the Duchy, who had thought it right, upon the eve of their proceedings here, to put the action of the House of Lords and the action of the Conservative Party in a light as unfair as it was possible for a man to do. The Chancellor of the Duchy was, in his opinion, guilty of a double wrong in this matter. In the first place, he had failed altogether to present the action of the House of Lords in a reasonable and fair manner; and, in the second place, he did not even choose to wait until this House had met, and hon. Members on the Opposition side had expresed their opinions, but he made a wholesale accusation against the Conservative Party that they were anxious to deprive a large number of parishes of Parish Councils. A more unjust and unfair statement was never made. There was no foundation of truth in it. The right hon. Gentleman took great exception to a letter written by a Member of the other House; he was exceptionally angry because he was accused of misrepresenting facts. Well, the Opposition did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman; they did not admire his politics, and it was not their business to applaud him, but certainly no one among them would bring against the right hon. Gentleman the charge which he had brought against himself; they did not admire the right horn Gentleman as a politician, although they did so as a scholar and as one who had done good work for the literature of this country; but they would not have brought the charge against him which he had brought against himself— namely, that although he thoroughly understood the facts of the case, and had been a constant follower of their Debates and understood the subject, yet he had not a sufficient command of the English language to be able to express the simple position of affairs. [Mr. BRYCE entered the House at this point.] He was glad the right hon. Gentleman had returned to the House, because he must he aware that the statements he had made had created a good deal of irritation among hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House, and in the Conservative Party generally. In his letter, in which he defended his action, the right hon. Gentleman said he made the statements believing that they would ho understood by those who knew the terms of the Bill, and had, as he had, the Debates of the House of Commons in his mind. Well, he ventured to say he knew the Bill as well as the right hon. Gentleman did, and there was only one possible construction which could he placed upon the words which the right hon. Gentleman delivered at Liverpool, and that was that the action of the House of Lords and the prospective action of the Conservative Party would have the effect of depriving a large number of parishes of Parish Councils. Did hon. Members opposite believe the people of the rural parishes did not want these Parish Councils? Hon. Gentlemen shook their heads. If they did not, did they believe that the squire, the parson, and the farmer would prevent them having Councils? ["Hear, hear !"] He was glad to hear that hon. Gentlemen opposite had so great a belief still in the squire and the parson. He thought they looked upon them as institutions which were worn out altogether. Were hon. Gentlemen aware of the fact that there wore a large number of parishes in this country—a great many of which would be affected by this Amendment—in which there were no squires, where the land was held by two or three people, and where the labourers formed the large majority, and were practically able to dictate their own terms and arrangements with their employers? Did hon. Members venture to assort that whore these circumstances obtained the two or three farmers would be able to coerce the labourers into not having a Parish Council if they wished it? If they relied on any argument of that kind it would be unworthy of the Party opposite and of the gentlemen who professed to represent agricultural constituencies, and to know something of them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite accused the Opposition of having no sympathy with the labourers; but they had, at any rate, never offered such an insult to the labourers as to suggest that they would not have the pluck and the power of asserting themselves at the parish meeting and have a Parish Council if they desired one. He submitted the Amendment was a distinct improvement of the Bill. They discussed the matter fully when the Bill was in the House originally, and the views they expressed then they adhered to now. They had not the slightest desire to deprive any place of a Parish Council if it wished to have it. This magic number of 200 was no indication that the parish affected would be better suited to have a Parish Council than would be a population of 500. He had no doubt there would be many smaller places, where they would have a community of interest and life, where they would desire a Parish Council; and, on the other hand, there would be villages between 200 and 500 that would not want a Parish Council, and that would decide not to have one. This was essentially a case, pure and simple, of trusting the people of the rural district. He quite agreed with the President of the Local Government Board that what they wanted was to create and form a smaller local government for their rural communities which would enable them to administer their own affairs in an efficient and economical manner, but they did not want to force that form upon them and compel them to elect Parish Councils, even if they did not want to do so. If the Government proposal were adhered to, every village would be compelled to elect a Parish Council, but under the Amendment of the House of Lords the country village would decide whether it would have a Parish Council or not. He ventured with great earnestness to recommend the adoption by this House of the Amendment of the House of Lords, believing, as he did, that it evinced a more thorough proof of trust and confidence in the people than the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite who wished to force a Parish Council upon them, and believing also that the Amendment would be acceptable to the vast majority of the villages of the country.


I had no intention of intervening in this Debate, and I do not propose now to take up much of the time of the House, because I know there are many Members, especially those representing agricultural constituencies, who may desire to express their views on this question, and to state what they believe will be the effect of this change upon the agricultural constituencies. But I must say a word in reply to the personal charge which the hon. Member who has just sat down has brought against me. He knows what is the answer I have already made in the public Press to a similar charge brought against me there. I think when I had disclaimed there, in the most explicit way, any intention whatever to convey the meaning he attributes to me; when I had stated that it never occurred to me until I read the letter signed by Lord Denbigh in The Times that such an interpretation could be put upon my words, I think that ought to have been enough, and that it is entirely unreasonable and unfair for the hon. Gentleman to bring the matter up again. I have admitted that my words were liable to be misunderstood, but, as I have said in the most unqualified way, nothing was further from my intention than to convey the sense which the hon. Member puts upon them. One word I must say to explain how it came that I should express myself in that way. As the House knows, the alteration which the Lords have made in this clause is an alteration simply in the population limit. In every other respect the clause remains unchanged. That is to say, the provision giving the option of a Parish Council which was in the Bill before is in the Bill now, and the Lords made no change save from 200 to 500. My words at Liverpool expressly referred to this population limit and to nothing else, and it was obvious to anyone who knew the terms of the Bill that in complaining of their action I complained only of this particular change, and did not imply that they had taken away the option from parishes below 500. In other words, my complaint was that what the Commons had given to the whole of the parishes with a population of over 200 the Lords had restricted to parishes having a. population of over 500. I must now add that I adhere to the opinion which I then intended to convey, and which has been conveyed by my right hon. Friend beside me to-night—that the change is a bad one, which will deprive many parishes of Councils. I look upon this Amendment as very pernicious to the Bill. It is a part of that policy which is called "contracting out"—permissive legislation, which under the name of giving freedom is intended to deprive people of it. That, Sir, was the line which we took in the long Debates upon the point in this House. We argued then that what it was necessary to give was the security and certainty that the creation of a Parish Council should not be left open to the chance of election, or of the influences that might be used at an election; but that if the thing was fit to be given it ought to be given definitely, directly, and without fail to the people; and I confess to believing that the sentiments which have been expressed by the hon. Member opposite to-night, and which, apparently, are shared by many hon. Gentlemen sitting behind him, do rest upon distrust of the people, do rest upon a desire not to have Parish Councils, and are indications of a hope that this Amendment may prevent Parish Councils from coining into existence in very many of those places where we desire to have them. Therefore, while I admit that had I been speaking in fuller detail it would have been better to have expressed the idea in a way which would have been liable to no possible misapprehension, I repeat that the substance of what I said was perfectly true, that the language and attitude of the House of Lords indicates what their policy is, and it is upon that practical issue of securing Councils instead of leaving them to the chances of a contest that we have to tight this Amendment.

*MR. HENEAGE (Great Grimsby)

said, he held exactly the same view now as he did on the Committee stage of this Bill, when he urged that 200 should be fixed as the limit of population, and he should support the President of the Local Government Board in the Lobby. He must dissociate himself as far as possible from the extravagant and misleading language of the Chancellor of the Duchy, and what he considered as his worse than half-hearted apology they bad just heard. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say he did not mean what he said. The words the right hon. Gentleman used were in plain English, and would go forth to every village in this country as the opinion of a Cabinet Minister; but how many would read his half-hearted apology in The Times? His words would be quoted again and again, although they were inaccurate and misleading. All villages of over 200 of a population would be entitled to a Parish Council, whether the Lords Amendment was carried or the Amendment which was agreed to when the Bill was debated before this House. But the circumstances were entirely different. In one case they would be entitled to it by right or statute, and in the other only after delay and after going through certain formalities. They would very likely have to take a poll of the parish, and get an Order from the County Council. He did not see why all the parishes which desired to have a Parish Council should be put to that inconvenience. He had a much stronger reason. He lived in the country for a great deal of the year. He did not desire to see ill-feeling or dissatisfaction in the parishes, and if there was to be a conflict of opinion with regard to the Parish Council, however small the minority might be, it would lead to ill-feeling, and the result of that ill-feeling would be that when the Council came to be chosen they would be all chosen from those who voted with the majority, and the minority would be left without any representation at all; and therefore, from the landowners' point of view, this limit of 500 was a very bad one. Putting that aside, he would like to ask, Why should any parishes be left out in the cold? They discussed this, matter over and over again in Committee; they discussed every population, and the fixing of this limit, and the division of the parishes in England into three classes, and he thought that the understanding which was arrived at in this House should. be adhered to. He thought when an honourable arrangement was come to by Members of this House, such as in this case, they ought to stand by their own Amendment, and he had not heard any reasons put forward in the other place which should induce them to depart from it.

MR. JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke

said, with regard to what the right hon. Gentleman had stated with regard to an arrangement he must say he did not remember any arrangement; in fact, he and his friends divided on this very point, and none of them agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in the proposal he made. They were very glad to hear the explanation which the Chancellor of the Duchy had given of his speech; although it was rather difficult to understand, because he went on to qualify it, and to tell them that if they adhered to the Lords Amendment they would take away the freedom of the people, and show themselves to be against these Parish Councils altogether. Instead of taking away the freedom of the people by the adoption of the Amendment, he contended they would be giving more liberty to the parishes, and they wished to give the liberty to small parishes to elect whether they would have Parish Councils or not. They desired to give perfect liberty of action; but the Government wished to put any parish having a population of over 200 to all the trouble and expense incident to the establishment of a Parish Council, whether they liked it or not, He thought that was very unfair. He did not, himself, like having any of those limits, and thought it would be much better to have no limit at all, leaving it to every parish to have a parish meeting and choose whether it would have a Parish Council or not. After stumping the country, and telling the people of all the blessings which were to be conferred by Parish Councils, right hon. Gentlemen opposite were very much afraid that unless they put in some compulsory clause many of the parishes would be content to go on as before, and not have a Parish Council at all. The Opposition, however, were not afraid of giving all the parishes complete liberty of action. Their inhabitants were not a down-trodden but an independent people, who would give a perfectly free vote without the slightest coercion from any one. He agreed with the Lords Amendment, because he thought it better to give the small parishes liberty of action. However good the Parish Councils might be, they would undoubtedly lead to a great deal of expense, and for this reason the small parishes ought to have the option of saying whether they would have a Parish Council or not.


I think the speech we have just listened to sufficiently explains the object of the Lords Amendment. I have nothing to complain of in the tone or temper of the speech of the hon. Member for the West Derby Division. If he will allow me to enter one protest, it is that he always assumes that no gentleman on this side of the House knows anything about the rural districts. I really believe that he thinks opinion on this subject requires a very high property qualification, and that unless we may be fortunate enough like himself to possess many broad acres, we know nothing of rural life. It is my misfortune, from the accident of nature, to have lived a great deal longer in the country than the hon. Member for the West Derby Division, and I confess I think—though I have not the advantage to which I have alluded of possessing the broad acres—I feel as much sympathy for these rural districts as he does. The hon. Member for West Derby has, I think, very frankly stated what is the objection we have to this Amendment. I do not expect him to share it, but it is an objection which is felt on this side of the House. We believe that in the small parishes, and particularly in the smaller parishes, strong pressure and influence will be brought to prevent the creation of Parish Councils. That is entirely consonant with all my experience of these districts. The hon. Member for West Derby and the gentlemen behind him say, "Oh, there are representatives of that class." Yes, but influence and pressure of that kind is brought to boar on Parliamentary elections. That is our view, and that is why we object to this Amendment. I know the hon. Member for West Derby says they are all very eager for Parish Councils, and if he says so, I believe it; but do not let us have any fencing about this matter. There are a great many people in this country who do not want Parish Councils, and will do all they can to prevent Parish Councils being called into existence; and it is because we believe it is these smaller parishes that will be most defenceless in this respect, and that that influence will be more powerful in the smaller than in the larger parishes, that we are opposed to this Amendment introduced by the House of Lords, and that we shall vote against it.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

I really, after having listened with attention to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy, have come to the conclusion that, excepting the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board, there is not a Member upon that Bench who has ever road the Bill. For what, Sir, is the argument we have just listened to? It amounts to this: that in rural England it is always in the power of the minority to coerce the majority, and that that power incrcases in proportion as the parishes to be coerced diminish in size; that it is easier to coerce a parish of 500 than a parish of 1,000, and a parish of 300 than a parish of 500, and easiest of all to coerce a parish of 150. Yet under their own clause the Government has given this liberty of choice, as we think it, precisely to those very parishes which, according to the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, are most likely to be coerced. Under the Bill, parishes with a population between 100 and 200 are to he allowed to say whether they will, or will not, have a Parish Council; and if there is a single atom of sense in the contention which has been addressed to us from the other side of the House, it is evident the Government were, in consistency, bound not merely to refuse this liberty to parishes of 500, but far more to deprive those parishes between 100 and 200 of the power of determining whether they shall, or shall not, enjoy the blessings of a Parish Council. In the very extraordinary explanation—for I suppose we must call it an explanation —which we have been privileged to listen to from the Chancellor of the Duchy this afternoon, he told us there was a great difference between his friends and us as to the meaning of liberty. He thinks that liberty is likely to be fostered and preserved to the agricultural labourer by the Bill as the Government framed it rather than by the Bill as we propose to amend it. Remember, I am speaking to a right hon. Gentleman who has earned his chief laurels in the field of political philosophy; and I ask him whether liberty can possibly exist without an alternative of choice? For my part, I should have thought to say to a parish, not that "you may do one of two things," but that "you must do one thing whether you like it or not," may be a very good course, and an expedient course, but is not a course in conformity with liberty; and in so far as it is a course to be recommended at all, it is to be recommended on other grounds than that of liberty of choice. In calmer moments the right hon. Gentleman will be able to see whether the Bill, as it has come down to us from another place, or the Hill as it was sent up to another place, be the better. At all events, the form of the Bill as it has come to us is far more in favour of liberty of choice than it is in the form of the Government. Is this a subject on which we ought to have liberty of choice? Well, there is no difference on the two sides of the House that you ought to have liberty of choice in certain cases, because the Bill gives that liberty. The only question is, whether you should extend the limit above 200, or give it to a larger number of parishes than at present. We think that this liberty o choice might, with expediency, be granted. We think that with all the advantages which will be conferred, and may be conferred, on rural communities by this Bill, one possible disadvantage will be that it may lead to an increase of local expenditure. We think, rightly or wrongly, that if you are going to bring into play the whole machinery of local government as provided by the Bill in the smaller parishes, it will probably be that in many cases you will greatly increase the rates in the parishes, and we desire that the ratepayers themselves should have the power of deciding whether they should have a more perfect but more expensive machinery, or whether they should have a less perfect, but, at the same time, a less expensive machinery. We do not deny that the organisation provided by the Parish Council is of a complete character, more suited to do complicated work and deal with difficult problems. But there are probably many parishes where such problems are not likely to arise, where the special machinery created by this Bill will not prove necessary, and where economy to the pocket of the ratepayer and public expenditure will be better consulted by the parish contenting itself with the cruder form of machinery which you yourselves think sufficiently good for a parish under 200. Under these circumstances, there appears to be no principle involved between the two sides of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the country, but not very much in this House, very lately endeavoured to raise this as a great subject of dispute between the two Parties in the State. I am not going to treat it in that way; I do not, think it worthy of it. It is a question of degree, involving no question of principle whatever. The principle of the Lords Amendment is conceded by the Bill, and the only question is, whether we shall go as far as the Lords or not. I agree with the Member for Liverpool personally, and I think it would be more in conformity with expediency to agree with the Amendment as sent down. I shall, therefore, vote with my hon. Friend when the Division is called; but I do not for a moment pretend that we are discussing anything vital to the Bill, or discussing any great question of principle. I only ask the House to leave a larger measure of elasticity in the provisions of this Bill than they appear disposed to do. I am convinced if they do that, the result will be that the more elaborate machinery provided by this Bill will only be applied to cases where it will be most certain to conduce to the general prosperity of the population concerned. I think that sufficient reason for supporting my hon. Friend (Mr. Long); but I do not wish that anything that has fallen from me should raise this question into a degree of importance which, from a practical point of view, it does not possess.

COLONEL KENYON-SLANEY (Shropshire, Newport)

said, that some hon. Members had taken advantage of the short recess allowed them by the Government to try and ascertain what were the feelings and wishes of the rural districts most intimately concerned by this Bill. He himself throughout the whole progress of the measure had declared himself a supporter of the principles involved in this Bill, and wished to see it carried into legislative effect; but he was not prepared to say this House alone constituted and enclosed the entire consummate wisdom of the country, and that it was impossible for them to amend their discussions and decisions by reference to the discussions and decisions elsewhere, especially when they knew they were conducted by those who, in comparison with many of the Members of the Commons, were experts in the matters dealt with by this Bill. He desired to reflect what little he had been able to gather as to the feelings in many of the parishes with regard to this limit and the compulsory clause which the Government had introduced into this measure. There were many parishes in the Midland Counties, not the least in the world under the domination of any individual, but typical parishes representing rural life in its most essential forms, who were watching this Bill by no means with very great anticipation, but with a certain amount of doubt and hesitation. Many of them were in this position: They said they saw in the measure much which might be useful and agreeable, and which they would like to adopt, but, on the other hand, they saw in it a good deal of machinery that would be cumbersome, expensive, and probably provocative of a good deal of irritation and bad feeling. They were not altogether certain how the machinery would practically work; they were, therefore, contented with the system which now existed, and they said they would very much prefer to see the working of this measure in the parishes where it was ardently wished for, and by the experience thus gained they would judge whether they should ask for a Parish Council or not. There was, he thought, something of English common sense, moderation, and prudence in the view which was adopted by many of the parishes he represented, and he believed if they adopted the Lords Amendment they would be helping the parishes in the direction they wished to travel. This must be patent to those of them who lived in the country and were conversant with country life—not, however, in the way the Chancellor of the Exchequer was conversant with it, because although the right hon. Gentleman had told them he had lived in the country all his life, still he had never persuaded a country constituency to return him to Parliament; therefore, he could not take the right hon. Gentleman as accurately representing the opinions of rural agricultural districts. He would urge that it would be well to give the parishes the power of option in this matter. He supposed he was open to the charge of being a Tory squire, or landlord—one of those local tyrants who figured in the speeches of the Chancellor of the Duchy and similarly ignorant people. For his part, if he were asked for his advice by these villages, he should say: go in for a Council as, on the whole, the wisest; but many of them would say they would prefer not to accept a Parish Council until they saw whether its working would be in the direction they had desired. If this Amendment of the Lords —which he regarded as an improvement— were introduced they would be giving these people the right to hesitate, and make up their minds by degrees; and if that were not common sense and fair play he should like to know what was. The President of the Local Government Board, who was actuated by a earnest wish to make this a good and beneficial measure, said there were two modes of looking at the question. One was the question of principle, and the other was expediency. He ventured to say there were two other modes, and that those modes were adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by those who sat on the Front Bench, too, which were the principles of statesmanship and of electioneering. On the Treasury Bench sat two right hon. Gentlemen who might be called first-class exponents, either of statesmanship or electioneering. The President of the Local Government Board, by his conduct of the Bill, had shown his powers of statesmanship, and heartily as they might oppose him on the details, no less did they admire the tone and temper with which the right hon. Gentleman had conducted the measure, and the genuineness he had shown in the support of his off-spring. In the Chancellor of the Exchequer again they saw a first-class exponent, not so much of statesmanship as of electioneering. The right hon. Gentleman not very many hours ago went down in his capacity of principal electioneer of his Party, and thumped that big drum which they had heard before. He (Colonel Kenyon-Slaney) had had some experience of a big drummer, and the fault he had to find with him was that he invariably hit it in the same place, wore out the drum-head, made a hole in it, and reduced the instrument to silence in due course. If they wished this to be a measure not of electioneering but of statesmanship the House would be wiser in following the lead of the President of the Local Government Board than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he thought they could, by accepting this Amendment, show they believed in the essential principle of confidence in the people by giving them that very thing which Englishmen most liked—namely, the opportunity of seeing how an experiment worked before actually adopting it for themselves. There was a feeling in favour of such a course which was very largely felt throughout the rural districts, and he was sure the measure would be no less surely adopted in the long run, and productive of good results, if they allowed this option which was given by the Amendment of the Lords. All they asked was, that they should not interfere with any parish that did not want a Parish Council, and should not force a Parish Council on them. Ho would remind the right hon. Member for Grimsby that there did exist three classes of parishes under this Bill. There was the parish that had a population of under 100, and they must not have a Parish Council; there was the parish of over 100 who might, have this Council; and there was the parish of over 200 which must have this Council; so that there did exist these different gradations which the Member for Grimsby did not seem to recognise, and about which they had some difference when discussing the question before. He hoped and trusted the Government would accept the Amendment, and give this option to the small parishes.

*MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)

thought it advisable to remind the House that when this Amendment was originally brought forward it was not of a Party character, but was brought forward at the request of a non-Party body, the County Councils Association, and it was discussed as a purely administrative non-Party question. There was at that time considerable division of opinion among individual Members of both Parties. On the one hand, the Member for Grimsby expressed the same strong opinion that he had expressed to-night; and, on the other hand, the Member for Halifax, a very high authority on questions of local government, said that in his opinion this proposal was, on the whole, the more democratic proposal of the two. Since this question was discussed in Committee, they had very much elaborated and improved the clauses relating to the parish meetings; they had conferred on the parish meetings much larger powers. Instead of putting the small parishes in a position of degradation, they were really putting them in a superior position to the larger parishes. They would be able to choose whether they would have a Parish Council, or whether they would conduct their affairs in open parish meeting, with power to appoint committees to carry out the objects for which they desired an executive body. The Government recommended their own proposal, on the grounds of principle and expediency. With regard to principle, they had clearly shown they had given up all principle in this matter. The Government had excluded 4,000 parishes al- ready from what they considered to be the beneficial security of a Parish Council, and he (Mr. Hobhouse) and his friends only wished to carry this principle a little further, and give the option of choice to a larger number of parishes. The number of 500 though, of course, like every number, arbitrary, in a sense, was originally chosen on a rational principle. Those who suggested it considered that in a parish of 500 there would not be more than 100 electors at the most. Of these, not more than 30 or 40, or at the most 50, would be at all likely to attend the parish meeting, and such a moderate number could very well meet in the parish schoolroom, and discuss matters all together in an educational way; and the results arrived at would probably be more satisfactory to the parish at large than if they were obliged from the first to delegate all their powers to the Parish Council, which would meet at a time and in a way that it would not be open to all the parishioners, who would not know nearly so well what was going on. He should certainly vote to agree with the Lords Amendment, because he believed that in many small parishes it would be the most economical and the most educational plan, and would be found, in the long run, in many places to be the more popular plan; and he believed sincerely it would be most consistent with the true principles of democracy and local government.

MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

did not wish to detain the House, though he did think it was desirable to give their reasons for assenting or dissenting to the Lords Amendments without rushing through the proceedings in any indecent haste. At the same time, for his own part, he was disposed to think this question did not possess the importance, either from one point of view or the other, which in some quarters was attached to it. The President of the Local Government Board said he had no hesitation whatever in inviting the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment. He ventured to say the right hon. Gentleman had had many great hesitations throughout upon this subject. The right hon. Gentleman, he thought, very properly left this matter, which was essentially one of detail, to the candid consideration of the Committee. In the Committee stage the right hon. Gentleman did not express any very decided view of his own; and he more than once expressed his readiness to modify the figure originally inserted in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman invited suggestions, and it was a suggestion, which was not made, he believed, by a supporter of his own, which induced him to depart from the framework of the Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave as a reason why they should dissociate themselves from the Amendment of the House of Lords, that this Amendment would enable persons of influence in the parish, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman mentioned the much-abused squire—[Sir W. HARCOURT: No.] At any rate, when the right hon. Gentleman talked of not himself being possessed of a great number of broad acres, and so forth, he was under-rating his own local importance from a sense of modesty. In any case, the right hon. Gentleman drew a distinction between those who, like his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Long), had larger local connections than others, and contended that it was in the power of those possessing preponderating local influence to crush out the desire of a parish for the establishment of a Parish Council. As the Leader of the Opposition had already pointed out, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's duties of a less agreeable character, in connection with his own Department, had precluded him from devoting personal attention to the Bill, or he would have seen that it was impossible to make out the charge he had founded. How could any person prevent a Parish Council being formed by dominating a parish meeting? Why should he not use that dominating influence so far as to have himself elected? He could do the one thing equally as readily as the other. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman that any single objector at a parish meeting could demand a poll as to whether or no there should be a Parish Council; and if persons of influence had it in their power, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested, to prevent the formation of a Parish Council, they could equally dictate their own names to the parish meeting and exert their influence for the purpose of sweeping the Board of all possible opponents. He hoped the House would realise that this was a mere point of detail which the Government themselves left to the House of Commons, in the first instance, to decide. As these differences of opinion had arisen without any attachment to Party principles or predilections among Members of the two Houses, and as the House of Lords had not displayed vacillation in the matter, and had decided on affording: an opportunity to every parish below the limit of 500 of deciding the matter for themselves, he thought this was a reasonable concession to local liberties to which those who arrogated to themselves the guardianship of such liberties should be the last to object.


could not help thinking that the speech which not long ago was delivered by the Chancellor of the Duchy would not enhance the right hon. Gentleman's reputation or that of his Party for fair dealing in the eyes of the country. He did not wish to make any further allusion to that subject except upon one sentence. The right hon. Gentleman expressed himself surprised and annoyed that, inasmuch as he had repudiated the charge made against him in the public Press, it was again brought forward, and said it was unfair that attention should again be called to his words.


I did not complain of attention being called to my words for the purpose of arguing the merits of the Amendment, but of the fact that my unqualified disclaimer of the meaning attributed to me should not have been sufficient to prevent the charge of having sought to misrepresent from being again brought.


said, he would give the right hon. Gentleman a reason why attention should be called to what he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) regarded as a mis-statement. That mis-statement was made by a Cabinet Minister before a large audience who would believe every word that, was said to them, and hardly one of whom was likely to hear the refutation. He thought, therefore, the Opposition were entitled to put their view of what took place before the public on every occasion that offered. On the question of the Lords Amendment, he was unable to agree with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowther) in viewing this Amendment as a point of detail. He supported the Amendment, looking upon it, as one of the most important and valuable of those Amendments which had been inserted in this unhappy Bill by the House of Lords. He did not hesitate to express his opinion that if this Amendment were passed it would mitigate, if not remove, many of the mischiefs which ho believed would result from this measure in whatever shape it became law. He appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite who possessed any practical knowledge of the needs, necessities, and conditions of rural life—a knowledge which he feared was not to be found on the Treasury Bench or among the framers of the Bill—to say whether they believed that rural parishes containing 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500 persons had any desire to possess the powers conferred by the Bill, or, if they had such a desire, whether they thought that in the majority of cases the parishioners had sufficient men and material to give effect to those powers. In his own County of Kent, he would venture to say, he could name a dozen or 20 parishes containing a population under 500 which had no more wish to possess the powers conferred by the Bill than they had a wish to be transplanted to London. Even if these parishes wished to possess the powers, they could not find a sufficient number of residents in the parish capable of filling all the offices which were to be created, He had not much hope, after the lamentable speeches made by Cabinet Ministers in the last few days, that hon. Gentlemen opposite disposed to agree with his views would be allowed to exorcise their own judgment in the matter, because he believed that if all were to vote according to their individual predilections, there would be a, majority in favour of this reasonable proposition inserted by the House of Lords. This controversy, however, afforded an apt illustration of the difference in the appreciation of liberty between the two sides of the House. The Opposition said to the parishioners, "Here is a Bill which may contain provisions suitable to your needs; adopt them if you will; but if, on the other hand, you think it is unsuitable, then you may leave it alone." The Government said, "Here is a Bill which we believe to be a good one; you shall have it whether you like it, or not." In these circumstances, the House was asked to believe that the Party supporting the Government were the exponents of liberty; but he was content to leave the country to decide which Party was the advocate of true liberty and which the advocate of tyranny.

MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)

said, the question was as to which plan was the better for the administration of local affairs. No doubt the parish meeting was the more ancient and more democratic form of parish government, but it was an inconvenient form in some cases. The question they had to decide was at what point in numbers of population would it be more convenient for the parishioners to elect in Parish Councils to represent them instead of going as a body to the parish meeting and doing the business themselves, which was the old form? Many hon. Members thought that the number of 500 was rather too large for the purpose of a parish meeting, and thus it had been settled that the number should be 200, representing 40 or 50 voters. He was of opinion that 200 would be the better form of the two, and he should, therefore, vote for the 200. He had another reason which he should recommend to hon. Members opposite. They wanted to remove from this Bill, and from the consideration of all Amendments, every possible peg on which misrepresentation could be hung, because the misrepresentation of this Bill, and of this clause as well, would be a proceeding which some of their opponents might adopt. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board just now, when speaking against the 500 limit, said— It will be said that those parishes under 500 can have Parish Councils if they wish it. But that was not what would be said in the parishes. It had been said that 4,000 and odd parishes would be deprived of Parish Councils by the Lords Amendment. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy —the set form of speech used by him—if employed in the parishes would give the idea that those 4,000 and odd parishes had been destroyed. The right hon. Gentleman might have given a better explanation or a more candid one. During the past few months they had had a great many explanations from the right hon. Gentleman in regard to what he had written and spoken. Surely it would be better for him to say at once that he had made a mistake and not go on, as he had done to-night, half reasserting his old statement. To take away one of the pegs on which misrepresentation would be hung when the Bill was discussed in the villages and without declaring that the limit of 200 was right—for that was purely a matter of opinion—he should support that limit.

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)

said, he desired to say only a few words on the matter before the House. He would refer briefly to a speech recently delivered on that (the Opposition) side of the House and also to a speech delivered a short time ago by the Leader of the Opposition. Those two speeches pleaded on behalf of liberty. A good deal was said about liberty. The right hon. Gentleman said, "You cannot have liberty where you have no alternative choice"; in other words, "There is no liberty in Hobson's choice—either that or nothing." Statements of that kind were very plausible, but they were unworthy of statesmen. However plausible they might appear, they were absolutely and entirely fallacious. He would try this matter by the test of the Ballot. Under the Ballot voting was in secret. Was there no liberty there—was secret voting tyranny? Was it compulsion? What did hon. and right hon. Gentlemen want? Was it that every elector should have a choice and should say whether he preferred to vote in secret or publicly and openly? That would not be liberty to the electors of this country, but would be imposing tyranny upon them. It would subject them to compulsion and intimidation, and, whether it appeared illogical or otherwise, the fact of the matter was that under the Ballot there was in reality a principle of liberty and not of tyranny. He had no doubt that a good many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in the House would prefer a principle, in that and many other matters, which would leave it optional to the elector to say how he would vote. His contention, however, was that, although that mode of proceeding might have the appearance of freedom, it would in reality involve the principle of the practice of tyranny and compulsion. He knew well, and so did the people of this country, that this argument for liberty and freedom of action on behalf of the Tory Party was a humbug and a sham. There was no sincerity or reality in it. He would tell those gentlemen that it was too late in the day to attempt to play off on the people of the United Kingdom this trick. Their game was thoroughly understood. Their arguments would not avail nowadays to deceive the enlightened and instructed electors of the country. There was not an intelligent man in England who did not know that in pleading in this particular case—as in other cases recently—for pretended liberty of choice and liberty of action, what these gentlemen wanted was a continuance of the system of compulsion and intimidation of the people of this country. They spoke too late. In this country the people had got beyond that condition of things; and when the time came to test the question, the people of Great Britain and Ireland would show that they knew what value to place upon the pretended Tory regard for liberty of action.

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

said, he was not quite sure that he saw the relevance of the speech just delivered to the subject before the House. He regarded this Amendment of the Lords as the most important they had placed on the Paper, because it dealt with the construction of the Local Authorities throughout the parishes. In the, as he thought, intolerant speeches which the Chancellor of the Duchy and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had launched against the Opposition, they had said, in a sense, that they (the Opposition) did not wish to have Parish Councils—that they desired to have no liberty of government throughout the parishes. He (Commander Bethell) suspected that on the Opposition side of the House there were men who had been longer, and who had been more consistent, supporters of parish local government than any gentleman on the Liberal side of the House. He thought the Parish Council a bad system. He would point out that the arguments of the Opposition from the first had been that now was the opportunity for establishing a thoroughly democratic principle of government in small communities. That was the reason they had objected to the number fixed upon by the Government. They had desired to leave liberty of choice to as large parishes as possible, and it was for that reason that he thought the Amendment of the Lords touched a very important principle, and one for which he certainly should most willingly vote. He would point out that the President of the Local Government Board in his speech to-night did not give quite an accurate history of the Amendment. The fact was, that the number was altered from 300 to 200. That was almost the earliest Amendment on the Bill, and that was done because the Opposition thought that the Government would stand fast to the Grouping Clause. As soon as the Grouping Clause was taken out, the Opposition urged the Government to increase the limit. That was the history of the case. He hoped that the Government, if they could not agree to the 500, would agree later on to some figure more suitable to the needs of the country than 200. Being the most important Amendment in the Bill he thought it thoroughly worthy of discussion, and he could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench that it was a question of detail, though he agreed that this was not an enactment that ought to be pressed on with indecent haste.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 260; Noes 191.—(Division List, No. 437.)

Lords Amendments agreed to:— Page 2, line 3, leave out"to be. Line 29, leave out "chosen" and insert "elected.

Amendment, In line 30, after "among," insert "such of," and leave out "or persons" and insert "as are personally rated to the poor rate or persons so rated, the next Amendment, read a second time.


There was a doubt on the last Amendment as to whether it was an important one of principle or an unimportant one of detail. There will be no doubt on this side of the House as to this Amendment. I might almost say that it strikes at the very root of the Bill. It proposes to disqualify a certain number of individuals for election on Parish Councils who, under the Bill as it left this House, would have been entitled to have been elected. The Government, originally proposed that the example of the Education Act should be followed, and that the choice of the electors should not be limited. Eventually the House decided that the Parish Coun- cil should be chosen from the parochial electors, or from persons who have during the whole of the 12 months preceding the election resided in the parish or within three miles thereof. The House of Lords now proposes that no one shall be eligible for election who is not personally rated to the poor rate. Now, what does that mean? It is a disqualification in the first instance of practically the whole of the agricultural labourers. But it is not confined to one class. All owners of property who are not rated and who reside outside the parish will be disqualified, and all ladies will practically be disqualified; and if we passed this we should be undoing what we did when we conferred the qualification for seats on the Parochial Council both on married ladies and single ladies. All agents living in the houses of the great landowners or of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would be disqualified. All lodgers, and all who vote under the service franchise, would be disqualified, and this would create a disqualification in connection with Parish Councils which does not exist either for Members of this House, or for County Councils, or Town Councils, or, in fact, for any other Electoral Body. This Amendment was accompanied with a very extraordinary provision, and I am very much obliged to the House of Lords for having thrown light on a very vexed question in connection with the compound householder—as to the exact meaning and extent of the payment which the compound householder makes towards the rate when he pays his rent. Having provided, first, that nobody is to be elected on the Parish Council who does not pay his rates, they provide that every occupier may give notice to the Overseers and claim to pay his rates, and that any person so claiming shall be entitled, so long as he continues to be personally rated, to deduct from his rent an amount equal to the average annual rate for the three preceding years levied upon such property. In other words, any occupier who pays his rates under this provision can say to his landlord, "Pay me back the money I have advanced for you. I have paid my rate, and if you charge me with a full rent I shall be paying it twice over, and, therefore, I claim to have it repaid." I will not labour that point; but looking to the distinguished quarter from which the Amendment sprung and the authority who submitted it to the House of Lords, I would venture to remind the House of a speech made here when the question of compounding was under discussion 20 or 25 years ago. Sir Roundell Palmer (now the Earl of Selborne) in those days said— The absurdity of requiring payment to be made by the tenant's own hands is not entertained by the law as it now stands, and will not be with respect to £10 houses after the Bill passes. The essence of the thing is that the rates should be paid. If paid, it is unimportant by what hand the payment is made, and to introduce this test as a qualification for the franchise is, I venture to say, a simple absurdity. He said it was monstrous to unsettle contracts and economical arrangements in order merely to discover a mode of impeding and restricting the operation of the Parliamentary franchise. The Amendment now before the House is a mode of impeding and restricting the free action of parochial electors as to the selection of persons they may wish to put upon the Parish Councils, and on that ground I move that the House do disagree with the Lords in that Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."— (Mr. H. H. Fowler.)


The right hon. Gentleman and the House are aware that on the subject of the compound householder I have entertained, and from time to time have expressed, very strong views. I have always thought, and think still, that, both administratively and educationally, it is very desirable to bring home to those who administer affairs in the main financial the financial result of their own administration. But he freely admits that the particular contribution made by this Amendment to that principle is not of a character which appears to me to carry with it any very great promise of attaining the result which I have always desired to see attained, by making the payment more direct in character. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has called attention to that part of the Lords Amendment by which I certainly do not concur in the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the opinion of the other House. The right hon. Gentleman called attention to that part of the Amendment by which it is provided that the amount of the rate shall be deducted from the rent, and the right hon. Gentleman takes that as conclusive proof that in the opinion of the other House everybody who pays rent at all is directly and immediately interested to that extent in the payment of rates. Well, I certainly do not agree with that statement of facts. I do not think the Amendment necessarily points in that direction. I suppose what they were afraid of was that some injustice would be done to individuals who, as a matter of fact, are rack-rented, and being rack-rented, having their rent settled every year according to the laws of supply and demand, no doubt do pay the whole of their rates directly and immediately. But the House of Lords must be aware, as we are all aware, that in a vast number of cases of cottage property in England the rates are not paid by the occupier. By introducing this limitation the House of Lords do not intend to impose any pecuniary wrong upon individuals, and I think they are perfectly justified in introducing the Amendment, qualified by the additional provision to which the right hon. Gentleman objects. In regard to the acceptance, I do not know that it is likely to attain any very great security in the direction J, at all events, have desired, and I should not think it worth while for the House to divide on the question. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on this side take a different view. There is a great deal to be said— an overwhelming argument—for making those who elect directly responsible for the action of those who are elected; but to say that the electors may choose whom they like, but that those who are elected are to have some special motive over and above the motive that affects their electors for pursuing economy, appears to me to be introducing a new principle into our representative system, whether local or Imperial, and I do not think the House need trouble itself to accept it.


said, that the agriculturists of the country—certainly of the county he represented — were of opinion that the people who were going to administer the rates in the parishes ought to be ratepayers themselves. They had over and over again urged him and others to put this case before the House. As to rates being paid in the rent in the agricultural counties, such as that with which he was connected, the rents of the cottages were very low — 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week for good cottages with gardens attached to them. He wished to ask hon. Gentlemen whether they thought that, with a rent of 1s. a week, there was any room for an increase of rates? As a matter of fact, the rates were not considered in these rents at all. Another argument used by the right hon. Gentleman was that women would not, be able to sit on these Councils because they were not ratepayers. Why should women not become ratepayers? Many of them were now, and there was no reason why more should not become so if they wanted to sit on Parish Councils. People would have thought all those questions had been considered long ago, yet only within the last month a Circular was sent by the Local Government Board to the various Boards of Guardians asking them to state how many rates were compounded for in these districts. The right hon. Gentleman had said that afternoon that he was not in a position to give a definite answer as to how many persons did compound. Under these circumstances, the House was asked to legislate on this subject without being cognisant of the facts, and this Amendment was quite reasonable in asking that those who administered the ratepayers' money should be ratepayers themselves.

Question put, and agreed to.


In page 2, line 32, to leave out the words "or within three miles thereof," the next Amendment, read a second time.


These words were introduced into the clause in this House after a great deal of debate. The House has just unanimously decided that it would not have a property qualification. This question of residence is a question of convenience. The principle adopted by the Government and very strongly advocated in many parts of the House, notably by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), was that persons living in the neighbourhood but not in the parish may have a legitimate influence upon its affairs, and many cases were given of farmers, manufacturers, and other persons whose interests might be very strongly identified with one parish although they resided in another parish. A very singular illustration was given, not I think in this House, but certainly in another place, of the Incumbent of an ancient ecclesiastical parish divided into several civil parishes who, if the three miles limit were removed, would be disqualified from being elected to the Parish Council. We are of opinion that it would be best to adhere to the pro-vision as it left the Commons. There was originally an opinion in the House in favour of having a one-mile limit, but subsequently it was altered to three miles. There is no great question of principle involved, but I think it would be very wise to enable parochial electors to elect some persons who have a large interest in the parish, but who live outside it. I think we arc all agreed that we ought to discountenance the election of strangers. In this House the adoption of these words was carried by a majority of nearly 100, whilst in another place the words were struck out by a majority of five.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."— {Mr. H. II. Fowler.)


I rise to hank my right hon. Friend for his defence of a principle which originally, I think, came from myself in the course of a discussion as to an alternative to a proposal made by my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke). I really do not know what were the reasons given in another place for striking out so extremely innocent and, I think, useful a proposal as that under discussion. When the matter was last under discussion in Committee of this House it was seen that there might be a great number of cases in which a person deeply interested in the welfare of the parish might for some reason be compelled to live outside its exact limits, and the object of fixing three miles was to admit such persons to take their part in the work of Parish Councils. The proposal was supported largely by both sides of the House, and I hope the House will stand by its original decision.


I am sorry to say I made a mistake just now. There was not a Division in the other House upon this question.


I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to move to disagree with the Lords Amendment. I would say, with all deference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), that I do not think he fully appreciates the provision as it stands in the Bill. Every one who has an interest in the parish cannot fail to be a parochial elector, and, if so, he may live at the other side of the Kingdom and still be entitled to be elected to the Parish Council. How anyone who is not a parochial elector and who has not lived for 12 months in the parish can have any interest at all in the parish I am unable to perceive, and the feeling that actuated me and others on this side of the House in protesting against the three miles limit was that, in our belief, it would simply encourage the choosing "carpet baggers" as members of Parish Councils. It is certain that if a person is an owner, or an occupier, or a lodger, he must be a parochial elector. In some cases a person who was otherwise eligible for election might not be the head of a household, and, therefore, might not be a parochial elector; but under the provisions which allow a person who has resided for 12 months in the parish to be elected, such a person would be qualified. I can only regret the decision at which the Government have arrived, and I shall certainly support the Amendment of the Lords.

*SIR C. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

said, that as he was the nominal Mover of the Amendment, although its absolute framer was his right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain), he wished to say a few words. When the matter was under discussion in Committee several cases of hardship were mentioned. One case which he himself referred to was that of a village with between 2,000 and 3,000 people in it—which was in four rural parishes. It so happened that the leading inhabitants of the village did not live in the parish in the affairs of which they were most interested on behalf of the village. [Sir M. HICKS-BEACH: They would be parochial electors.] They were parochial electors in the wrong parish. In another case that was mentioned the whole parish belonged to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and there was no ownership elector in it. In that case the local agent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would he a very natural member of the Parish Council, and he would become qualified under the three miles proposal, but he was not a parochial elector. He (Sir C. Dilke) would be perfectly satisfied with even half a mile limit, but he thought a great deal could be said on behalf of the three miles limit.

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

There are, of course, a certain number of cases, such as the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has described, which are to be found here and there; but I submit that it is not necessary to legislate in order to meet all those extreme cases, which are certainly not very numerous. The question is whether, in refusing to accept the Amendment of the Lords, we shall not, in the endeavour to avoid one difficulty, possibly fall into a still greater one. We do not want the elections for these Parish Councils to be unduly contested. A one-mile or a half-mile limit would clearly meet the extremely hard cases which have been indicated; but I feel very strongly that, if you want to avoid conflicts and to prevent candidates coming forward unnecessarily for villages with which they have no concern, you ought to strike out the provision by which a man living throe miles from the boundaries of a parish will be able to become a candidate for the Parish Council. I would respectfully suggest that the Government should, in order to meet the cases which have been mentioned, see their way to make the limit one mile or half a mile.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol (Sir M. Hicks-Beach) is afraid of "carpet baggers," but people who travel three miles do not generally take a carpet bag with them. They generally reserve the carpet bag for a much longer journey. Within a radius of three miles people generally know their neighbours and all about them, and such neighbours cannot be described as "carpet-baggers" in any sense of the word. In my opinion, the provisions struck out by the Lords would greatly strengthen the Parish Council, and would give them the opportunity of finding in their immediate neighbourhood men who might have slight influence and who might be very useful in the Parish Council. The Government, therefore, adhere to the provision of the Bill.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 283; Noes 167.—(Division List, No."438.)


In line 35, after ("fifteen,") insert— Provided that any occupier of rateable property within the parish may, notwithstanding anything in the Poor Kate Assessment and Collection Act, 1869, contained or done under that Act, claim to be personally rated in respect of such property, and every occupier giving notice in writing of such claim to the Overseers, and paying or tendering the full amount (if any) then remaining unpaid, of the poor rate, but made in respect of the property, shall be rated accordingly. Provided also, that any person so claiming shall be entitled, so long as he shall continue to be personally rated, to deduct in each year, from the rent payable by him in respect of such property, an amount equal to the average annual rates levied upon such property during the three years preceding the making of such claim, and for any period less than a year in proportion.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment,"—(Mr. II. II. Fowler,) —put, and agreed to. (2) The District Councillor or Councillors elected for the parish, or any ward thereof, or any area including the parish, shall, by virtue of his or their office, be an additional member, or members, of the Parish Council.


This Amendment of the Lords would have the effect of restoring the ex officio in the Parish Councils. The Government cannot admit either here or elsewhere the ex officio element. If the parishes want to have District Councillors on the Parish Councils they can elect them, if they have the proper qualifications. It was this Amendment, and not the last, that was carried in another place by a majority of five only; and I would, therefore, ask the House to disagree with it.

Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment,"—({Mr. M. H. Fowler,) —put, and agreed to.

Line 14, after ("or,") insert ("from,") and after ("Councillors,") insert ("of the parish.")

Motion made, and Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment,—(Mr. H. H. Fowler,) —put, and agreed to.

Line 20, leave out ("direct").


This is the first of the Amendments which raise the whole question of the use of schoolrooms for public purposes; and perhaps it will save time if the question is discussed on the first of the Amendments made in the other House. The insertion of the word "public," which was struck out in another place, was an Amendment made in this House at the instance of the right hon. Member for Bristol. I cannot understand the clause as it now stands, nor reconcile it with another clause bearing on the same subject. The clause as amended creates two difficulties. The first is the restriction of the user of these rooms by the Parish Council or the parish meeting, and the second is the refusal of the use of these rooms for certain other purposes. With regard to the first difficulty, as the Bill left this House it proposed that the Parish Council and the parish meeting should have a statutory right to use a room in a school subject to one condition, which is, that there is no suitable public room vested in the Parish Council or in the chairman of a parish meeting and the Overseers. That means that if there is no public room belonging to the parish the parish shall have the right to use the schoolrooms. By the Amendments made in another place, the question has been brought to this position—that where in any rural parish there is a suitable room which can be used free of charge no statutory right to the use of the schoolroom arises. In fact, as the clause now stands, it amounts almost to an enactment that parish meetings and meetings of Parish Councils shall be held in the public-house. No doubt, there is in almost every parish a room which can be had free of charge, because it is paid for by the consumption of drink, which takes place while the room is being used. But by a subsequent clause it is enacted that no meeting of a Parish Council or a District Council shall be held in licensed premises except where no other suitable room is available, either free of charge or at a reasonable cost. Therefore, I do not suppose it was intended that these meetings should be held at the public-house; but if the Amendment made in another place were accepted the practical result would be that the meetings would be held in the public-house, and that, I think, is a good reason why we should strike out these Amendments. The use of the schoolroom is also to be refused for other purposes—namely, meetings to discuss questions respecting allotments, or meetings of candidates, and meetings of committees or officers appointed to distribute public funds. This question has a Parliamentary history, and I would like to relate it briefly to the House. With reference to allotments, the Act of 1890 gave power to use a schoolroom for discussion about allotments with the consent of two managers of the school. That was not the shape in which the clause left the House of Commons, but it was the shape in which the clause left another place. If schoolrooms are refused to candidates their meetings must be held either at the public-house or in the open air. That is a question that was not raised for the first time when this clause was passed by this House. The question was raised in the late Parliament under the late Government, who were parties to a Resolution and a Bill dealing with it. In 1892 the present President of the Board of Agriculture submitted a Resolution. In the course of the Debate the right hon. Member for Grimsby made a statement for which he would have been severely rebuked if he had made it in another place in the Debates upon this Bill. He said of giving the use of the schools to Parliamentary candidates, We are doing this for the purpose of giving the parishioners, in their own schoolrooms, the opportunity of discussing the different sides of a question. And he added— I controvert the statement that these schools are entirely private schools, and he maintained that the public had a right to the use of the schools. The then Vice President of the Committee of Council made a fair speech, pointing out the difficulties of the question, but admitting that there was a grievance to be met; and on the part of the Government he said— We are prepared fully to accept the principle embodied in this Resolution, which was the user by the public, by Local Authorities, by candidates, and for all local purposes, of the schoolrooms of grant-aided schools, subject to certain reasonable conditions. The Debate lasted some time; the present Leader of the Opposition endorsed every word that had fallen from the Vice President of the Council; and the Resolution was passed unanimously. A Bill to give effect to this Resolution was brought in by Mr. Ritchie, Sir W. Hart Dyke, and Mr. Long; and this was the last will and testament of the late Government upon the question. I will not suppress the fact that the Bill proposed that the schools should be exempted from rates. [Opposition cheers.] Yes; but the Amendments to this Bill have been made in another place, not on the ground of expense, but on the ground of interference with the work of the school. Indeed, after reading the Bill of the late Government the present Government might be surprised at. their own moderation in the clause they inserted in this Bill. We proposed that the schoolroom should be available for the Parish Council and the parish meeting, that the existing law as to allotments should be extended to the procedure under this Bill, and that the meetings of candidates might be held in the schoolroom, all, of course, subject to conditions and guarantees, such as that the use of the rooms should not interfere with the educational purposes, and that any damage done to the schools should be made good. I should say, too, that in 1892 the members of the present Government refused to accept the payment of rates as forming any part of the question. I now ask the House to disagree with the Amendment, which says practically that, if the Parish Council and the parish meeting can have the use of a. room at the public-house free of charge, they should have no right to the use of the schoolroom. I am sorry that hon. Members opposite should think we desire in any way to imperil the interests of education. These must he paramount, and they are amply safeguarded. The regulations for the user of these rooms are to be framed by the Education Department. Besides, these schools do not consist of one room only. There are several rooms in them, and one room can he obtained without any difficulty for these purposes. Looking at all these circumstances, and the judgment given by this House after full debate, we must ask the House not to agree to any of the Amendments in Clause 4.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)


said, he remembered well the occasion in 1892 which had been referred to when a very thin House arrived at a very general Resolution. No doubt, at the time there were Conservative Members who accepted the principle of the Resolution; but they insisted that its application should be surrounded by safeguards which were absent from the present Bill. But more important than this Resolution, passed on Friday night, was the measure which was brought in before the late Government left Office. That measure, which sanctioned the holding of meetings in public elementary schools, also provided that the schools should be relieved from the payment of rates. In fact, what the late Government proposed was, that the schools should be relieved from rates in consideration of the advantage which the user of their, would confer on the public. But the present Government in their Bill did not propose to repay those institutions in any way for the use which was to be made of them. The late Government proposed to purchase the privilege: but the present Government, intended to take it by force, which was the difference between buying and stealing what did not belong to them. Few Members of the Party to which he belonged would have assented to the Kill of the late Government if it had not contained a provision for a very substantial money payment to the schools. The managers of voluntary schools would not have consented to the arrangement on any other terms. Voluntary schools conferred an enormous benefit upon the community, and deserved to be treated with the utmost consideration. Two-thirds of the Church of England National schools had been built entirely out of private funds, for the purpose of providing ordinary elementary education and instruction according to the principles of the Church of England. That being the purpose for which these schools had been erected, and the State having acquiesced in the scheme, what right had it to ask more, and to put the buildings to uses for which they were not intended? Many of these schools, it should be remembered, were not even held upon trust, but were the private property of the men who had built them. The schools were built by those men for educational purposes, and it was monstrous to think of taking them for quite a different purpose. It was rank spoliation for the Government to take what did not belong to them without payment. Then, again, the schools might be used under this Bill, as originally passed, for Parish Council purposes at the most inconvenient times. It was not only for educational purposes that the schools were used. The schools were used for every imaginable purpose. They were used for meetings of Clubs and Benefit Societies, and public entertainments. Was the building to he used for parish meetings when people wished to hold Club meetings or to have entertainments on the premises? Who was to determine to which of several conflicting purposes the building should be put? There was, he knew, a provision that the Education Department was to judge, but he was unwilling to trust the Department so implicitly. No doubt, the present Vice President would not object to entertainments: but they might some day have a Scotch Vice President, who would object to penny readings or other harmless entertainments, but which the people would think more of than the Parish Council or the parish meeting. In his opinion, the House of Lords had gone to the extreme limit of concession in this case. They had permitted the use of the schoolrooms for actual official meetings—for meetings of the Parish Council, the parish meeting, and for the purposes of inquiries by public Departments. That appeared to him to be the proper line to draw. In his boisterous speech at Portsmouth on Wednesday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that the action of the House of Lords would drive parishioners out of the schools into the public-houses. That, of course, was absurd. There was a multiplicity of places where meetings could be held elsewhere than in the public-house. But it was amazing that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were always boasting of trusting the people, could not trust them within sight of the public-house. He had not that distrust of his fellow-countrymen which they appeared to have. In fact, hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think that nobody could see a public-house without getting drunk. When this subject was discussed in the country he hoped the people would be told that they were thought so poorly of by the supporters of the Government; that it was expected that if they darkened the doors of a public-house they must drink too much. He did not believe so, for it was not his experience of rural life, and ho knew that these meetings might safely be held in public-houses. But whether that was so or not, there was no reason for robbing the people of their schools. Why should they steal the schools from their managers on the supposition that otherwise the people would go to drink in public-houses? If they were to murder the publican, probably they would deter people from joining the trade, but they would not be justified in saying, "I am going to murder the publican in order to prevent people from getting drunk." They had no right to break one moral law in order to enforce another; and therefore he hoped that that House would not sanction the use of schoolrooms, which had been built at the expense of private individuals for a particular purpose, for those which were altogether outside of it.


The speech which the noble Lord has just made is a proof that there are exceptions to the rule that people grow wiser as they grow older, because there was a time when the noble Lord entertained more reasonable views upon this subject than those which he has just expressed. When the Resolution to which my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board referred, which was unanimously accepted by the House, and which went a great deal further than the proposal of the present Government, was under discussion, the noble Lord suggested the adoption of an Amendment which would confine its application to the rural parishes, on the ground that there were no suitable rooms in such places for holding meetings in as were to be found in abundance in towns.


The right hon. Gentleman is in error. I mentioned that condition as one among several others that ought to he made before the Resolution was accepted.


Does the noble Lord mean to say that he was not in favour of extending the privilege to the rural parishes? The noble Lord, in his earlier and bettor days, said— I understand that the Government have accepted the Motion of the hon. Member opposite, and I think that they are wise in doing so. These, however, are sentiments which the noble Lord has now entirely departed from. I admire the filial piety of the noble Lord, because the doctrines he has enunciated are doctrines we have heard in another place. We have heard something about "the stumping Puritanical hypocrisy of people who objected to meeting in a public-house." These are hereditary symptoms on the part of the noble Lord; but I must remind the noble Lord that these hereditary sentiments were repudiated by the Earl of Derby and the Earl of Cranbrook, even in another place, and the great objector to Puritanical hypocrisy was obliged to drop his doctrine like a hot potato. I advise the noble Lord to do likewise. If his relative could not get any support in the House of Lords—not even from the Bishops—if the Bishops deserted the public-house, where would the public-houses be? And I would advise the noble Lord to follow the Bishops on this occasion only. There is one other point. The noble Lord said there was an understanding that the Resolution of 1892 was to be accompanied by a rating clause.


I never said there was an understanding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. I said that, so far as we were concerned, we never could have consented to this concession unless it was acccompanied by a great measure of relief in the matter of rating.


But you did consent. The noble Lord's memory is defective in this matter. The fact was, that the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then at the head of the Government, endeavoured to put upon us the condition that if a Bill were introduced giving the use of the schoolrooms we should not object to a rating clause. I there and then absolutely refused to enter into any agreement whatever. We said, "This is the right thing to do, but we will make no condition whatever with reference to the rates," and there the matter concluded. I said— "Is that condition withdrawn? If so, I am satisfied"; and the Resolution giving the use of the schoolrooms for all the purposes of the parish was unanimously carried, even without the Amendment of the noble Lord. The House of Lords, in face of all that, struck out of one Bill this more limited condition for the use of the schools by the parish. I do not know what course will be taken on this occasion by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench now: but they arc the authors of a Bill in which larger powers are given, and if they are going to support the Lords in this combat I shall not complain.

*SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

said, the allusion to the room in the public-house had boon made in order to create a prejudice, and was outside the question. He thought no Government would say that a room in a public-house was a suitable room. There was no ground for supposing that those who had to determine the question would decide that a room in a public-house was a suitable place to hold these meetings, and therefore the whole argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the meetings would have to be held in such rooms in default of the schoolrooms being available for the purpose, fell to the ground. In his opinion, respect ought to be paid to the sentiment which led many people to entertain the belief that it was not desirable to enter a public-house. One objection ho bad against the extension of the use of these rooms was on account of the many purposes which, though not strictly educational, were for the educational objects for which the schools were built. In the Bill of the late Government there was an express reservation of the school for such objects, and that reservation was not contained in the present Bill. He wished it had been; he spoke in favour of it, and he regretted that his arguments were of no avail. Ho was sure—and he spoke as a manager—that the managers of these schools did not object to the use of the schools for legitimate and fair purposes; they showed a readiness and willingness to grant the schools, and his objection was not that the schools should be used with the goodwill of the managers, but that they were to be used whether it was convenient or not and contrary to the will of the managers in many cases.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

I hope my hon. Friend opposite does not intend to put the House to the trouble of a Division on the question he has raised; if so, I shall he unable to follow him into the Lobby. The discussion has gone rather wide of the immediate question. We are dealing only with the word "public," and have entered into a general discussion of the position and history of voluntary schools into which I do not feel inclined to follow the noble Lord. As regards the word "public," which the Lords have sought to omit, I am afraid if we were to adopt the Lords Amendment the Bill would be left in a perfectly absurd condition, because under Clause 54 we should say that no meeting is to be held in a public-house unless 1:0 suitable room is to be found, and then in Clause 4 we should go on to say the only suitable room should not be used if a public-house could be got, so that in one place you say you shall not use a public-house if any suitable room can be got, and in the other you say you shall not use a suitable room if you can get a public-house. I do not think the House would like in any circumstances to lay itself open to the imputation of having driven these meetings from the schoolroom in order to force and compel them to be held in the public-house. But dealing with the broader question raised by the other Amendments, I do feel that not only is the Government, but that many of us, and many on the oilier side of the House, are absolutely pledged and committed by our previous action; we cannot get over the fact that we voted for almost this precise proposition, or one that did not perhaps go so far as this, in the year 1892, and in voting for that we did not make any of the conditions that were subsequently attached to the Government Bill. That seems to me the contract we made when we accepted the Resolution of 1892, and we are not in any way exonerated from that obligation by the fact that subsequently the Bill attached some condition to it. The question, then, is a question in the first place of consistency, and in the second place it is a question of expediency. Even if we had not already been pledged by voting for this Reso- lution in 1892, still I should have implored hon. Members to vote for a. similar Resolution now, because what can be worse policy than to leave it to-be inferred that the clergy of this country and the managers of these voluntary schools are so churlish as to refuse the use of a public room at a time when it cannot interfere with their reasonable occupation of the schools because there is a provision that covers an appeal to the Education Department if the room is asked for at a time that is not reasonable: On such an appeal, if the time was not reasonable, the Education Department would undoubtedly refuse the application for the use of the room. If the schools are not required for what is their first object—something 'connected with education or the Religious Body which has built them—that then, being vacant and tinder conditions which secure them absolutely from pecuniary loss or damage, they should be available for what we all admit to be an important public purpose. But I go one step further. Are hon. Members opposite going to be so reactionary as to follow the House of Lords, and actually now to refuse to the people the use of these rooms for purposes for which they have already given them? In 1887 and in 1890 the late Government introduced provisions into the Allotments Act giving the use of these schools for the purposes of allotments. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER: Not in 1887.] I beg pardon; then in 1890, which was connected with the purposes of the Act of 1887; for all the purposes of the Act of 1887 the parishioners had the right to use these rooms under the terms provided in the Act of 1890, and now the Lords go back on that which they themselves passed, and say that they shall not have the use of these rooms. I do not, think the House of Commons could with dignity support that Amendment.

MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)

said, there were many cases where there were private rooms, which might be called semi-public rooms, which could be used for the purposes provided by the Bill, and he knew that his noble Friend's objection had nothing to do with that contentions subject introduced this evening — namely, the use of licensed premises, hut simply to extend the exemption that was given to other rooms in parishes which would not be called public rooms, but still were serviceable for the purposes of the Bill as public rooms. That was the object for which the Amendment was introduced. Passing from that—which he thought it was only fair to state—he wished to say a few words on the general argument. In the first place, let him say that those of them who agreed with the line taken by the House of Lords on this subject did not take up the line that was generally supposed and referred to this evening on the other side—they were not opposed to the use of the schoolroom for these purposes, but they were opposed to the compulsory use—[A laugh from the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER.] The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to think that was rather amusing; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman, if he had been a lay helper or a worker in any sense connected with the higher interests of mankind and had taken such a course in a country parish, would know there were many purposes for which schoolrooms were used which were not educational, but which the managers of these schools believed to be of the highest value to the inhabitants of the parish. Not that the schoolroom should be reserved for these purposes exclusively; that was far from being the intention of noble Lords in the other House or themselves in this House; hut what they said was that these schools being primarily intended for the general benefit of the parishes in this particular way, first for education and then for the other purposes he had designated, that it was wrong to take them against the will of the managers and force their political or semi-political meetings into these rooms. Let him remind hon. Gentlemen that these rooms in many cases were as much the private property of individuals as the house in which the right hon. Gentleman spent so happy a time in the country—["No, no!"] The hon. Member for Camborne (Mr. Conybeare) said "no."

MR. CONTBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)

The schools receive a public grant.


said, he was not forgetting that the schools received a grant; but he said that these schoolrooms or houses were as much the private property of those who built them, or their successors, as the house of any private individual, and therefore in the Bill that had been so often referred to of the late Government the words were used— Being a building held on trust for public elementary education. Many of these buildings had no such trust, and were as much private property as were their houses. He came now to the main issue; what were they to do on this Amendment? He had not been converted by what he had heard that night, and he was sorry there was not more disposition to support the Amendment they were discussing. However, they had made their protest; they had tried to show it was not from any desire to impede the working of the Bill they proposed the Amendment. By opposing the Amendment they thought the Government were introducing great friction into the working of these schools in the country parishes. There was a feeling that Parliament was heaping up opportunities and occasions on which these schoolrooms were to be used, and if it went on much longer the friction would increase, as this particular provision of the Bill might be worked in a very hostile and dangerous manner to the Church. However, they had entered their protest, and it was hardly worth while to trouble the House to divide in a matter of this kind.


said, he did not wish to elaborate the point on which he interrupted the hon. Gentleman a few minutes ago, but a school that received a grant was not on the same footing as his private house. He knew something of country schools as well as those of the Metropolis, and he could only say from his experience of country schools it was a most ludicrous perversion of the actual facts to ask anyone to suppose these schools were in use on every evening in the week. If the hon. Gentleman was at all correct as to the use of the schoo's in the part of the country where he lived his parish must be a great exception to the general rule. He would challenge anyone living in a parish similar to his own—and his was not an extraordinary case—to show that these parish schools were not idle night after night. He did not know what particular duties or uses had been heaped upon these schools of late years by Statute: the only ones to which they had been put by Statute were those to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) alluded to just now. He only wished to say be was quite certain that hon. Members living in country parishes would support him when he said that many of these schools were unused three nights out of six, and that it would be an advantage to the parishes if they were used more frequently.


said, he was a school manager, and he joined with the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) in hoping the noble Lord would not press the matter to a Division. It might be, and probably was, quite true that these schools had originally been built by private funds, and that technically and legally they were private schools, but the uses for which they had been built and for which they had always been employed gave to such property a kind of quasi- public character. If this Amendment were struck out of the Bill it would, he thought, prevent friction, for no more invidious duty could be imposed on a school manager, as he knew from personal experience, than having to decide whether certain persons should or should not have the use of the schoolroom on any particular occasion. He would not, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done, discuss the hereditary proclivities of the noble Lord; but, if he had to do so, he should express himself more shortly than the right hon. Gentleman did, and should simply say, Pater torius sed toriorior filius.

Question put, and agreed to.

The following Lords Amendments were disagreed with:— Line 81, leave out from ("room") to ("which") in line 82. Line 39, leave out from ("authority") to the first ("any,") in page 4, line 6. Page 4, line 18, after ("school") insert ("nor, in the case of a room used for the administration of justice or police, with the hours during which it is used for these purposes") Page 4, line 16, after the second ("room") insert ("or to the building of which the room is part, or its appurtenances.

Amendment, In page 4, line 19, leave out from ("be") to the end of the sub-section and insert ("and the amount of such expense, together with the cost of making good such damage, shall be a debt payable upon demand to the persons having control over the room"), the next Amendment, read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)

SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)

said, he should like some explanation of the reason why it was proposed to disagree with the Amendment, which appeared to him to be a most reasonable one. As the clause stood, all that was recovered was the expense or damage, and he thought it only reasonable to include the cost of making good such damage. Some words were certainly wanted, and he would submit the simple words, the cost of making good such damage shall be a debt payable by those having control over the room, should he inserted.


said, ho could not accept, the Amendment, for the reason that be could not consent to have the Parish Council subjected to the payment of expense of this sort. It was paramount that the school should not be put to any loss on the one hand, and ho could not consent to the Parish Council being put to a loss on the other. He was not sufficient of a lawyer to say whether any words should be added.


said, the addition of the words, as he read them, would meet the difficulty, and would be a substantial improvement of the clause.

*SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

submitted that the words suggested were not good words.


pointed out that the candidate might be a labourer; that a riot might occur by which great damage was done, and the candidate would not be in a position to make good the damage.


explained that by the clause as it stood it was clear the Parish Council was responsible to the school management, and the candidate had to reimburse the Parish Council. The Educational Authorities were provided for, and he wished to prevent the Parish Councils sustaining any loss.

Question put, and agreed to.

Amendment, In page 4, line 27,after the word "Board" to insert the words—"(4.) Provided that every notice under this section shall be in writing, signed by some person claiming to be entitled to give the same, and shall be given seven clear days at least before the time at which the use of the room is required, and shall state the purpose for which it is required, the next Amendment, read a second time.


moved that the House disagree with the Lords Amendment. He thought that they had better adhere to the decision of the House, after full discussion—namely, that it should be left to the Education Department to deal with matters of this kind, and to protect the interests of the schools.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)


said, that in the Bill of 1892, which was the precedent in this case, It days' notice to hold a meeting was required. What he said before applied very much more to this case, as it was altogether a question of convenience. What they were afraid of was the case where they might have to deal with cantankerous people, some of whom were found in every parish—people who wished to make things as disagreeable as possible, and in such cases the power given in the Bill might be used oppressively. If people wished to be disagreeable they gave as short a notice as they could, and if they desired to he pleasant they gave as long a. notice as possible. What they asked was that there should be a notice which was a fair and reasonable notice.


said, the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman referred was connected with political or quasi-political meetings, where several days' notice would be reasonable; but this Bill went further, and took in the ease of Parish Councils. There were cases where a Council meeting might have to be called on short notice. There were many statutory meetings, parish meetings, and so forth, where longer notice than seven days might be asked for, and what they all desired was that as long a notice as possible should be given; but there were cases where three days' notice would not cause any inconvenience to anyone. He thought the Education Department might be trusted so to arrange matters with the managers and the Local Authorities as to give all reasonable notice in the matter.


said, it appeared to him that what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman was a fair and reasonable view to take, so far as it affected the meetings of the Parish Council; but what they wanted was protection in the case of a candidate who desired to hold a meeting for the purposes of his candidature.

SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)

expressed the opinion that the suggestion was a reasonable one. He thought, however, that the precedent of the Allotments Act might, be followed, and six days' notice substituted in place of seven.


remarked that he could find no power in the Bill by which the Education Department or the Local Government Board could make any such general regulations with regard to this question, or any regulations of the character mentioned by the President of the Local Government Board and the Vice President. He should like to know whether there was such a power, and, if not, whether, in the interests of the proper settlement of the question, it would not be advisable to accept this Amendment pro formâ, in order to enable some such provision to be made in another place? He should be content to leave such regulations to the Department if it was perfectly clear that they had power to make the regulations.


observed that he had pointed out in Committee that the Education Department would issue as early as possible an indication of the interpretation they would apply to the word "reasonable," which would go into some detail,

MR. GRIFFITH - BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)

really thought they ought to support this Amendment. He humbly submitted that three days was a most unreasonable time. They should guard against a school being compulsorily taken on such short notice as three days, and at least seven days' notice should be given.

SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)

said, the right hon. Gentleman stated that it would be difficult to insert this proviso, because there were already provi- sions as to making regulations, and that if they inserted something touching regulations in this sub-section they would ho hampered. He found there was no provision with regard to the making of regulations as to notice, and the consequence was that they required a statutory enactment of some kind or other to provide that specific notice should be given. It must be done in one or two ways. They must either give the Education Department or the Local Government Board power to say there should be a certain notice. The Vice President had said that ho did not contemplate making regulations, but recommendations by way of corrections. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not wish to be understood as suggesting there should be binding regulations as to notice, but what he did say was that as soon as possible the Education Department would issue regulations. He (Sir R. Webster) contended that a statutory enactment was necessary to provide that some notice should be given, and he considered the Amendment a, reasonable one.


could not see the slightest necessity for a statutory provision making it an inflexible rule that for all meetings and places the same notice should be given. Surely it was no portion of the duty of the House to Specifically enact that six or seven days' notice should be given. There were many cases within his own knowledge in which six hours would be sufficient, and 24 hours ample notice; and to say that they should not have the room without giving six or seven days' notice would in many cases be equivalent to not giving it at all, because the occasion would have passed before the room would be available.


observed, that this was not a question of dealing with reasonable persons, but now and then with unreasonable persons; and the Bill as it left that House was practically unworkable. It would be impossible to get the Education Department to take the requisite action in three days; it usually took three months; and it was absurd to say that the view of the Education Department as to what was reasonable was any assistance or protection to the managers of the schools. In the sub-section which bad been amended by the Lords, and but lately restored to its original form, the persons who had to make good the damage done to a school were those persons who applied for its use. But how could the Department know who the persons were unless there was a statutory notice in writing? The Lords had provided that the notice should be in writing signed by some person claiming to be entitled to give the same. If the Amendment wore carried it would be possible for the managers of schools, or the Parish Council, or whoever it was who required to be reimbursed in respect of damages to a school, to know with whom they were dealing, and unless some Amendment of the kind the Lords had proposed were put in the Bill there would be no certainty that any man could be made amenable for expenses in respect of damages which his meeting might cause to the school. He hoped, because the Lords Amendment gave the name of the person on whom responsibility could be fixed in case of damage, and also because three days was not sufficient time for notice, that the House would agreed to accept it.

SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

expressed the hope that a Division would be taken in order to show that hon. Members on the Opposition side were anxious to support the Lords as far as they could in showing a just and reasonable consideration to the managers of schools. Despite whatever the Solicitor General might say, he was quite sure if they could have a plébiscite of the school managers throughout England they would find they desired that this proper notice should be given, and they would place far more value on a statutory notice prescribed by Act of Parliament than in any safeguard of notice being ensured by executive action on the part of the Education Department, because they know that the Department might be swayed by varying views from time to time. He submitted that school managers as a class had the highest possible claim on the justice and consideration of this House, they having secured great scholastic educational property to the nation, and of which the nation enjoyed the benefit.


was sure they all agreed with his hon. Friend in the general verdict he had passed on voluntary schools. Turning to the general aspect of the question, he said that the attitude of the Government on this question was to him wholly unintelligible. All that the Department could do would be to write down a formal letter commencing "My Lords," and ending "Your obedient servant," taking notice of the complaint of the Parish Council. They would have no more power than that to settle that which might be a vexed question.

MR.H. H. FOWLER (interposing)

said, the Bill provided that no meeting should be held without reasonable notice, and then, if necessary, the Department would decide what was reasonable notice.


said, that was not his reading of the Bill. What, he asked, would be the use of calling in the Department? Let them assume that three days' notice of a meeting was given. The school manager would say, "That is not a reasonable notice." He would close the doors, and no meeting would be held. Then the remedy of the aggrieved Parish Council would be to write up to the Department, and when the Department replied the whole case would he over. He thought the Government were obstinately insisting on a scheme which must lead to friction and inflict hardship. The Amendment made the meaning of the Statute perfectly (dear, and left on the mind of the school managers and those who managed the parish meeting an absolute certainty as to the intention of the Legislature. He hoped, therefore, his hon. Friend would go to a Division.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 208; Noes 105.—(Division List, No. 439.)

Amendment, In line 32, after the word "be," to insert the words "transferred to and," the next Amendment, agreed to.

Amendment, In page 5, line 23, after the word "charities," to insert the words "or are constituted by any special trust, the next Amendment, read a second time.


said, that he had some doubt as to the meaning of the Amendment. There had been no explanation given of it in the House of Lords that he could follow; therefore, what he was about to say would be subject to ex- planation which might hereafter be given. They were dealing with the clause in which they transferred to the Parish Council the powers, duties, and liabilities of the Churchwardens, except so far as they related to the affairs of the Church or ecclesiastical charities, and the House of Lords desired to add the words "or are constituted by any special trust." If that meant that they were to exempt from the transfer to the Parish Council any of the duties of the Churchwardens as secular trustees, that was merely another mode of fighting out an old controversy, and to that the Government could offer but one reply. He, however, took this broader ground of objection. He regarded Churchwardens as both ecclesiastical and secular officers. The Bill carefully guarded against any interference with their ecclesiastical capacity, but the Government could not admit any qualification in regard to their secular capacity simply on the ground that for other purposes they were ecclesiastical officers. No doubt, they had ecclesiastical relationship with the parish, and that he had not wished to interfere with, but they had been for centuries the lay representatives of the parish also. They had been incorporated with the Overseers as a lay Corporation representing the parish. There was no obligation at their election that they should he members of the Church at all. They might be of all sorts of religious opinions. He must resist the Lords Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr.H. H. Fowler.)


said, there was considerable ambiguity in the whole of the section to which these words would attach, and, unless something were said now, when they came to Clause 15 there might be some difference of opinion as to what the words meant. He had taken the view all along that to insert the words "ecclesiastical charities" had for result that it would he taken that the powers and duties of Churchwardens included powers in relation to charities. If it was intended that the words were to have general application they were inconsistent with the whole scope of the charities clause. The funds belonging to parochial charities were administered by trustees, and if this clause was not intended to refer to them they ought not to have inserted the words "ecclesiastical charities" here. If it was intended to refer to them, he doubted if any of the controversy which arose over what was originally Clause 13 and was now Clause 15 was necessary. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment in the House of Lords (the Earl of Selborne) was a great lawyer, and he clearly agreed with the House of Commons (who inserted the word "ecclesiastical" in the clause) in believing that it covered the duty of the Churchwardens in relation to charities. If so, the whole question of charities arose on these words, and as, in his opinion, they were important words conferring a duty on Churchwardens in connection with charities, he was glad the Government left them out.

Question put, and agreed to.

The following Lords Amendments were agreed to:— Line 28, after "1855," insert "Provided that such obligations shall not in the case of any particular parish be deemed to attach, unless or until the Churchwardens subsequently to the passing of this Act shall give a certificate, as in the Burial Act, 1855, provided, in order to obtain the payment of such expenses out of the poor rate. Line 39, leave out "or," and insert "and. Page 6, line 16, after 1887, insert "or the Allotments Act, 1890. Page 7, line 22, leave out "in," and insert "for the whole or part of.

Amendment, In line 30, leave out from the word "acquire" to the word "or," in line 35, and insert "with the consent of the parish meeting, buildings for public offices and for meetings and for any purposes connected with parish business or with the powers or duties of the Parish Council or parish meeting; and, the next Amendment, read a second time.


said, the Amendment would require that before a Parish Council acquired buildings for public offices and for meetings and for any purposes connected with parish business, or with the powers and duties of the Parish Council or parish meeting, they should obtain the consent of the parish meeting. He would move to disagree with that part of the Amendment which required the consent of the parish meeting. His objection to the Amendment was that this was an unnecessary restriction to put upon the action of the Parish Council, because they could not well apply for a site for public buildings without asking for a loan, which they could not do without the consent of the parish meeting, nor could they raise their expenditure beyond 3d. in the £1. It would put the parish to great expense to hold these public meetings. Objection had been taken in the House of Commons to the words "public meetings and other purpose" that they were very wide words. He was disposed to agree with that. The House of Lords took the same view, and Lord Kimberley undertook to bring up an Amendment on Report, and on his Motion the words and for any purposes connected with parish business or with the powers and duties of the Parish Council or parish meeting were inserted. He moved to disagree with the Amendment by striking out the words "with the consent of the parish meeting."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the words' with the consent of the parish meeting' stand part of the Lords Amendment."


said, the Lords had had two objects in view, and he understood the right hon. Gentleman opposite to agree to the first of these. The principle which the Lords had endeavoured to insert in the clause was in reality the principle which they (the Opposition) had themselves maintained throughout the whole of the discussions in Committee—namely, that there should be in connection with some of the more important matters of administration a reference from the Parish Council to the assembly of the parish—in other words, that the Parish Council should be the servant of the parish meeting, and not the parish meeting the servant of the Parish Council. Of course, he admitted that when they were dealing with large authorities such as Corporations, or even large parishes, the costly proceeding of reference to the Council in regard to executive functions would be highly inconvenient. But the position in regard to small authorities was different. There might be small Parish Councils, aggressive in character, which would desire to justify their existence by indulging in unnecessary experiments to the injury of the community. The proviso in the Bill was to enable a Parish Council to provide or acquire buildings for public offices and for meetings and other public purposes. If they were dealing with large parishes only the Lords Amendment would not be so necessary, but it would be a desirable safeguard against ill-considered expenditure in small localities. They were bound to remember—though he did not suppose it was likely to happen very often—that there was a minority who might suffer oppression under the powers of this Bill. It was necessary for the House to do what it could without injustice to protect this minority. He did not himself see at first sight that there would be any great hardship in the case of even larger parishes which was at all to be compared with the injustice which might occur in the ease of small parishes. It would be seldom that a parish in a rural district would desire to provide or acquire a building for a public office or public purpose; but when it did so desire, it would be no hardship to require that first of all it should obtain the consent of the electorate. He did not think that this necessarily would imply want of confidence! in the new Administrative Authority, because, after all, the check would merely be the constituency—those whose money the Council proposed to spend. The parish as a whole ought, he thought, to have some means of expressing its assent to or dissent from the proposals of the Parish Council, and he regretted that the Government did not see their way to accept the Lords Amendment.

MR. STOREY (Sunderland)

said, that the hon. Member opposite said that in the case of a small parish the parish meeting should be consulted. Had he quite understood the answer the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had given to that point? These parish buildings could not be erected without money. They could not be erected out of the general rate. The money must be raised by loan, and to raise that the Parish Council must go to the parish meeting. Therefore, he would suggest, as a matter of practical consideration, that the objection of the hon. Member was already met by the provisions of the Bill itself.


said, he would put this further point: The hon. Member opposite spoke of the necessity of con- sulting those who elected the constituents. But in the case of large parishes that would be a most unreal proceeding. In Durham there was a parish containing a population of 17,000, and there was a rural parish in his own county containing 16,000 people in six different Parliamentary polling districts and six local government polling divisions. Under the Amendment in that case the Council would have to hold a meeting of its constituents in a place where there was not a room large enough to hold 200 people. As a matter of fact, the course contemplated in the Lords Amendment would be most inconvenient and scarcely practicable.

MR. J. LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

said, the argument of the hon. Member for Sunderland appeared to cut, both ways. The hon. Gentleman had pointed out that, as a matter of fact, the House of Lords had not gone beyond what the Bill itself, as drawn by the Government, actually enforced—namely, that for all practical purposes no Parish Council should incur expenditure necessary for the erection of buildings and for purposes of that kind without having recourse to the parish meeting. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would realise that the House of Lords had not in any way derogated from the powers of the Parish Council, for the Parish Council under the right hon. Gentleman's own draft could not have carried out these works without reference to the parish meeting. Therefore, what the right hon. Gentleman said as to the removal of the responsibility for the initiative in these executive matters did not apply. The real point was at what stage of the proceedings there should be a, reference to the parish meeting. In order to obtain a loan the Parish Council would have to apply to the parish meeting: but unless this Amendment were agreed to, the Council might defer referring to the parish assembly until after some liabilities had been incurred in connection with proposed building schemes —until, he would not say the honour, but at any rate the public faith, of the parish had been pledged. It appeared to him that the House of Lords had dealt with the matter in the right way, and that it was much wiser to enact that the Council should obtain the sanction of the parish meeting in the first instance. If the Council bad power to carry out the whole of these works without consulting the parish meeting at all, there might be some thing in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He (Mr. Lowther) should not be prepared to accede to it even then. Under the Borough Funds Act Municipal Corporations had the control of large funds, and Parliament bad decided that in certain contingencies recourse must be had to the vote of the ratepayers as a whole.


In matters in regard to which there is an application to Parliament.


Yes; in matters that required application to Parliament. The House of Lords appeared to him to have said that before the Parish Council commenced a course of expenditure it should have recourse to the parish meeting. The Government themselves proposed that it should have such recourse before the proceedings terminated.

SIR J. LUBBOCK (London University)

said, the object they had in view was to limit expense in the Bill if they could do so without weakening any of the checks. What were the checks? Clause 11 said— A Parish Council shall not, without the consent of a parish meeting, incur any expense or liability which will involve a rate exceeding 3d. in the £l for any local financial year, or which will involve a loan. Then there was a provision to the effect that no expense or liability which would involve a loan should be inclined without the consent of the County Council. Furthermore, Sub-section 3 of Clause 38 said— The chairman of the Parish Council or any two Parish Councillors, or the chairman of the parish meeting or any six parochial electors, may at any time convene a parish meeting. Therefore, if there was any serious difference of opinion in the parish as to the necessity of requiring buildings two Councillors surely would be found to call a parish meeting, and the County Council were not likely to agree to the expense against the wishes of the parish meeting. In these circumstances, he did not think it was necessary to insert the Lords Amendment. Any two Councillors could secure the object the Lords had in view.


said, the experience of Municipal Corporations had been ap- pealed to, and he wished to say that, though it was true that in certain cases under the Borough Funds Act the ratepayers had to be consulted, the feeling of the Corporations was always against the operation of that Act. At the last meeting of the representatives of the Municipal Corporations a week ago a resolution was passed stating the absolute necessity for a modification of that Act, as experience had led to that conclusion. And the whole tendency of legislation had been in the same direction. The smaller bodies were the more deliberative, and could take a wiser view than large meetings. In the case of the Public Libraries Act, carried by the hon. Member for Wigan (Sir F. S. Powell), the matter was left to the Councils. As to expense, there were many cases which demonstrated that parsimony was not always economy.

Question put, and negatived.

Lords Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Lords Amendment agreed to, after the last Amendment, insert— (b.) To provide or acquire, with the consent of the parish meeting, land for such buildings, and for a recreation ground and for public walks; and (c) To apply to the Board of Agriculture under Section !) of the Commons Act, 1876; and.

Lords Amendment proposed, to follow the last Amendment— (d.) To exercise with respect to any recreation ground, village green, open space, other than a closed churchyard.


said, he had had the same difficulty in understanding this Amendment as he had experienced with regard to another Amendment he had lately dealt with. The sub-section as it stood originally in the Bill said— To exercise with respect to any recreation ground, village green, open space, or public walk which is for the time being under their control, or to the expense of which they have contributed, such powers as may be exercised by an Urban Authority, and so on. No new power had been granted with reference to this matter, and if the words put in by the Lords were permitted to remain they would interfere with the powers already existing. From 1877 to 1890 certain Acts were passed with respect to open spaces. The Acts originally referred to London only, but ultimately they were extended to every Local Authority. Under Section 4 of the Act of 1881 the owner of any churchyard, cemetery, or burial ground, closed for burying, might convey it to the Local Authority for any term of years for the purpose of giving public access to it and preserving it as an open space, the Local Authority holding it on trust, and all powers of management being subject to the proviso that they were not to be exercised with regard to any consecrated ground except under the licence or faculty of the Bishop of the diocese. The fact was, that at the present time Rural and Urban Authorities were entitled to deal with closed churchyards, which were regarded—and rightly so—as open spaces to be kept in repair and available for the use of the public. The insert ion of the Lords Amendment would say that what were urban spaces in urban districts should not be open spaces in rural districts where the Parish Council exercised authority. This was the Power as it existed at the present time, and he could see no reason for inserting the words referred to, which would be advantageous neither to the Ecclesiastical Authorities nor to the public. These words seem to me to be in no way advantageous to anybody, and until some reason is given to me for their retention, I must ask the House to strike them out.

Motion made, an 1 Question proposed, That this House doth disagree with the words' other than a closed churchyard."— (Mr. H.H. Fowler.)


said, he could not help thinking that the insertion of these words had some connection with the Amendment to Clause 6, and he was not quite sure, although the right hon. Gentleman's statement was, to a great extent, satisfactory, whether the right hon. Gentleman had entirely dealt with the whole matter. It seemed to him that, practically speaking, there was no necessity to interfere with closed churchyards in rural districts, there being a very small number of them; but he should like to know whether, if the change remained as it left the Commons, it would not be possible for the Parish Council to get powers over closed churchyards notwithstanding the express prohibition inserted in the case of churchyards where there was another fund for their maintenance and repair?


said, he did not think his hon. and learned Friend need be under any apprehension about the matter. The Bill gave the Parish Council no power at all to deal with churchyards. If the words were left in he believed they would be inoperative, but as they might be misunderstood he thought they had better be omitted.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment, In page 9, line 13, to leave out the word "district." and insert the word "county," the next Amendment, read a second time.


We now come to one of the most important clauses of the Bill, and this is the first of a series of most important Amendments. I think it would be well if I stated now the views of the Government upon the question with which the series of Amendments deals. This is a preliminary Amendment leading up to a scheme submitted to the other House on the preparation and advice of a very eminent authority in that House upon all matters of Parliamentary procedure. I will therefore explain the views of the Government on the question of allotments as far as this clause and Hill are concerned. This clause, the House will recollect, does not deal with the hiring of land for the purposes of allotments, but with the purchase of land compulsorily; but I have no doubt that whatever the House may please to do with reference to compulsory purchase on this clause will be done, as a matter of course, on the next clause, which relates to hiring. Therefore, the real question which arises is as to the mode in which the compulsory powers of purchase and hiring arc to be exercised. i must call attention, in the first instance, to what the law is at the present time, and show how the House has agreed to amend it. Under the Act of 1887 the control of allotments was vested practically in Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities. Parliament was not very well satisfied, at all events as far as rural districts were concerned, with those authorities. There was great discussion in the House, and complaint was made that the Rural Sanitary Authority was not the very host authority that could he selected for the purpose. But in 1887 the then Government were contemplating the preparation of their great scheme of local government, and the House accepted the Rural Sanitary Authority as a stop-gap until a more complete and a better system, of local government could be provided. Under that Act the Urban or Rural Sanitary Authority, as the case might be—I am dealing, however, more especially with the Rural Authority—had powers of hiring or purchasing by agreement, and of letting land to the labourers for the purposes of allotments. No powers of compulsory hiring were granted by that Act, but powers of compulsory purchase were given, and with those powers were incorporated the powers of the Lands Clauses Acts. The Local Authority—it afterwards became the County Council—was to make a Provisional Order for the taking of any land that was acquired compulsorily. That Order was to be introduced into Parliament by the Local Government Board. The duties of the Local Government Board in the matter were purely ministerial; they had no judicial or discretionary powers. The Provisional Order Bill was liable to the same controversy in Parliament as any other Provisional Order Bill, and Parliament had itself to decide whether the compulsory powers were to be exercised. Some improvement was made in the procedure for the purpose of facilitating the appointment of arbitrators, and to some extent reducing the expenses which in this country have hitherto attended all attempts to put in force compulsory powers. There were certain provisions, which we do not now touch, to the effect that no garden or pleasure ground required for the amenity or convenience of any dwelling-house could be taken, and the Local Authority' was also to have regard to the extent of the land belonging to the owner in the neighbourhood and to the convenience of other property belonging to him. Parliament also gave power to a Committee of either House to award costs in case of any unjustifiable opposition to a Provisional Order. Well, that is the state of things under the Act of 1887. The first thing we have to ask is, What has been the extent of the exercise of compulsory powers during the seven years between 1887 and 1894? Well, Sir, I have never, and I do not think any of my right hon. Friends on this Bench have ever, attempted to undervalue the very large amount of good effected under the Allotments Act of 1887. There is no doubt that even the existence of these powers has had a beneficial effect, and that a considerable number of allotments have been acquired voluntarily which no doubt would not have been acquired but for the existence of that Act. But I am dealing now with the compulsory character of the Act, and I have to consider what is the extent to which the compulsory powers have been put into operation. I have had the matter investigated in my Department, and I find that there are only three cases in which powers of compulsory purchase have been taken under the Act of 1887. Two of those cases wore practically unopposed, and of course there is no question of compulsion where there is no question of opposition, so that practically we have only one case of opposition. There was one unopposed case in 1890 and one in 1892, and the cost in both those cases was exceedingly small. In 1890 it was £20, and, although I do not know what the expenses were exactly in 1892, because they were mixed up with other costs, they were certainly insignificant. That shows that the ordinary procedure of the Local Government Board is not in itself an expensive procedure. But there was one case about which I have heard a great many statements made in this House, and which I must refer to, because it is the only case which has ever been fought through the procedure of a contested Private Bill. The cost of that procedure—

An hon. MEMBER

What was the case?


The St. Faith's case. The costs of the Rural Sanitary Authority in that case were £494 13s. 8d., but under the Order of the Parliamentary Committee the vendor was compelled to pay towards those costs a sum of £148 17s. 5d. The House will therefore see what was the practical value of the provision to order payment of costs. Out of an expenditure of nearly £500 the Rural Sanitary Authority received back less than £150, being thus saddled with costs amounting to about £345. The purchase of the laud, including compensations and incidental outlay, together with heavy arbitration expenses, cost £1,236 5s. 8d., making the total cost of acquiring 14 acres of land £1,582 1s. l1d. That is the story of the only case in which compulsory powers have been put in force. I would say, as a preliminary observation in the discussion of this question, that a system which requires so large an expenditure of public money for the purchase of 14 acres of land is a system which carries its own condemnation on the face of it. What the Government proposed was to leave the existing machinery for acquiring allotments precisely as it is at present. We did not interfere with the mode of procedure by arbitration; we did not interfere with the Local Authorities; but what we asked the House to do, and what the House did, was to substitute for this expensive and dilatory procedure of a, Provisional Order confirmed by Parliament a system under which the Local Government Board would take the place of the County Council, and the confirmation by Parliament of the action of the Local Government Board would be dispensed with. In other words, we proposed that the Local Government Board should make the final Order putting these compulsory powers into force. Well, Sir, that plan has been subjected to very grave criticism. It was very severely fought in this House; and it has not been exempted from very caustic criticism elsewhere. As there is evidently some misunderstanding on the subject, I should like to describe to the House what is the procedure that prevails under the Bill before these Provisional Orders are granted. In the first place, the interference of the Local Government Board must be invoked by petition from the locality. An Inspector is then sent down by the Local Government Board to make an inquiry on the spot. The inquiry is open to the public, and is an inquiry before which all persons interested can he heard and evidence can be taken. The duty of the Inspector is to hear the evidence and report the substance of that evidence to the Board, and also to make a personal inspection of the locality to which the inquiry relates. It is his duty to include in his Report a statement of the conclusion to which the evidence leads him. Those Reports have always been regarded as strictly confidential. They are never communicated either to one side or the other, and the Inspector is therefore enabled to state his views very fully and freely to the Department. He does not decide the case; and I want to make that perfectly clear to the House, because we have been told that we substitute the Local Government Board Inspector for the Department. He sends up his Report and recommendation to the Board. It is then considered by the permanent staff belonging to each Department of the Local Government Board touched upon in it. The question is then submitted to the Permanent Secretary of the Local Government Board, and, finally, with his Report, it is submitted to the Head of the Local Government Board, upon whose official responsibility rests the final decision. We were told in another place that the Inspectors had no real qualification to discharge this duty, and that they were perfectly ignorant of these matters; and a high authority there stated— I entirely distrust an Inspector of the Local Government board. I. distrust him, in the first place, because he is incompetent, and knows nothing of the subject. Now I must ask the House to follow me while I tell it the class of work which these gentlemen thus said to be so im-competent are every day dealing with. They are dealing constantly with all the vast expenditure of the Municipal Corporations of the country, whether for obtaining land for sewage, water supply, cemeteries, public buildings, or numerous other purposes; and, more than that, a considerable proportion of their inquiries actually involves the compulsory acquisition of laud. As evidence of the fact that those duties have been discharged in a satisfactory manner, I may inform the House that, during the past 10 years, 215 Provisional Orders have been made by the Local Government Board for acquiring land compulsorily, and of these only four have been disapproved by Parliament. Therefore, I think I am justified in saying that the Inspectors are not the incompetent authorities that the noble Lord has suggested in another place. But the same noble Lord proceeded to state that he distrusted the Inspectors, in the second place, because they were appointed by a politician, and their official existence depended on the goodwill of that politician; and they were at the beck and call of their chief. That is a very grave charge to make against the permanent Civil servants of this country; and I should not be doing justice to the eminent and distinguished men over whom I have the honour to preside if I did not tell the House that they feel very severely the imputations which have been cast not only upon their competency, but upon their personal honour. "Appointed by a politician." It is a new rule to lay down in this country that a public officer is not to be trusted to net impartially if he is appointed by a politician. Who appoints the Judges? A politician: the Lord Chancellor. Who appoints even the Bishops? A politician: my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Who appoints a large number of the minor judicial officials? A politician: the Home Secretary. I might go through the whole Government hierarchy and point out a large number of other public officers—permanent Civil servants of this country—against whom not a shadow of complaint has been, nor can be, raised, and all of whom were appointed by politicians. We have prided ourselves, and I trust that this country will continue to pride itself in the future, upon its staff of Civil servants, who are above, and act independently of, all political influence, and who are the example, and oven the envy, of the civilised world. The Leader of the Opposition twitted the Government only last Tuesday with distrust in the Inspectors of another Government Department—the Board of Trade—to whom it was proposed to delegate certain duties with a view to the pecuniary protection of the working classes of this country, the right hon. Gentleman being evidently of opinion that those men would discharge the additional duty proposed to be cast upon them with perfect honour and propriety. What does this absurd arrangement lead us to? The suggestion thrown out in another place amounts to this—that upon an application to the Local Government Board for the acquisition of land the Head of the Department might say to the Inspector who had been sent down to inquire into the matter, "I expect you to report in favour of this purchase. It is my desire to annoy the people in the locality, and I particularly wish to annoy the clergymen because I am a Nonconformist," and if the Inspector said, "I shall do nothing of the kind; my opinion is precisely the contrary; I shall send in my Report and you will deal with it," thereupon the Head of the Department might say, "Your post and your official existence depend upon me. I shall at once discharge you." As a matter of fact, he could not legally do so. The Civil servants of this country are not be dismissed except on grounds of the most serious character; and a man in the permanent Civil Service is practically as firmly fixed in his appointment as those who hold office during good behaviour. But supposing for a moment that a President of the Local Government Board were to act in the way described, how many hours would elapse before the British public knew of it; how many hours would elapse before a question would be put in this House as to his conduct; and how long would it be before a Minister who so shamelessly prostituted his office would be forced by his colleagues to resign? Could any Government allow a colleague to remain in office who so disgraced himself, and them? The criticism of the noble Lord to whom I have referred went a little further, for later on he said that we must not trust the Head of the Local Government Board because he is a politician, and because, therefore, we might in this country run the risk of a repetition of the example furnished by France in the case of the Panama Canal scandals, to the ruin of the reputation of even the most distinguished politicians. Thus the argument was advanced a step. Not only were the Inspectors not to be trusted, but it was suggested that the political Heads of Departments were incapable of performing their duties impartially. That is a supposition altogether inconsistent with the state of things that exists under the Government of this country. In every Department, from that of the Prime Ministerdownwards, the Heads are day by day exercising purely judicial functions, which they do with as strong a desire to do justice as is felt by any Judge who sits upon the Judicial Bench. I think that after so severe a criticism we have a right to test this question by our past experience, and to judge how the future holders of a great office will act by the conduct of those who have hold it previously. After all, in such cases as these, history is better than prophesy. There are a number of men now sitting in both Houses of Parliament who have presided over the great Public Departments. In the other House, among the past Presidents of the Local Government Board, are to be found Lord Basing, Lord Cranbrook, and Lord Monk Bretton. In this House we have my Colleague in the representation of Wolverhampton—"the Father of the House of Commons;"—we have the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Members for Halifax, the Forest of Dean, and West Birmingham, and last, but by no means least, the Leader of the Opposition. These are a fair sample of the public men of this country; and is it to be suggested for a moment that they would be capable of the degrading and disgraceful conduct I have indicated, or would prostitute their office to serve any political purpose whatever? I may add, that the great ambition of the present occupant of the position I hold is to follow the example of such eminent men. When it is suggested that the Heads of the Local Government Board are to be disqualified from determining questions arising under this clause because they are politicians, I ask what is the alternative proposal which has been made in another place? It is that such questions should be decided by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. Are there no politicians in the House, of Commons; are there no politicians in the House of Lords? Why, of course, the vast majority of the Members of both Houses are politicians. No man has a higher opinion than I have of the eminent fairness of the Private Bill Committees of this House, but I believe that the Heads of every Department of the Government would act with equal fairness and would strive to perform their several duties in the same spirit, and I believe it would be with the same success. I felt it my duty to repel that criticism, and, having done so, I will proceed to deal with the more general question. We have been told that the principle of taking of laud compulsorily is a new one, and that now, for the first time, it is proposed that when one man wants to obtain another man's land absolute power to decide the matter shall be given to the Head of a Public Department. It is not necessarily disadvantageous to a proposal that it is a new one; but in discussing this point it is desirable to inquire what has been done in this direction before. I join issue with the noble Lord upon the matter. I maintain that this is not the first time by any means that it has been proposed to give compulsory powers for the acquisition of land otherwise than by means of Provisional Orders, or Private Acts of Parliament, or that a Government Department has been empowered to take land compulsorily. I could cite a long series of cases, but I will only trouble the House by referring to three or four of them. The County Council possess the power—long before possessed by Quarter Sessions—of taking land without the intervention of Parliament, or of any Government Department, for certain purposes. The Admiralty have power to take land for the purposes of establishing signal stations and for certain coastguard purposes; and the Secretary for War has power to take land for the purposes of the Ordnance Department and for the defence of the realm; and the Home Secretary has power to acquire land compulsorily as sites for prisons. The House will be amused to hear that there is another body which has power to acquire laud compulsorily in rural parishes without the intervention of Parliament, and that is the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who, without the intervention of any Government Department, are empowered to take land for the purposes of sites for churches, church approaches, and churchyards.

SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)

That power has not been put into force.


All the Commissioners have to do if the land they select is not handed over at once is to summon a jury and take it compulsorily. I am aware that that power has not often been put in force; and I know, too, that the hon. Baronet opposite has year after year brought in a Bill to repeal the Act of Parliament giving that power, but the provision stands upon the Statute Book at the present moment. We on this side of the House are quite willing that that should be repealed when proper provision has been made for the acquisition of land for chapels as well as for churches.


The power has only been exercised once.


The power having been exercised once proves my case. There is, however, a still stronger instance in support of my contention, and that is, that under what is known as Michael Angelo Taylor's Act the Metropolitan Improvement Commissioners are empowered to take what laud they please for the purpose of widening and improving the streets of the Metropolis; while so recently as 1862 that power was extended to the London Vestries and the London District Boards, and I am told it has been exercised in the case of the City alone in 1,000 instances, at a cost of several millions of money. I, therefore, submit to the House that the principle embodied in this clause is not a novel one, but is justified by precedents against which there can be no objection raised. Lord Morley, of whom I speak with the utmost respect, for he is a very high authority on questions of procedure, evidently feels that the maintenance of the Provisional Order system as it now stands is impossible, and he has proposed a long Amendment in which he suggests a new procedure. It empowers the County Council to make the Order, which is then to be sent to the Local Government Board. It is to be deposited with the Local Government Board a certain time, and then, if unopposed, it is to be confirmed; if opposed, it is to be referred to Parliament. In fact, a Bill for the confirmation of the Order is to be brought in. The qualifications to the scheme are that the Bill may be referred to a joint Committee of both Houses, that no counsel shall be employed before Parliament, that only one expert witness shall be allowed, and that costs may be awarded. Why I ask the House to dissent from this proposal is, that Lord Morley reserves the application to Parliament. On that point I wish to make the action of the Government perfectly clear. I did not wish to impose the Local Government Board on either House of Parliament; but I think it is the cheapest, the most effective, and the most simple tribunal. The Local Government Board have no desire for that duty, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not be surprised, if it is undertaken, if the Board come to the Treasury for an increase of its staff. If the House of Lords had stated a pro- position which involved some tribunal other than the Local Government Board, and did not involve the intervention of Parliament, the Government would have been prepared to give it their best consideration. But the application to Parliament is a practical prohibition. That compulsory powers given to a body like a Parish Council, with its limited resources and small rating powers, should be coupled with the condition that the case must be fought before Parliament is nothing but a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. Rather let the compulsion be abolished altogether, and laud obtained only on agreement. But if you mean to give compulsory powers, give them in a form in which they can be exercised. These poor bodies, representing poor men, ought not to be put at the disadvantage which every Parliamentary contest involves—the contest between the man with the big purse and the man with the little purse. Do not subject them to the enormous disadvantage I have indicated. It is not beyond the wisdom of either House to devise some scheme which will protect fully and amply every interest which ought to be protected, giving the people allotments where they ought to have them, and not giving them where the people ought not to have them. It is possible to devise such a scheme, to be worked at a moderate expense, and enjoying the confidence of the country. But a scheme which involves an appeal to a Committee of the House, or to a Joint Committee of the two Houses, is a scheme to which the Government never can and never will assent. On these grounds I ask the House to disagree with the Lords Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

The right hon. Gentleman said very truly that we were approaching one of the most important parts of the controversy between the two Houses upon this Bill. He seemed to be inclined to take the Amendment which is now before the House as one which necessarily involved subsequent Amendments, and he prepared to oppose the present one as a preliminary to opposing those which followed. I will venture to say at the outset, I make a great distinction between the Amendment which we are now considering and the Amendments which follow. I hope before I sit down I shall be able to convince him that there may be reasons for accepting the Amendment now before the House, even if he has decided to reject the subsequent Amendments. My right hon. Friend gave the House the history of the application of compulsion to these cases in great detail, and I am sure the House feels under obligation to him for having made the matter so clear. Ho said that hitherto compulsion, although it was admitted as a principle, had been applied in very few cases. But does my right hon. Friend expect that, even under the Bill as he has proposed it, compulsion is going to be employed in many cases? In my opinion, the whole value of the principle of compulsion is to make its application unnecessary. The threat of compulsion servos in place of compulsion. I say that, not in the interest of those who are to be compelled, but in the interest of those who have to compel: because I defy my right hon. Friend, with all his ingenuity, to produce any scheme of compulsion which will not be more expensive than a voluntary arrangement. Therefore, it will always be preferable in the interests of the labourer to come to a voluntary arrangement, if a fail' one can be made. It is, undoubtedly, because there are cases where it is impossible to make a fair voluntary arrangement that it is necessary to introduce compulsion. But when we have done that, the threat of it will, as a rule, be sufficient, and the number of cases actually to be tried will always be extremely inconsiderable. Therefore, it is no imputation whatever upon the Act of 1887 to say that there have been only three cases tried. We cannot value that Act properly until we know how many voluntary arrangements have been made in consequence of the existence of the power of compulsion, which has been so very infrequently applied. But we are all agreed with my right hon. Friend that the principle of compulsion, both in regard to purchase and in regard to hiring, must be adopted. And bear in mind that that principle has not been contested even in the House of Lords. They have accepted the principle. Then it is Said that, although the cases in which compulsion may be re- quisite will be very few, that is not any reason why they should be very expensive. That is the great point in the argument of my right hon. Friend. I entirely agree with him. I have said again and again, in dealing with various phases of this question of compulsory purchase, that it is a monstrous injustice and abuse, after this House has decided that it is in the public interest for land to be acquired at a fair value for a public purpose, that indirectly the cost of the land should be so enormously increased as to make it almost impossible to carry out the object. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. I believe the whole House desires that in the exceptional ease when compulsion is applied the act of applying compulsion shall be as cheap as possible to the successful litigant. If the attempt to apply it is an admitted abuse of the powers of the Act, of course the person making the application ought to be penalised. On the other hand, if the refusal to grant land is, after full inquiry, declared to be an abuse of the rights of private property, then the private proprietor ought to bear all the cost of the expense to which he has put either the community or the individual. 80 far we agree. Then the question is this: What is the cheapest way of trying these cases, and, at the same time, a way which will do justice between the parties? Because I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman will pretend that it was his duty to recommend a tribunal or system, because it was cheap, if it was shown that it was also unjust. The first condition is the justness of the tribunal: (he second condition—nearly as important—is the cheapness of the action. The House of Lords, in dealing with this question in the first instance, proposed that there should be in exceptional cases a final appeal to Parliament. That has been the almost invariable practice. In these cases the House of Lords proposed to go back to that invariable practice. What is the objection? It is because you cannot go in ordinary cases to a Parliamentary Committee, whether a. Joint Committee of the two Houses, or separate Committees, without enormous expense under the existing system and practice. That would be a great wrong and hardship in the present case. But do not hon. Members think that it is also a great wrong and hardship in many existing cases? Is it not an intolerable wrong that a community, or even a private individual, who has won his case, who by a Parliamentary Committee has been declared to he right in his case, should, nevertheless, be mulct in a small fortune? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that only within the last few days I have had an application from a constituent claiming that cases between the public and the railways should be tried by another Public Department—namely, by the Board of Trade, without an appeal to Parliament. That is a growing demand. Let us understand, therefore, what we are doing. I am not objecting to, J am strengthening the argument of, the right hon. Gentleman. It is perfectly true that the agricultural labourer and the friends of the agricultural labourer are greatly opposed to the system of public inquiry, not because of any complaint against the general justice of the decisions rendered, but because of the intolerable expense. I am inclined to think that whatever course we now pursue in this matter will be a precedent to be pursued in a great many other cases, and that makes it all the more important that our precedent should be the right one. Remember, our object is cheapness and justice. Very well. Lord Morley, recognising the reasonable objection which is taken to the present system, devised a new system. My right hon. Friend has paid Lord Morley a well-deserved compliment. No one can say that Lord Morley is a bitter partisan, and no one can deny that he is an admirable Chairman of Committees, and that he has studied this question; and when he says he has given time and attention to it, the probability is that he has devised something well worthy of consideration. Lord Morley says he has devised a system which he believes would be cheaper than the plan proposed under the Government Bill; and Lord Morley has it in his mind that if such a scheme were adopted it could be applied to a great many cases where the scandal and abuse is just as great as in the compulsory acquisition of land. I do not feel myself sufficient of an expert to be able to decide which is the better plan. My right hon. Friend, I suppose, has given the fullest consideration to Lord Morley's plan, and has come to the conclusion that it will not fulfil Lord Morley's expectations. I regret that decision, not because Lord Morley and I sit in the same Party, but because of my knowledge of Lord Morley's qualifications I should look forward with the most sanguine hope to anything to which he gave his name. But I have to face the legions of the Government. The Government will not, I understand, accept Lord Morley's Amendment, and it is too late, I am afraid, to endeavour to change their opinions on this point, and I look to see whether it is possible to devise any other scheme which, although it may not have all the advantages of Lord Morley's, may still be a slight improvement on that of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman, with indignation which I do not believe was feigned, defended the staff in the Office at present under his leadership. I think the President of the Local Government Board has somewhat misunderstood the objections taken by the House of Lords to the proposals of the Government. I do not understand that there was any reflection on the staff of that Department, or on the Civil officials generally of Great Britain. No one has hitherto touched their honour. Their position, their character, is the great glory of British administration. Yes, Sir; but we want to preserve it. We are face to face with a great change, and what I understand the House of Lords to suggest is whether, under the proposed change in regard to a Service which hitherto has been above suspicion, there is not some ground for fearing that what has happened in other countries might, happen in this country, and that our Civil Service might cease to be the impartial, and I may say the judicial, administration it has hitherto been. My right hon. Friend says that this is no new proposal—that there are numbers of Parliamentary precedents for the action of the Government. Everyone of the precedents quoted by the President of the Local Government Board in justification of the present proposal of the Government was a case of property taken from a private individual for the benefit of the community, and handed over to the community. That is a totally different case. I am not saying that you may not make a new precedent, and make it wisely; but, at all events, this will be a new precedent, because in the present case the Government are going to take the property of one private individual and hand it over to another private individual, and they are going to do that on the mere ipse dixit of an official of a political Department. And that being so, I think my right hon. Friend has treated too lightly an objection which, after all, is worthy of consideration. I myself feel as deeply as he does the enormous importance to this country of preserving the impartiality and the honour of our Civil Service. I have given the matter the most serious consideration, and I say personally I think the fears of the House of Lords arc greatly exaggerated; but, at the same time, I would like to impose some further safeguard against injustice, and against what might possibly, although I think not probably, be a purely political decision. That is why I intend to vote for the Amendment, which my right hon. Friend has now treated as a formal Amendment only, involved in the consequential Amendments to which he objects. I say that whatever body is appointed the County Council is a much better body in the interests of the labourers and in the interest of the public generally, as well as of justice, than the District Council. What is the District Council? It is the Sanitary Authority under another name. It is true there is to be an alteration in the method of election, but I do not believe, anyone will differ from me when I say that practically the new District Authority will be much the same thing as the old Rural Authority. If you will apply to anyone who has any experience in regard to this allotments question he will tell you that the action of the District Authority has been almost invariably most unsatisfactory to the labourers themselves. They have been very slow to act, and, if they have acted, they have not acted with great intelligence; and again and again it has been necessary to appeal from the sluggishness of this small District Authority to the larger mind and the broader policy of the County Authority. Again, I say that those who know most about it will confirm me when I say that the decisions of the County Authority have in every case given satisfaction to the labourers. In these circumstances, I think I am speaking only in the interests of the Bill—I certainly am not speaking in any Party or contentious sense—when I beg my right hon. Friend to consider the possibility of such a condition of things as this: that when a Parish Council de- sires to acquire land, and cannot obtain it by voluntary arrangement, and the wish is to put in force the compulsory proceedings, they should appeal in the first instance to the County Council, and that the County Council should hold a public inquiry. My opinion is that if the County Council supported the labourers, in 99 cases out of 100 the private proprietor would give way. He might feel it to be worth his while to fight a District Authority, which would be a body of no great influence, but he would not venture, unless he was obstinate or felt himself seriously wronged, to tight the Comity Council. In the hundredth case lot us suppose that the objections of the private owner still continue, then I say let the proceeding, if you like, be that contemplated in the Bill. Let the matter go from the County Council to the Local Government Board; if the Local Government Board confirm the action of the County Council, then let their decision have the force of law. I grant the contention of my right hon. Friend, as far as I am concerned, that we are not to appeal to Parliament. I regret that the Government appear to have given so little consideration to the alternative suggestion of Lord Morley; but, as they refuse to consider it, I do not feel that at this stage of the Bill it is possible to press it; and, therefore, I urge upon them that, while standing by their determination not to have a Parliamentary inquiry with all the expense dependent upon it, they should consent to make the County Council the primary authority for dealing with this matter. Before I sit down may I say a word or two to hon. Gentlemen opposite? It is, I think, to the interests not only of the labourers, but of the landlords, farmers, and agricultural classes generally, that, wherever a decent man wants an allotment, he should be able to get it. Already that position is attained in a great number of country districts. I believe there are whole counties in which, practically, you cannot point to a single case in which a labourer, if he desires it, does not have an allotment at a reasonable rent. But there remain other exceptional cases in which it is impossible, and in which, only to the obstinacy or the stupidity of some cantankerous individual, a great scandal is created, and the kindness and goodwill which are attempted to be established by other well-meaning landlords are destroyed, and there remains a nucleus of bitterness and ill-feeling which in the interests of all parties should be removed. That is the case in which alone compulsion can be applied. But in what circumstances will hon. Gentlemen opposite face the constituencies? I believe they will face them with absolute confidence, feeling that they have done their best to secure the interests of those who have entrusted them with their votes; but in this matter what will they say if, owing to a provision of this kind, this Bill were wrecked? Would it be possible to maintain their position in the country? We have allowed that it is a Bill which from the first has been a non-contentious Bill, a Bill which has been, by the confession of my right hon. Friend the Minister in charge, fairly discussed, and not treated, as to its main principles, as a controversial measure. Are you prepared to face the constituencies and to say that we have allowed a Bill of this importance, which from the first we have supported—which carries out the principles which we desired to carry out, if there had been time, in 1887 and subsequent years; a Bill to which we are committed so far as its main principles are concerned—are you prepared to allow that Bill to be wrecked because we will not give a cheap procedure for dealing with those exceptional cases of compulsory purchase which we admit to be necessary? To my mind that is not a logical position. But I appeal to the Government also. Are you prepared to face your constituents with a Bill which you profess to be of the very utmost advantage and benefit to the labourers, a Bill to which a great number of Gladstonian Members and candidates have referred as justifying the promises—promises which, I think, will be found in their fulfilment to be very much less than in their anticipation; but promises upon which they have based their claims to the support of the agricultural labourer—are you prepared to go to them and to say, "We have allowed the Bill to fall to the ground because we could not have our own way, not in regard to a matter of great principle—a question of the utmost material importance—but as to every comma, every syllable, every word, every sentence in the Bill"? The Government may venture to take that position, but if so we will be prepared to meet them. I have said that I am prepared to surrender what my right hon. Friend says is of great importance—the necessity of an appeal to Parliament. What did my right hon. Friend say? He said, and I expected it from him, for I believe that my right hon. Friend is desirous of carrying this Bill, though I am not certain that all his colleagues are. But my right hon. Friend said, "I do not want to impose the Local Government Board upon you if you will show me any other system which is not open to the objection I have to the application to Parliament. The one point I lay down is that you will not force the labourer to go to a tribunal which can only be approached with a very heavy purse." So far I entirely agree with him, and I give him all he asks. In return I ask him to give me some slight concession—to consider whether, in the interest of his Bill, it will not be wise to provide that in all these cases where land is taken a preliminary inquiry should be made by the County Council, which has the confidence both of the labourers and the landlords.


I agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman has said; indeed, I agree rather than differ with the most of it. He has practically condemned and given up that to which great importance has been attached—the necessity of coming to Parliament in regard to these proceedings. With reference to other matters— his references to going before our constituents—I do not think that that opens up a profitable inquiry. If I should judge from the proceedings to-night, gentlemen opposite do not think that their position before their constituents would be improved by supporting the Amendments of the House of Lords. We have been told that the House of Lords are so much wiser, so much better, so much more profoundly acquainted with rural affairs than we are, that we ought to bend and bow to their superior wisdom; but the House of Commons up to this time has almost unanimously agreed to reject the whole of their Amendments. Now, when we come to this question, which is the question as to how we are to deal with allotments, our position is very clear. We will consent to no plan with reference to allotments which, by imposing expenses and impossible diffi- cutties, shall make the Bill a sham and a delusion to the agricultural labourer. Therefore, we refuse all the proposals that have been made by the House of Lords, because we believe that the result of those proposals and their object is to make the giving of allotments difficult, if not impossible. That, then, is why we will not agree to Lord Morley's Amendment. It is quite true that the use of the compulsory power need not be of frequent application, but the effect, if I may use the word, of the application of the "screw" is to render its application infrequent. In order to make the screw effective it is necessary that it should be a good screw. It should be a screw that the public believe in, but if you make the screw too costly to be applied then it will not be effective to bring about voluntary arrangements as to allotments. You may make it so costly that the compulsory powers will be utterly worthless and useless, and therefore I agree with the Member for Birmingham. Whatever else we do, therefore, we will not have these compulsory powers founded upon an ultimate appeal to Parliamentary authority. Take that as an accepted proposition. Then the question is what will you do short of that? We have dismissed—we have discarded — the notion of Provisional Orders—the idea of the necessity of Parliamentary sanction. I agree also with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that this principle ought to be applied not to this subject alone, but to many others—to matters dealing with Municipal Bodies, and that this exorbitant and unjust expenditure placed on Public Bodies ought to be done away with. We shall not accept the sacrosanct principle that is worshipped in the House of Lords, that before property is taken by compulsion Parliamentary authority must be obtained. What course should we really take? The Member for Birmingham took at one time a simpler view. Speaking at Bradford in October, 1885, he said— I have been anxious that the final settlement of this great question should be referred to those new local popular and representative authorities which I hope it will be the first duty of any Liberal Government to establish throughout the length and breadth of the land, and to them I have suggested should be given power to acquire land by compulsion at a fair price for every public purpose. And among the public purposes one of the chief I have in view is the letting of allotments and the creation of small tenancies. When the Member for Birmingham made that statement he would have been content with the Local Authority alone. He did not desire to destroy the power that it is proposed now to grant. Then he says— What are the objections to the proposals which I have made? The landlords object— and they always do—to part with their land at a fair price. The right of refusing land for public purposes—for railways, for waterworks, for chapels and schools, for roads and for allotments has always been a cherished privilege, and whenever it has been invaded the landowning class have taken care to exact a very heavy compensation for the restoration to the community of the power to re enter upon its former inheritance. That is a very simple doctrine upon a very important subject. I do not myself go quite as far as that. But for a public object I think land ought to be taken upon reasonable terms.


I object to this misrepresentation. To-night I have urged upon the Government that they should adopt the County Council, which is the Local Authority as the court of appeal, which should adjudicate upon these cases of compulsory purchase. At the time to which my right hon. Friend—the right hon. Gentleman—refers, and in the speech from which he has just quoted, I was advocating precisely the same thing; that is to say, that in these cases—and I specially named cases of compulsory acquisition of land for the public purpose of allotments and small holdings—the Local Authority should be the court of appeal.


Then I think we might come to an understanding. There is to be no appeal from the Local Authorities, which are to be the ultimate tribunal. ["No!"] Very well. I did not gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that the County Council was to be the ne plus ultra; that if they determine the matter there is to be an end of the business. That is a new proposal. That is not the proposal of the House of Lords. The proposal of the House of Lords is quite different. It is a proposal to go to the Parish Council, then to the County Council, then to the Local Government Board, and then to the Provisional Order. ["No, no !"] I would advise hon. Gentlemen to read the Lords Amendment, and they will see that I have accurately described Lord Morley's proposal. It is a piece of circumlocution which makes the thing im- possible—which covers it with such expense as to make it a delusion. If the right hon. Gentleman desires that the Local Authority should determine this finally and exclusively then he must get the House of Lords, with whom I suppose he has influence, to make such a proposal. If the House of Lords is in accordance with the right hon. Gentleman as to the Local Authority having complete and final authority in order that the community may have power to enter upon its former inheritance, then let the proposal come from that august body. But we have now to dispose of the proposal which they have sent. If it were simply a question between District Councils and County Councils, I think there is a great deal to be said on both sides of the question. [Cries of "No !"] But we have that question connected with the subsequent Amendments. [Cries of" No !"] Then do you abandon all the rest? If not we are bound to treat, and we mean to treat, this proposal as part of the whole scheme. In our opinion that scheme, as it is presented to us in this clause, is an impossible scheme. It is a scheme which would create such an enormous cost and difficulty and circumlocution with this business as to make the attempt to give these compulsory powers a mere sham and a delusion. Under these circumstances, we shall vote ugainst this Amendment as part of the whole scheme to which it belongs, because that is a scheme to which we cannot assent.


I cannot honestly tell the House that I think the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has contributed to the calm, businesslike, and sober discussion of a matter of great practical importance. He has come here fresh from Portsmouth in his best platform style, and he will neither discuss himself nor allow us to discuss what is, after all, a matter requiring rather reason than rhetoric; but he must introduce all these irrelevant topics which have nothing to do with the decision which the House is called upon to give. Upon that decision I feel that some inconvenience has arisen from the course which the President of the Local Government Board has taken upon this Amendment. The President of the Local Government Board has thought proper to regard this Amendment as part of a series of Amendments, and to discuss the whole policy of the tribunal which should decide this question of compulsory hiring on an Amendment which is really not organically connected with others that follow. He asks us to vote on this Amendment as if it were conclusive, but it is not conclusive of the remainder of the Amendments. This Amendment which is strictly before us was moved in this House by a gentleman on this side of the House apart from the Amendments which follow; it was moved in the other House, not by Lord Morley, but by another noble Lord who was primarily responsible for the suggestion of a Committee of both Houses. The two plans are not the same; they are not proposed by the same individual; they aim at different objects; they are to be supported by different arguments. Though I am myself decidedly in favour of both, I would like to discuss them separately, in order to prevent the issues being confused and the votes upon those issues confused also. I scarcely know what course I ought to pursue in this matter. I am ready to touch on the series of Amendments, but by doing so I shall only add to the mixture of topics which has done something to prevent the House understanding what is really before it. Under the circumstances, I think I shall probably be doing best for the convenience of debate if I defer any reply to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Local Government Board until we come to the Amendments to which the speeches of those right hon. Gentlemen were revelant. I shall have something to say upon all the topics they have raised, but I shall venture now only to remind the House that we are discussing solely and simply whether it is better in the first instance to go the District Council or to the County Council. On that I gather that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government are largely disposed to agree with us, and if that be so I cannot help hoping that this Amendment may be accepted as a non-contentious one, and we might have our battle royal tomorrow upon the larger and more complicated scheme described as Lord Morley's. Under these circumstances, I shall only say that it appears to me the County Council is in every respect the better tribunal to exercise this semi-judicial function. I believe the Government have a suspicion of that kind. It is popular; it is drawn from a larger area than the District Council, and the members belonging to the County Council will be unmoved by the local storms and disputes which may influence the District Council, and the judicial spirit necessary to the consideration of these matters is much more likely to be found with the County than with the District Council. As the right hon. Gentleman has advanced no arguments against this question we are now discussing, I would ask him to agree to the Amendment, and say that the Government have no grave objection to the substitution of the County Council. We might then depart in peace, and reserve our battle royal on the larger issues on the Amendment of Lord Morley until to-morrow.


said, it was impossible to read the clause as it now stood without incorporating with the Amendment now before them the whole of Lord Morley's Amendment, and a slight examination of the sub-sections would satisfy hon. Members of that. It was clear that it was impossible to consider the first Amendment apart from those which followed: it seemed to him absolutely necessary that all should be considered together.


said, he would like to know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman had never heard of consequential Amendments. The points raised by him could all be dealt with by what they knew as consequential Amendments. The hon. and learned Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were entirely mistaken. The point at issue was perfectly definite. It was, who should be the intermediate authority? As his right hon. Friend had said, this identical question was fought out in these precise terms in Committee in that House; yet the Attorney General said that the two Amendments were bound up together. Was the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that one was introduced in Committee by Lord Winchilsea and the other by Lord Morley on the Report stage? When the House had decided who should be the intermediate authority they would be absolutely unfettered to discuss what was the best machinery for granting compulsory powers. The two things were absolutely distinct. In Committee and on Report the Chan- cellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney General argued that the District Council would be the best authority because they would be more conversant with the needs of the area. The reply to them was that they would not have the necessary machinery or officers to do the work. The County Councils had been doing this work, and had done it well. They already had their Allotment Committees and had already held many inquiries. It was unintentionally, but at the same time undoubtedly, misleading the House to lay down that these two Amendments were dependent the one upon the other, and the only conclusion to which they were forced was that those who were responsible for the Bill had not taken the trouble to learn its history or master its contents. The County Council would undoubtedly be the better authority, and he hoped the House would not be led away by the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney General on the subject.

MR. A. CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

said, he desired to put one question to the President of the Local Government Board in order to call his attention to what he thought was a practical difficulty which had escaped the consideration of his colleagues and himself. He wished to know what would be the position of a parish where there was no Parish Council and only a District Council if the Government adhered to their present intention? He had pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman by private communication that in certain cases, and in particular in a case in his own constituency, under this Bill the District Council would be elected by exactly the same area and voters as the Parish Council. He suggested that it was absurd to have two bodies elected by the same people for the same area. The right hon. Gentleman, finding that would be the result of the Bill, inserted on Clause 31, Sub-section 4, a provision that where the rural parish was co-extensive with the rural sanitary district, then until the district was united to some other there should be no Council for the parish; but that the District Council should, in addition to its own powers, have the powers of the Parish Council. If, then, a District Council found themselves unable to acquire land by agreement on reasonable terms they would have to represent to themselves as the District Council the difficulty in which they found themselves placed in their other capacity. They might, if they thought fit, inquire into their own representation and carry the case further. He could not help feeling that the united talent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney General might be devoted to finding some way out of this practical difficulty rather than to placing further obstacles in their course. He ventured to ask what the Government intended should be done in cases of this kind, and whether they really meant to leave a provision so ridiculous in their Bill?

*SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)

said, he believed there were a good many Members who proposed to vote in favour of this Amendment and against Lord Morley's Amendment, and he thought that simple fact would show that the two things did not hang together. So far as he was personally concerned, he was opposed to Lord Morley's Amendment, but in any case he would have thought it was entirely out of Order to discuss it on this Amendment. There was, he believed, an overwhelming argument in favour of the County Council being substituted for the District Council in this matter, for the County Council would not be affected by a strong local feeling, while the District Council would be actually in the middle of it. The Attorney General had said it would be inconvenient to consider the Amendment apart from those that followed. He did not see that; and he could assure the Government that there were many hon. Members who supported this Amendment, whereas they intended to join with the Government in opposing the other Amendment. Consequently, that fact would prove that there was not that extraordinary connection between the two Amendments which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Attorney General imagined. He, for his part, should support this Amendment and should oppose the other. He repudiated the idea that the acceptance of this Amendment would dislocate the clause.


said, the Government were in a state of confusion on this question which they themselves had created. He thought, as a serious Deliberative Assembly, they had grievous reason to complain of the manner in which the Debate had been conducted. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham had made a statesman like speech, and concluded with an appeal addressed to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to assume that the Opposition were merely actuated in making Party capital out of this dissension between the two Members of the Legislature, and dismissed altogether the very subject-matter of the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman was followed by the Attorney General, who laid down the proposition that it was impossible to consider the first part of this clause standing on the Paper of the Lords without having in their minds at the same time those which followed. He could only say the hon. and learned Gentleman did not pay the compliment to his colleague of listening to him with any great attention, for not only was it possible to consider that question by itself, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the first 10 minutes of his speech did consider it by itself. He began by referring to the Amendments of Lord Morley, and said he agreed with the Member for West Birmingham so far as to insist to the bitter end that the tribunal should not be the ultimate tribunal, and then, just as he was referring to the question before the House and they were waiting with breathless interest to hear whether he considered the County Council was the best, the right hon. Gentleman plunged into reminiscences of prior controversies, indulged in a bitter diatribe against the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and left them in such a state of confusion as to make it impossible for them to come to a decision on the question that night except they should regard themselves as partisans who came there to fight like cocks in a cockpit. If they were to consider the question on its merits they were entitled to hear some argument in favour of the District Council as distinct from the County Council, and he could not conceive on what plea the Government could raise opposition to the Amendment. The Government might say that the District Council would have a more intimate local knowledge than the County Council. That was the only argument he could think of which was at all proper to the discussion. On the other hand, the Opposition might urge that the County Council would provide a far more adequate tribunal for discussing such questions as the granting of allotments, and its decisions would have far greater weight. Might they not appeal to the Government to consider the question on its merits, and not mix it up with the ulterior one of whether there should be an ultimate appeal to Parliament or not? He himself had an open mind on the subject, and wanted to hear what the Government had to say on the subject; but the moment they asked for argument motives were imputed to them, and the calmness of the House was perturbed by a sudden storm of invectives from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


, in reply to the question which had been put to him by the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. A. Chamberlain), said, that the position of affairs was not altered by the clause. The Government scheme left the machinery as it was. The Rural Sanitary Authority, which would he the Rural District Council, might, in the case he mentioned, be put in motion by six registered ratepayers, or might take action on its own initiation. On the general question, he remarked that it was impossible to make sense of the Bill if the Amendment was not considered in relation to the other part of the Bill. Without expressing any opinion in favour of District Councils as against County Councils, he must say that the Amendment was inextricably mixed up with Lord Morley's Amendment.


considered that there was no real difference of opinion between the different parts of the House to justify them in refusing to make changes which were really in the interests of the Bill. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had exaggerated the difficulties in the way of accepting the Amendment and also the number of consequential Amendments that would be necessary. In fact, he considered that those Amendments need be only verbal. They had been told that the two Amendments were interwoven, but they stood separately on the Paper, and he contended that hon. Members were entitled to discuss them separately. In common with many other Members, who had had experience of Provisional Orders, he was opposed to that form of procedure. The delay, the cost, and the impediments attending it would be wholly inconsistent with the procedure as to allotments. It would he like using a steam-hammer to crack a nut. Ho was of opinion that Local Authorities ought to receive considerable increase of powers in regard to local jurisdiction, and he should oppose proposals to substitute any expensive or dilatory process for one which might certainly be made simple through the County Councils. As to Lord Morley's Amendment, he thought that by excluding some of the elements of cost it was an improvement, but it was unfortunately tainted with the fatal defect of dealing with allotments through the complicated machinery of Parliament, and he should vote against it even if he had to vote against his own Party. What were the consequential Amendments they would have to make? If they made an Amendment substituting "County Council" for "District Council"—and there seemed to be a general opinion that that would be an improvement—the County Council being a more organised and more experienced body in which there would he greater confidence, there would only he three other changes which would have to he made in the clause, and these simply verbal, consisting of the substitution of "County" for "District" Council, and the only remaining one then about which doubt could be cast would be in the sub-section where reference was made to the Local Government Board. That clause, however, would still read consistently. The Local Government Board there had reference to the Allotments Act, and it would remain what the County Council was there—namely, the ultimate Court of Appeal. The boroughs had the greatest confidence in the administration of the Local Government Board; and if they made this one change, followed by a merely verbal Amendment, they should get a tribunal which would he felt to be more impartial, which would commend itself to the House, which would place the original clauses in the Bill and make them perfectly consistent, and he the means of solving a difficulty which all Parties desired to see solved. He hoped the Government would fall in with this suggestion.

*MR. CHANGING (Northampton, E.)

said, the hon. Member who had last spoken seemed to assume that there was a general feeling in approving of the substitution of the County for the District Council, but many of those who agreed with him (Mr. Channing) were of a different opinion. They had held throughout that the policy of gentlemen opposite had been to refer this question to an authority with the least local connection and local knowledge, and which was the least likely to sympathise with those immediately interested in obtaining allotments, and that had been the reason why they (the Liberals) had preferred an authority nearest to those who sought the allotments and wished to place the power in their hands. In the Allotments Act of 1890 they distinctly challenged the late Government to introduce the District Council in order to deal with this special question, instead of making the appeal to the County Council, and that had always been their policy. He submitted it was far more convenient and suitable that the allotments question should be managed by the authority which was nearest to those who required the allotments, and that, in case of purchase the District Council as having a larger area should buy and hold the land, and they considered the District Council as opposed to the County Council was the more sympathetic authority, and he should, therefore, support the Government.


did not exactly see the gist of the speech of the Member for Dover, and, for his part, he should certainly vote against Lord Morley's Amendment, because in the Allotments Bill he introduced he embodied the principle which the Government had just now adopted. He was bound to say that the Liberals who were then in Opposition managed very successfully to dissemble their love for this principle, because they blocked the Bill every night he introduced it. As far as the compulsory acquisition of laud went, he imagined that it had been an absolute failure, and to suppose the Parish or District Council could get any change in the matter by appealing to a Joint Committee or to Parliament seemed to him absurd. He considered the House might do worse than leave the matter to the Local Government Board, and vote against the Lords Amendment.


observed, that it was only when hon. Members received copies of the Lords Amendments that they found the present Amendment and Lord Morley's Amendment were placed together. He would remind the House that the present Amendment was moved as far back as February 2 by Lord Winchilsea. The President of the Local Government Board had rightly said that the Act of 1887 had done great good. But why had it not done greater good? Simply because the Sanitary Authority, in whose hands the administration was placed, was not so satisfactory a body as it should be. The County Council had proved itself to be a satisfactory body for dealing with allotments, and the proposal now before the House was that it should take the place of an authority that had been found to be less satisfactory. That was the point on which they would divide.


, on a point of Order, desired to know whether, if the result of the vote on the present Amendment should be to substitute "County Council" for "District Council," it would afterwards be perfectly open to the House to reject Lord Morley's Amendment?


I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, with the assent of the House, proposed to regard the first Amendment as preliminary to the subsequent Amendment introduced by Lord Morley. But what the right hon. Gentleman has said cannot bind the House. He may regard the Amendments as forming one whole, but it does not follow that the House will regard the one as consequential on the other. It would be quite possible to discuss Lord Morley's Amendment as a separate and independent Amendment.

Question put.

The House divided: — Ayes 232; Noes 185.—(Division List, No. 440.)

It being after Midnight, Further Proceeding on Consideration of Lords Amendments stood adjourned.

Lords Amendments to be further considered To-morrow.