Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [16th February] proposed on Further Consideration of Lords Amendments,
That this Housedoth disagree with so much of the Lords Amendment, page 14, line 37, to leave out firm the word 'place," to the end of Subsection (3) (the Amendment having been divided), as proposes to leave out the words from the word 'place,' in line 37, to the end of Sub-section (2) of Clause 14. "—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.')
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
said, that on Friday night, just before the close of the proceedings, the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean raised a question as to whether they could deal with charities vested in Churchwardens Hinder this clause on the ground that this question had been already settled on Clause 6. He should like to reply to that by calling the attention of the House, and especially of the President of the Local Government Board, to a statement which that right hon. Gentleman made on the Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman was dealing with the very point of how far this Bill affected the position of the Church, and especially of how far this clause affected Churchwardens in various capacities, and he used these words—Clause 6 transfers to the Parish Council the powers, duties, and liabilities of Churchwardens, except in so far as they relate to the affairs of the Church or of ecclesiastical charities, and the question arises as to the management of a National school coming within these powers, duties, and liabilities. I am advised, on very high authority, that this clause deals only with Common Law and Statutory powers duties, and liabilities of Churchwardens: that it does not in the slightest degree deal with them in their capacity of trustees, which is subsequently dealt with in Clause 13; and those gentlemen who have looked at the clause critically will see that if it did affect them in that capacity it would be a reductio ad absurdum, because it would then associate in the joint management the whole body of the Parish Council. I do not know how a Corporation could discharge in company with anybody else, the duty of trustees.Not being a lawyer, he did not wish further to speak on the point raised by the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean, except to say that it was clearly the intention of the President of the Local Government Board and of the Government that this great question of the management of trusteeships in the hands of Churchwardens should be dealt with on Clause 13, and not on Clause 6. If, therefore, there could be any doubt as to the construction of the Act, he sincerely hoped the Government would see their way to get words inserted in Clause 6 such as those which were proposed by Lord Selborne in another place, but rejected without discussion in this House, which would make it clear that 738 these questions were dealt with on Clause 13, and not on Clause 6. The Amendment which was under discussion at the adjournment on Friday night proposed to leave out certain words at the end of Sub-section 2 of Clause 14. He thought the right hon. Gentleman quite misunderstood the object of this Amendment. He seemed to think the object was to raise again the whole question of secular charities, and as to whether a charity which was a secular charity should remain in the hands of Churchwardens exclusively or not. That question, how-ever, was not raised by this Amendment. The object of the Lords in leaving out these words was not to raise the whole of that question for the reason that such question was dealt with by Sub-section 3, by which additional trustees were in any case to be placed by the Parish Council upon every parochial charity which was not an ecclesiastical charity. Those trustees, according to the Bill as it left this House, were to be a majority, or, according to the Lords, one-third; which he must remind the House was the number originally proposed by the President of the Local Government Board himself until a band of his followers, because they wished, probably, to deal with the Church more hardly than was intended by the right hon. Gentleman, said they must be a majority and not one-third. His point was this: Under Sub-section 3 additional trustees were to be added, and the Parish Council was to obtain a large control of all secular charities. Why, he asked, was it necessary to take Churchwardens off the trust altogether? According to the Bill as it left this House, they were going to swamp the Churchwardens, and why should they oust, them too? Surely swamping them was quite sufficient without taking them completely off the trust, and adding this special disability to Churchwardens, whereas the stewards and officers of Wesleyan chapels and other Nonconformist Bodies might continue on the trust, although certain additional trustees were to be added. The Churchwardens were not even to remain a minority, but to be taken off the trust altogether. That was it very grave hardship, and he thought they could see why it was the President of the Local Government Board opposed the Lords Amendment. The right hon. Gentle- 739 man said he did not wish to see the Church hurt, and all they (the Opposition) asked was this: If they were going to take away these charities from the Church let them do it in precisely the same way as they were going to deal with other charities. What had become of religious equality? If it meant anything surely it meant that they should all he dealt with alike. If they were going to rob the Church, for Heaven's sake rob it equally! He did not see why the officers of the Church should ho dealt with worse than the officers of a Nonconformist chapel. He did not see, for his part, why there should he any interference whatever with these charities; but if they were to be interfered with let it be done fairly under Sub-section 3, and not unfairly under Sub-section 2. In the other House the Archbishop of Canterbury quoted a case which showed precisely how this sub-section would work if the President of the Local Government Board refused to accept the Lords Amendment. In 1886 a lady residing at Ashburton died having by her will bequeathed £1,000 to the Vicar and Churchwardens to divide the income between 13 poor men and 13 poor women. In the next clause of her will she bequeathed £1,000 to the minister and stewards of the Wesleyan chapel at Ashburton to divide between 10 poor men and 10 poor women. There was the case of a purely secular charity which it was the intention of the testator should be administered by certain persons. If they applied this Bill the Churchwardens would be entirely taken off that part of the charity which was left to the Vicar and Churchwardens, where as in the case of the other part the stewards of the Wesley an chapel would continue to be trustees. He appealed to the common sense and fairness on the part of the House and the Government. This Amendment did not raise the whole question as to how secular charities were to be dealt with. That was raised by Sub-section 3, and if they were to deal with them at all, he asked them to deal with them fairly, and mete out the same measure of justice to all.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
thought the House would see at once that the two cases did not stand on all-fours. The parochial charities of this country had, by a variety of circumstances, grown up under the 740 wing, as it were, of the Church, and that had been strengthened over and over again by a variety of Acts of Parliament giving to the ministers of the Church of England and the Churchwardens power over parochial charities that were never held by those belonging to the Dissenting churches. Moreover, he would call attention to the fact that, under the Act of Will. IV., when the second great Commission was appointed, many of these charities were placed by Acts of Parliament under the management of ministers and Churchwardens in the room of other trustees, many of whom had failed to do their duty. The whole history of the charities of this country showed that in the hands of the Church these parochial charities had been misused and misapplied. ["No!"] Hon. Members who said "no" had never looked into the Reports of the two great Commissions appointed— one in 1816, and the other being Lord Brougham's Commission—huge volumes of which could be found in the Library. The history of these parochial charities as disclosed in these Reports showed to what a great extent the charities were misused by the ministers and Churchwardens, as though they belonged purely and wholly to members of the Established Church. That was one of the reasons why a great cry had arisen in the land for these parochial charities—not ecclesiastical charities —to be placed under the authority of a totally different Body. The way in which, in many parts of the Kingdom, the ministers and Churchwardens had understood, or administered as though they understood, these bequests as being left entirely to members of the Established Church, and not to the poor of the neighbourhood, any man who had any experience of village Life knew full well. The charities were circumscribed, and the doles dealt out not to the poor because they were poor, but because the poor happened to belong, or could be made to belong, to the Church of England. ["Prove it,"and "Quote a case."] The cases could be quoted by scores and hundreds. ["Quote one."] He did not know that he should quote one. He would refer hon. Members to the huge Reports in the Library. ["To-day."] Well, he could quote one not very long ago, at any rate, where they had to get a Churchwarden elected as a Churchwarden in order that the poor who were Dissenters in that 741 particular village should have a part of the doles, and it was not until this Churchwarden had been elected that those doles were given to those who were Dissenters and not wholly to those who wore members of the Church of England. ["Name!"]No, he declined to give the name: but he would tell hon. Members that he heard the discussion in the chancel of the church himself, and heard the Churchwarden declare to the minister that it mattered not, whether the recipients were Dissenters or members of the Church of England, that the doles were left to the poor of the parish. He thought he could trust his own oars in that, at any rate. But apart from particular instances, he said that the huge volumes in the Library were full of it. Hon. Members said "quote instances of to-day." The instances were not so numerous to-day because of the long-range of legislation that had taken place, beginning with or near the appointment of the Brougham Commission, and especially since the appointment of the Charity Commission which now governed the charities of England. Much had been done to put these charities on a sound footing, but only on Friday last it was disclosed in this House that so little did they know with regard to the administration of some of these charities that there were 24,000 of them which at present refused or neglected to send a proper Return to this House. How was it possible to get, without a full list, information. as to the mode in which the charities had been mismanaged in various parts of the country? He hoped the President of the Local Government Board would stand firm by the Bill as it left this House, and would make no concession whatever to the Lords. Some of them thought that the concessions made in this House were too great already, | and they should have supported the right hon. Gentleman in much stronger provisions had he seen his way clear to make them, and it was simply because they felt he had a grave responsibility upon his shoulders that they were prepared to support him in making a stand now for the Bill as it was without any further concession to the Amendment made in the House of Lords.
§ *MR. W. LONG (Liverpool, West Derby)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken seemed to have failed 742 altogether to appreciate what the Amendment was he was now discussing. No doubt he seized every opportunity, convenient or inconvenient, to make an attack upon those with whom he did not agree, and, like many of those with whom he worked, he made that, attack in an anonymous form. He told them he had experience himself of maladministration by trustees in different places, but, like other gentlemen who made similar statements, he declined to go the ordinary reasonable and fair length of saying what, was the name of the village in question where the trustees had failed in their duty. Under these circumstances, no great importance need be attached to the attack the hon. Member had made. He desired to point out that the hon. Member was entirely mistaken in thinking the result of this Amendment would be to alter the administration of these charities, or rather that it was essential to the alteration of the administration of the charities which he and some other gentlemen thought so terrible. If that were necessary it would be done by other clauses or other sections of this clause. This Amendment would have the effect simply and solely of attaching to the Church officers a disability it was not. proposed to attach to the officers of any other denomination. It might be desirable to deprive Churchwardens as such of their power as trustees to administer parochial charities. That the House had decided to do by another section of this clause, and that would be done whether these words were restored to the Bill again or they remained out. All that the Opposition desired was that the Government should tell them perfectly frankly and straightforwardly what they in reality meant by these words? The words were not necessary to effect any changes in the administration of the charities; but the sole result of the re-insertion would he that Churchwardens as such would be deprived of the power they now possessed, whereas officers of other denominations would be allowed to retain the powers they held on the same grounds, by the same justice and right that the Churchwardens possessed theirs. The Ash-burton case which the Archbishop of Canterbury brought forward in the other House showed abundantly and clearly that if they allowed these words to 743 remain in they would he doing an injustice to a body of Church officers without in any way bringing about by these particular words the object hon. Members opposite professed to have at heart—namely, the alteration of the administration of parochial charities by taking them out of the hands of Church officers and putting them in the hands of popularly-elected officers. That would be done whether the Amendment of the Government were taken or that of the Lords. This simply and solely attached disabilities to Church officers as such, and it was naturally resented as an injustice and a wrong. They asked the Government to toll them plainly and frankly why they thought it necessary to affect the powers of the Churchwardens without equally affecting the powers of the other trustees; and it they had no better reason to give than the one that had been given for standing by these words, he asked them to agree that they should remain out of the Bill, and instead of whittling down the power the result would simply be to do justice to the Church and equally alter the administration of parochial charities.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said, it seemed to him that the point was as to who were the best administrators, and that question turned upon who the donors intended should act as administrators. Did the Government suppose that when the donors said they intended the Churchwardens to administer the charities they meant Overseers? Why were the Church officers to be disabled in this way, while the officers of all other Societies were to be retained in their position? There was a great difference between the way in which this question was treated by speakers supporting the Government in the country and the way in which they dealt with it in this House. In the country they were told that this was the beginning of Disestablishment, and here they tried to make them believe that it was nothing of the sort. They were doing a great injustice by the position in which they would place the Churchwarden, because, although they said he would still be able to act, it was clear that they were about to render him incapable of acting or of holding office as he did at present. He thought the Government should allow 744 the appointments to be such as would reflect the view of the donor. Did they think that a member of the Parish Council was the proper person to administer charities? They said that the Churchwardens might distribute the money among their friends. What security had they that the Parish Council would not act in a similar manner? He did hope the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider the question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
said, the House had already spent a week in discussing the subject. The point under consideration was a simple one. At present the Churchwardens were the nominated officers of the parish. They had two capacities—one ecclesiastical and the other secular. In their ecclesiastical capacity the Churchwardens would in future remain exactly as they wore. What the Bill took away from them and from the Vestry was their secular capacity, which was transferred; but there was no interference with the Churchwardens in their ecclesiastical capacity. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] No; there was simply a severance of the two capacities. Under this provision Churchwardens were perfectly capable of being elected to sit on the Parish Council as local representatives; but it was not thought desirable that they should carry into the administration of a secular charity their capacity of ecclesiastical or nominated Churchwardens. In short, the proposal was to carve out of the Vestry the whole of its secular characteristics and to put them into other bodies. That was the object of the Government. They had stated it over and over again, and he hoped they would not have to go back upon it, and that the discussion would not be prolonged.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
said, he was very sorry to hear the imputations which had been cast on the administration of ecclesiastical charities. If there was any blemish it was the duty of the House to remedy it; but he did deny that at the present time there was any injustice in their administration. On the contrary, he believed that the clergy of the Church of England and those who were more immediately connected with them wore most anxious to do justice, and to make no difference between a Nonconformist and a member of the Church 745 of England, their character being equally good and their claims equally valid. He therefore challenged the statement that had been made.
§ MR. HOWELL
was understood to say he did not convey the meaning attributed to him by the hon. Baronet.
§ *SIR F. S. POWELL
said, the accusation failed. On the Committee stage of the Bill the Solicitor General (Sir J. Rigby) admitted that the position of the Church charities would be inconvenienced by the provision which it was proposed to insert; and yet the Government were going to expose them to that inconvenience. He, for his part, protested against the proposal of the Government.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
said, ho rose to point out that the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not seem to be consistent with the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government intended to take away from the Churchwardens their ecclesiastical capacity. But the clause did not take away this capacity from the Churchwardens, it merely gave to the Parish Council a discretionary power to remove the Churchwardens if they saw fit. The clause was not obligatory, but merely discretionary. The matter was not really one of very considerable importance. The House was now dealing with charities which were purely secular. Such charities belonged to the parish, and, therefore, he was very ready on the whole to give to the representatives of the parish very full powers with regard to such charities. But, in the present instance, there was absolutely no necessity for this provision. The Government seemed to have forgotten what it was they did themselves. After the House had passed this provision with regard to Churchwardens, the Government accepted a suggestion from the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb) which went far beyond this provision, and made it entirely unnecessary. The next sub-section said that theParish Council shall elect such number of trustees as will be a majority of the whole body.If the Parish Council had to elect a majority of the whole body, what was the object any longer of dealing with the Churchwardens as such? The Churchwardens were to be outnumbered 746 by a majority of the elected trustees, and, therefore, after the acceptance of the clause of the hon. Member for Rugby, the separate dealing with the Churchwardens was unnecessary. The Government had given the control to a majority of elected trustees, and why should they grudge to the Churchwardens, who, after all, in such cases must be most experienced administrators, at least a position upon the Board, which they might have held for many years before? If his right; hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. II. II. Fowler) still adhered to this sub-section, after having accepted the proposal of the hon. Member for Rugby, he could only look upon it as an appeal to bigotry and narrow-mindedness—as nothing more nor less than an attempt to put a stigma on Churchwardens, simply because they were Churchwardens, and to put a stigma on the officers of one sect while not dealing with the officers of any other.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, this clause dealt with Churchwardens in a different capacity from that stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They were there as private individuals, acting for the benefit of the poor in various parts of the parish—they were appointed in that way by the donors; but simply because Churchwardens happened to hold an official position in the Church, the Government were trying to prevent them from being the custodians of charities which had been put into their hands. That was very unfair. They were treating the Church in a harsh and unjust manner, and he thought they should endeavour to avoid doing so.
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, the difficulty appeared to him to arise from the double position of the Churchwardens. The Amendment went a little too far. They wanted to draw a line between Churchwardens coupled with the Overseers, and Church wardens as ecclesiastical officers. He must ask the Government for a definite answer to the serious doubt raised the other day by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke), who had pointed out that, in his opinion—and there was no more competent authority in the House—the clause they were discussing had actually been covered by Clause 6. Surely, if there were any doubt as to that, the Law Officers of the 747 Crown should reassure the House. He wished to know whether the exception of ecclesiastical charities in Clause 6 did not imply the transfer of charities which were not ecclesiastical? They were entitled to an answer from the Attorney General (Sir C. Russell).
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Edinburgh, W.)
said, the silence of the Government was most extraordinary. A question had been raised by one of their own supporters—the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean—which they made no attempt whatever to answer. The right hon. Baronet had placed before the House his view that these words were mere surplusage, and that the whole case was covered by Clause 6. His right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham had put another question—namely, whether those words were any longer necessary, except as a stigma on Churchwardens, the Government having accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby? He trusted the House would not go to a Division until the Government had given them a little enlightenment on these two points. It was surely not the way to expedite business to remain silent when points of such importance were raised.
§ *THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir C. RUSSELL,) Hackney, S.
said, he had hesitated when the hon. Member for Somerset sat down, for the reason that he had not taken a prominent part in the discussions on the Bill. In his opinion, which he expressed not without doubt, Clause 6 did in its operation transfer all the powers, duties, and liabilities of Churchwardens except so far as they related to the affairs of the Church and to ecclesiastical charities. But the practical point, as put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed to him to be quite clear. Churchwardens as public officers were to be excluded from all parochial charities, but they were still eligible to be elected trustees. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] He was not arguing the point. The present state of things was, that the Churchwardens claimed to represent the whole parish in cases of purely secular charities, and that state of things the Government desired to alter.
§ *MR. J. G. TALBOT (Oxford University)
said, he understood from what the Attorney General had said, that all Church- 748 wardens, because they happened to be Churchwardens, were to be disqualified from taking any part in the administration of parochial charities.
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said that meant that as Churchwardens they were to be debarred from taking part in the administration of those charities. That was an extraordinary position to place them in. What had they done that this disability should be placed upon them? They were not to be allowed to take part in the administration of charities simply because they were Churchwardens—
§ MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he supposed the right hon. Gentleman meant that if they liked to submit themselves for election they could as individuals, and not as Churchwardens, become trustees. But what had they done to be disqualified as Churchwardens? It was a very great discouragement to the charitable if people who in their lifetime had given charities to be administered by the Churchwardens saw their trustees set aside, not because they had done anything wrong, but because their appointment happened to interfere with the machinery of the Bill. Now that the matter was sot forth in the clear light of day, he thought a more preposterous proposal was never made.
§ MR. WHARTON (York, W.R., Ripon)
said, that not only would there be an ousting of Churchwardens, but there would have to be a double election. He had boon a trustee for over 20 years, but under this Bill he would become disqualified. He understood that under this Bill if he wanted to become a trustee again he should first have to be elected a Parish Councillor, and then have to be elected a trustee.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
My hon. and learned Friend is mistaken. He need not be a member of a Parish Council at all in order to be elected a trustee.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the brief speech he made this afternoon expressed a hope that the Debate on this portion 749 of the Bill would not be unduly prolonged. In order that the Debate may not be unduly prolonged it is necessary that the Government should treat with some degree of fairness those who really come to the discussion of the question with no other desire than to lay their case fairly before the House, and to have the opposite side of the case laid fairly before them. As a matter of fact, how are they being treated at the present time? On the Second Reading of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H.H. Fowler) in charge of the Bill made a statement relative to the provision respecting Churchwardens in Clause 6. A fear was then expressed that by Clause 6 Churchwardens would be prevented from acting as trustees of these charities in that capacity. That fear the President of the Local Government Board endeavoured to sweep away, and he made a statement of the most explicit character on the subject. He said—I am advised on very high authority that this clause deals only with the Common Law and statutory powers, duties, and liabilities of Churchwardens, and that it does not in the slightest degree deal with them in their capacity as trustees.I do not know what the very "high authority" was which the right hon. Gentleman quoted, nor have I any right to ask. It evidently was not the very high authority of the Attorney General (Sir C. Russell), because that, hon. and learned Gentleman, speaking as Attorney General, and putting the best interpretation in his power upon the clause, has given to it a sense precisely opposite to that attached to it by the President of the Local Government Hoard at an earlier stage of our discussions. That being the original attitude of the Government an Amendment was introduced in another place on Clause 6 expressly for the purpose of carrying out the views, intentions, and desires of the Government, and excluding from the purview of that clause every thing except the "statutory powers, duties, and liabilities of Churchwardens." We cut that Amendment out of Clause 6, which was reduced to its original shape, in which, according to the then opinion of the Government, it was unnecessary to have the Lords Amendment at all. We assented to that Amendment because we supposed, on the authority of the Govern- 750 ment, as expressed on the Second Reading, and on the secondary authority of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. H. Fowler), who, I believe, nodded assent to somebody on this side of the House who brought up his original statement, that the Amendment was unnecessary. Upon the faith of the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the clause we made no protest against disagreeing with the Lords Amendment. Now we are told after Clause 6 is passed, and we are come to this very burning subject of the position of the Churchwardens in Clause 14, that every pledge given by the Government on their own Bill has been thrown to the winds; the high authority of the President of the Local Government Board is thrown over by the Attorney General, and we learn that the Amendment introduced by the Lords was one of substantial importance and one which the Lords ought to have asked us to agree to. When we realise that at this moment the Government with their eyes open are laying it down as the principle on which they desire to proceed that the Churchwarden, as Churchwarden, is to be treated differently from the Wesleyan deacon, as Wesleyan deacon; when we have it laid down as the cardinal principle of our policy, as the hinge on which it revolves, as the foundation on which it rests, that the fact that these officials are Church officials, is to throw upon them disqualifications such as the officials of no other denomination have to submit to, I must say that those who have watched with anxiety the course of the Government on this point have even the worst of their fears more than realised by the action which is being adopted.
§ MR. BYRNE (Essex, Walthamstow)
said that, as he construed the clause, if Churchwardens as such were trustees of any parochial charity, there would apparently be no option left to the Parish Councils but to appoint a number of the Councillors of the parish or other persons to be trustees in their place. The effect of the clause would, therefore, be practically that described by the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Wharton). Clause 14 and Clause 6 were intended to deal with wholly different kinds of circumstances. Under Clause 6 the powers, duties, and liabilities of the Churchwardens of a parish were dealt 751 with, and their ecclesiastical duties, powers, and liabilities were preserved, but he did not think that this clause would operate to deprive them of their powers and duties as trustees of any parochial charity if they were appointed as trustees.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
said, the position of the Government was quite untenable. The Lords had struck out words which were perfectly unnecessary, because the effect of them was included in Clause 6. The House was now asked to put in over again that which was already in the Bill. The Attorney General had reduced the position of the House to an absurdity.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: — Ayes 209; Noes 157.—(Division List, No. 444.)
MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)
said that, before the House proceeded to the next Amendment, he wished to propose one to add to the restored words. The House had been taken by surprise at a statement they heard a short time ago from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, and he felt confident that the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill must have been also somewhat taken by surprise at the statement. The Opposition had always been led to believe that Clause (> was not intended to deal with the particular case they had been discussing that afternoon—namely, the case of Churchwardens. They had thought that that case was to be dealt with under Clause 14. It appeared to him that the time had not yet gone by when they could make it perfectly clear that they intended the enactment of Clause 14 to meet this particular case of the trustees of charities, and that they did not intend the enactment of Clause 6 to deal with it. The words ho should propose to add, if they were in Order, to the restored words—which he believed were technically correct—were these—And this enactment alone shall hare effect in the last-mentioned ease, any prior section of this Act notwithstanding.So far as ho could gather the views of the Government, they agreed with the Opposition in this matter, and were anxious to deal with the question in the 14th section. That being so, would it not be well to make it perfectly clear 752 before the Bill loft the House what the intention was? If the words he proposed did not make it clear—though in his opinion they did—he would still appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill to allow the Law Officers of the Crown, before it was too late and the House passed away from the sub-section, either to introduce other words or amend his, or introduce words which would make it clear what, after all, was the unanimous wish of the House in the matter.
Amendment proposed to the words so restored to the Bill,
To add, at the end thereof, after the word "Overseers," the words "and this enactment alone shall have effect in the last-mentioned case, any prior section of this Act notwithstanding."—(Mr. J. W. Lowther.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, this appeared to him to be a very unnecessary proceeding. As a matter of drafting, it meant that there were two clauses competing with each other, and that the House should decide that the second clause should prevail and not the first. It seemed to him that that would be a, ridiculous plan to adopt. The proper course to be taken would have been to omit this sub-section; but a mechanical majority had just now decided not to omit it, desiring, according to the Attorney General, to repeat in this clause what they had already inserted in Clause 6. He agreed with the Attorney General that this clause was unnecessary. So far as he knew anything about drafting, he had never seen a case where it was said that one clause should prevail over another that was in the same Bill.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Goldsmid had said what he had intended to say on behalf of the Government. Either Clause 6 was right or it was wrong. If it was wrong it must be amended, but it could not be amended in the manner proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ *MR. W. LONG
said, he did not know how the Government could carry the matter much farther than they had done. The opinion of the Attorney General— which was the highest opinion they could offer—had been given, and it had overthrown the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the 753 Local Government Board, which that right hon. Gentleman had delivered as resting on high authority. He had no doubt the intentions of the Government wore plain; but like other intentions they were sometimes not successful. In this particular ease they had intended that Clause 6 should not transfer the powers with regard to the control of these charities. They had Clause 13, amended at the instance of the hon. Member for Rugby, to effect the administration of the charities, and now they were told that Clause 13 (or Clause 14 as it was now) was unnecessary because the transference was completed under Clause 6. He admitted that the objection of the hon. Baronet opposite, repeated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was not without foundation. No doubt the Amendment was not in the form in which they would like to see it, but he would remind the House that the Bill was not in the form in which anyone who desired to see legislation plainly expressed would desire to see it. The fault was not that of the Opposition for proposing a clumsy Amendment, but with those who bad so framed the Bill that nothing but a clumsy Amendment would effect the purpose. If Clause 6 did that which it was said by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Govern-ment Board it did not do, and was not intended to do, he hoped the Government would take such steps as were possible in another place to correct the evil, and secure that the clause should do neither more nor less than what it was intended to do.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, that if the Government were of opinion that Clause 6 was wrong they would amend it, either here or elsewhere. He did not accept the interpretation of the hon. Gentleman opposite of what was right or wrong.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he did not think the opinion of the Attorney General was in direct contradiction to that of the President of the Local Government Hoard. He had stated the view of the Government on the matter, and to that he adhered.
§ MR. GRIFFITH-BOSCAWEN
said, the right hon. Gentleman intimated that the Government would make a change if Clause 6 was wrong. If the clause 754 did not carry out the intention the President of the Local Government Board distinctly expressed on the Second Reading, but did what the Attorney General said it did, the Government were in honour bound to insert words limiting the clause. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said there was no difference between the President of the Local Government Hoard and the Attorney General, but the Attorney General had said that all these powers were handed over by Clause 6, whereas the words of the President of the Local Government Board, as read out by the Leader of the Opposition, were to the effect that the clause dealt only with Common Law and statutory powers, and that to deal with trusts under Clause 6 would be a reductio ad absurdum. He (Mr. Griffith-Boscawen) thought the reductio ad absurdum was when the Government did not know its own mind— when one Member of it said one thing, and another said another.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said, he thought the Opposition were entitled to an answer. It was clear the Government had not made up their minds what the Bill meant. The course was simple. The President of the Local Government Hoard had pledged the Government that these charities should not be dealt with under Clause 6. All that the Opposition required — and, with the greatest respect, he thought the Government were bound in honour to give it— was an absolute pledge that if it was found that these charities were dealt with under Clause 6, they would take steps to have the matter set right. The point was one upon which he should have thought that no Government that valued its credit at all would have hesitated over. He (Viscount Crauborne) thought the President of the Local Government Board was right, and that the Attorney General was in error; but if that should not be the case, all they wanted from the Government was a pledge that the matter would be set right. If they parted with this opportunity which the Attorney General had given them of dealing with the question,. however bad the Amendment might be in form, they would have parted with it for good so far as this House was concerned.
§ *THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. H. H. FOWLER, (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, he 755 thought his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out clearly what the attitude of the Government was. Their view of the true construction to be placed on Clause 6 had been pointed out by him (Mr. Fowler), not on his own opinion, but on that of the authority who had been instructing him on the point. That opinion was that Clause 6 in no way did more than transfer the Common Law and statutory rights, duties, and liabilities of the Churchwardens. The question was not raised in the House of Lords in debate. He could find no record of it, and he did not hear it raised himself. He had asked hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite why these words had been put in in the House of Lords, hut no reason had been given; therefore, he thought he might say that hon. Gentlemen opposite were unaware of any flaw in the Bill which it was desirable to remedy. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had called attention to the matter on Friday night, and he understood there was a difference of opinion as to whether the intention of the Government had been carried out in Clause 6, or whether it went beyond the intention of the Government. All he could say was, that the Government would carefully reconsider the matter in another place, and put the question beyond all doubt.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
We have divided this Amendment into sections, and the remainder of it amounts to leaving out Sub-section 3 and inserting in its place a new clause altogether. I will not trouble the House with many words in regard to the Amendment; but I do think after what has passed in the discussion on the last Amendment it is right I should ask for the consideration of the House to where we really are with reference to these charities. There is, apparently, in some minds still a belief that charities, where Church officers are constituted trustees, become by the appointment ecclesiastical charities. ["Hear, hear!"] An hon. Member opposite cheers that point; therefore I am not stating the case incorrectly. On this clause I desire to lay down two propositions. First, that the clause in no way, directly or indirectly, affects any ecclesiastical charity, affects any religious 756 charity, affects any charity for any religious purpose whatever. When this clause was under consideration, the House had not decided what was the definition of an ecclesiastical charity. Hon. Members opposite complained—I do not say without cause—that the definition of "ecclesiastical charity" should have been settled before the words "ecclesiastical charity" wore put in the Bill. Undoubtedly, if I might presume to express an opinion on the mode in which Acts of Parliament are drawn, I prefer an Act of Parliament in which the Interpretation Clause comes at the beginning, and not at the end; but that is a matter on which my opinion is not worth much. At all events, the House was embarrassed in dealing with the clause by a perpetual confusion and misapprehension on the ground that we were dealing with the interests of the Church and of religion, and of ecclesiastical matters. Now, I must ask the House to bear with me whilst I point out what we have excluded from this clause absolutely and finally. We have excluded any charity which is applied to any spiritual purpose, or any charity which is for the benefit of any spiritual person, or for any ecclesiastical officer, or for any building which is used as a church or chapel, or mission-room or Sunday school, "or otherwise"—which are very large words—by any particular Church or denomination. We have excluded all charities for the maintenace, repair, or improvement of any such building, or for the maintenance of Divine service. And as a final instruction in this part of the clause, we have excluded every charity which is for the benefit of any particular Church or denomination, or of any members thereof as such. I should have thought that was as wide a net as it was possible to construct in order to sweep in all ecclesiastical charities. But, notwithstanding that, we have gone further and said that, wherever a building is used partly for a secular and partly for an ecclesiastical purpose—either as a church or chapel, or mission-room—there shall be an apportionment as between the two purposes of the building, and that the building under these circumstances should bear the stamp and seal of an ecclesiastical charity. That stamp includes every denominational purpose whatever. Therefore, in this clause now 757 before us we are dealing simply and solely with pure eleemosynary charities, charities which are devoted to the poor— either to some class of poor, such as widows and orphans, or to the poor generally, or charities that require some particular mode of distribution, either in money or in kind—in fact, charities which, to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, are permanently and morally, if not legally, the charities of the parish. We have already in the first two sub-sections stated that in these charities alone, whore up to the present time lay officers have been elected by lay bodies for lay purposes, these officers shall be replaced by other trustees elected by popular representatives. The old Churchwarden is elected by the Vestry—he has been elected just as the trustee who is to take his place will be elected by the Parish Council. The Government propose with reference to these charities that we should introduce the principle of elected trustees—a principle that the Charity Commissioners have introduced into their schemes for many years past, and a, principle that has received the strong recommendation of a Committee of the House which sat in 1884. This House decided to accept it. It went further, and declared that, not only should the elective principle be adopted in the trusteeship of a charity, but that trustees elected on that principle should have a preponderating voice on the Board of Trustees. The House of Lords have accepted the principle, I am glad to say. They did not accept it in the first instance on the Committee stage of the Bill, but on the Report stage. They have recognised the wisdom and the justice of elective trustees, but they have said that these elective trustees are to be placed on the Boards only to a limited extent, giving only a certain number of representatives. That is the simple concession of this Amendment. I stated my own views, and those of the Government, at great length on the Committee stage of the Bill. I believe I was censured for the length of my speech. I will not commit the offence again. There is no necessity to repeat the arguments I then used. I have only to-night to say that the Government see no reason for asking the House to recede from the 758 position it took up when the Bill was in Committee. Therefore, we do not ask the House to agree with the Lords in their Amendment.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House doth disagree with so much of the Lords Amendment as proposes to leave out Sub-section (3) of Clause 14."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire,) Arfon
I think it will be recognised by those who have looked into the practical working of the clause as dealing with non-ecclesiastical charities, as it left this House, that it is absolutely unworkable for carrying into effect the efficient administration of those charities. Experience shows that if you make the trustees of any trust excessive in number for the work they have to do the effect is that it is neglected, or falls into the hands of those who have some selfish object to serve. With those who have not had practical experience on this subject the point may seem unimportant; but those who have really studied and worked at the reform of charity and public relief know the eminent importance of the question to the welfare and character of the people. The experience which has been gained, not only in this country, but in others, as to methods of indoor and outdoor relief and of charity, has placed us now in a position to deal with these important questions, and the respective spheres of legal relief and charity, in a way not only to prevent demoralisation, which in past times our methods have inflicted on our population, but by the co-operation of all classes to make them a moans of strengthening the independence, the self-control, and the character of both rich and poor in their efforts for the common benefit. This Bill will either facilitate this improvement or put increasing difficulties in our way. Even the protection of the £1,500,000 per annum, the property of the poor, from being used to injure rather than to help them, in itself ought to compel our careful attention to this matter. But it is not this alone that makes it our imperative duty to do so. If these parish trusts can, in this Bill, be put on a footing to assure the English people that money entrusted to them will be well used, it will flow into them without stint, and you will have placed them in a position to solve many 759 difficult questions, such as old age pensions, &c, in a way to benefit both those who give and those who receive. But if we leave the clause as it now stands we shall not only fail to aid, we shall put increasing and very serious difficulties in the way of reform. There is no doubt that the addition of representative members, placed by the Parish Councils on these trusts, will have a very beneficial effect; but the number of trustees which the Bill as it left the Commons would force the Parish Councils to elect, whether they wished it or not, would generally be ridiculously out of proportion to the work they would have to do, and it would be impossible to find in the parishes suitable men to appoint as trustees. In many cases you would compel the Parish Council for a small parish to find 18, 20, or more additional trustees, besides those who are already upon it, and who are supposed to be sufficient in number. It will be absolutely impossible to find so many, or, if you do, they are almost certain to impede rather than help the efficiency of the trustees. Everyone of experience knows that a trust with a large number of trustees is almost certain to be neglected or badly administered. "But," it is said, "there is a clause allowing this to be gradually rectified." Yes; but not until the present generation of trustees have resigned or passed away, and for a generation you will have exposed these trusts to worse mismanagement and demoralising influences, and increased greatly the difficulty of that reorganisation of charity and legal relief which so many able and wise men have been working at, for 60 years, and which, I repeat, is now in sight. What ought to be done, as has been suggested by the Charity Organisation Society and others interested in relief matters, is that each parish should have a charity trust of reasonable size and so constituted as to deserve and inspire general confidence, representing all alike—the Parish Council and the donor's trustees. I hold in my hand an Amendment which would do this, drawn on the lines suggested by the Charity Organisation Society and other most experienced authorities in these matters. But if the Government think the amendment of the clause under consideration will be best made in the House of Lords, and they will favourably consider how 760 the blot I have pointed out can be best removed, I will not move this Amendment. But I think we ought to understand that a serious attempt must be made, either by the restoration of the clause to the state suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board by his Amendment put on the Paper in this House, or by some such scheme as I have indicated. I believe that the insertion of the representative element in trusts would be a very great benefit if wisely done. I do not argue from distrust of any class, least of all from distrust of the working class, but simply from the fact, disputed by none, I think, that excess in the number of trustees, from whatever class they are taken, is a certain way of ensuring waste and mismanagement, and often corruption. These are the terms of the Amendment to which I have referred, and which, if necessary, I am prepared to move—Page 14, line 37, leave out all words after "In the ease of" to the end of the Amendment, and insert "a rural parish having any non-ecclesiastical charities the benefits of which are confined solely to inhabitants of the parish there shall, on and after a date to be fixed by the Charity Commissioners, be substituted for the trustees of all such charities a single Board of charities for the parish, consisting of a chairman and such number of trustees, not, less than two or more than 14, with such quorum at their meetings as the Charity Commissioners direct in each case. The trustees (other than the chairman) shall be appointed, in the first instance, half by the Parish Council and half by the persons who on the appointed day were trustees of one or more of such charities; and vacancies among the trustees shall be filled, in the case of those appointed by the Parish Council, by that Council, and, in the case of the others, by the Board of Charities. The trustees shall, within one month after their first appointment, and from time to time within one month after the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of chairman, appoint as their chairman either one of their own body or some other person, and if they fail to do so the appointment shall be made by the Charity Commissioners. The appointment of any one of the trustees to be chairman shall create a vacancy among the trustees.
§ *SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
said, the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone) who had just spoken, and who spoke with great authority on these matters, had criticised the practical working of the clause, assuming the Amendment of the Lords was rejected, and the hon. Member's criticism was extremely worthy of consideration, because he be- 761 lieved that in the practical working of the clause as it stood in the Bill, as it left this House, it would be found the body of trustees would, in a large number of cases, be so increased in number as to be unwieldy and to lead to neglect of duty on the part of a great many of them. While he submitted to the House that that criticism was just, it was not for that particular purpose that he rose, but because he desired to bring the attention of the House back for a few moments to the very interesting position in which this matter stood. He was vain enough to think that there would be many in this House who, if this question could be considered apart from Party considerations, would be of opinion that what he was about to suggest would be a fair and just settlement of the matter. The right hon. Gentleman, in stating the reasons of the Government for not being able to agree to the Lords Amendment, apologised for not making a long speech. He must say that he had not heard any speech of the right hon. Gentleman that had been too long upon this Bill; whether they agreed with him or not, the right hon. Gentleman had always endeavoured to put his views before the House in such a manner as to assist them in their discussions; but they were entitled to refer to the position of this matter when the Government deliberately, after full consideration, put an Amendment on the Paper in the name of the Minister in charge of the Bill. That Amendment was one for which ho (Sir R. Webster), for one, was prepared to say, had he had the opportunity of speaking at that stage of the Bill, would not have been otherwise than a fair settlement of this matter. They did not oppose the introduction of the elective element amongst trustees. Many of them had been long in favour of it, and he endeavoured to carry it out by organisation when schemes came before them. But he must ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention for one moment, because he reminded him that when he introduced the Bill, and when this clause first came under consideration, the right hon. Gentleman never expressed the slightest intention on the part of the Government that the elective principle should be followed to the extent that the whole trusteeship should be swallowed up by 762 the elective principle. It was one thing to recognise that principle; it was one thing to admit it as reasonable; it was one thing to introduce an element that would represent the popularly-elected trustee, but it was another thing to do what the Bill did—provide that there should be a majority of the whole body, whatever might be the trusts, and however they were administered. But how did it stand? As he said a few moments ago, were it not for the fact that Party considerations were introduced, the settlement proposed by the Government was reasonable and just. This was not a, matter which the Minister in charge said they would consider further; but he came down to the House and put on the Paper for days an Amendment providing that the Parish Council or parish meeting, under certain circumstances, might appoint additional members of the Governing Bodies, not exceeding one-third of the whole number of the Governing Body of the trust. Let there be no mistake about this. He agreed that to a great extent ecclesiastical charities had been by the Definition Clause taken out of the purview of this clause; but this, as they had ventured to point out, was little short of a departure from the protestations of right hon. Gentlemen, and as the Bill was launched there were many who might think they were entitled to call it a breach of faith. But whether that was so or not, no one would deny that the Government gave no indication at the time, or at any time, that the clause was going to be dropped; on the contrary, after the matter had been fully discussed an Amendment was put down, and at the instance of a certain section of the supporters of the Government, not as part of the policy of the Government, the sub-section as it now stood was moved by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb), He might carry this matter a little further, for ho quite remembered the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman made a speech with which few of them were prepared to quarrel, indicating there was an intention to meet the Opposition. The Debate went on; consultations took place; the Chancellor of the Exchequer was seen in the neighbourhood of the Treasury Bench, not near the right hon. Gentleman who had the control and management of the Bill; the Solicitor General disappeared 763 for a short time, and then down that little gangway came the Solicitor General, and announced that the Government were going to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb). That was the Parliamentary history of the Amendment, and he submitted it was an alteration of the Bill which ought to be forced upon such a minority as they now represented, in face of the large difficulties there would be in working the clause, and in face of the statements made by the declared policy of Her Majesty's Government. What had the Lords done? They had substantially taken the words of the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, and they had inserted a necessary addition embodying the principle of elective representation. He thought the proposal of the Lords was moderate and fair, and he hoped that view might still prevail. They felt that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby would result in making the clause unworkable, and that it would lead to want of good management and disaster, and would, to a great extent, defeat the objects of those who were in favour of the elective principle. When the Lords had adopted the suggestion of the Government and decided that the elective element should be adopted, but not in excess of one-third the number of the Governing Body, it was not too much, before they were asked to disagree with the Lords Amendment, to ask that they should be told on what grounds the Government had come to the conclusion that the old arrangement should be disturbed and upset. He hoped that, in the interests of the working of the Bill and making it an effective measure, the House would reconsider the matter and would not disagree with the Amendment passed by the House of Lords.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I think my hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone) will feel that I shall be justified on this occasion in disposing very briefly of the Amendment he has submitted to the House without having placed it on the Books of the House, so that we might have the advantage of giving it careful consideration. My hon. Friend has introduced an Amendment which, indeed, cuts deeply into the subject, for he pro- 764 poses to substitute a plan different from that of the House of Commons and different from that of the House of Lords, and involving some new and important and, I must add, questionable principles, as to casting into one mould all charities of the parish which he must fully see it is quite impossible to discuss adequately at this extremely late stage of the Bill. We have reached not the eleventh hour, but the eleven and three-quarters—aye, the 58th or 59th minute before the clock strikes 12. I agree-with my hon. Friend that an unwieldy trust is an unworkable trust, and that portion of his speech has been dealt with by my right hon. Friend who is in charge of the Bill. It is upon what is called Sub-section (a), and not on the present Amendment, that we should discuss whether the provisions which have been made against unwieldy trusts are sufficient provisions or not. I am sorry to say that the plan of the hon. Gentleman is in conflict with the view of the Government, because it provides no settlement of the dispute between those who say that the elective principle ought to be a minority and those who say it ought to be a majority, and the hon. Gentleman has, in fact, made the best suggestion in his power for bringing the, whole matter to a deadlock by providing that half shall be upon one side and half upon the other.
§ MR. RATHBONE
May I say that unless they agreed upon a chairman the Charity Commissioners would appoint the chairman?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am not prepared to discuss the whole of the hon. Gentleman's plan upon its merits, but it appears to me that that is the character of the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. Now I come to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight (Sir R. Webster), and in a good-humoured manner I have to complain that at the commencement of his speech he made an announcement that filled my mind with cheerful anticipation when he said he felt convinced he had something to propose which was so moderate, fair, and just that it must by its own virtue and merit attract such an amount of support from the different quarters of the House as would enable some unanimous, or all but unanimous, settlement to be arrived at. The hon. 765 and learned Gentleman has spoken of the unwieldliness of trusts. We must all be agreed upon that matter, but it is not the matter which we are now considering, and it is better that we should put it aside, and consider that we are not touching that question. We have before us a question which is simple and clear, and which raises a different issue, upon which it is right that the judgment of the House should be given. The hon. and learned Member divides his argument into two parts. One portion is the argumentum ad homines, where he rests himself upon the fact that an Amendment corresponding in its general effect to this Amendment of the Lords was proposed and placed upon the records of the House by the Minister in charge of the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman, first of all, founds himself upon his assertion that the great majority of the House were prepared to accept the proposal that appeared in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Cobb), but how docs he know that? Has he the figures of a Division List to exhibit? He has figures to exhibit that the proposal of the hon. Member for Somerset (Mr. H. Hobhouse) was rejected. That proposal expressed not only the views of a considerable number of those who are determined supporters of the general policy of the Government, but it also had the great advantage of being supported by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain); but the facts before us are that the proposal which the House of Lords have dislodged from the Bill was a proposal carried in this House by a majority of 61, and yet the late Attorney General calls upon us to believe, upon his assurance, that the great majority of the House were satisfied with the proposal of my hon. Friend. How does he know that? I am willing to believe the hon. and learned Gentleman upon his oath or otherwise upon any assertion he is pleased to make; but when the judgment of the House is taken upon a subject, and the judgment of the House is given in favour of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby, not by the normal majority of the Government, which you are fond of stating at 30, but by a majority double that number, that surely justifies me in brushing away entirely the assertion of the 766 hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman described the wonderfully friendly disposition with which the proposals and the speeches of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board were received upon that side of the House; but if this extraordinary friendliness did prevail, the number of days which the Bill occupied in the House of Commons is a most singular indication of it, and one very difficult to explain. I do not wish to introduce polemical matters unnecessarily into tins Debate, but I want to find out what is the doctrine of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and apparently of the Opposition, upon this subject. The Government introduce a Bill. Is the Government bound to adhere to every jot and tittle of that Bill as they place the provisions on the Table of the House? The unanimous declaration from all parts of the House would be "No." It is bound to avail itself of all the lights which may be thrown upon the subject in the course of discussion; it is bound also to consider the judgment of the House as to the course which it wishes to be pursued in reference to the ultimate fate of the Bill when carrying it into law. Therefore, the Government are not only permitted, but it is their duty, to introduce alterations into the Bill; and if it is their duty to do that, it follows as a matter of course that some of those alterations will verge in one direction and some will verge in another. But the doctrine of the hon. and learned Member is that it is right for the Government to introduce alterations in the Bill which are agreeable to the views of the Opposition, but wrong for them to introduce Amendments which are agreeable to the views of their own supporters. Is it possible to maintain such a doctrine as that? The hon. and learned Gentleman first of all brought me into a kind of fools' paradise by promising that he was going to make a wonderful proposal which would satisfy all rational and open minds; but when I found that he had nothing but the old, hackneyed commonplaces of opposition to offer, I tumbled down from the elevation to which he had exalted me. Now, if I were asked the reasons why we disagreed with the Lords Amendment I would give some. The first is because I believe our disagreement with that 767 Amendment and our adoption of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby is most distinctive and expressive of the real, true, unbiased sense of the majority of the Representatives of the people upon a question that deeply interests the people, and is most important with reference to the beneficial transaction of their local affairs. Another reason is that I am at issue with the hon. and learned Member when he says he is very friendly to the introduction of the elective principle; but you must keep it within bounds, and those bounds are that this elective principle is always to be in subjection to a principle of nomination by private individuals. Is that the sort of adhesion to the elective principle which the people of this country are accustomed to have? Is that the principle on which our Parliamentary system is founded—that we may have a House of Commons elected by constituencies with a large popular suffrage? And a very good thing is the elective principle so far, but keep it within bounds: take care that you have another assembly, not based on the elective principle, but probably very remote from it, which is to have for its main duty the redressing of the excesses of that elective principle: and, while allowing it a great limited scope and space, always taking care to confine it within strict bounds, and assert the existence of some superior and better and higher principle, so as to prevent that elective principle having its full uses. If that is what is really meant by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they say they approve highly of the elective principle, all I can say is that is not the sense in which we are accustomed to view it ourselves. In our opinion, the elective principle is a principle which may reasonably be made dominant in the greater part of human affairs. Is there any reason why it should not be dominant in the particular case of the management of these charities? There is no question at all that every ecclesiastical element has been carefully fenced off, and those charities are not in any way before us for consideration; these are secular charities. The hon. and learned Gentleman says he hopes for a settlement which will be just and fair. I join in that hope, and I say the method we propose is just and fair. The extreme view had the powerful advocacy of 768 my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, who was for sending nominated trustees about their business, bag and baggage, and the right hon. Gentleman fell foul of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board, and denounced him as an ultra Tory because he would not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Somerset. Therefore, we are not representing the extreme opinion in this matter. We are not contending for sending about their business the nominated trustees. We are, on the contrary, contending for the elective principle—that it should be introduced, and we are contending for the pure principle of local government— that these trusts should be dominated by the representatives of the majority. Is that irrational? Our law in this country has favoured—and has favoured, perhaps, extravagantly in other times—the almost unchecked dominance of the will of the donors—as they are called with very questionable accuracy—of these charities. We recognise that there may be wisdom, so far, in leaving a sort of encouragement to donors—a qualified representation according to our moderate and fair proposals. But, in the main, our contention is this: These charities were left for the benefit of the parish. We are not speaking of what may be done in a short time—in 20 years—with the donors left supreme. We are speaking of legislation, and nothing else, for generation after generation; and we contend that the people of the parish for whose use and benefit these charities were left ought, by their representatives, to have a dominant influence over them. Is that unjust? —is it outrageous? I have said that I believe it is agreeable to the judgment of the House. Is it otherwise than a perfectly rational principle? I say that if the people of our parishes are fit for anything, they are fit for this. We are not asking them to view with critical eyes affairs indefinitely remote, or immeasurably comprehensive. We are asking them to look at what is immediately under their own eyes and under their own noses; and if they are not fit to deal with matters such as these, your whole Bill is a mistake, and your whole system of local government is a mistake. It is better to settle things in Downing Street and 769 Whitehall, to multiply our Public Offices all over London, than to give to the people functions which they ought not to be trusted with. But our doctrine is that if the people are competent for anything, they are competent to judge how this money which was left for their benefit is to be administered. I do not think it is pleasant, speaking as an individual, to have money left for my benefit, if the mode of that benefit will and must depend on the judgment, of someone else. It would be a very questionable compliment to me to make such an arrangement, and it would be a very questionable compliment to a community to make an arrangement in these matters providing what we think is best through all time, so far as Parliament can arrange it. I apologise to the House for detaining it so long. I have said more than I intended to say; but it is a matter of considerable importance. A clearer case, to my mind, I have never known, either upon the ground of being agreeable to the judgment of the House, or as to its being assertive of a principle thoroughly equitable, rational, Constitutional, and consistent with our system. The issue before the House is a clear one, and I trust they will decide it in a not less unequivocable manner as they decided it when it was proposed on the Motion of the hon. Member for Rugby.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I am anxious in a very few sentences to do what I can to enforce the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight against what I really must venture to call the sophistical rhetoric of the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. and learned Friend never for a moment made so absurd a contention as that attributed to him by the right hon. Gentleman. We never could have imagined that we could fairly accuse the Government of not adhering to every jot and tittle of the Bill, and of accepting Amendments from their own supporters. But there are many Amendments the Government have accepted from their supporters which, in our opinion, have made the Bill a worse Bill than it was when originally introduced. Of this we never complained, though sometimes we have done our best to oppose them. But what are the peculiar facts with regard to this Amendment? My hon. and learned Friend did his best 770 to induce the Government to look at the Amendment from a fair point of view. But what was the reply of the right hon. Gentleman? It was a hackneyed suggestion. Why, it was the very suggestion which his own President of the Local Government Board made. My hon. and learned Friend asked the Government to declare why they had changed their position from that taken up by the President of the Local Government Board on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Somersetshire. And what were the reasons for that change which have been given to us by the Prime Minister? In the first place, the right hon. Gentleman says that the Bill as it left this House in this particular convoyed the real and true and unbiased sense of the majority of the Representatives of the people, and that he attempts to prove by telling us that that subsection was carried by a majority of 61, forgetting that it was carried at half-past 8 o'clock on a Saturday evening in a House in which only 109 members voted on one side and 48 on the others. And that, we are told, is the unbiased opinion of the great majority of the Representatives of the people. But, Sir, that is not all. Can the right hon. Gentleman pretend that if the Government had but adhered to the policy announced by the President of the Local Government Board they would not have carried a far larger majority than 61 into the Lobby? It is obvious they could have done so if they had chosen. They have on more than one occasion, accepted Amendments to this Bill from this side of the House against the wishes of their own supporters, and have carried them by majorities approaching 150. That was the action of the Government, but it was not the action of the whole Government. What is the position of the President of the Local Government Board? What did he say in resisting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Somersetshire, which Amendment was to give the elective trustees a majority on these Boards—
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
It practically gave the control of the trusts to the elective trustees or the Parish Council, for it is precisely the same thing, and is 771 what was advocated just now by the Prime Minister. What did the President of the Local Government Board say in discussing that Amendment? He said—The Government would not accept the Amendment not only for the reasons he had given, but because they had, through his lips, pledged themselves to a directly contrary course.Again, during the Debate on the Second Reading, when contending against hon. Gentlemen opposite that a largo number of these charities ought to be put under popular control, he made this statement—Therefore, we are prepared to contend that these charities, which are for general charitable purposes, are not ecclesiastical charities, are parochial charities, and though we do not for a moment propose that the rector or any trustee shall be removed, displaced, or interfered with in his trusteeship;just as if the proposal did not interfere with the rector,but we claim that the Parish Council shall have the right to elect, instead of the Vestry, trustees in these cases.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—That was a distinct statement of policy on the part of the Government, and it was as impossible, as a matter of honour as well as of political policy, for the Government to recede from the position they had then taken up.But within an hour from the time that that happened, as described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight, a back-stairs intrigue was carried out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Members for Somersetshire and Rugby, and this sub-section—which the Lords have struck out—was inserted in the Bill. That is the history of the acceptance of the principle of the dominance of the majority, for which the Prime Minister has contended to-day, as if from the first day it formed part of the intention of the Government and had been embodied in this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that is the principle to which the Government adhere. Then, perhaps, we will be told why it was not embodied in the Bill when it was introduced, and why, when their further attention was called to the matter, it was not embodied in the Amendment of the President of the Local Government Board, instead of the one-third proposal which the right hon. Gentleman placed on the Paper, and would have moved in 772 Committee. I can tell the Prime Minister why we object to this principle of the dominance of the elected majority on these Boards of Trustees. In the first place, because the founders never intended that the charities should be so dominated. In the second place, because we believe firmly that such interference by Parliament with the constitution of the Boards of Control and the intentions of the founders will dry up the sources of charity in the future, and will deprive the people of much that would be for their good. These are our views. I do not wish to detain the House by arguing the matter at length, but I will just put one point before them with regard to the effect of the sub-section. We first discussed the sub-section with the idea that it applied solely to rural parishes. In a later stage of the Bill it was made applicable to every parish in England and Wales—to parishes in the Metropolis and in large cities as well as to small parishes in the country. I know what the effect of that will be in the city I have the honour to represent. After the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, Parliament deliberately removed from the Corporation of Bristol, and every other Corporation as well, the control of the charities of the Municipality and placed them in the hands of trustees appointed by the Lord Chancellor in the first instance. In Bristol the municipal trustees administer the municipal charities and also a considerable number of small parochial charities the benefits of which are confined solely to the inhabitants of parishes which would come under this sub-section. I venture to say that the President of the Local Government Board will not deny that it will be absolutely impossible to apply this subsection in that instance because of the absurdity which would result from the addition of a very large number of elected trustees to the existing trustees, for the charities of individual parishes only, which would render them absolutely incapable of doing their work in the future. The right hon. Gentleman knows that it would be impossible for the Charity Commissioners to frame a scheme which would bring the subsection into effect in that case. That is only one case. I venture to say that there are many more cases throughout the country in which it would be found 773 absolutely unworkable. If a smaller number were proposed or the Lords Amendment were adopted no doubt there would be a vast difference, and something might be done to re-introduce the principle of control by Elective Bodies which was abolished by the Municipal Corporations Act. But what I contend is this—that the sub-section as it stands is grossly unfair in the present and would be hard on the poor in the future. This sub-section was not part of the original Bill; it was not part of the intention of the Government when dealing with the question of the charities, and it is not now, I venture to say, in accordance with the judgment of the Minister in charge of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman used some significant language. Ho said that in considering the matter the Government had to consider the policy and course which they ought to pursue in reference to the ultimate fate of the Bill. Well, Sir, I am as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman can be that this Bill should become law. I have done what little I could— and I think the light hon. Gentleman will admit it—to smooth its way through this House. Of course, I did what I could to bring my views in regard to it into effect. But if the Government on this Amendment, which is no child of theirs, are to adopt such a position as that taken up by the Prime Minister, and if the fate of the Bill is not what I and they would desire, its blood be upon their heads.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I do not propose to attempt to enforce the arguments that have been urged with, perhaps, some force in support of the charge that there has been a breach of faith on the part of the Government with regard to this question. That is a matter of history, and must be settled by the two sides of the House concerned. But I wish to say a word or two on the merits of the Amendment now before us. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was kind enough to refer to a speech of mine which I do not think ho heard, but which, at all events, I made.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am so glad of that, because it prevents the necessity of my repeating it to-night. I 774 made that speech on the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Somerset; I have not altered the opinion I then expressed, and as I voted then I intend to vote now. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend that the views I take of this subject are even more extreme than his own. What is the view of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this elective element? The right hon. Gentleman says that the elective principle is to be made dominant and that that governs the whole course and policy of the Government. He said also that if an elective authority—the Parish Council, for instance —is competent to do anything, it is competent to say how funds established for its benefit shall be administered. Yes, Sir, I agree. But my complaint is that that is exactly what the Government have not done. I do go further than my right hon. Friend as to the elective principle; and I am in favour of the true principles of local government. [Ministerial erics of "Oh!"] It appears to me that some hon. Members in this House have not learned the A B C of what local government means. What does the Amendment propose? Here you have established a new system of local government, and you have empowered the various parishes to elect Councils which are to manage their particular affairs. What affairs can be more important to them than the administration of funds which have been established for their benefit? But do Her Majesty's Government propose to leave the Parish Councils full power to control the administration of those funds? No; they force them to elect a certain majority of trustees whether they desire to do so or not. Why do not they leave the Council to deal with the matter in their own way and at their own discretion? Take, for instance, this case: Here is a small parish with a charity which has up to the present time been admirably administered in the interests of the parish by the existing trustees. [A laugh.] The hon. Member for Northampton laughs. There are 13,000 parishes in the country, and it is possible that there may be in one parish a charity which would have been open to the criticism of the hon. Member for Northampton. In the case I have supposed what would the parish desire should be done? It 775 would certainly desire that the charity should continue to be managed by the existing trustees. Moreover, it must be remembered that in a vast number of these small parishes it would be difficult to find a considerable number of new elected trustees who would be better than, or even as good as, the existing trustees. Therefore, the proposal of my right hon. Friend is that we shall swamp the existing good trustees by a large number of trustees of an inferior character. That is not giving local government at all. If the people who create Parish Councils are qualified to deal with parish matters at all, they are qualified to deal with their charities just as they think fit; and if you compel them to elect trustees, at all events you should give them discretion as to the number they should elect. My right hon. Friend will see that my argument is directed against the words of the Amendment which attempts to coerce the Parish Councils. How can you have free local government—how can you have a dominance of the elective principle when you are endeavouring to hamper the Parish Councils on the one hand and to coerce them on the other? That is not freedom; that is not respect for the elective principle. Again I say that I do go further than my right hon. Friend in this matter. But I have another complaint. When you have compelled them to elect these trustees and have handed over the administration of the charities to the new body of trustees, have you given the parish the management of their own property? No; you have done nothing of the kind. A Parish Council is a constantly changing body. If a Parish Council of to-day elects a new trustee for life, how can you know that the Parish Council of to-morrow may not be opposed to the views of the trustee so elected? I say, therefore, that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby is not freedom, is not the elective principle, and does not carry out the true principle of local self-government. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister or the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill would be inclined to go a little further and would be willing to accept another Amendment upon the Lords Amendment, which, while permitting the Parish Council to elect a majority of the trustees, would leave that election dis- 776 cretionary in their hands. Why should the Government insist upon tying the hands of the Parish Councils and in showing their distrust of their good sense? If the right hon. Gentleman is disposed to accept such an Amendment as I have suggested, which would increase the discretion and the freedom of the Parish Councils, I am prepared to give him my support. But, if not, I must strongly object to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby, which I believe to be absolutely opposed to that dominance of the elective principle which we want to sustain, but which the right hon. Gentleman has denied.
Her Majesty's Government are placed in rather a curious position in this matter. The blood of this measure is poured on our heads from both sides of the House. The right hon. Baronet opposite, representing one extreme, has told us that if this measure is lost its blood will be upon our heads, while the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, representing the other extreme, is equally determined that we shall suffer for our misdeeds. But what is the head and front of our offending? The fact is, that the Government is to be made to suffer from both sides for their moderation. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham's complaint is that we have not swept away all existing trustees. ["No!"] Yes, that is his fundamental proposition. I will read the words of the Amendment as it was put from the Chair—The whole of these existing trusts, the whole property for the purposes of any parochial charities for the benefit of the poor as defined by the 18 & 19 Vict.By virtue of those words the existing trustees would cease to exist, and the property in the funds would be vested in the Parish Councils. That is the simple proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The parson would have disappeared, the Overseers would have disappeared, and the Churchwardens would have disappeared as existing trustees. The right hon. Gentleman said that ho would not read the words of his speech; but I will, at all events, read some of them, because we have been impeached for having violated Liberal principles, and we have been called upon to annihilate existing trusts and to 777 transfer them bodily to the Parish Councils. The right hon. Gentleman said—It is true that on a recent occasion I have been taunted by some of my former friends and colleagues with having become a Tory. Perhaps there is some foundation for the charge; but at least I am not so high Tory or so Conservative of the worst and least progressive kind as the President of the Local Government Board.Conservatism of the worst and least progressive kind, "said the right hon. Gentleman," was to refuse to annihilate the existing trusts and transfer them to an elected body,and that is the charge—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
No; that is not so, Mr. Speaker. I was referring, of course, as the context shows, to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, and when I said the right hon. Gentleman was worse than the worse Tory I was referring to certain of his arguments.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I will see whether that was the argument of my right hon. Friend or whether it was his proposal. Now, what was he asking for? He says—We are only asking that these bodies shall be able to deal with what is the property of the poor; and as there will be a majority of the poor represented on these bodies, there can be no harm in allowing them to dispose of property left entirely and solely for the benefit of that class.Then he proceeds to deal with the argument which he touched upon just now— that the present trustees were good trustees, and he says—The argument is that the present trustees are so immaculate that it would be a very great wrong to dispossess them. That is contrary to everything we have heard on the subject of charities ever since I have taken any part in public life.Our crime was that we did not dispossess the existing trustees, who, so far from being immaculate, were exactly the reverse. And he goes on—We have been told again and again that the management of charities, especially the small charities, …has been the subject of the greatest abuse[Ironical cheers] —Yes, but when anybody ventures to say that there are shouts of"Quote"—that dole charities have been misapplied, that they have been used for personal and other objects, and generally that there has been the strongest possible cad for the interference of the Legislature or the Charity Commissioners. Yet we are told that these are the people, the 778 trustees of these charities, who are so immaculate that the right hon. Gentleman looks with horror on a proposal which will relieve them of their work.Is not that an argument that the existing trustees should not be continued, but that their work should be placed in different hands, and in the hands of the Representatives of the people? That is the doctrine which has been stilted in its full breadth by the Prime Minister. It is impossible to have it more broadly stilted, even by him, than it is stated by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. What, then, does he complain of? He complains of us that, instead of being sufficiently thorough, we have allowed an element in the ancient trusts to remain and to pollute the elective principle, as he says, by letting some of these non-elected gentlemen remain upon the trusts. I venture to say that—contrasting the principle contended for by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, that these trusts ought to have been swept away root and branch, with that of a good many hon. Gentlemen opposite, that it would have been a very good thing to have left these trusts alone as they were—the proposal which the Government have made is a reasonable proposal, because it gives predominance to the elective element, and does not destroy altogether the ancient trust. The Government have shown no tyrannical disposition in the matter. They have made a reasonable proposal, they believe, to the House and the country, and they will adhere to it.
MR. KNATCH BULL-HUGESSEN (Kent, Faversham)
said, he thought the Government had no greater reason to be grateful for the intervention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this occasion than on previous ones. He had listened carefully to the eloquent speech of the Prime Minister, but he hoped that in spite of that speech the Government would see their way to adopting the reasonable compromise which was offered to them by the Lords Amendment. To the minds of most Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House, the Amendment introduced into the Bill at the instance of the hon. Member for Rugby, and introduced, he ventured to say, very much against the will of the tight hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, contained in itself the elements of 779 tyranny and monstrous injustice. In his opinion, the greatest sufferers from this legislation would be the poor of the Kingdom. He would like to know what human being in future, in his senses, would leave a trust with the full knowledge that some time after his death it might be devoted to other purposes, or be distributed among a different class of people to those whom he had contemplated? He would not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the fact that he wished to lay before the House an illustration of what would be likely to take place if such legislation passed. There was a gentleman well-known to him now living in the County of Kent who had provided land on which houses were to be built for the deserving poor of his parish, and the trustees of the charity were to be the owner of the estate, and two others to be appointed by him. Now, it was quite clear that if this Bill became law without the insertion of the Lords Amendment, the Parish Council would have, at some future time, power to dispossess the future trustees, or to appoint a majority, and it was quite conceivable that they would appoint an entirely different class of persons to those contemplated by the founder of the charity. His Friend, fortunately or unfortunately, having a very wholesome dread of Gladstonian confiscation and spoliation, although he had the land conveyed by deed, very prudently provided for the endowment by his will, which—he wrote—he could and probably would tear up if this Bill became law, so that the charity would die by inanition. He believed, therefore, that charity would be dried up at its source by this vexatious legislation. Any tampering with the trustees was perfectly unjustifiable; but if there was to be some concession to the principle of popular representation, surely this Amendment of the Lords gave that representation. Although he could see no pretence of fairness in any proceeding of the kind— he could not help styling it sheer robbery—still this Amendment did to some extent modify the injustice, and he appealed to hon. Gentlemen opposite to pause before they rejected this means of compromise.
§ *SIR C. W. DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said, the Prime Minister 780 had stated in the course of his speech that he believed the proposal as it went to the Lords expressed the unbiased opinion of the House of Commons. There was great uneasiness, undoubtedly, in the minds of many supporters of the Government after the Debate on the proposal which was made by the hon. Member for Somersetshire, and he believed that any proposal in the direction of a large increase of elective power over charities would have received substantially the support which the particular proposals then made received. His own firm belief was that if the Government could, consistently with their former pledges, have accepted the Amendment of the hon. Member for Somersetshire, they would have carried it by the majority by which they actually carried the other plan. With regard to the particular proposals before them, he would ask the House to consider practically what they meant. His own belief had been, and was, that as regarded a good many of the richest charities in the country, the proposal known as the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby and the proposal of the Lords were both unworkable. He was one of those who believed that there was a dislike in the country generally to the administration of these charities. He shared to the full the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham as to the great doubt prevailing with regard to the present administration of these charities. Hon. Members opposite might ask them to name cases. He would name privately to any Member—he could not do otherwise, because he could not pronounce on the merits of the case—a case where the Rector and Churchwardens of a parish took diametrically opposite views in the strongest possible form, the Rector taking the liberal and the Churchwardens the reactionary view with regard to the admission of Wesleyan Nonconformists to the benefits of what the Churchwardens considered and the Rector did not consider to be a Church of England charity. He could name other cases of the kind, but he hesitated to do so lest he should commit himself to a particular view without having a sufficient knowledge of the local circumstances of the case. He thought there was a great deal of dissatisfaction in many districts; and if the Government 781 had made a strong proposal on the subject, ho was convinced that they would have been supported by the vast majority of their Party, if not by the whole. Surely, when they were creating these free elective governments, the idea that would have occurred to them if they had been asked beforehand as to what power should be given would have been that they should give the power of control over these parochial charities. How did the matter practically stand? The great majority in number of these charities had either the Churchwardens or Overseers as trustees. In those districts which he had examined, about nine out of ten of them had the Churchwardens or Overseers for trustees, and those were already dealt with in the earlier portion of this clause. But as regarded the money value, undoubtedly the richest charities in the country, although they were few in number, were those which had special trusts, and they were most difficult to deal with. The richest of all were the distant trusts, in London, Oxford, or Cambridge, or the county town; but they were not trusts within the parish, and he failed to see how the parish would be able to elect the number of trustees to sit on the Governing Bodies of City Companies and other bodies of that kind. It was on this account that he abstained from voting when the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby was before the House. But now he had to choose between two proposals, that of the Bill and that of the House of Lords, both of which, in his opinion, were unworkable as regarded the richest charities. He proposed, with some doubt, to vote for the proposal in the Bill, because it conceded the principle of the complete control of these charities passing to the people, which was the sound principle laid down by the hon. Member for Somersetshire. He was perfectly certain that the result of carrying the proposal of the Government would be that the principle laid down by the hon. Member for Somerset would one day be adopted with universal concurrence, and that the trustees would be abolished and charities transferred to the Parish Councils.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been very eloquent concerning what 782 they were pleased to call the elective principle, and the Prime Minister had told them that the Opposition wished to get, rid of that principle because they were afraid of it. But in the clause as it stood in the Bill there was no application of the elective principle in the appointment of these trustees. It, was not the trust that was in question He remembered the President of the Local Government Board telling them that whoever the trustees might be the trusts were safe. But with regard to elective trustees, there need not be a single one of them elected. The clause said that, they were either to be elected by the ratepayers or parochial electors or inhabitants of the parish or appointed at a parish meeting. They were really appointed trustees, and were not elected. Where, then, did this elective principle come in, and what became of all the oratory of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer about that principle? Not only need these trustees not be elected, but no one of them need necessarily be a member of a Parish Council or member of a parish meeting. The Prime Minister told them that because the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rugby was adopted by a majority of 61, therefore a majority of the House was not in favour of the other Amendment put upon the Paper by the President of the Local Government Board. But at the time that Amendment was put down by the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly the big battalions of the Government were to be marshalled in favour of that Amendment, and a large number of Members of the Opposition also were in favour of that, Amendment. It seemed to him that unless some strategic movement had been made to the rear or side, undoubtedly that Amendment would have been carried by a large majority. But, after certain negotiations, that Amendment gave place to the Amendment of the Member for Rugby, and the reason the Amendment of the hon. Member was preferred to that of the right hon. Gentleman was that the big battalions of the Government were transferred to the Member for Rugby's Amendment, and so it was carried. With regard to the argument that the Government need not necessarily be expected to stand by a Bill as originally drawn, of 783 course they all admitted that the Government were bound to take the opinion of the House. But the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman was exactly in that case. It was not in the original Bill, but was settled after much consideration, and was ready to be accepted by the House. That was the reason why they complained now of that Amendment being abandoned. He was in favour of this clause, as it had been put into a reasonable shape by the House of Lords; but his objection to the Bill still remained—-that it was a pretence, that it did not give to parishes or the localities the liberty they ought to enjoy, but that it placed the whole of their liberties for the time being in the hands of the President of the Local Government Board.
§ *SIR J. GOLDSMID (St. Pancras, S.)
said, that the course of the Debate reminded him of an Amendment that he proposed in Committee, which he thought would meet the views of the Prime Minister, and also of those who desired to go further even than the Government went, and that was, that the Parish Councils should have the right to elect existing trustees if they should think proper; that in those cases where existing trustees had discharged their duties well, and to the satisfaction of the whole parish, then the Parish Council should be allowed to elect them to continue the trust. It was suggested to him that they would have the right to do so, but that the trustees must first resign their position on the trust in order to be re-elected. But he thought that would not be a reasonable proposition, because it would involve both delay and expense. The question of expense was a very serious matter. The trusts might provide that a certain number should be elected, and if these men resigned, others might have to be appointed, and consequently considerable expense would be incurred, which was totally unnecessary. His suggestion, therefore, was, that the Parish Councils should be allowed concurrently to elect the same men if they were satisfied with those men. That proposal had the additional advantage that it would get over the great difficulty with regard to numbers. It was absurd to say that if there were five trustees six more should be appointed to administer a small charity of, say £40 a year, for it would mean making 11 men in all. His 784 proposal would get over that difficulty? while at the same time acknowledging to the full the value of the elective principle, and he hoped it would be accepted by the House.
§ Question put.
The House divided:—Ayes 215; Noes 165.—(Division List, No. 445.)
So much of the Lords Amendment, as proposes to insert new sub-scction (3) in Clause 14, disagreed to.
The following Lords Amendments were agreed to:—
Page 15, line 34, leave out ("or the parish meeting as the ease may be").
Page 16, line 3, leave out from ("thereby") to ("and") in line (6, and re-insert the same words after ("Churchwardens") in line 9.
In line 19, leave out ("charities founded before the passing of this Act by donors"), and insert ("a charity founded before the passing of this Act by a donor, or by several donors, any one of whom is"),
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
proposed, in the latter part of the preceding Amendment, to add the words—Unless with the consent of the surviving donor, or donors.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
In line 24, after ("charity") insert ("this section, with the exception of sub-section (1), shall not apply where any parochial charity is vested in the minister, or minister and officers, either of the Church or of any other religious denomination, and the Charity Commissioners have certified that they are satisfied, either from the terms of the instrument creating the trust or from the other circumstances of the case, that it was the intention of the founder or founders that the charity should be distributed through the agency of the officers of the Church, or other religious denomination, as such"),
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I move to disagree with this Amendment. This is practically a new extension and definition of ecclesiastical charities. This is a proposal that the definition of ecclesiastical charity shall now extend to a parochial charity vested in certain religious officers, either the minister or lay officer. Then it imposes on the Charity Commissioners that they are to be satisfied either from the terms of the instrument creating the trust, or other circum- 785 stances of the case. I do not know how they are to deal with pre-Reformation charities. With reference to the instruments creating the trust as to what the founder or founders desired, the law has been that charities founded under such instruments of trusts may be modified in the constitution of their trustees as well as in many cases, the trusts themselves, and this is the principle which was recognised in the City of London Parochial Charities Act where there was no such reservation as appears here. In a well-known work on charitable trusts it is laid down that—If a primary object of a charity is eleemosynary, no religious qualification is required by the trustees.This is practically to introduce a religions qualification, and I hope the House will at once decide they will not accept it.
Motion made, and Question,
That this House cloth disagree with the lords in the said Amendment,"—(Mr. H.H Fowler,)
—put, and agreed to.
The following Lords Amendments were agreed to:—
Page 17, Line 2, after ("do") insert ("or that! they have failed to maintain and repair any highway in a good and substantial manner").
line 7, after("matter") insert ("complained of").
Line 13, after ("duty") insert (mentioned in the order").
Line 18, after ("a") insert ("rural").
Line 33, leave out ("a") and insert ("to the office of").
Page 18, line 1, after the second ("by") insert ("existing").
Line l6, leave out ("either").
In line 47, leave out from ("custody") to ("The") in line 18, and insert ("unless the Parish Council shall otherwise direct; but no change shall be made in the existing custody of the last-mentioned books, writings, papers, and documents, or any of them, unless and until the County Council is satisfied that the custody in which the Parish Council proposes to keep such books, writings, papers, and documents is proper and sufficient for the purpose"),
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, this was a new mode of disposing of books and writings, &c, and was in fact practically giving a veto to the County Council over their custody. He did not propose to go into the question fully. This matter was 786 fully discussed in Committee, and eventually the hon. and learned Member for the Isle of Wight arranged with the Solicitor General this clause as it left the Commons as one which would be satisfactory to both sides of the House, and he (Mr. Fowler) objected to any Amendment to it. He therefore moved 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.)
§ SIR R. WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
did not go quite so far as the right hon. Gentleman, but still he agreed that the only effect of this clause was to impose a further condition upon the question, whether or not the custody of documents should be altered. As by the provision which stood in the Bill they would remain in their existing custody unless the Parish Council took the initiative, it seemed to him that was a sufficient precaution, and the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that in such a matter the interference of the County Council was not required. He should not, therefore, advise hon. Members on his side of the House to insist on the Lords Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Some purely formal Amendments of the Lords were agreed to.
In page 19, line 19, leave out ("four times") and insert ("twice"),
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the House would recollect that when the clause was under discussion there was some little difference of opinion as to whether it should be compulsory for the Parish Council to meet four times a year, and at the end it was decided, with the consent of the right hon. Member for Halifax, that the "four" should be retained. There were ample powers for summoning the parish meeting, and he had consulted his right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax, whose clause this practically was, and he saw no objection to the Lords Amendment.
§ Lords Amendment agreed to.787
In page 19, after ("approval") insert ("Provided that the members of any committee so appointed shall be persons who, if there were a Parish Council in the parish, would be qualified under this Act to be members of the Parish Council"),
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
moved to disagree with the Amendment. This was practically introducing the principle of qualification, and there was no necessity for imposing any such restriction.
Motion made, and Question,
That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment,"—(Mr. H. H. Fowler,)
—put, and agreed to.
§ Some purely formal Amendments of the Lords were disposed of.
In page 20, line 34, leave out ("be no ex officio or nominated Guardians") and insert ("subject as hereinafter mentioned, be no ex Offieio or nominated Guardians: Provided that this sub-section shall not apply to such Guardians as have been or may be nominated by the Local Government Board under Section 79 of the Metropolitan Poor Act, 1867,
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I move to disagree with this Amendment of the Lords. The clause as it left this House abolished both ex officio and nominated Guardians. The Lords do not object to the abolition of ex officio Guardians, but they object to the abolition of Guardians nominated by the Local Government Board. That formed the subject of a very long controversy in this House. The House will perhaps recollect that the number of Guardians which the Local Government Board can nominate is 121. The number actually nominated—and I think that is a very high number, and I have increased it during my term of office—is now 23. The Amendment is defended upon the ground that the Local Government Board has exercised this power to the best of its ability; and, no doubt, proper persons, so far as I have been able to form an opinion, have been appointed in the small number of Unions in which this power has been exercised. But the whole framework of the clause is the abolition of ex officio and nominated Guardians, and they do not cease to occupy their 788 position of being nominated even if they are appointed by a Government Department. Although the matter only affects Loudon, we see no reason why you should not apply to London the same principle of election as is applied elsewhere, and why the constituencies of London should not be in the same position as other large towns—such as Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, where there are no nominated Guardians, therefore we propose to disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
A weaker argument in favour of rejecting the Lords Amendments has seldom been addressed to the House and really from the whole tone of the right hon. Gentleman I suspect it is scarcely from his own point of view or conviction that he resists this Amendment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
All I can say is that notwithstanding he says that the elective principle ought to prevail he himself has seen the administrative advantages in himself nominating Guardians. I cannot understand how any right hon. Gentleman who has himself nominated Guardians for the purposes of administration should on principle be opposed to the nomination of Guardians. Why did he appoint nominated Guardians to Elected Bodies when the matter lay entirety in his own discretion? Because he felt that the circumstances of those Unions, where this action was taken, were exceptional, and because power had been given to strengthen Boards of Guardians under certain circumstances where in his judgment it might be expedient. I will not prolong my observations on the subject on this occasion, because I spoke upon it on a previous occasion; but what I wish to point out to the House is, that the desirability of appointing nominated Guardians does not arise from any desire to represent property, or from any suspicion of the action of the Boards of Guardians lest they should be too extravagant; but it has been with a regard 789 to the improved administration and the desirability of bringing some disinterested men on the Board in order to supply some element of a kinder and more effective administration than can be supplied in that particular Union. The right hon. Gentleman says such provisions do not exist in any of the provincial towns. I will recall to the House the fact that the pauperism of the Metropolis stands on a totally different footing from the pauperism elsewhere, that we have problems terribly difficult to deal with, as the right hon. Gentleman will admit, which do not present them in the same form in the Provinces. We have, most unfortunately, such geographical separation of those who are oppressed by poverty from the wealthy in this Metropolis to a degree which scarcely exists in any of the provincial towns. We have the vast areas of very poor Unions where some extraneous aid in the administration is valued both by the intelligent men in the Union itself and certainly by the Local Government Board. The question is, ought these administrative considerations to weigh more heavily in the scale than on the other side that desire for uniformity, which was the only argument the right hon. Gentlemen pressed on the House? The right hon. Gentleman used no other argument than that this power did not exist in the Provinces, that there was no great occasion for it in London, and that they should remove this anomaly and rely on the elective system. I admit, with the right hon. Gentleman, that it is not a matter of supreme importance, and ought not to be a question either between the two parties. There is no reason here that there should be any difference between the Poor Law administrators on the one side or on the other. Gentlemen opposite will admit that it is not like many other matters we have discussed. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board himself nominated Guardians because he believed it to be expedient, and he is now asking his Party to deprive him of the opportunity in the future of making such judicious and wise appointments. I should have hoped that this question might have been removed beyond any Party considerations, and that the right hon. Gentleman might, 790 on this occasion at all events, allow anyone to vote entirely in accordance with his own discretion. It is the poor who are concerned in this, and not the wealthy. It is, I repeat, for the sake of good administration, and I, for my part, regret very much the decision of the Government to deprive themselves of the opportunity of taking the steps which no one has shown to be disadvantageous. Not a single case of abuse or mis-appointment has been alleged. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say the system has broken down; on the contrary, it might be shown that great advances have been made in those poorer Unions where this help and aid have been given. Such evidence as we have is in favour of the system; there is no evidence against it, and it is only on a priori abstract grounds that the House is asked by the right hon. Gentleman to abandon the wise provision which has worked so well indeed in the past.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
thought (he right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had forgotten the argument used when power was given to the Local Government Board to appoint members to the Metropolitan Boards of Guardians. It was then pointed out that there were Justices of the Peace who were members of the Boards of Guardians throughout the country, while, as a matter of fact, in very many districts of London there was no resident Justice of the Peace, and there was accordingly no ex officio element on very many Metropolitan Boards of Guardians, and it was thought right that so long as the exofficio element existed in the country at large that, there should be some equivalent or substitute for it in London. It was upon these grounds that in the Act of 1867 power was conferred on the Local Government Board to appoint these members. The House had now decided to abolish the ex officio e lement, and it was obvious, therefore, that with the ex officio element the nominated element, which was merely a substitute in London for the exofficio element outside, must fall with that ex officio element. What use had been made of this power in London? There were, he believed, five Boards of Guardians in London on which nominated members had been appointed, but it was clear from the speech of the noble Lord that in his view the Local Government 791 Board would be entitled to nominate members in a greater degree than they had done in the past. It was possible under the Act of 1867 to appoint nominated Guardians to the extent of one-third of the whole number, and in this way it would be possible for a Government Department to override the opinion of a locality. He must strongly protest against the House showing any distrust of the electors of London.
§ *MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)
said, he had listened with regret to the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board that the Government were unable to accede to the Lords Amendment, and he dreaded the possible effects which the new Poor Law system of administration might have. He thought that the way the Local Government Board had made use of the power it possessed in the past was satisfactory evidence that in the future it would appoint only really competent men, and in cases only where their presence was absolutely required on the Board of Guardians, and he accepted it as a proof that the Local Government Board was not likely to try and counterbalance the votes and the opinions of the elective Guardians by the infusion of nominated Guardians. The Department would only attempt to appoint strong men of independent character and of experience of Poor Law administration to moderate and to temper the possibly excessive zeal, untempered by discretion, which might actuate the new Poor Law Guardians in London. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would understand that those hon. Members who were supporting the Amendment of the Lords wore not doing so because they were afraid the electors of London would not be able to choose Poor Law Guardians. The whole local conditions of London life were so exceptional that the administration of the Poor Law in London must be a matter of great difficulty as compared with any provincial town. This was a bad moment, therefore, for depriving the Local Government Board of a power which it had possessed for nearly 30 years, and of which it had made good use. The only argument in its favour was that of a sterile uniformity. It was curious that such an attempt should be made, and he must point out that, in 792 his opinion, it was a very dangerous thing to do.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he had not largely used this power. He found the power in existence, and as the terms of the nominated Guardians expired he thought it wise to continue to fill up their places until the Legislature called upon him to refrain from doing so. It must be remembered that ex officio- Guardians had been the rule throughout the Kingdom, and he was departing; from the administrative position if he did not appoint them in London.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
said, he was Secretary of the Poor Law Board in 1868 and knew what happened at that time. The reason for the appointment of these nominated Guardians was not that there were no ex officio Guardians in certain Unions. There were then, as now, Unions in rural districts or in towns outside London in which there were no exofficio Guardians, and the Government of the day never thought it necessary to ask Parliament for a power to appoint nominated Guardians in the absence of exofficio Guardians. The reason for this special provision with regard to Loudon was-the fact that there had been gross maladministration in the Unions of London. Parliament was satisfied that there was a thorough popular outcry against—not the extravagance, but the inhumanity with which the Poor Law in London was administered. Parliament unanimously gave powers to the Poor Law Board to appoint nominated Guardians to London Unions in order to bring about a better state of things. The Poor Law Board had never appointed anything like one-third of the number of Guardians as it had been empowered to do by law. The nominated Guardians had guided the elective Guardians to better things, and the result had been an administration of Poor Law indoor relief in Loudon which contrasted most favourably with the days to which he had referred. He regretted that the President of the Local Government Board should voluntarily abandon a power which could do no harm to anyone, but which had produced valuable results.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, with reference to what had 793 fallen from the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, while nominated Guardians might have done good service in London in certain cases, it, was no argument for their necessity now. It was time that Loudon should be put on the same footing in this matter as the rest of the country, and that was all they asked. He did not say that nominated Guardians were worse than other Guardians. Excellence of Poor Law administration could not be claimed either for ex officio or for nominated Guardians. All that those on his side of the House, speaking for London, asked was that the House would deal with Loudon as it dealt with other parts of the country. Why should they he frightened with regard to London? It would he a mistake to make any difference, or to single London out for treatment by itself. It should he placed, as he had said, on the same footing as other parts of the country.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he regretted that the President of the Local Government Board could not see his way to accept this Amendment. There ought to be some security against any faliing-off in Poor Law administration. It was highly desirable that the Local Government Board should have the power of nominating members to Boards of Guardians in places where the administration of the Poor Law was unsatisfactory. The power of nomination was called into existence because circumstances required it, and if the requirement ever existed, it still existed, and by reference to facts only could this case be argued. Why should not his right hon. Friend have this very moderate power, which would give him the means of adding a member or a couple of members here and there, who might bring some element, it might be of humanity or economy, to bear to secure a tendency to amendment on the Boards to which they were joined? This arbitrary principle that there could not be an admixture on Poor Law Boards excluded all reference to fact, and defied not merely past history, but present experience. Even under this very Bill the right hon. Gentleman would have the power of filling up a District Council, and why should he not retain this power, which history showed had worked with salutary effect? He was 794 extremely sorry that his right hon. Friend had not seen his way to meet the anxieties of those who were anxious about this matter, and persisted in throwing away a power the utility of which had been proved in the past, even within the experience of his right hon. Friend himself.
§ SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said, with regard to the argument of the hon. Member for Shoreditcb, as to-the treatment of Loudon on a different basis from provincial cities, he would1 point out that London differed from large provincial cities in one respect—that the cities contained only single Unions, whereas London had many unions. Within the limit of the Union of a provincial city, there were means of electing men of various classes. In London that was not so. There were large areas in the Metropolis in which the population was of a uniformly poor character. The argument that had been made fell, therefore, to the ground.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, he should not have intervened had it not been for the line of argument taken by hon. Gentlemen who had not the honour of representing London. They had been told to-night what London ought to do in regard to its Poor Law-administration, not by London Representatives, but by gentlemen in no way familiar with district representation in the Metropolis. One might be led to suppose, from such remarks as those of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin, that whatever of good was to be found in London Poor Law administration was due to nominated Guardians. Rut not so very long ago these gentlemen were arguing that London was saved, not by nominated Guardians, but by persons who had a plurality of votes. In defence of those who were doing good work on Boards of Guardians in Loudon, and who faced popular elections, he wished to point out from personal experience, and not from casual observation, that there was as good work done in London by the elected Guardians as anyone could claim for the nominated Guardians. He should he prepared to go further. In the Holborn Union they had nominated Guardians; who could not have been selected on 795 account of any administrative ability, because they did not possess any. In that Union the admirable work performed was due to the exertions of those ladies and gentlemen who were elected. London stood in a different position to other towns. It had several Unions in place of one, and one central fund, which was more or less under the control of the Local Government Board. But London-was as well able to elect capable persons for Poor Law administration as it was to elect them for other purposes, and if gentlemen who were not connected with the public affairs of the Metropolis were so anxious to have nominated or ex officio Guardians, let them advocate those Guardians for their own districts. They were not wanted in London.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
said, ho would quote from Hansard to confirm the statement he made that when power was given by the House to the Local Government Board to appoint nominated Guardians in the Metropolis the argument was used that outside the Metropolis the ex officio element existed. He would quote from Hansard (Vol. 185, page 163), from the speech of Mr. Gathorne Hardy, as he then was, on the First Reading of the Metropolis Poor Bill. He said—I propose that you be able to appoint nominees on Boards of Guardians provided they never exceed one-third of the whole body. The nominees would be persons taking a deep interest in the management of the establishment. This proposal is, I am aware, a novel one and will probably raise some objection, but this House will bear in mind that in other parts of the country Justices of the Peace, acting practically as the largest ratepayers in the Union, have seats at the Board. I propose that gentlemen residing in the several districts, and who are Justices of the Peace, though not perhaps tilling that office in a Metropolitan County, should be eligible to be placed upon these Boards.This was the quotation upon which his (Mr. Pickorsgill's) statement was founded.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
In page 20, line 3d, insert"(2) The County Councillors elected for any electoral division wholly or partly included in the Union under the jurisdiction of a Board of Guardians shall be, by virtue of their office, additional members of such Board, provided they consent to serve: Provided that a County Councillor for a division included in more than one Union shall only be qualified to sit on one such Board and
shall in writing addressed to the chairman of each Board elect on which Board he will sit,
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I rise to move that the House do disagree with this Amendment. It introduces a new sort of ex officio Guardian. The proposal was very fully debated in this House. It is that County Councillors who reside in the district shall be ex officio members of the Board of Guardians. The objection to it, apart from the question of principle, which has been fully discussed, is the absolute inequality of the arrangement. I remember reading to the House, when the question was previously de-bated, cases of various Unions showing that while one would have only one member, one would have eight members, some five, some six, and so on. The principle would work so unequally and so unjustly that I think it would be very much resented by the Boards of Guardians. There is also the difficulty of applying the proposal to the county boroughs. I do not know how it would be applied in London. I take it that most of the London County Councillors would become Guardians, as most of them reside in London. In my own town, which is a county borough, there are 18 members on the County Council. I could not say positively, but suppose that two-thirds of the 48 members reside in the Union. If we assume that 32 members of the County Council will act in lieu of the eight ex officio members who now sit on the Board of Guardians, that is, I think, sufficient to show the absurdity of the way in which the principle would work. As I have said, the proposal was discussed at considerable length, and it was not until we went into the matter that we saw what inequalities would arise under it. It was not met in this House with anything like a hostile attitude until it had been dissected. The objection I expressed to it is stronger now that I know more of the facts of the case.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr.H.H. Fowler.)
§ *MR. W. LONG
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in the view he has 797 expressed in regard to the way in which this Amendment would operate. There is no doubt that it would be impossible that any such arrangement should work out fairly and equitably all over the country. I think one of the views put forward by those who recommended the adoption of I he Amendment was that it was desirable that there should he some connecting link between the subordinate Local Authorities and the supreme Local Authority of the county. I think it would have been well to bring together the County Council and the various subordinate authorities by some arrangement under which there should have been representation of the former on the latter. But the difficulties are so great that certainly this plan would not be useful. I do not believe it would work, for reasons in addition to those which the right hon. Gentleman has referred to. You would be attaching to the County Councillor duties quite distinct from those which he is elected to discharge, and there would be a risk of the incidental duties playing a more prominent part in the election than the actual duties of the position of a County Councillor. For these reasons, although I quite appreciate the intention with which this Amendment was proposed, and although I am of opinion that there should be some connecting link between the smaller authorities and the County Council, I think the balance of advantages is against the proposal.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
In page 20, line 36, after ("is") insert personally rated to the poor rate and is,
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ Amendment disagreed with.
§ Amendment, to leave out Clause 22.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I move to disagree with the Lords in this Amendment. This is the clause under which the office of Justice of the Peace is to he conferred on (he chairman of a District Council in similarity to the office conferred on the Mayors of municipal boroughs. I 798 believe that in another place the chief objection taken to the clause was the large number of very small Councils to which it was supposed if would extend. I think that is rather an incorrect impression. We were informed that there were a very large number of urban District Councils with populations of less than 1,000. As a matter of fact, there are only 20 with populations of less than 1,000. There are only 69 with populations of between 1,000 and 2,000, and after that the populations go on largely and rapidly increasing. It would be rather invidious, I think, to select a small number of these Councils and say that the gentlemen elected to be chairmen should not have seats on the Bench when the holder of a similar office, perhaps in an adjoining district, will be a Justice of the Peace. There are many Members who had seats in this House about 15 years ago when my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. Dilke) introduced a Bill relating to small boroughs, some of which were eventually dealt with, whilst some remained. There are, even now, a very fair number of municipal boroughs which have small populations. It has never been thought necessary to deprive the Mayors of these small boroughs of the honour which is bestowed upon the Mayors of other boroughs, but that would have to be done if we adopted that principle in the case of the Sanitary Authorities dealt with in this Bill. I therefore move 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.)
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I regret that the right hon. Gentleman finds himself unable to meet what I think is a real objection, and what he I think himself admitted is an objection, to this clause. When this matter was discussed in this House we had not in our minds—certainly I had not in my mind —the existence of these very small urban districts. We were thinking of large districts—of Unions, in fact—and considering not only large areas, but huge populations. We had in our minds a chairman who would be a person pos- 799 sessing the confidence of a good many of the inhabitants of the county. That is quite a different thing from a chairman of a little urban district containing perhaps 500 or 1,000 inhabitants—that is to say, not being larger than a good-sized parish. I confess that, as far as my opinion goes, there is a great objection in general to the ex officio principle—to the principle that the election or appointment of a person to a certain office should give him a right to exercise another office. But no doubt the principle is admitted in the case of County Councils and Mayors of boroughs, and to some extent this is analogous to that position. I did think of moving an Amendment to this clause providing that it should not apply to the cases of these very small rural and urban districts; but, after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, it seems that there "would be no use in doing anything of the kind. But I do not think he would defend the continued existence of very small urban districts; I think he would desire to see them merged in much larger areas. That would be, I am sure, to the advantage of local government. Yet the more privileges you confer on those connected with these small districts the less likely it is that you will he able to make that desirable alteration.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E.R., Holderness)
agreed very much with what his right hon. Friend had said about small Councils, but, at the same time, thought that the proposed large addition to the Bench would not do any harm to the administration of justice. He agreed with the Government that this clause should be restored.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
In page 22. line 30, leave out from "shall" to end of sub-section, and insert "subject as hereinafter mentioned be no ex officio' or nominated members of the urban District, Council.
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
Disagreement with this Amendment is consequential upon our disagreement with the Amendment to leave out Clause 22. That clause deals with the rural districts and this deals with the urban districts. I 800 have no doubt the House will pursue a similar course in the one case as in the other.
§ Amendment disagreed with.
In page 23, line 28, leave out from "the" to end of sub-section, and insert "District Council of every rural district shall consist of a chairman and Councillors and the Councillors subject as hereinafter mentioned shall be elected by the parishes or other areas for the election of Guardians in the district,
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
I move to exclude the words "subject as hereinafter mentioned," which are introductory to the second sub-section, and then I will move to accept the Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the Lords Amendment,
After the word "Councillors," to omit the words "subject as hereinafter mentioned."—(Mr. H. H. Fowler.')
§ Question proposed, "That those words be omitted."
§ MR. H. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he understood that these words covered the second sub-section, and he would appeal to the Government to allow that sub-section to remain in the Bill. It was a proposal made merely in the interests of good administration, and he thought no valid objection could be urged to it. It was simply to add to the bodies established for sanitary and highway purposes in the rural districts certain members who had already gone through a popular election to a body elected for similar purposes—namely, the County Council. The object was to strengthen the smaller bodies. They were being weakened by the proposals of this Bill. The old Rural Sanitary Authorities had not always been very strong or very efficient in sanitary matters. New bodies were now to be set up in their places; but Parliament was removing from those bodies the very members who had as a rule taken the most interest in sanitary matters—namely, the Magisterial members, He was afraid that in many of these Rural District Bodies the farmers and others would take but a very small interest in sanitary administration. If it was desired to avoid constant friction be- 801 tween the County and District Bodies on highway and other matters some such proposal as this ought to be adopted. It could not he expected that many men would he content to go through elections to several different bodies. The only objection he could conceive to the proposal was that the added members would be to some extent ex officio. Whenever that term was used it seemed to act upon some members as a red rag to a bull. Let them get rid of all cant. Surely the term"ex officio" was not opprobrious when it was applied to a man who had already gone through an election for a similar body covering a larger area, but carrying out exactly the same kind of duties as were administered by District Councils in smaller areas. In the interests of good administration he pleaded for that proposal, and he could not understand why it should be sacrificed. They were all anxious to see the Bill work as smoothly as possible, and therefore he felt that Party politics should not induce the Government to reject the proposal.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
Tarry politics do not enter into the question at all. There are two sets of questions, and if this were an isolated proposition there might perhaps be an argument in favour of the Government accepting it. But those Councils will have to undertake two classes of duty: they will be the Sanitary Authority and will also act as Guardians of the Poor, and there has been evinced in this House a very strong feeling against introducing any other than the purely elective element, except in matters of Poor Law administration. This proposal would produce enormous inequalities on some of the rural District Councils, and would result in the creation of friction between elected and non-elected members. When this matter was considered on a previous occasion my idea was not to level down, but to level up; and I suggested that the chairmen of the Rural District Councils should be members of the County Council, so that then you would have the subordinate body represented on the superior authority. But that suggestion did not prove acceptable to the Committee. I repeat that J am not objecting to this on any Party grounds 802 whatever. I fear it will produce friction instead of promoting that good feeling which is so desirable in local administration, and in the interests of county administration I cannot ask the House to accept this Amendment.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I do not rise for the purpose of supporting the Amendment, because I think I voted against it when it was before the Committee. But I wish to ask a question upon it. I understand that in the rural districts the District Councils and Boards of Guardians are practically identical, and in the clause relating to Boards of Guardians, as the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, we have given certain powers to co-opt Guardians if the Board thinks fit to do so. But, so far as I can gather, there is nothing in the Bill enabling such persons when co-opted to act as members of the Rural District Councils, and I would point out the inconvenience which must arise from that omission. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to find an opportunity of supplying that omission?
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
I am under the impression that in Committee the feeling was against any such proposal. The two bodies are not intended to be precisely the same, and that is why we object to these words.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman to make any change in the Bill, but I desire to point out there would be great practical inconvenience in calling on members of Hoards of Guardians to leave the room while some of their colleagues were transacting highway business. I cannot imagine that any harm could arise from the adoption of the suggestion I have made.
§ First part of the Lords Amendment agreed to as amended.
§ The second part, which provided that the County Councillors for any electoral division in the district of a Rural District Council should be members of such Council, disagreed to.
§ Several Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 27.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
This is the clause which transfers a variety of non- 803 judicial functions from the Magistrates to the popular Elected Body. It is a copy—with one or two minor exceptions —of a clause inserted in Mr. Ritchie's Bill of 1888. It is in harmony with the provisions of the Bill which transfer to the County Council those larger matters of extra-judicial administration which up to the time of the passing of the Act were performed by the Magistrates. This matter was discussed in Committee, and no one divided against it. I therefore move to restore the clause which, I may remind the House, was considerably amended on Report.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause be re-inserted,"—(Mr. H. H. Fowler,)—put, and agreed to.
In page 27, line 37, to leave out from the word "borough," to the end of Sub-section (1) of Clause HO,'
the next Amendment, read a second time.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
This raises the whole question of the extension of this Act to London. There is a largo number of consequential Amendments, but I think perhaps it would be convenient to discuss the whole question on this Amendment, and I propose to ask the House to restore the clause as it left that House, but with a drafting Amendment, striking out the words "in like manner as to an urban district."
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It would be simpler if the right hon. Gentleman moved first to disagree with the Lords Amendment.
§ *MR.H. H. FOWLER
I shall do that, Sir. The object of the clause is to extend to the Sanitary Authorities in London the same conditions, and to the electors and to the elected the same powers and privileges, as will under this Bill be applicable to other sanitary districts in the country. I do not, of course, maintain that this is a complete scheme for London local government. Neither did the author of the Act of 1888 maintain that the granting of a County Council to London was a complete scheme of local government for London. This great subject has to be dealt with by degrees. A Royal Commission is, as the House knows, now sitting in reference to 804 one phase of London government. I therefore do not pretend that this is a complete scheme of local government for London, which it is not; but it is an attempt to deal with the existing authority, which possesses a very wide jurisdiction, and the desire is to put that authority on precisely the same level as the other Sanitary Authorities of the Kingdom. Outside the City there are 78 parishes that have Vestries, and of these 78 Vestries 26 are Local Sanitary Authorities—that is, Urban Sanitary-Authorities, while the remaining 52 are grouped, and elect representatives on what are called District Boards, of which there are 13. The Vestries of London are elected by the rated householders; the qualification of Vestrymen is £40 a year, and in some cases £25 a year; members of the Vestry retire by thirds annually, and vacancies are filled, and a poll, where demanded, is held in November of each year. The first alteration proposed is as to the qualification of electors, our suggestion being that London should be put on the same footing as other urban districts, and that there should be a combination of the Parliamentary and Local Government Register. We would do away with all qualifications for the persons elected, and we propose that the elections shall be by ballot. I know there is at present a ballot for Vestry elections, but it is based on a very rudimentary system, and is totally different from that which has prevailed in other elections since the Act of 1872. We propose to apply to it the Corrupt Practices Act and a variety of other Acts, the joint effect of which will be to put London on the same footing as the other authorities. What objection can be fairly raised against that proposal? The only ground that has been alleged against it is that Loudon and the London Vestries have not had sufficient notice that the change was about to be proposed. But Loudon and the London Vestries knew in November that it was the intention of the Government to include it in the Bill. It is now February, and since November, during the 10 or 12 weeks that have elapsed, the proposal has certainly not been lost sight of. In these circumstances, I think that there is no ground of complaint on the score of want of sufficient notice. It is a remark- 805 able fact that no difficulty has been raised in this House to this proposal, and that the Representatives of Loudon unanimously accepted the change, for there was no Division on this question. I also fail to see that any substantial objection has been raised to the proposed change upon its merits. I will take one or two typical cases. There is Islington, with a population of 320,000, adjoining Horn-sey, with 14,000, and South Hornsey, with 16,000. Why should Islington be put in a worse position than the two Hornseys, which are to possess all the powers and privileges of the Sanitary Authorities throughout the country? Then there is Paddington, with a population of 117,000, as compared with Willesden, with one of 61,000. Why should the smaller district have an advantage over the larger? The fact is, that in London there is a number of Local Authorities which are crippled by not being in full possession of all the powers to which they are entitled. The Bill provides that London shall be put in the same position in reference to the matters it deals with as Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, and the other large towns throughout the Kingdom. I am quite aware that the Bill does not confer upon Loudon complete reform, but it will, at all events, facilitate those reforms being carried out in the future and the settlement of what is known as the Loudon question. At this period of the evening, and in view of the fact that no objection has been raised and no Division taken in this House upon the point, I shall content myself with moving that this 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. HAYES FISHER (Fulham)
said, that he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that London had no substantial ground of complaint in this matter, because he believed that London had it very acute grievance upon the point. The right hon. Gentleman said that the London Vestries had had full notice of the proposed change, because the Government had made up their minds in November that the change 806 should be proposed. Ho should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman at what date in November the intention of the Government with regard to the matter was announced? When the Second Reading of the Bill took place on the 2nd of November no mention was made by the right hon. Gentleman that London was going to be touched by the Bill.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
The point was first raised in the discussion on the Second Reading by the hon. Member for Shoreditch, and the Government immediately gave a sympathetic reply.
§ MR. HAYES FISHER
said, that in the right hon. Gentleman's very full, interesting, and explicit speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, following his equally full, interesting, and explicit statement in moving the First Reading of the Bill, not one word was uttered by him conveying any intimation that London was to be dealt with in the Bill. The fact was that the hon. Member for Shore-ditch opposite had pressed for the insertion of this proposal in the Bill for mere Party purposes, in order to accentuate a quarrel with the House of Lords. If that were not the case, why had the proposal never been made at any of the Cabinet Councils in which the Bill had been framed? He preferred the deliberate judgment of the Government to that dictated by mere electoral expediency and by the London County Council, who thought they saw in this matter a good move for the next Election. Before Christmas he asked the President of the Local Government Board whether any communications on the subject had passed between him and the London Local Bodies, and the answer was in the negative. The proposal had never been properly brought before the Vestries, and the Government were showing the Vestries very scant courtesy. So far from London having any knowledge of the proposal in November last, the right hon. Gentleman actually did not put down the full clauses till the 5th of January. Now the other House was violently abused for not agreeing to a policy which was not known to be the policy of the Government till the beginning of the present year. Never 807 had more exaggerated verbiage about any question been used than the language employed by ranting agitators in Trafalgar Square about the action of the House of Lords. From the language and the tone of various newspapers and agitators it would seem that the House of Lords was depriving Londoners of some great reform which for years had been promised to them by the present Government. Yet that reform was not mentioned at the Second Reading of the Bill, and was not introduced until January 5. If it were a cruel hardship on the part of the House of Lords to withhold this great reform from the people of London, surely it was an equally cruel hardship on London that it was not considered by the Government as worthy of being included in the Bill. The House of Lords had expressed no general dissent from the principles embodied in these clauses. The argument of Lord Salisbury was that when the proposal was considered the House of Commons was thin and exhausted. No one could deny that the House was at the time thin and exhausted. If no Division was taken, it was because the question came on in the dinner hour, and after a certain compromise had hastened the passage of the Bill to such an extent that so many Members were away in different parts that they could not be gathered together on that occasion. He and some of the other Conservative Members for London did not object to some of the proposed reforms: but they wanted time to consider these clauses in relation to the whole question of District Councils in London, which was a most important question and merited the attention and most earnest consideration of the House. As Lord Salisbury had said, the proposal was not originally in the Bill; the Vestries had had no opportunity of expressing an opinion on it; and the drafting of the clause was obscure. Such it policy ought to be well considered and be made intelligible, but in the Bill it was treated in a contemptuous, slip-shod, and slovenly manner, and that the Government were greatly to be condemned.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
There is a character in Horace of whom it was said Lethargicus cum fit pugil. The time for the speech we have just heard was 808 when the Bill was in Committee or on Report. The whole of the hon. Member's complaint seems to amount to the fact that when the clause was passed the Conservative Members for Loudon considered the matter as of such supreme importance that they were all dining or away in the country. The hon. Member seems to be in favour of the Government proposal, but he complained that London had been contemptuously treated. Whose fault is it if London Members on the other side of the House did not choose to discuss the question? The hon. Member attacked the compromise, and said the compromise prevented him from discussing it. Well, the compromise dealt with a great many subjects, but in the whole of the discussion the Loudon question was never mentioned from the other side of the House. It was never treated as a material question or as one that required time for discussion.
§ MR. HAYES FISHER
I did not say that the London question was treated in the compromise. My point was that owing to the compromise the London question was reached much earlier than it would otherwise have been, and, under the circumstances, there was a diminished attendance of London Members.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Why did you arrive at the London question earlier than was expected? Because the time assigned in the compromise for finishing the Bill was the 19th of January, and hon. Gentlemen opposite were willing to conclude the Bill on the 12th of January. Therefore, there was a whole week within the limits of the compromise in which hon. Gentlemen might have dealt with the Bill twice over, once in Committee and once on Report. But hon. Members did not seem desirous of opening the question at all. The hon. Gentleman said this was an electioneering movement. What was the meaning of the silence of the Loudon Members on the Report stage and in Committee? What is the meaning of their not challenging a vote tonight? Because they know perfectly' well it is a proposal which is thoroughly acceptable to all their constituents. If they think it a bad proposal and one to which their constituents are adverse, surely the London Members are treating Loudon in a contemptuous, slip-shod, and 809 slovenly manner if, while disapproving of such a proposal, they were dining when they ought to have been here. Their attitude upon this subject is a pretty good show-up of the situation of the London Conservative Members upon this question. They have practically intimated that they do not mean to right, and I think it is time we leave off' talking on this subject.
§ MR. GOSCHEN (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I think the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken with regard to a very important question is characteristic of the whole manner in which this London question has been dealt with by Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman, in the first place, must remember that this proposal was not originally in the Government Bill at all. [Sir W. HARCOURT: I have heard it.] The right hon. Gentleman will hear it again and again, He has treated the subject as a matter of comparatively no importance. He has treated it as he treated political subjects at Portsmouth, and, if I may say so—I hope without offence—not in a manner worthy of one who for the moment leads the House. I say that this is a very important question affecting London. And how was it introduced; This very important question was introduced as an Amendment to the Government Bill, which was a. Parish Councils Bill. ["No, no!"] Yes: that is what you called it. This was a measure which was intended to give the parishes in the country local government, and the Government did not think it their duty to deal with London under it. Such an idea never entered into the minds of the President of the Local Government Board or of the democratic Chancellor of the Exchequer. Bur when the Bill was in Committee it suddenly struck the Gladstonian Loudon Members that this would be a capital opportunity of making some further political capital, and they approached the Government, and said, "Why not improve the Vestries in Loudon?" To which the President of the Local Government Board answered: "Yes, that is a capital idea, why should we not do it? True. London contains 4,000,000 inhabitants, and, if this were a question referring to 810 Ireland, why then, of course, it would be necessary to introduce a separate Bill with the ordinary Constitutional safeguards; but, as it is only London, an Amendment in Committee will do. We can then by a side-wind give some political advantage to these Metropolitan Radical Members whom we have disappointed with regard to the equalisation of rates. "And so the Government proposed this change in the government of London without taking into consultation in the slightest degree these important bodies of local government in London. [An hon. MEMBER: Bermondsey.] Yes, I congratulate the hon. Member who alluded to Bermondsey. What genial allies for the Chancellor of the Exchequer! My only surprise is, in reply to the interruption of the hon. Member, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself did not repeat his Portsmouth performance in Trafalgar Square. I think that Portsmouth language would have been particularly apt for the atmosphere of Trafalgar Square. Is this the manner in which the reform of the local Governing Bodies of London is to be undertaken? I congratulate the Government upon their astuteness; and if hon. Members opposite think that this kind of manoeuvre—to call it by a complimentary name; I will not use the whole language of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and call it a "dirty trick"—but if he thinks that this manoœuvre is worthy of the Government I cannot agree with him. This question might have been approached in a very different manner. I agree that it is not a matter of the same importance as those changes in the Poor Law which the Government have introduced, ignoring the enormous importance of the question of pauperism. I know, as a fact, the Boards of Guardians in London never realised the manner in which their whole position was being attacked under this Bill, and they were deluded by believing that this was a Bill mainly intended for better local government in the country, and that London was not to be affected. Apart from the question of Boards of Guardians, the proposal of the Government is to change the qualification for Vestrymen and to change the electorate. I admit that the qualification for Vestrymen could not have been permanently maintained, but 811 I see perfectly well how this proposal falls in with the general principle of hon. Members opposite. Their object with regard to local government is to place the balance of power in the hands of those who do not contribute to the taxation of the Metropolis, and the view that taxation and representation go together is thus entirely exploded, the idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite being that those who pay taxes should be entirely swamped by those who do not pay taxes. The further proposal made by the Government is that lodgers and the service franchise are to be added to the ordinary electors for the Vestry. My own parish would not in the least be afraid of the admission of lodgers or of the service franchise. It is, in their view, a Conservative addition to the electors; but, beyond the question of Party, there are other matters which have to be considered. The electors who ought to vote for the expenditure in a London parish or Union are surely those who have a permanent interest in the parish or Union; but you are anxious to introduce the temporary lodgers who have not got a locus standi, who migrate from one Union to another, and the effort now is to place on the Electoral Register the men who, as lodgers, cannot be supposed to have any pecuniary interest in the locality. This is a Bill for better local government. Will local government be in any sense more local through the admission of lodgers? Lodgers may be extremely good electors, but they are not local; and in any reform of the local government of the Metropolis, it ought to be taken into consideration who will be the best electors for the particular Local Authorities. I am entirely in favour of a reform in the subsidiary Local Authorities of the Metropolis. There we have a great task before us; and it is because these partial efforts of Her Majesty's Government, introduced in this slipshod manner in the middle of the Bill, do not deal in a scientific; or thorough manner with the Metropolis that London Members have serious reason to complain of the action of the Government. This is not a measure for the better local government of Loudon. What chance has London got to resist the proposals of the Government? We have got little chance, because the Government is a Govern- 812 ment by sections, because Loudon Members put a certain pressure on Her Majesty's Government, and because this is a case of "tacking." Have the Government made up their minds whether the subordinate authorities in London are to be like District Councils or like the large Governing Bodies in our great towns? In the great towns the lodgers have no franchise, and there is no service franchise. Why, then, should we have that franchise in London? I think that is a question open to argument. I should like to see them like the great Corporations, if you like, under the County Councils; but with more powers than Vestries have. This is not a question which should be decided in this way, or less time devoted to it than was given to the question of the use of the schoolrooms of the Parish Councils. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: "Hear, hear!"] The Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "Hear, hear"; but how has he treated this whole question of the reform of London? He has treated it with contempt. He has treated it as an amusing matter. I admit that our difficulties are very great, because the Government have tacked on to the Bill this matter, because the Bill really has nothing to do with the Metropolis. We know that the feeling of the Government towards this reform of London is a feeble kind of affection. That is one of our grievances—that they do not deal with London as the position of London entitles it to be dealt with, and deserves. They introduced the matter in the middle of the Bill, suddenly, on an exhausted House of Commons. [Laughter.] The right hon. Gentleman and Members of the House laugh at being exhausted. Are hon. Members not exhausted? Do they not show every sign of it? It is quite clear that under the circumstances of the case it was quite impossible in January to discuss this question as adequately as I admit it ought to be discussed. If the Government have shown a feeble appreciation for London reform they have shown a fervent affection for the establishment of Parish Councils. But they have a deeper affection still; they have a fierce desire to raise a quarrel with the House of Lords. In that the Chancellor of the Exchequer agrees with the Vestry of 813 Bermondsey. There is nothing the Government would like better than to endeavour to establish a quarrel with the House of Lords on a point such as this, because there is a kind of feeling that this is an extension of the franchise; and when it. comes to that we know what an extraordinary timidity seizes on everybody in this House. There is nothing of which Members are so much afraid as to oppose anything like an extension of the franchise, even in the admission of lodgers or any other class, and the example of the ex -Chancellor of the Exchequer, who once spoke and voted against the admission to the franchise of the agricultural labourers, believing that local government, in which he was deeply interested, ought to precede the franchise, is always held up as an example and warning for anyone who would be bold enough to go against the extension of the franchise in any direction. There is nothing, I repeat, the Government would like better than to involve themselves in a struggle with the House of Lords on a question of this sort. That is agreed to by Members opposite. It is not that they wish to reform London, but it is that they wish to find ground on which to quarrel with the House of Lords. It is for this that we are to Heal with the administration of the Poor Law and to strike deep into the whole administration of the whole vast system of Poor Law relief. The House of Lords, I hope, will stand firm on a question of that kind. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: They did not divide.] Well, I deeply regret they did not, and think that was a question upon which it would have been wise to have stood firm. I do not think that the agricultural labourers of the country generally should be deprived of the benefit of Parish Councils because the Government have tacked on this particular clause to the Bill. I think they have treated London extremely badly in this matter. [Laughter.] Surely hon. Members opposite will admit that the Metropolis deserved to have more consideration? I do not think it is a matter for merriment. I say that London has not been treated properly; still I think that this is no reason why we should imperil the whole Bill. The Government do not think so. I believe the Government would throw over the agricultural labourer if they 814 could only entice us to wreak a Pill of this kind. We do not intend to oblige them. We know the force of the trumpet of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ho blew his trumpet at Portsmouth, and it was imitated yesterday in Trafalgar Square. I did not see yester-day that the Bermondsey Vestry were supported by the other Local Authorities. I did not see even that many of the Metropolitan Members thought the occasion was one on which they ought to have come forward. I think they might have spared the demonstration altogether; it was not worth while upon a question such as this. [Cries of "Agreed"and "Divide!"Surely we are entitled to a little time on this question. We have not had very much time, and I do not think hon. Members have grasped the importance of the subject: and we should not be doing our duty to our constituents—and I speak as a Metropolitan Member—if we do not put forward the case of London. There is more behind this than hon. Members recognise in this matter. We, the Members for London, know the policy which is animating the Progressive Party of the London County Council. I do not attack the Progressive Party for any want of proper appreciation of the gravity of the situation. They know it well enough. They are working for a special object; they are working, through the Local Authorities, to get the whole of London under their care, and they are not at one with us, I believe, in the true reform of the Local Authorities of London. They know that if the subordinate Local Authorities are strengthened and reformed as we desire them to be it may affect the power of the London County Council, and they are, therefore, perfectly content to deal with the matter in this fragmentary way, to simply introduce a clause in this Bill, and in that way, I believe, to impede the proper reform of the Local Authorities in London. Let the question not be misunderstood. We are not against on this side—and I know I speak the opinion of most of the Metropolitan Members— reform of the Local Bodies in London. There are many reforms which are necessary, and which will strengthen these bodies; but I do not believe in the admission of the lodger. Personally, I 815 think it is a mistake; it is a blow at the proper local representation of the localities, and that is what the Government are doing at the present moment. But it is not in any anti-Democratic sense, but in an administrative sense, that I am against the admission of these Local Authorities. We are bound to protest against dealing with this important question by means of an Amendment with which the Loudon Local Authorities have never been able properly to deal. I believe that this action is against the feeling of the majority of the Vestries of London, whether Radical or Conservative, who think that the whole question of the government of Loudon is too great a subject to have been dealt with in this manner.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
asked if any Member had before listened to a speech like that of the right hon. Gentleman, in which the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to flog the Government, the County Council, and the Progressive Members for having done what the right hon. Gentleman himself said he wished to have done. That was really the position; and the right hon. Gentleman objected to the House of Commons not having sufficiently talked about a thing, and not being able to talk at length about a thing on which the right hon. Gentleman admitted they were all agreed. [Cries of "No!"] Why, the right hon. Gentleman himself had said that he could not bring forward any objection to these things individually, but, with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Hayes Fisher), found fault with the Government for having done them. The right hon. Gentleman ventured to insinuate that it was what he might almost call "a dirty trick." Did the right hon. Gentleman remember what those words were first applied to? They were applied to the other side for doing something that that side did not want; but now the right hon. Gentleman applied the words to what the Ministerialists and the Opposition wished to see carried out. No objection had been shown by hon. Gentlemen opposite to this instalment of reform, which was not inconsistent with any subsequent reform, or with any relations that might hereafter be created between the County Council and the 816 Local Authorities of London. The question of areas, the powers and relations of the County Council with the Local Authorities, and the number of Vestrymen, would not be touched by the question of the qualification of the persons elected or by the method of election. If the Bill affected the Poor Law Guardians, surely it was fair that the Vestries should be introduced in the measure, and his only regret was that the Vestries had not been introduced when the Bill was first brought forward, and the moment he found they were not included he called attention to the fact. He called attention to that omission in the course of a speech ho made on a former occasion. At the close of his speech the President of the Local Government Board signified approval of what lie had said. Two days afterwards he (Mr. Stuart) put down the Amendment of which he had given notice, and the next day, along with the Government Amendments, the right hon. Gentleman put down the Amendment he had undertaken to put down on the same basis. The Amendment was practically the Amendment adopted in the Bill; there was no material alteration of it more than there had been of other portions of the Bill. As to want of notice, he thought what he had said was clear enough on that point. But there was something more important than mere Parliamentary notice. Had the question of the abolition of the qualification for Vestrymen not been before the House for half-a-dozen years? Had it not assumed the form of a Bill brought in by the Member for Finsbury, and backed by some Members on the other side? Had not the House had fair notice that the London Members —some on this and some on the other side of the House—would claim that the qualification of Vestrymen should be dealt with at the first opportunity they could get? Take the question of the electorate. The Local Government Bill of 1888 dealt with London, quite as incidentally as this Bill—aye, more so—yet on that Bill did not the London Members together introduce an Amendment to bring lodgers into the Bill. They failed because lodgers were not introduced generally now into the County Councils; but when lodgers were introduced into the District Councils, was it not fair that 817 they should also be introduced into the District Councils in London, which would be the District Councils of London in the future, whatever their relation to the Central Body and whatever their areas? Therefore, as to the want of notice he had to say that every one of the points touched upon by the Bill had been before the London public for years and years as points upon which those interested in London were desirous there should be reform made. They had now a, qualification for Vestrymen which prevented, in some parts of London, over one-eighth of the rated householders from being eligible; they had the greatest difficulty in finding fit candidates on either side of politics—for it was not a political matter—and they had, in addition, a method of election which was utterly destructive of all proper Vesuy election in this great town. They had the nomination one day and by Act of Parliament the polling on the next day,-and they had an antiquated system of polling. They had no Register from which they could work, but only the rate book, and in fact the system was of such a character as to give rise to hole-and-corner elections. They would find at this present moment that, while a large portion of the population voted for members of the County Council and Members of Parliament, they would be very fortunate in any ward in London out of 2,000 electors to get a poll of 200 for any particular Vestry candidate. That was because they could not know who were the candidates beforehand. Again, the method of the ballot papers was very old-fashioned and varied in its practice. Altogether, the system was one which made the Vestry elections a hole-and-corner business, which made the government of London very largely a hole-and-corner government, and prohibited it from exercising that beneficial influence on the sanitary condition of London, which if it were elected in an open and general way, and by a wide constituency such as proposed in this Bill, they might be sure would be exercised. It was objected that this was a partial and slip-shod method of reform. Partial it was, but they were delighted to get something. They should take what they could get, but they should take care they got it so that they could ask for more. What was there in this reform 818 which prevented a wider extension of London municipal life? Nothing whatever; but everything to promote it by stimulating the interest in municipal affairs which must take place as soon as the people got a proper electorate and* the abolition of these qualifications. As to being slip-shod what was there slipshod about it? Nothing. Another objection that was urged was that this reform would be uncertain in its application, and this seemed to be because it was so contrived that it was put in a few words. He ventured to say it was perfectly clear and distinct, and untrammelled by any uncertainty; and it was simply called slip-shod because some Members of this House had become so accustomed to long clauses or many clauses that they were almost unwilling to believe that, a clause shortly expressed could be effective for the purpose conceived. He was glad to hear that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were not going to divide against this proposal. For his own part, he was glad that, by whatever means it had been brought about, so great a section of reform had been got for the people of London and which did not prevent but stimulated and paved the way for other reforms which they trusted would ho accomplished.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot help contrasting the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, and with which I find myself to a very large extent in agreement with the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. No one will deny to my hon. Friend a real personal interest in the good government of London and a considerable knowledge of the conditions of such good government. On the other hand, not even the dearest friend of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—if ho has kept a dearest friend—will accuse him of having any special interest in this social question, or of regarding it otherwise than as it may have a political bearing. Accordingly, his speech was one continued and elaborate taunt against his political opponents. The Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot understand why those who do not agree altogether with the course which has been taken by the Government nevertheless think it 819 unnecessary and undesirable to support the Amendment of the Lords. Well, Sir, he has had his answer from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's. I will add a word or two to what my right hon. Friend has said. I think even if we were opposed to the course of the Government we should find ourselves to a large extent committed by the fact that on a previous occasion when this matter was suddenly introduced into the Bill no Division was taken against it. But, Sir,] will go further, and say that inasmuch as the only complaint is that a very large and very important question has been insufficiently dealt with and partially dealt with, that I should not myself have been disposed under any circumstances to divide against this small instalment of reform. I agree with the Member for Hackney that this small reform—of which I entirely approve—docs not in the least interfere with or prevent a further and a greater reform without which this will be no real value. I say I approve of this reform. How can we do otherwise? Here by common consent of the two sections of the House we have agreed that Rural Sanitary Authorities shall be elected on a new system. What are these Vestries but the Rural Sanitary Authorities of London? They occupy in London a very similar position to that which is occupied by Local Boards or Rural Sanitary Authorities in the country, and what we have conceded with universal consent to the Rural Authorities in the country we must, of course, concede to the Rural Authorities in London if we are not prepared to deal with these Rural Authorities in a much larger way, and with some regard to the general reform of local government in London. The only regret I have is that by taking up this matter as though it were a matter of small importance, I do think the Government have to some extent postponed the larger reform I desire to see accomplished. As I have said, I agree with the Member for Hackney that it does not prevent that reform, but it is not always that any Government can find time to deal with a matter affecting so important a community as the population of London, and I should myself have thought it would have been better to reserve this question 820 of the reform of the Vestries till such time as the Government were prepared to consider whether there should be Vestries at all, which is a more important question and which goes to the root of the matter, as I am sure my hon. Friend agrees. It has sometimes happened to mo in this House to be accused by my opponents of being a parochial politician. I have always recognised that an insult was intended, but I have very often been inclined to think that if the matter was rightly taken I ought to receive it as a compliment, because I am firmly of opinion that the domestic happiness and welfare of the people of this country depends a great deal more upon its parochial administration than it docs upon this Imperial Parliament. Just let me ask what is of the most value to the working man in London or elsewhere? Surely it is his health and his life. Now, practically what this Parliament can do to preserve the health and life of the working man is something very small indeed, but they absolutely depend upon the local administration of the district in which they live, and everything, therefore, in this matter of the reform of local administration depends upon the character of (he authorities which you establish to carry out your work. Well, Sir, we have established in Loudon a great Central Authority. And let me say in passing that when I hear it said -as I have by some of my friends—that the Government were not entitled to introduce into a Parish Councils Bill a clause which dealt with London, I cannot help recollecting that the Unionist Party have themselves set a precedent in that respect, inasmuch as in the previous Local Government Bill we established a much more important reform than any with which we are now dealing, for we created the London County Council, and, having created it, I say I think we ought to take a paternal interest in it. No one can accuse me of ever having said one single word against the London County Council, or of ever having interfered in an unfavourable sense with its legitimate administration. Of course, the London County Council has made mistakes, as has every great Municipal or Local Authority, but I believe as it gains experience its mistakes will be fewer, and I have no doubt it will justify the pre- 821 visions of its authors, But, Sir, I have always regretted that we created the London County Council before we created the subordinate authorities. We hear a great deal now about Home Rule and the delegation of authority, and I have always felt that one great argument in favour of delegation of authority is the impossibility of centralised administration for a vast population. Believe me, that is just as true about a, population of 5,000,000 in regard to local affairs as it is of a population of 40,000,000 in regard to Imperial affairs, and I am firmly convinced that it will be absolutely impossible to deal effective!v with local matters by a body exercising authority over so large a population as the London County Council. I believe it is the experience of every municipal politician that already even in the large towns we are getting too big for our work, and I confess I look forward with some anxiety —knowing how brilliantly the Municipalities of the country have succeeded up to the present time—to the future when I see them continually extending their boundaries, and when I foresee the time is coming when there will be no longer room for that personal interest and activity which has made the success of these authorities hitherto, and when their work will be handed over to official and clerical administration, and will be stereotyped and red-taped, and will lose its originality and all its real value. But, Sir, if that applies to a Municipality like my own—like Birmingham—where at present we have 440,000 inhabitants, and feel they are almost more than we can attend to, how very much more must it apply to such Municipalities as that of Loudon with a Central Authority like the London County Council! How is it possible, notwithstanding all the energy, all the zeal, all the disinterestedness and personal devotion which a, great number of them have displayed—how is it possible for them to be acquainted with the circumstance's of every district in this vast Metropolis which has a population equal to that of many a nation? Therefore, I say that the question of the future with regard to the Metropolis is how will you devise a system which will secure for the local administration of London that personal and voluntary unpaid supervision which has been the secret of the success 822 of our Provincial Municipalities? I hear hon. Members, supporters of the Government, speak of this clause as if it were a reform. (Sir, it reforms nothing. Having some knowledge and experience of the subject, I may, perhaps, speak with a little authority upon it, and I say that this reform will have no practical result. Theoretically it is right, and therefore I shall vote for it, and with the Government, if the matter goes to a Division. It is impossible to do otherwise in the face of the progress we have made with regard to the constitution of Local Authorities in the country. But the practical effect of this particular step will be nil. My reason for speaking now is not to Make a Party speech, or to defend the action of my own Party or accuse the Government, but to implore the House to recollect that the work of reform in London has yet to be done, and that the way to do it is not by piecemeal processes and political reforms, but by looking at the whole subject broadly, and by considering how to create in the various districts of London a local patriotism which will support and elevate the Local Authority, and will enable it to carry out this elaborate work of personal supervision, on which the welfare and the happiness of the population very largely depends. I hope to see the time when we may hear men get up and say that they are proud to belong to Islington, or to Lambeth, or to other districts of the Metropolis. But at present there is none of this local patriotism in Loudon. We sometimes hear a man boast of being a Londoner, but without any knowledge of what London is or what it means. Local patriotism, as we understand it in the Provinces, has been absolutely deficient in this great Metropolis, much to the detriment, I believe, of the population. That patriotism we want to create, and, believe mo, we can only create it by giving importance to the Local Authority. [An hon. MEMBER: The County Council.] Yes, the County Council is a body to give importance to London, and to give a centralised voice to it. But that is not sufficient. The County Council cannot by the necessity of the case work in London except through its officials. Its members may lay down theories and general doctrines; but the practical application of these doctrines it is impossible 823 for them to follow, and therefore I say the time is near—perhaps it is almost come—when the attention of this House ought to he directed not to paltry measures of change in electoral machinery, which are of comparatively small importance, but to devising some great system whereby London may, for purely local purposes, be split up into districts, and whereby the authority for these districts may be given a dignity and a responsibility which will create the patriotism I wish to sec established. Sir, I ought to apologise for having gone a little beyond the Amendment. I only wanted to explain that as far as I am concerned I regard the question before the House as one of comparatively small importance, but I hope it is the commencement of an awakening on the part of every one who is interested in the welfare of London to the necessity of still larger and greater reform.
§ COLONEL HUGHES (Woolwich)
took exception to the observation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in accusing the Conservative Members of always being of the same opinion. He and the hon. Member for South Islington were in support of the reform proposed by Her Majesty's Government. They were entitled, no doubt, to have a change of opinion on that side of the House as well as on the other. This reform, he contended, was of practical importance, because it would enable the Vestries to elect an animal chairman, which would be very much better than the Vicar of the parish coming down when he pleased, and to some extent disorganising the business from which ho had been so long absent. It would also enable a permanent Register to be in the hands of the presiding officer, and they would have wards, instead of having to work from the rate-book with its numerous districts, which rendered it difficult to know in which a man was entitled to vote. In his own district there were at present 16 vacancies on the Vestry which was entirely due to the qualification that was required, and that was a state of things which would be remedied by this reform. It was said that the Government were bringing this forward to obtain popularity, but surely that was a worthy object. He wished his own 824 Party had thought proper to bring in this reform long ago, for they had been waiting for it, and even for greater reforms for a very long time. He hoped this was the commencement of a reform which some Government would complete in the direction of Municipalities surrounding a central one with very full powers, thereby relieving somewhat the overburdened business of the County Council. Surely if Her Majesty's Government considered it, right to have in London a franchise totally different from that of Liverpool or Manchester or Birmingham the reasons should have been stated. But not a word had been said upon the subject. The London Vestries were very much divided as to these clauses. His own constituents took an active part in local work in all parts of the Metropolis, and he had had various representations as regards the present proposals. They were only placed fully before the House last month. It was to be regretted that London had had no time to consider them and that there was no opportunity for consultation. The clauses only dealt with some detached parts of the question, and no reason had been given why London should be treated differently from other great cities. It was to be regretted; and they might fairly complain that London should be treated in such an off-hand manner, and given no reasonable time to consider changes which might be wise, but which were of great importance and ought not to have been hurried through in the last days of an exhausting Session.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
said, he would point out that, even admitting the proposed London reform had been sprung on the House suddenly, there had been two distinct occasions—the Report stage and Third Reading—when the matter was open to consideration. While two or three Vestries had sent round their opinions in opposition to the reform, it was well-known that for a considerable period a large number of the Vestries had been in favour of it. It could not, therefore, be said that the reform had been suddenly sprung on the people of London. One great good had accrued from the Debate—it had led a number of gentlemen to express themselves as to the necessity for a District Councils Bill for London. He ventured to hope that would have 825 weight with the gentlemen on each of the Front Benches. If the electorate in London could be enlarged thousands would vote where only hundreds had voted in the past. In the parish in which he lived the qualification for a Vestryman was a £40 occupancy, and it was difficult to get men to sit on the Vestry. The parish had to depend largely on men who entered the parish for business and left it in the evening. If the qualification were abolished the affairs of the parish would be looked after by men who lived in it and who were interested in its good government. A most anomalous condition of things existed in the Metropolis through the qualification being £40 in one parish and £25 in another. It was ridiculous that there should not be a common basis of qualification. There was only one thing to be done by Londoners, and that was to get rid of the existing anomalies by any means in their power.
§ *MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)
said, he rose in response to the invitation which had been given to London Members to say that ho did not approve of all these provisions, but he thought the right hon. Member for St. George's had been a little hard on the Chancellor of the Exchequer, many of whose followers had endeavoured to persuade the country that the Conservatives and the Unionists were opposed to Parish Councils and allotments. They were unwilling to wreck the Hill for the sake of minor provisions; but, whilst they thought that the service and lodger franchises were good ones for the election of Members of Parliament, they did not think them good qualifications for the election of members of Vestries. For good local government they required to have as electors men with local knowledge and permanent local interests. It was not legitimate to reproach the Opposition because they did not resist a "sympathetic reply" from the Treasury Bench to the hon. Member for Shore-ditch. The Opposition were bound to wait and see the clauses before they thought of offering resistance. He condoled with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that ho was not going to get this peg for an attack on the House of Lords.
§ *MR. THORNTON (Clapham)
said, hon. Members had ventured to express 826 their views as representing London, and he, as representing the Battersea and Clapham quarters, could say—and ho had a good knowledge of the feeling that existed—that a strong expert opinion prevailed there in opposition to the premature extension of this Bill to London. No doubt there was a division of feeling, but he held in his hand a strong letter from Mr. Andrew Cameron, the Father of the Battersea Vestry, on this point, and he could say from what ho knew that this partial measure would be injurious, and would lead to great confusion. Not only had the five Vestries comprised in the Wandsworth District Board of Works petitioned against the measure, but the Battersea Vestry, the most Progressive and Radical body in South London, had made no declaration, because parties were so evenly divided upon the subject. He was for the establishment of District Councils in London, but not for piecemeal treatment of a complicated question.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment made to the words so restored to the Bill, by leaving out, in line 37, the words "in like manner as to an urban district and."
§ Other Amendments of the Lords disagreed with formally.
*MR. H. H. FOWLER moved to omit Sub-section (6) of the Lords Amendments to Clause 32. For this he proposed to substitute the words—
The Local Government Board shall consult the Charity Commissioners before issuing any Order under this section in respect of any charity.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, the right hon. Gentleman would surely not insist upon this Amendment. The Lords Amendment had been inserted with the consent of the Government. It concerned many parochial charities in Bristol, and he did not think it fair that the alteration now proposed should be made. *ME. H. H. FOWLER said, the point about which Bristol people were anxious was that the Charity Commissioners should be consulted. But he did not think a Government Department which was responsible to Parliament should be put under the control of a Government Department which was not responsible to Parliament, That was the point upon which the Government relied.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
said, with the permission of the House, he would like just to say that he was informed by the hon. Member for East Bristol (Sir J. Weston), who was a supporter of the Government, that the people there preferred the Lords Amendment to the proposal now made.
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, the only motive the Government had was one of precedent and of propriety. He, however, was willing to stop now. What the right hon. Gentleman wanted he could assure him could be obtained. He would now propose that the discussion should be adjourned.
§ Further Proceeding on Consideration of Lords Amendments adjourned till Tomorrow.