§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir G. Trevelyan.)
§ * SIR C. PEARSON (Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities)
said, he could not complain of the right hon. Gentleman having dispensed with the opportunity of stating his views upon the Second Reading of this measure, seeing that they had from him a very full and satisfactory 1008 statement upon the occasion of its introduction, but at the same time there had been since that date opportunities of consulting and of ascertaining the opinions of persons and bodies in Scotland which might, to some extent, either have modified or might ultimately modify the views which were then expressed. At this stage ho should carefully refrain from doing anything but adverting in very general terms to the views which he was disposed to entertain of this scheme for local government which had been submitted to the House. There were certain matters which were not in the Bill, and as to which there was in Scotland a body of opinion with reference to the question whether they ought to have been in or not. Conspicuous among these was the question whether the matter of education might not at some early date be swept into the scheme of local government which had been shadowed forth in the Bill? On that he did not consider it right or fitting at this stage to say anything at all either way on the question of policy. There must be very great difficulties in the way of anyone who proposed such a change, such as the religious difficulty which would con-front them at once when they came to touch the cumulative vote, which would have to be touched if that change were made. There would also be other difficulties, some, perhaps, of a purely official kind and others of administration; but, still more, he believed there would be difficulties with regard to the areas both of rating and administration. The change would involve, to a large extent, a readjustment of areas which would give rise to very subtle and serious difficulties. Therefore, without expressing any opinion with regard to the policy of the matter, he contented himself by saying that if and when that was proposed it would be a subject of grave consideration both as to matters of inconvenience, and also the larger question of policy. There were other matters not in this Bill such as the enlargement of the powers of Local Bodies in the direction in which the powers of Town Councils had been enlarged in recent years. He referred to such questions as what was called the Dean of Guild jurisdiction. That was a very important question, but one which was ready to hand if and when it was considered desirable to add 1009 that to the jurisdictions either of the new bodies or the bodies created in recent years. And, therefore, neither on that. nor the other question which had been shadowed forth in the instructions on the Paper—namely, the bringing of lunacy administration into the sphere of either the new bodies or the County Council—did he think it necessary to animadvert on their absence from the Bill. He assumed the right hon. Gentleman had in his mind the possibility of local government for Scotland following in some respects the example of local government elsewhere, and he thought he was right in saying that in England and Ireland there had been an addition from time to time of further powers to the Boards created years ago when Parliament thought it right to confer them. In the very forefront of the Bill now before the House one met with a very great change indeed, which was not so immediately connected with what was commonly known as local government as the remainder of the Bill, but which amounted in one aspect of it to a very grave departmental change in the administration of that class of business over the country. He said in one aspect of it, because, undoubtedly, there was another aspect of J the question in which this change consisted of nothing more than adding to the Board a head directly responsible to Parliament. He should in a very few moments examine the position of that question which, to his mind, was as important a one for the future success of local government in Scotland as any which the Bill raised. He was aware that it was rather a question of a technical description. He approached it, he believed, as he did other branches of the Bill, without the slightest bias in either direction, and he believed that remark would be accepted on both sides, notwithstanding the fact that he was for the space of nearly three years, in various capacities, a member of the existing Board of Supervision. For two years he had the honour of a seat on the Board as being the Sheriff of counties, and for the third year as holding the office of Solicitor General for Scotland. The first thing that struck a Scotchman about the Board of Supervision, as compared with the analogous Boards in other countries which had been placed under a Local Government Board somewhat like 1010 that now proposed, was the exceeding cheapness of Scottish administration hitherto. In the matter of salaries the Scottish administration was, he believed, something under £8,000 a year, whereas in Ireland a similar Board cost £25,000 a year, and in England over £100,000 a year. That was a fact which might seem to call urgently in the mind of Scotchmen for reform if on no other ground, but he was not able to say at this moment that the Board now proposed would alter that state of matters. Whether the new Board would be more or less expensive than the present Board or not, it was certain that in various important particulars it could not be more successful in its results than the present administration under the Board of Supervision had been. Among all the criticisms and animadversions made about the Board of Supervision and its personnel, he had never heard any criticism adversely directed to the results of the working of the Board over a long series of years, especially under its Poor Law administration. He was aware that objections had been taken to it from various quarters of the country, and that there had been complaints from small Local Bodies who had felt as if the Board were disregarding their representative character, and forcing schemes upon them that they thought they could do better without. He considered that was rather a compliment to the Board of Supervision, and showed that in these particulars it was doing its duty, and in so doing its duty it had in every ease been supported in the Supreme Court to which the Statute gave it leave to submit the matter. The Secretary for Scotland most justly paid his tribute to the persons who had long been the official members of that Board, but he did not say—what he had hoped and expected the right hon. Gentleman would say—anything in favour of the results which that Board had brought about especially in the Poor Law administration of Scotland. This was not the moment for enlarging upon the subject; but anyone acquainted with the matter would be quite ready to say that that Board, cheaply as it was worked and constituted, had done noble work in the past—ever since the passage of the Poor Law Act of 1845—and had brought the Poor Law of Scotland to a state which, whether regarded from the 1011 point of view of pauperism or from the larger point of view of social administration would compare favourably with that of any other country under the Crown. They were told that this must be changed, and it was worth while to examine the ground on which the change was sought, because he was not quire sure he was at one with the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the exact position of the Board at the present moment. The Secretary for Scotland told them in introducing the Bill that the Board of Supervision was neither bound to supply him with information nor was it bound to carry out the policy of the Government, and, therefore, that it was necessary to introduce in a double sense the new responsibility sought to be introduced in this Bill—in the first place, by making the Board of Supervision directly responsible to the Scotch Office, and, in the second place, by giving it a head who should be directly responsible to Parliament. He believed he was strictly correct in saying that both in theory and in fact the Board of Supervision regarded it self, and had always been regarded, as practically one of the departments of the Scotch Office. Until the Secretary for Scotland's Office was created a few years ago it was in point of location under the Office of the Secretary of State for the Home Department in England, and it was during that period of its existence that a certain Commission sat in Scotland known as the Camperdown Commission, about 20 years ago, at which the question came up as to the relation of the Board of Supervision to the Department of State and in particular to the Home Office where it had its local habitation. The Chairman of the Board, an able man who had since been retired from the Chairmanship, Sir William Walker, was asked to what authority the Board of Supervision was responsible, to which he answered—To the Home Secretary. The Statute expressly requires us to make an annual Report to him, and I imagine that as one of the Civil Departments of the State we are under his control in all respects. Any person or Board who may be of opinion that we fail in our duty or exceed our power is entitled to appeal to the Home Secretary, who would make inquiry into the matter and give us directions.He need not say in that particular the Secretary for Scotland held exactly the 1012 position which the Home Secretary held before. The answer of Sir W. Walker seemed to convey a very accurate impression of the relation which existed between the Board of Supervision and the Department in London at the present time. If that were so one-half of the Secretary for Scotland's suggested reasons for the change which he proposed was cut away, because he did not give them any instance—and he did not think the right hon. Gentleman could—either of information being refused by the Board of Supervision or of a refusal by the Board to follow the policy of the Government of the day. If the Board of Supervision had declined in any particular to do so he should, at all events, have expected that that would have been assigned as a reason for this change, and until he heard the contrary he should assume what he believed was accurate—that was, that such a thing never happened. If this alteration was to be made he agreed that there was a fitness in the Secretary for Scotland being the head of the new Board, or whatever it might be called. At the same time, he was not prepared to admit that there would be any more direct responsibility to Parliament on the part of that Minister afterwards than there was at the present moment and one of the things it occurred to him to ask under the new régime was what difference there would be in the Board of Supervision itself in its ordinary administration. He was well aware that they must proceed to constitute the Local Government Board on one of two totally distinct principles, and he thought the Bill had selected the right alternative in making the new Board rather an official than a representative Board. These were two quite distinct alternatives, and there was a good deal to be said for each, but he thought there was far more to be said for the choice made in the Bill than for any representative Board—that was representative in the sense of having a representative element in it. One question ho desired to ask, and the answer to which was of some importance, was—Was the proposed Board likely to be stronger or weaker than the present one? In his opening speech the Secretary for Scotland seemed to speak of the Board he proposed as having an outer and an inner circle, the outer to embrace the 1013 proposed six members, and the inner—of which he thought at least the right hon. Gentleman would have been a member himself—to embrace the three Edinburgh Members, a most remarkable metaphor to use with reference to a Board which was to be under a responsible Minister, and which, although its local habitation was to be in Edinburgh, was yet to be supplemented and strengthened by the addition of three members, who would represent what he might call the Dover House influence. The answer to the question whether this would be a stronger or weaker Board than the present would depend a great deal upon how it was worked. The Secretary for Scot-laud seemed to object to the composition of the present Board of Supervision because of the presence of so many lawyers upon it. With reference to that feature he would say this: that since the Board was instituted in 1845 there had been, at all events, one very considerable change in the personnel of the Board. The Solicitor General for Scotland in 1845 and for many years afterwards was not a Member of this House, but for a good many years past he had been a Member of the House, and the change which that brought about in the Board of Supervision was that the legal membership, which Was originally fixed at four, for the practical purposes of administration now stood at three, being the Sheriff's of counties. In the second place, lot him point out that these counties were selected on a very intelligible principle. One represented the interests of the Highlands, another had great centres of population in it like Renfrew, and the third was the County of Perth, which was mainly agricultural and pastoral. Moreover, the Sheriff of each county was supposed not merely to be in touch with the interests of the county of which he was Sheriff, but he must have had the benefit of a legal training before he could attain to the position of Sheriff, which training would tend to make him a capable administrator in the larger sense. He might be told that experts ought to be rather the servants than members of the Board, but a large proportion of the questions which came before the Board of Supervision of any importance at all outside the ordinary administrative matters, were questions of a quasi-legal nature. Sometimes they 1014 were questions of the construction of a Statute; sometimes extremely delicate questions as to the weight of evidence, and in some cases not merely had the lawyers on the Board to exercise their legal acumen on such questions as these, but there was also a very important judicial element required for the decision of cases eminently judicial in their character, such, for instance, as the dismissal or retention of the services of Inspectors, and things of that sort. He said at once that he was jealous of the change being so drastic as it was in the composition of the new Board in this respect. The difference was very great, and even greater than it: looked, because one of the two who were to be retained was the Solicitor General for Scotland, who, owing to his Parliamentary duties, would very seldom be able to attend the weekly meetings of the Board in Edinburgh. There was a Return presented last year which showed the attendance of the various members of the Board of Supervision during the last four or five years, and that Return was interesting in more than one respect. Something had been said in some of the papers with reference to the benefit which such Board would derive from the presence on it of, it might be, ex officio, but still representative, men, such as the Lord Provosts of large towns. That Return showed that the Lord Provost of Glasgow—no doubt through no fault of his own—who was an ex officio member, did not put in a single attendance during the whole of these years; and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, who was another ex officio member, and more nearly on the spot than the other gentleman, put in a very small attendance indeed. The attendance put in by the Sheriffs of the three counties largely predominated over that of any other members of the Board. He was quite aware that that laid him open to the remark that the Board was managed mainly by these gentlemen in combination with the Chairman, but that, to his mind, went to show two things: In the first place, that the legal element was of great advantage as operating towards the good results which had undeniably been obtained by the present Board; and, in the second place, as showing that in point of fact a large number of questions came before it which were questions that 1015 ought to be decided by legal minds. To sum up this part of the Bill, it seemed to him that in the absence of the Solicitor General in London, during the long Parliamentary Sessions to which they were now accustomed, this most important department of the Board's work would be pronounced upon by a single legal mind, and that to him was not satisfactory. This was not a class of questions which ought to be submitted to the decision of a single mind, and he hoped that hereafter the Government would consent to an alteration of their scheme in this regard. He should like to make one other remark, as to the presence of a medical expert upon the Board. He thought it would be found, when the sense of Scotland and of those more interested in this Bill was taken, there would be very grave doubts indeed as to the wisdom of such a proposal. The presence of a single expert was likely to result in his becoming sovereign in all matters in which he was an expert. Such a plan did not tend to promote wise administration and did tend to put the expert in a false position, for he ought to advise the Board as a colleague, but would infallibly advise them as an expert. Questions which ought to be dealt with by the Board as men of affairs without bias would probably be decided in practice by the expert. Members of the medical profession, he was inclined to think, would far rather have their conduct judged by a Board which would view the matter from an unbiased point of view instead of a Board swayed, as they necessarily and naturally would be swayed, in making up their minds on delicate matters of conduct of local medical officers throughout the country by the opinion of the medical member of the Board. He believed in that particular alone there would be a strong feeling against this gentleman being a member of the Board. There was no such corresponding member of the English Board, and although there was one in the Irish Board, he rather thought, historically, there was sufficient reason for that which did not apply to Scotland. In the Act instituting a Local Government Board for Ireland there were reasons connected with the Medical Charities Act in Ireland which probably were sufficient to suggest that 1016 the medical officer, who at that time was the administrative officer under the Act, should simply be assumed as a member of the Board for the continuance of his duties under the Statute. The proposed Board would be weaker or stronger than the present Board according to the interpretation put upon its construction by the Secretary for Scotland, who filled the functions in Scotland filled by the President of the Local Government Board in England. But there seemed to him to be a sharp distinction between the two positions. He thought it was the right hon. Gentleman who said that practically the Local Government Board for England was the President. The Local Government Board in England consisted of the Lord President of the Council, the four principal Secretaries of State, the Lord Privy Seal, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He should like to know how many of the right hon. Gentlemen were aware of the honourable functions they held in the Local Government Board and how often they met? He did not wonder that in a Board so constituted the President was the Board, and worked through officials on his own responsibility, except on great questions of policy which would be submitted to the Cabinet. If the Secretary for Scotland were to assume that position with regard to the new Board, then ho was afraid that while the Board in that sense would be much stronger than it was at present, yet it would be a step in the direction of concentration, and of withdrawing the control of these matters away from Scotland. In that respect he should be jealous of it, and, apart altogether from personal considerations, it would be a pity if that were the result. [Sir G. TREVELYAN: Hear, hear!] He supposed the right hon. Gentleman thought that would be a pity too, and that the change would have the other effect. The right hon. Gentleman, he assumed, meant the three members of the Board in Edinburgh to be the inner circle, and the members in London to be a ring round them as the outer circle. If that were so, then he said the Board would be much weaker than the present Board. He had said enough to show that the analogy of England really afforded no analogy at all. He did not think, either, that the analogy of Ireland was very helpful, and for this reason: As 1017 he understood it, the Chief Secretary, attending to his work in London, was not in the habit of attending meetings in Dublin, though he would probably be referred to in questions of importance. The second member of the Board now proposed for Scotland was the Under Secretary for Scotland, and the third was the Solicitor General for Scotland. Take the present régime. If he was not wrong, the Under Secretary for Ireland was a Dublin, and not a London, official; and the Solicitor General for Ireland, at all events for a year or two past, had not been a Member of this House, and, therefore, might be regarded as a Dublin official too; so that the Local Government Board for Ireland had had the advantage in Dublin of having what the right, hon. Gentleman would call these two distinguished members of the outer circle to aid them. It might, therefore, be true that in Ireland the Board as at present constituted was a strong Board and not subject to the observation he was going to make on the Board for Scotland. But if there was anything in the right hon. Gentleman's renunciation of the idea that he, under the proposal, would hold the place of the President of the Local Government Board for England, if there was anything in the idea that the inner circle would really work the Board from year's end to year's end, then the result would be that the Board would practically be composed of a President, a Sheriff, and a medical practitioner, and they would form a weaker Board than the present. The only other alternative was that the real head of the Board should be the Secretary for Scotland, and in adopting it they were submitting to a great act of centralization. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had an open mind on the question, for Amendments might be introduced by which the proposed Board could be made more workable and more Scotch than it was likely to be under the present proposals. The second and third parts of the Bill dealt with Parish Councils and with the supersession of the Parochial Boards. That at once, as did everything which touched alteration in the Poor Law and its administration, raised points of extreme interest and importance. It might be that those Boards stood in need of reform. At present their electorate and membership 1018 were very curious and complex. Partly, they were not elected at all, and, of course, everyone knew that, historically speaking, the reason for the complexity of the present Parochial Boards was that down to 1845 the care of the poor in Scotland was an ecclesiastical matter; and when, for social reasons, the Parochial Boards were established, a considerable representation was given to the Church because of the obligation which continued upon her of contributing large sums to the relief of the poor. If the Church was to be relieved of the advantage of that representation on the Boards, equity might require that the obligation should be discontinued also. A more important matter which was raised by these two parts of the Bill was this: At the present moment the membership of the Parochial Boards was, to a considerable extent, composed of owners of £20 and upwards. It appeared to him that if the composition of the Boards was altered, naturally the subject-matter with which they had to deal must be taken into account; and it would become necessary to see that their Poor Law administration did not fall under that greatest of all calamities—namely, that it did not fall into the hands of persons who had neither sufficient interest in economy nor were sufficiently removed from the unfortunate class who fell under that administration to be totally above the sway of feelings which, though highly proper and natural, in point of fact did not tend to the propriety of administration. There were two safeguards in this connection, one or other of which ought, he thought, to be regarded in any such change. Either the area of administration should be enlarged, or the electorate and composition of the Board should be such as to afford security against the danger to which he had just alluded. In 1889, as an adjunct to the Local Government measures of the late Government, there was a Bill introduced for the amendment of the constitution of the Parochial Boards. It was proposed by that Bill that the number composing the Parochial Board should be fixed by the Board of Supervision in relation to the valuation of the parish and other circumstances. In burghs it was proposed that the municipal electors should have a franchise for the Parochial Boards, but so many of them as were owners 1019 qualified to vote were put in a separate column. In the same way in the laud-ward parish there were the County Council voters, but there was to be the same distinction between the ordinary voters in one column and the owners in another, and it was proposed that the Parochial Board should be elected one-half by the owners, and one-half by the occupiers. That pointed in a direction which he thought was a safe direction. It appeared to him that unless they had something of that kind, they ran very great risk of having the administration of the Poor Law made, not only much more burdensome, but open—it might be through the exercise of perfectly natural and legitimate feelings—to very grave abuses. That would be so even if there were no other change proposed by the Government; but in view of the other changes which they were proposing, it appeared to him that this was a question of the greatest gravity. Was the right hon. Gentleman aware that according to one reading of this Bill the rating qualification was abolished, even with respect to the membership of the Parish Council? Was that the intention of the Government or not? There were two totally distinct aspects of this question of rating qualification. The rating might be imposed as a condition upon the electorate. Opinions might differ as to the propriety of doing that, but he was not aware that opinions differed as to the propriety of imposing a rating qualification upon the membership of the body that was to administer the rate. This question came up in the discussions on the Local Government Bill of 1889. There, it might be remembered, there was a double disqualification of voters. They were not entitled to vote for the County Councils if they were in arrear either of poor rate or county rates. They had been reminded that the Scottish Members, by a majority, thought there ought to be no such disqualification with regard to poor rates in connection with County Council elections, because County Councils did not administer the Poor Law. A sharp distinction was drawn in those discussions, on both sides of the House, between default in the poor rate and default in the county rate as disqualifying even for the electorate. But what would be said if it was the 1020 intention of the Government—and he had not yet got a negative from the right hon. Gentleman—to abolish not merely the rating qualification as regarded the electorate, but also as regarded the membership of the Parish Council? In 1889 that question came up, and the present Secretary for War, who intervened in a very interesting manner occasionally in the Debates of that year, speaking on the 12th of July, 1889, said rhetorically, but, as the context showed, meaning thereby the strongest possible negative—Are we to allow a man to be elected on the Council who has himself failed to pay the very rates which he is called upon to administer?He should like to know if there was any answer to that question, which had never been answered yet? It was answered in a very emphatic way by the House on the occasion to which he alluded, and the objections to it were so many and so obvious that he could not conceive the Government, whatever their view might be of the rating qualification for the electorate, would desire to extend the doctrine as far as that. But even upon the lower ground he and his friends took the strongest possible objection to the abolition of the rating qualification as regarded the body who were to elect the administrators of the Poor Law. It seemed to him—and, he believed, to a good many others—that such a proposal was utterly indefensible in principle, not merely on the general ground that he who neglected his duties as a citizen was not entitled to participate directly or indirectly in such matters, but also on the special ground that, if there was one department more than another in which such a doctrine was dangerous, it was the department charged with the administration of the Poor Law. He, therefore, hoped that this also was a matter in which the Government would have an open mind, and would be willing to hear and consider arguments against the proposals of the Bill if he had interpreted them aright. Passing to Part IV. of the Bill, he confessed he had read that part with some anxiety, because it did not appear to him to be a practical way of solving the difficulties attending the position of the new Councils it was proposed to create. The position of the burghs, in the first place, would have to be most carefully attended to. It seemed to him that the burghs would be in a most curious position under this part of 1021 the Bill, and especially so with relation to the duties and powers of what was called the Landward Committee in the case of a burghal landward parish. He could not well understand what the genesis of this Landward Committee was intended to be, because it seemed to him the framers of the Bill had gone out of their way to add friction to the working of the machinery of this part. Instead of themselves setting up a committee composed of the landward members, they made the parish go through the form of appointing a Landward Committee, although they meant that the selection should be limited to the landward members of the parish and should embrace them all. He could not understand why this extraordinary ceremony should be gone through, and what underlay it. The position of the parish, as a whole, whether landward or non-landward, as regarded the existing bodies, was still more mysterious, and he thought the relation in point of power and duty of the Parish Council to the two larger bodies was such as to lead to the most serious inconvenience. The position of the Landward Committee was most singular. There were between 230 and 240 parishes in Scotland in which there would be a Landward Committee—that was parishes which were partly landward only, and to which Section 23 would apply. It was not obvious from a perusal of this part of the Bill what the powers of that Landward Committee was to be, and what its relation to the rest of the parish. Sub-section (e) of Section 24 said—For the foregoing purposes the Committee have power to accept and hold any property for the benefit of the parish.He assumed that would be for the benefit of the landward part. He urged that it should be made plainer what was to be the position of the Parish Councils. As to the important question of rating, it did seem to him that the reasons the Secretary for Scotland gave for imposing no maximum of rating in this Bill were totally inadequate. The Education (Scotland) Act of 1872 was discussed and passed upon the footing that a 9d. rate would be, if not excessive, at all events, the maximum rate for education, and yet they had had parishes where the education rate had reached as high a sum as 5s. and 6s in the £1. He had heard it stated that if this House had had the 1022 smallest conception that there was a possibility of the education rate reaching such a figure they would either never have passed the Education Act or else have imposed a limit; and if a limit had been imposed he ventured to say it would have been 9d., or something like it. With that example staring him in the face why was it that the Secretary for Scotland said he was not going to impose any limit on rating? The right hon. Gentleman positively said he did so on the opposite ground, that it would be a temptation to bodies to work up to the maximum. The right hon. Gentleman had given instances to show that 2½d. or 3d. would be the average, and said that to put in a limit of 6d. would be to tempt the Local Authority to go up to that maximum. That was a specious argument, but it was absolutely worthless as an argument against putting some maximum into the Bill. If the Government thought 6d. too much, let them put in 3d. or some other figure; but do not let them have no limit as to rating power with the example of the education rating in Scotland staring them in the face. The Secretary for Scotland appeared to him to have sought to justify his proposals by picturing the operation of the Bill in those parts of Scotland where it would operate with least friction. But that was not the mode or the spirit in which the local government legislation of 1889 was passed. For when passing that Act for the whole of Scotland they tested its propriety, not by considering where it would work with least friction and most cheaply, but by the test of those places where it would work with most friction and the least cheaply. Viewed from that point of view, the present proposals of the Government were open to grave criticism and animadversion. Another provision eminently open to objection was the proposal to do away with the Standing Joint Committee, and to substitute for that body either nothing at all or, of all things in the world, the Finance Committee of the County Council. In some districts the Standing Joint Committee had proved a most valuable safeguard. He might be told that the connection between the Standing Joint Committee and the police was one to which the majority of the Scottish Members were opposed in 1889, but it stood in the Act of 1889, and it 1023 had worked exceedingly well. With one local exception, he was not aware that the Standing Joint Committee had ever been behindhand in the view of the responsible authorities in doing what was necessary for ensuring the peace of the country. That exception was in the Airdens case, and it demonstrated that the action of the Standing Joint Committee would not necessarily be always in one direction. In that case the Sheriff, who was responsible for the peace of the county, said he could not be responsible for the peace or for the running of the Queen's Writ, unless he got aid from outside, and it was refused. He thought it would be found that the more they looked into the matter the more important was the work imposed on that committee as regarded the control of the police. But the committee had another important function—control of the capital expenditure and of the borrowing powers of the county. Why were these functions imposed on the Standing Joint Committee? Hon. Members would recollect that prior to the legislation of 1889 there were owners' rates, and that it was then proposed to levy the rates partly on owner and partly on occupier in the future. But to save the incidence of existing taxes, the stereotyped rate, as it was called, was sot up, and the owners were held as bound to continue to pay their stereotyped rates, and only the additional rate required was to be halved between owner and occupier. If, however, they were to do away with the Standing Joint Committee's control of the expenditure, then, in point of equity, it would be necessary to reconsider that stereotyped rate. If they deprived the owners of land of the check they had had on the expenditure, a re-arrangement of those rates would be absolutely necessary in the interests of justice. The Government would do well to reconsider their position with regard to this section, and they would do well to abandon or greatly modify what seemed to him to be one of the most contentious proposals in the Bill. There were many other details which he might refer to, but these were the main features which struck him as open to criticism, and in some respects to grave animadversion. He would look with interest to the discussion as it developed, and in particular to the spirit in 1024 which the Government would meet the objections urged from his side of the House. If they were met in a fair spirit, the Bill might be made a good working measure; but he was very much afraid that if the Government did not see their way to meet them in that spirit, so far from the measure being welcomed by all, it might prove to be a very controversial one in this House, and one that would be of very doubtful benefit to the country.
§ MR. CRAWFORD) (Lanark, N.E.
said, there was at least one matter in which he found himself able to agree with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and that was that the Bill was capable of considerable improvement. He made that admission with all the more freedom because his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, when introducing the Bill, said he hoped that when it got into Committee it might be further improved and made a very serviceable measure. The Bill proposed one much-needed reform which would make it a measure of considerable importance if it contained nothing else. He alluded to the reform of the constitution of Local Boards. He believed that when the manner in which that question was dealt with in the Bill was fully recognised in the country, the Bill would excite greater interest and a more enthusiastic support than perhaps it had yet evoked. He attributed the want of interest in the Bill to two causes. One cause, which was inevitable, was that the great length of the Bill repelled readers, though notwithstanding its length it was really a very clearly-drafted measure. But there was a graver cause, and that was that the Bill left undone a great many things which it certainly ought to do, and possibly to some extent did things it ought not to do. But the reform of the Local Boards was a very urgent measure. It had been called for for a very long time, and there could be no question whatever that it was now ripe for settlement. He therefore heard with disappointment the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University that he objected to the Parliamentary franchise being made the basis of the constitution of the Parochial Boards. He doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman would be supported in that objection by his Party in the country. The next most important provision of the Bill was the 1025 reform of the constitution of the Board of Supervision. That also had become an urgent question in Scotland. He was a good deal surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University maintain that Parliamentary control was applied to the Board under its present constitution. Unless he was greatly mistaken, that was an erroneous idea. It was perfectly true that the work of the Board was admirably done. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had said a word too much as to the excellence of the achievements of the Board, and particularly as to the point of perfection to which the administration of the Poor Law had been brought. He would add that the Board had co-operated with perfect loyalty in some things with the officials of the Scotch Office, and that it had rendered the most useful assistance to Ministers of very different opinions in the development of policies of very opposite tendencies. But it was also true that the Board had consistently maintained and asserted that it Was not bound to comply with the directions of the Parliamentary head, and instances had occurred quite recently—one of them of great importance—in which the Board stated most courteously but distinctly that it was their bounden duty to form and act on their own opinion, and that they were unable to surrender it to the opinion of the Parliamentary Chief. The Board's view of their legal position was not necessarily correct. When a Civil Service Department was bound to report to a particular Parliamentary Chief, that fact indicated that it must be under some subordination to him. The Board of Supervision, however, took an opposite view, and that was one of the principal reasons why a change was necessary. But it was not the only reason. Another reason was that the peculiar and somewhat anomalous and antiquated constitution of the Board had always exposed it to a deal of unpopularity which it did not deserve, and deprived it of the confidence to which its general administration well entitled it. The constitution of the Board had been repeatedly the subject of Parliamentary attack. In 1868 there was the Committee which sat on the administration of the Poor Law, and there was afterwards the Camperdown Commission, and both of those inquiries originated in the Par- 1026 liamentary attacks on the administration of the Board of Supervision; but it was only just to say that out of both of those inquiries the Board came most triumphantly. But the reason why the Board was liable to such suspicion and attack was in the nature of their constitution, which was neither representative on the one hand, nor, in the Parliamentary sense, official on the other. As to the plan proposed in the Bill, he thought it would well deserve the careful attention of the House before it passed. He did not say that he was dissatisfied with it, and certainly it was not open to the strongest criticism made on it from the outside—namely, that what the Board proposed was not sufficiently representative. All that he was doubtful about was whether the form of the Board was the best form to employ. The first object they should aim at was to get someone directly responsible to the House for the administration of the Board. That was accomplished, but accomplished in a very peculiar manner. There were three gentlemen appointed to do the ordinary work, and there were three ex officio members, including the Secretary for Scotland himself, besides. The three appointed members were to hold their offices during pleasure. Consequently, the Secretary for Scotland could dismiss them at a moment's notice. If that were not so they might out-vote the right hon. Gentleman; but under the Bill, if they did out-vote the right hon. Gentleman, he could turn them out-of-doors the next day. That being so, the question arose whether it would not be better to have the same arrangement as existed in the Local Government Board of England—a number of medical and legal gentlemen as expert advisers to the Board, but without any representative capacity on the Board. At the same time, considering the geographical situation, just as in the case of Ireland, it might be very convenient to have the Board in Edinburgh, while the Parliamentary Chief was in London. There was one other matter of importance in the Bill to which he wished to refer, and that was the proposal to abolish the Joint Standing Committee. He strongly approved of that proposal. When they gave every Town Council control of their police, he was unable to see why County Councils should not have similar powers. He came 1027 now to the points in which he considered the Bill to be defective in regard to omissions. It appeared to him that they might apply to the Bill two canons of criticism. He did not think a Local Government Bill was complete that did not provide that there should be one complete system—and only one system—of local government in the counties. He mentioned the comities instead of the burghs, because for many years burgh administration had been developed to a much higher point of perfection than county administration. The view they should take about local government in counties was that there ought to be one systematic idea running through the whole arrangements in the county, from the County Council down to the District Committees and the Parish Councils; that there ought to be one system covering all the work that was to be done within the county. The second requirement he would make of the Bill was that it should be to a certain extent an Omnibus Bill. Their experience of the working of the Act of 1889 showed them that it had grave defects; and the present Bill was shirking and evading its own purpose if it did not pick up the most important of these defects. It was in that sense he wished the Bill to be an Omnibus Bill. The first omission of the Bill was that the charge of education was not entrusted to the Parish Councils. That omission sinned against the first canon he had laid down: because they could not have a complete system of local government in a county—they could not have one body doing all that was necessary in one area if they left an extraneous body like the School Board in a parish doing one of the principal parts of the work which the parish required to be done. There should not be a multiplicity of bodies. There should be one system doing all the work. Again, the multiplication of elections was an evil. Interest in elections to public offices excited in moderation a healthy stimulant, but if they had too many elections they would create an unhealthy excitement, besides leading to a great deal of expense. There was nothing one grudged more than the multiplication of officers and officials when the whole thing could be much better done by one establishment. The next point to which he desired to refer—one 1028 that affected Lanarkshire very closely—was the incidence of the public health rate. When the Act of 1889 was introduced as a Bill it contained a clause to the effect that the rates of the county were to be levied on the gross rental as it appeared on the valuation roll. Unfortunately, an Amendment was introduced in Committee excepting the public health rate from that general rule, and providing that the public health rate should be levied as before with the poor rate. That had caused extraordinary inconvenience, because the result was that under the system of classification under the Poor Law and the system of deductions the tax fell with fantastic variety on individual parishes. They might have a group of 14 different parishes, and yet, so far as the incidence of taxation was concerned, no two might be situated alike. This point might be dealt with in Committee, and he trusted that the Government would consent to Amendments in the direction of striking out the objectionable parts of the Act of 1889. There was, also another matter that required to be looked into, and that was the difference that now existed under the Act of 1889 between the rights enjoyed by the Royal and Parliamentary burghs and the police burghs. Some of the Royal and Parliamentary burghs had only 1,000 or 2,000 inhabitants, whilst some of the police burghs had from 60,000 to 80,000. The relations of the police burghs to the counties were unsatisfactory, and less favourable than those of the Royal and Parliamentary burghs. Representations were made in this regard when the Act of 1889 was going through the House, but no change was made. He trusted, however, that an alteration would be effected in the present Bill. The County Authorities in Scotland, whatever their politics, all agreed that the distinction was unnecessary, and sometimes unjust, and that the definition of "burgh" in the principal Act ought to be altered so as to include police burghs. With regard to the inclusion of the Board of Lunacy in the system of the Local Government Board, the House would know that the duties of the Board of Lunacy were almost entirely taken up with pauper lunatics. The subject-matter of the two departments was closely connected, and they would have the same Parliamentary Chief. 1029 It was only right to say that no change that could be made would improve the administration of the Board of Lunacy, which was admirable. The two Commissioners were distinguished and accomplished men, and the chief of them, Sir Arthur Mitchell, was probably one of the highest authorities on lunacy in the whole Kingdom. Any change that would tend to weaken the work of the Commissioners would be regrettable. Without expressing a definite opinion on the matter, he would merely say that the question of amalgamation might be considered on general grounds, and was well worthy the attention of the Government. He desired, before he concluded, to remark that he was in considerable doubt whether in one respect the Bill did not go too far. The Bill, whether taken alone or read with the Registration Bill of the Government, would introduce the principle of dispensing with the payment of local or municipal rates as a qualification of parochial or municipal electors. He thought that very questionable policy. The question of local rates for a local qualification stood on different ground from the qualification for parliamentary elections. It was deliberately intended that before a man could exercise his local privileges he should pay the parish rates. There were many other conditions in this long Bill which one might have referred to, but he had selected those that he considered most important, and he earnestly hoped the Government would give favourable consideration to them. He must say that if the Bill were to remain unaltered, and nothing were to be done on such points as the amalgamation of the School Boards and Parochial Boards and the remedying of obvious injustices in connection with rating, it would be an exceedingly imperfect measure. He trusted that before they got into Committee they would hear from the Government that they were prepared to meet the Scotch Members to a great extent on these points.
§ MR. MAXWELL (Dumfriesshire)
said that, as one who had taken part in the local affairs of his own county, he wished to say a word or two in this Debate. In the first place, he would congratulate the Secretary for Scotland on the Bill having at last got to a Second 1030 Reading. It was a measure long promised to Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman told them 18 months ago that he had the Bill in a forward state of preparation, and that being so they might take it that the measure represented the settled convictions of the Government as to what was most necessary in the way of legislation for Scotland. It appeared to him that there was a great deal of truth in what had been said by the hon. Member for North East Lanark who had just sat down—namely, that the Bill touched a great many subjects, and on that account it failed to deal completely and in a thorough manner with any one of the subjects. It struck him (Mr. Maxwell) that the Government would has been better advised if they had kept their efforts for one or two of the subjects they dealt with in the Bill, treating those subjects in a thorough manner. The Bill appeared to him to divide itself entirely into three parts: first, that part dealing with the establishment of a Local Government Board for Scotland; secondly, by the part dealing with the setting up of Parish Councils in the parishes of Scotland; and, thirdly, the part amending the Local Government Act of 1889. Dealing with the first of these, he was glad to hear from the Secretary for Scotland in introducing the Bill a tribute to the work done by the Board of Supervision. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman so far, that it was desirable that there should be some change in its constitution; but he thought, looking back at the work done with regard to the administration of the Poor Law since 1845, that its influence on the whole had been for good. It had induced the Parochial Boards to carry out the Poor Law in a better manner than they would otherwise have done. But there were heavy duties put on the Board of Supervision in 1867 under the Public Health Act, and he was not sure that the Board of Supervision had been so successful in carrying out those duties. He did not know that it had been so well equipped for the purpose as it should have been. It had been subject to frequent attacks in the House and outside it when compelling dilatory Local Authorities to do their duty. It had not always had that support from prominent public men which he 1031 thought it was entitled to, and he thought it had failed in this—that it had no one directly responsible for its operations. That would be remedied by the Bill by making the Secretary for Scotland President of the Board, so that those who had attacked the Board of Supervision in the past would be able to direct their attacks in the future against the Secretary for Scotland if there was a failure of duty. In replying to a deputation the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland had laid down two conditions for the constitution of the Board: in the first place, that members of the Board should he paid to give their whole time to their work; and, in the second place, that they should always be on the spot. He (Mr. Maxwell) doubted whether these requisites were carried out by the proposed composition of the Board. One would like to know, in considering the Bill, where the spot was to be—whether it was to he at Dover House or in Edinburgh? It was not quite clear in the Bill, he thought, where the headquarters were to be. In his opinion, the Board should he located in Edinburgh, so that it might be accessible at all times to the different Local Bodies. Then, when considering the composition of the Board, they must ask "Would the members be always on the spot?" Three of the members would be the Secretary for Scotland, the Under Secretary for Scotland, and the Solicitor General for Scotland, and so far as he could make out neither of these would for a great part of the year be in Edinburgh. Their attendance would be required in Parliament. Take the other qualification, that they must he paid for the duty they discharged. On that point the Scotch Members were entitled to have some information as to what was to be paid to the Sheriff who was to take the place of the three Sheriffs who were at present members of the Board of Supervision. Then, again, the case of the Solicitor General for Scotland came up. He in the future would have to take a considerable part in deciding those legal questions which had been referred to by the Member for the University of Edinburgh. The Scotch Members had some right to inquire what addition was to be made to the salary of the Solicitor General for Scotland in regard to the discharge of these duties.
1032 A Return had been lately issued which threw some interesting light on this question. In England it seemed the Solicitor General had £6,000 a year and some small pickings in addition; in Ireland the Solicitor General received £2,000 a year but in Scotland ho only received £955. If they were going to throw on him additional duties under this Bill it was time to consider the question of salary. Upon the question as to whether or not the Solicitor General should be a member, he should like to hear the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs. That hon. Member had had to give up the post of Solicitor for Scotland for causes which he was sure every Scotch Member would regret, but he had told them that he found the discharge of these duties somewhat irksome, and that they imposed a considerable strain. Looking at the Return referred to by the late Lord Advocate, he saw that the attendances at the Board of Supervision did not form part of the strain on the right hon. Gentleman, for he found that from the end of June 1892, to the end of June, 1893, no Solicitor General for Scotland had attended a single meeting of the Board of Supervision. So that the question of the remuneration of the Solicitor General for Scotland for carrying out the duties laid down by the Secretary for Scotland required to he looked into. Another point as to the composition of the Board was the place given upon it to the medical practitioner. To him it was a doubtful matter whether a medical practitioner should be a member of the Board. He did not know why in Scotland a medical practitioner should have a special prominence. In every county in Scotland there was a medical officer who attended to the interests of public health—and he thought there were some 25 of them in Scotland—all of whom, with the exception of five or six, devoted the whole of their time to their public duties (and every one of them would have done so if it had not been for the interference of the Secretary for Scotland). When they considered this fact they would admit there was some danger of the medical practitioner taking up an autocratic position with regard to sanitary questions—that there was some danger of Scotland 1033 becoming too much of a doctor-ridden country. The Board might become too official and bureaucratic. It had been pointed out by the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh that it was difficult, if not impossible, to obtain the representative element upon a Board which had administrative responsibility. But he did think that some means should have been found whereby, without destroying the responsibility of the Board, there might have been two or more representatives of the Local Authorities placed on the Board. As a member of some of these Local Authorities, he feared that the Board would adopt a rigid and severe system, and would not take cognizance of the difficulties some Local Authorities sometimes experienced in carrying out those things which they believed to be for the good of their districts. If too rigid a system were adopted they might have the Local Authorities objecting and refraining from carrying out that which they considered best because of the compulsion placed upon them to do it in a certain way. Parting from that question of the composition of the Local Government Board, the would like to say a word about the other part of the Bill which established new Governing Bodies in the parishes throughout Scotland. It seemed to him that only those who had an abiding interest in the parishes should be entitled to election on those bodies. He could not agree—taking the measure in conjunction with the Registration Bill—with the three months' residence qualification and the abolition of the necessity for the payment of rates. This might give to the chance dwellers in a parish, who would have none of the burdens to bear, far too much power. In connection with the question of controlling the borrowing powers of the Parish Councils, they could not keep out of sight the experience of certain parts of Scotland in regard to the education rate. In certain counties the Education Department had virtually to take over the management of education because the rates were so excessive. With that in view the Secretary for Scotland should really consider that under the proposed new qualification he would not be putting the power into the hands of people interested in the well-being of the 1034 parish. These new authorities the Secretary for Scotland was anxious to call "Parish Councils," though he (Mr. Maxwell) did not see why they should give up the old Scotch name of "Parochial Boards." Their first duty would be to administer the Poor Law. He thought the Secretary for Scotland might have paid some tribute to the work which had been done by the Parochial Boards in Scotland. He did not think they had ever been accused of showing the slightest partiality in the administration of relief, nor could it be said that they had not done their work with prudence and at the same time in a liberal spirit. Those who had taken part in parochial administration knew how annoying it was when those who had done all the work were overruled by someone who only came down when there was a question of an appointment, and who had his pocket full of proxies. He thought there was an almost unanimous desire to see some reform in the constitution of the Parochial Boards. There were two points in connection with the administration of the Poor Law which were not dealt with in the Bill. The Bill related to the area of chargeability and rateability. That question was brought to the notice of the Secretary for Scotland by a deputation which waited upon him during the present Session. Undoubtedly in many of the small parishes the expense of management was out of all proportion to the amount spent on the relief of the poor. Contiguous parishes bore very different burdens in consequence, not of differences in management, but of there being in one of the parishes a large village in which the poor had congregated. One other point which had not been dealt with was that of the incidence of rating. The hon. Member for North-East Lanark shire (Mr. Crawford) had referred to the inequality caused by the present mode of imposing the public health rate throughout Scotland. Everybody knew how much trouble and difficulty was caused by the present method of imposing that rate, and how unfairly it acted as between different parishes. A Committee which sat in 1892 presented a Report to that effect, and recommended that there should be only one basis of assessment, which should be the gross valuation as entered on the valuation roll. The matter 1035 was before the Conference of County Councillors which sat in Edinburgh, and a very large majority of those present at that Conference were in favour of having the public health rate imposed on the gross valuation. The subject was one which the Secretary for Scotland was bound to deal with in the Bill in some way or other. The hon. Member for North-East Lanarkshire (Mr. Crawford) had raised a question respecting the transfer of education to the new bodies. He (Mr. Maxwell) quite admitted that there were difficulties in connection with the question, and that the transfer of education would require a good deal of adjustment between different areas. He thought there was a great deal to be said for handing the management of education to the County Councils through their District Committees. At the present time there were so many bodies interested in education in Scotland that they really could not work harmoniously together. The School Board had to comply not only with the conditions laid down by the Education Department, but also with the conditions laid down by the Science and Art Department. Other bodies dealing with additional matters were the Technical Education Committees of County Councils and the Secondary Education Committees set up by the present Secretary for Scotland (Sir G. Trevelyan). The great number of different bodies which thus had to deal with the subject reduced the management of education almost to chaos. There was, therefore, a good deal to be said for the proposal to transfer the management of education generally to the District Committees. If it were carried out the District Committees would be able to grade the schools, and he knew that the teachers were in favour of the proposal. Personally, he was not in favour of making over the control of education entirely to the County Councils. Education had been a local affair in Scotland for the last 200 years, and the Scottish parish schools had done more for Scotland than any other institution. He thought also that the people of the parish would not take the same interest in their schools if they were placed under the control of a larger body than at present. He thought that the hon. Member for North- 1036 East Lanarkshire (Mr. Crawford) was right in pressing the Government to deal with this question in the Bill. He did not for a moment say that in the large burghs education and the Poor Law should be managed by the same body, because in that case the burden that would be thrown upon the members of the Boards would be far too great. But in the ordinary rural parishes the change which had been advocated might be carried out on the grounds of efficiency and economy. In 1889 the present Secretary for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), speaking oh the Second Reading of the Local Government (Scotland) Bill, and referring to the Parochial Boards and the School Boards, said that there was a strong and prevalent opinion in Scotland that there were too many of these bodies, and that if they were consolidated the work would be better done, whilst better men would be induced to serve upon them. With all respect for the Secretary for Scotland he (Mr. Maxwell) thought that the Secretary for War was a better exponent of Scottish feeling on this subject than the Secretary for Scotland. It was worth while bearing in mind that an election would be saved by leaving the one body to deal with the two subjects. He did not think that the Government considered the ratepayers of Scotland as much as they ought to do, in view of their proposals in that ill-fated measure the Sea Fisheries Bill, in the Registration Bill of this year—which would make a considerable addition to the rates—and in the Fatal Accident Inquiries Bill, which would put a small but quite a new burden on the backs of the ratepayers. There was great force in what had been pointed out by the late Lord Advocate (Sir C. Pearson) respecting burghs in urban landward parishes. It appeared to him (Mr. Maxwell) that the burghs would be shut out from certain benefits which would be conferred on the landward portions of parishes. He did not see, for instance, that they would have any power to deal with roads, although the Landward Committees would have certain powers on that subject. Powers were conferred by the Bill on certain bodies to take land compulsorily. There were two purposes for which the land might be taken, and 1037 with regard to those two purposes opinion was very much divided in Scotland. In the first place, there were cases in which land might be taken for what were distinctly public or County Council purposes, such as the making of new roads or the building of hospitals. He believed that there was an almost unanimous feeling in Scotland that compulsory powers should be given for such purposes as these, but a different question arose when the House came to consider purposes which did not affect the life of the whole community, but were apparently only for the benefit of an individual or a set of individuals. He referred to such purposes as allotments. The Secretary for Scotland (Sir G. Trevelyan), in his opening speech, said that the Allotments Act in Scotland was almost a nullity, and he seemed to indicate that this was due to the bodies which administered the measure and to the want of compulsory powers. He (Mr. Max- well) very much doubted whether this was the case. He thought there was a very small demand for allotments in (Scotland, and he found some confirmation of the view he held in the Report of the Sub-Commissioners of the recent Commission. The hon. Member for the Louth Burghs (Mr. Munro-Ferguson) must be very disappointed with this Bill, because in 1889 he moved an Amendment to the Local Government Bill asking that County Councils should have power to take land compulsorily for the purpose of feuing. In some parts of Scotland there was as much reason for giving these local Governing Bodies this power as regarded buildings as in reference to allotments, and owners of land were not very well advised in obstinately refusing such powers. Still, they were entitled to stipulate that if those powers were given they should be properly carried out. The settlement of these questions should be altogether freed from local and personal bias, and also from political motives. He did not think those powers were properly provided for in the Bill with regard to taking land by compulson. Power was to be given to the County Councils on the representation of Parish Councils to cause inquiries to be made in taking land compulsorily in allotments for agricultural purposes. In that respect the Bill closely followed the 1038 English measure. On both sides of the House it was considered that a better body was obtained in the County Councils—a body freer from local and personal interests. But he would like to point out that there was a great difference as regarded Scotland. The population of England and Wales was contained in 52 counties; while the 4,000,000 population of Scotland was scattered over 33 counties, 1,000,000 being in Lanarkshire, and 15 of the counties had a population of only 50,000. In the representatives of those counties a body might be secured altogether free from local influence and personal bias. Take the county, for example, with which he was best acquainted, with a little over 40,000 and a considerable number of small landowners, in illustration of the difficulty of carrying out these compulsory powers. The real difficulty would arise where there were a lot of small owners and sometimes two farms, perhaps equally eligible. The members of these Councils would feel some delicacy in deciding a question of that kind with regard to the land of a man whom they met every week either in kirk or market. Under the Local Government Body in England there were a large number of officials who had constant experience in carrying out inquiries of this kind; but under the new Local Government Body in Scotland there would be no such officials. He did not suppose the Advocate General would suggest that those gentlemen would be qualified to hold inquiries of that kind. Briefless barristers in Parliament House might look for their reward for political services in being sent down to make investigation in these cases, but they would not be likely to secure the confidence of the people affected by this Bill. The Secretary for Scotland had not made this Bill distinctly Scottish. A model could be found which might have been followed in reference to these inquiries: that not sufficiently-appreciated official the Sheriff might have been brought in. Power might have been given to go to the County Council and say—"This is a case in which compulsory powers should be exercised;" and if the County Council was satisfied that a primâ facie case had been made out, the Sheriff might be called in to make an inquiry. In many cases the matter 1039 might have been settled without an appeal. He would refer to Crawford's Commission to show that a body might have been found more conversant with these matters than that now proposed. A system might have been found less cumbersome and expensive than that proposed in the Bill, which, at the same time, would have gained confidence on all hands. This Bill was not altogether satisfactory. No extravagant expectations were entertained in Scotland with regard to the blessings to be conferred by it. People did not expect that the peat mosses would weigh with golden grain in consequence of it, though, perhaps, the Secretary for Scotland had some-times been inclined to soar into the regions of imagination in reference to the blessings which it might be hoped I would flow from it. No one, however, would grudge him all honour if the House should be able to mould this into a useful, practical, and beneficial measure.
§ * MR. HOZIER) (Lanarkshire, S.
congratulated his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Lanarkshire in having made good his statements that this Bill did what it ought not, to do, and did not do what it ought. It seemed to be generally understood on both sides of the House that the leading principle of this Parish Councils Bill was non-contentious, and he had no desire to disturb the existing harmony. But, like his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Lanarkshire, he was a little doubtful whether there was much enthusiasm in Scotland in favour of this Bill. He was inclined to think there was in most places a sort of apathy about it, but in a considerable number of places the feeling amounted to downright dislike. Before the last elections a prominent working man, a friend of his, had said he approved of most things the Unionist Government had done, but one thing he could not forgive them for, and that was the establishment of County Councils. He (Mr. Hozier) was rather surprised, and asked his friend why he had such a dislike to County Councils, and was told, "Because they bring more elections and impose more rates;" and his friend went on to say they had had more than enough of both already. He could well understand many people in Scotland being exactly 1040 of his friend's opinion, and when they fully realised that compulsory Parish Councils were to be established in every parish in Scotland they would begin to recognise that it meant still more elections and still more rates. He was, therefore, very doubtful whether the people of Scotland would be deeply grateful to the Government for introducing this Bill. But, leaving the general principle, it was rather hard, when the Government had made a point of this being a non-contentious measure, that they should have introduced three very contentious points into their proposals. Those points were: first, the repeal of disqualification for the non payment of rates; secondly, the unlimited rating powers given to the proposed Parish Councils; and, thirdly, the abolition of the Standing Joint Committee. With regard to the first point, the Bill as it stood undoubtedly did away with the disqualification as far as the members of the Boards were concerned, and when read with the Registration Bill it also did away with the disqualification as far as the electors were concerned. Hon. Members had perhaps not realized what an enormous change that meant in the administration of the Poor Law. In Glasgow alone there were at present 28,152 persons disqualified for non-payment of rates, and struck off accordingly from the municipal roll. Would the Secretary for Scotland assert that those persons were specially industrious, capable, or deserving citizens? He would go further, and ask the temperance legislators what they thought of placing those people on the voters' roll. Would the temperance advocates hand over to those 28,000 persons the granting of licences under local veto? Would people connected with the convention of Royal and Parliamentary burghs like to see those persons on the electoral roll, and exercising the franchise? Would the Convention of County Councils which was likely to be established consider that those persons should be entitled to vote? They would surely, like every sensible man in Scotland, be among the very first to desire that no person unable or unwilling to pay rates, or in receipt of parish relief, should be qualified to vote as an elector to the Parish Councils? Then with regard to the rating powers, 1041 of the Parish Councils. The Secretary for Scotland said he was not at all sure that in Scotland very considerable consternation would not he created by laying down, as in the English Act, 6d. as the rate in the £1, to which it was expected the Parish Councils should work. Knowing Scotland as he did, he (Mr. Hozier) was positive far greater consternation would be caused throughout the country if no limitation whatever was placed on the rating powers of Parish Councils. His right hon. Friend had argued from the past to the future—from the known to the unknown. When one did that, care should be taken that the circumstances of the past were as far as possible identical with those likely to occur in the future. But it was just the reverse in the present case. The Returns recently issued showed that even in the past in many parts of Scotland large sums of money had been expended. In one parish he had himself noticed the rates were as high as 8s. in the £1. He did not think, wherefore, that even a 6d. rate would very Much flabbergast a Parish Council. But any economy which could be cited was, of course, in the past when the chief ratepayers more or less controlled the expenditure. Now an entirely new body was to be established as the electorate, most of whom paid very small rates, while some absolutely refused to pay rates at all, and some were absolutely in receipt of Poor Law relief. In all seriousness, was such a body likely to act economically? They had had considerable experience in unlimited liability concerns in Scotland, and no place had suffered more than Glasgow. They would prefer to have some kind of limit even if it were higher than they liked to see. Even as to rates the Education rate had afforded them an extremely good lesson by which they ought to profit. When the Education Act was passed they wore told they need be under no fear of very high rating, but the rate now amounted in many cases to over four times the highest estimate when the Bill was introduced. The people of Scotland would like to know the worst, and not to have an unlimited liability threatening them. As to the Standing Joint Committee, Scotchmen were familiar with the way in which it was consti- 1042 tuted, and how it controlled capital expenditure. The arguments in reference to those matters were put fully before the House in 1889 when the Local Government Bill was brought forward. For that Standing Joint Committee it was actually proposed to substitute as a check upon each County Council the Finance Committee and the Police Committee of that very County Council—these two committees being simply working committees appointed by the County Council itself from its own numbers. Upon this point people who were not members of County Councils entertained probably an even stronger opinion than those who were and who from esprit de corps did not wish County Councils to be in any way checked or hindered. It was known that several of the County Councils did not care for this, check of the Standing Joint Committee, and it was therefore all the more noteworthy, when the conference of County Councils assembled in Edinburgh, to which the Secretary for Scotland had alluded, that they voted for maintaining the Standing Joint Committee by a majority of 22 to 16. Considering that that vote was given against their natural esprit de corps, and considering that they were the freely-elected Representatives of the people, he did not see why the Secretary for Scotland should go directly contrary to the views of the people thus expressed. So much for the three specially contentious points. With regard to the details of the measure, he was sorry more had not been done in the way of making such technical alterations as experience had shown to be necessary. The Secretary for Scotland sent round a Circular to all the counties in Scotland asking for suggestions how the Local Government Act could be improved from the practical experience gained in working that Act. Lanarkshire, among others, sent in a list of various points requiring attention. He was sorry to say he had been informed that very few indeed of those recommendations had been carried out. One suggestion, indeed, had been acted upon. Provision had been made for the withdrawal of candidates nominated for election to a County Council. It was hardly to be believed that at present a man could not withdraw from his candidature even if nominated against his will. A relation 1043 of his own had been nominated without his consent being either given or implied, and he found it was absolutely impossible for him to withdraw that nomination; he could only send round a circular and advertise in the newspapers asking his supporters not to vote for him. But, at the same time, all the expenses for ballot-boxes and polling clerks had to be incurred just as though there was a real contested election. He was glad provision had been made for this in the Bill, so that persons nominated might withdraw from the candidature. But it would hardly be believed that a candidate, even according to the new Bill, could not give in his withdrawal in his own name alone, but must get leave from his proposer or seconder. He would like to know why that was the ease? Surely a nominated candidate might be allowed to sign his own name to the application of withdrawal without getting the consent either of his proposer or his seconder? The subjects be was sorry were not touched upon were numerous, Just as instances he would mention the difficulties with regard to special constables, who could not, according to I present circumstances, be sworn in in county districts. Moreover, there was the question of the Stamp Duty on documents under the Public Health Act. Prior to the Act of 1889, the County Local Authorities were exempt from the Stamp Duty: but after that Act passed the Inland Revenue stepped in and said that the new Local Authority—the County Council—should not be exempt from the stamp as the old authority had been. This was especially hard on the counties, considering that in towns and burghs the Local Authorities were still exempt from the duty. He had intended to move an Instruction, but he believed they would ho able to deal with this question in Committee, and he intended to introduce Amendments then with the object of removing this grievance and putting the counties on the same footing as the burghs in this matter. He did not intend to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill, or prevent it being handed over to the tender mercies of the Hybrid Committee which the House had appointed. He called it hybrid because he could not admit that it was a Scottish Committee which had been constituted.
§ * SIR C. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
said, he thought it was about time someone got up to say a word in favour of the Bill. Every speaker hitherto had, without venturing to condemn the Bill, damned it with faint praise. Even his hon. Friend the Member for North-East Lanark had said than if such-and-such Amendments were made, and such-and-such Instructions were to be introduced, it might be made a good Bill; but if these things were not done, it would sin against all the canons which he had laid down as constituting a good Bill. Well, as one who had worked in regard to the matter of this Bill for the last 15 or 20 years, he begged to say that he considered it a first-rate Bill. [A laugh.] Hon. Members laughed. Of course, it did not come up to their views. It did not go wide enough and did not embrace superannuation, chargeability, the incidence of rating, the Law of Settlement; it did not provide for special constables or the remission of Stamp Duties to County Councillors; and in so far it was not as good a Bill as might have been brought forward. But if his right hon. Friend allowed himself to be tempted by the inducements that many held out to introduce I all these subjects into his Bill he could assure the right hon. Gentleman of one thing, and it was this—that the Bill would never become law. There were one or two points on which he quite agreed with various Members who had spoken. Where, for instance, they could without confusion make the Councils to be constituted under the Bill deal with other local matters let them do it by all means. They were establishing Parish Councils in many parishes where at present there were no Parochial Boards. Those would be new bodies, and he recognised the importance—the desirability—of extending their control to education very much more widely. When he introduced his Parochial Boards Bill, and was contending for the principle that these Boards should be popularly elected bodies, he did not meet with universal assent. Time after time he had been opposed, and he was quite familiar with the cry of alleged danger which had been raised that night to a minor extent. He was familiar with all the arguments as to the danger of popularising these institutions. The right hon. Gentleman 1045 the ex-Lord Advocate, in his very critical and analytical speech, commenced with a defence of the Board of Supervision. Considering the way in which that Board was constituted, it had possibly worked remarkably well; but what was the Board, and how was it constituted? It consisted of the chairman (an advocate), the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Solicitor General, three Sheriffs, and Lord Hamilton; but when there was great distress in the Highlands, and he was appealed to on the subject, he found of more use than the whole of the experts the Lord Provost of Glasgow, upon whose absence from the weekly meetings the right hon. Gentleman had commented. The Board was a Board of lawyers. They were paid, and the Lord Provosts were not. As a matter of fact, the work of the Board was done by the paid members of the Board. It was an administrative body, and occupied itself with two things—Poor Law administration and sanitary administration; but it. was absolutely incompetent as an authority which was responsible for the protection of Scotland against disease and epidemic. Again and again he had had to call the attention of the House to the causes of the spread of disease in various parts of the country, and the failure of the Board to cope with them. As to whether there was to be a medical member on the Board or not, a great deal might be said on the one side or the other: and if they were going to exclude experts from the new Board they should exclude experts of all sorts, and let the Board be advised on medical, legal, and all other subjects by paid advisers from without. They might make it in that way more a branch of the Scotch Office, as he thought it ought to be; but in any case the head of the new Board must be directly responsible to the House of Commons, and must face any disagreeables which must attach to that responsibility. That was a principle for which he had always contended. He knew no point on which the feeling throughout Scotland was more unanimous than in declaring that a sweeping reform of the Board of Supervision, as at present constituted, was absolutely necessary, and of first importance in connection with any reform of the local government system in Scot-laud. In attacking the present system 1046 as he had done, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland deserved not faint-hearted praise, but the warmest thanks of every Member who sat on the Liberal side of the House. So far as the other branch of the Bill was concerned—that portion relating to the reform of the Parochial Boards—one would really imagine from the speeches of some of his friends that the Present constitution of these Boards was perfect; that there was very little to be desired, and that matters were conducted in the most wonderfully excellent manner. What he ventured to say was that that proposition was the most absurd thing on the face of the earth, and that the administration of Parochial Boards was inefficient, out of date, and corrupt. He did not mean that they put their hands into the till and took the ratepayers' money. He would show what he meant by an incident that occurred only a couple of years ago at Greenock. There the Parochial Board consists of all the heritors, some 1,000 or 1,200 in number. With the heritors were joined the kirk session and a few elected members. Well, a Board of this unwieldy description must elect a Committee of Management. How did the election at the time referred to proceed? A number of mandates for the election of rival committees were handed in; but when a scrutiny was demanded, it was found that a number of these mandates were those of dead men, or mandates never given for the purpose for which they had been issued, and in all about a third of the mandates were rejected as null and void. He thought he was justified in saying that that was a corrupt way of conducting the business. There had been objection taken to the abolition of ratepaying as a qualification for voting at the election of Parochial Boards. Was the right hon. Gentleman (the ex-Lord Advocate) aware that the ministers of the parish churches were exempted from the payment of poor rates, or that the kirk session might not pay rates? yet the ministers and kirk sessions were in many cases the majority of the Parochial Boards, and could do what they liked at them. This was the sort of thing that the Bill was to put an end to. They were told that if they allowed elective 13oards to be constituted they 1047 would have a class of men upon them that would act detrimentally to the ratepayers in the administration of public funds. There was no danger of that. The ratepayers had control of matters, and they might rely upon them punishing severely any man who abused his position by using it in the interests of his relatives. They were told that they might have a man on the Hoard who refused to pay his rates; but if the rest of the members of the Board did their duty they would make him pay, or could make him bankrupt, and then he would cease to be a member of the Board, which he did not at present do in the case of nine-tenths of the Parochial Boards of Scotland. Was the right hon. Gentleman aware that such Municipalities as those of Glasgow and Edinburgh were managed by a body of gentlemen not corruptly and not particularly badly, and that these gentlemen were not elected half by owners and half by occupiers? Experience in connection with municipal administration in towns had proved that there was no danger in the widening of the franchise, and they on that side of the House were certainly not afraid to grant the people the control of their own parochial affairs. It appeared to him that the Bill of the Government was a very excellent Bill. In the omnibus part of it—the reforms which it proposed to make in the Local Government Act of 1889—the Secretary for Scotland had chosen those salient features which he considered called for amendment. He did not imagine the right hon. Gentleman considered any one of these propositions in that omnibus part of the Bill were of vital importance. There were many things which Members would have liked to have seen dealt with, but as in his experience he had seen a good number of measures—and Government measures, too—dealing with poor law reform wrecked by reason of their attempting to do too much, he recommended his right hon. Friend to be careful about the introduction of a number of additional subjects which would endanger the prospects of the measure being added to the Statute Book.
§ * MR. RENSHAW) (Renfrew, W.
said, he regretted the advice given in his closing sentence by the hon. Member who had just sat down, because he thought there were many points on 1048 which the Bill could be improved. He hoped, therefore, that the preliminary processes suggested by the hon. Member would not be so much availed of by the Government as to take from independent Members their opportunities of offering advice, or to affect the spirit in which such advice would be received. The hon. Member had spoken of the Bill being "damned with faint praise," but the hon. Member himself did not appear to be altogether at one with the Government on the subject of the constitution of the Local Government Board, as he had said he thought the proposal of the Government on that subject was not the best that could be devised. Presumably the hon. Member meant that he could have suggested a better constitution for the Board.
§ * MR. RENSHAW
went on to say that he could not refer to the constitution of the Board of Supervision, but he could not help complimenting the officials of that Board on the manner in which under great difficulties they had discharged the duties that had been imposed upon them. As to the proposed Local Government Board, the idea of divided responsibility was conveyed by the fact that three? members of the Board were to be resident in Scotland, while three would for the greater part of the year, if Parliament sat as long each year in the future as it had done last year and was doing now, have to live in London. It seemed to him that the new Board would have too much of an official character about it. He believed it would commend itself to the Parochial Authorities, the County Authorities, and the people of Scotland if the Board were made to contain certain representatives of those Public Authorities with which it would deal, and which would have to be in close relationship with it. Some representative element of the sort might be selected by the Secretary for Scotland. The Board might be made to include some gentleman who was conversant with county matters, some gentleman who was conversant with the administration of affairs in the large centres of civic life, and some gentleman who was more particularly identified with the parochial interests. Four or five gentle- 1049 men of this sort might be selected by the Secretary for Scotland, with a view to the particular matters with which the Board would have to deal, to remain, say, for three years in office, and then to make room for a fresh infusion of new blood into the Board. He thought it was worth considering whether it would be possible to give the Board power to arbitrate in regard to questions of settlement, so as to enable Local Authorities to avoid the tremendous expense which they now not infrequently incurred in settling such questions in the Law Courts. There was one feature of the Bill which had been somewhat adversely criticised by some of the existing Parochial Authorities. He referred to the links which it established between County and Burgh Authorities, and Parochial Councils. It was, in his opinion, most desirable to secure continuity of operation between the different bodies that had charge of public affairs, and he hoped, therefore, that the Secretary for Scotland would maintain some sort of control on the part of the larger representative bodies over the Parish Councils. In regard to the constitution of the new Parish Councils, the House had already been reminded that the Bill must be read along with the Period of Qualification Bill. Under the last-named Bill an occupancy of three months, with-out payment of any rates whatever, would qualify an elector to vote for a Municipal Board, a County Council, or a Parish Council for a period of three years. There was thus a great disparity between the length of occupancy and the period for which the individual elected was to discharge the duties of his office. The Secretary for Scotland would, he (Mr. Renshaw) thought, receive many and strong objections from all parts of Scotland to this portion of his Bill. He questioned very much whether the right hon. Gentleman would find a single Parochial Board or County Council that would express itself heartily in favour of this proposal. A Conference of some of the most important Burghal Parochial Boards in Scotland had passed a resolution adverse; to the proposal to abolish the existing disqualification in respect of the non-payment of rates. He would mention the case of the Abbey Parish of Paisley as showing what effect the change was likely to have 1050 in placing upon the roll a large number of those who had not shown that they took an interest in the management of their local affairs. The parish had a population of 42,887 persons, and in the return of rated inhabitants made on the Motion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter) in 1890 it was stated that there were 9,768 rated inhabitants. The Parochial Board, in a statement they had just issued, showed that the number of defaulters in the parish in the year ending in June, 1893, was 2,519. The Government now deliberately proposed to, put these 2,519 non-rate-paying inhabitants on exactly the same footing as those members of the community who had hitherto discharged their responsibilities to the parish by the payment of their rates. In 1884 the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour), speaking on the proposal made by Mr. Fraser Mackintosh on the Franchise Bill to do away with the payment of rates as a qualification for an election, said—Where persons were liable to pay poor rates and did not Pay them, the hon. Member would enact that they should be enfranchised. That seemed to be directly in the teeth of the elementary principle that representation and taxation should go together.There was a Division taken upon Mr. Fraser Mackintosh's proposal, which received the support of only nine Members of the House, and was opposed by the Lord Advocate, the Minister for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Buchanan), the right hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Mundella), and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt), and it did seem a strange thing that in the short period which had since elapsed so great a conversion of so many great minds should have taken place. He thought it was desirable in the interests of the usefulness of the new bodies that were being created that in everything that was done by them they should have at their back a large body of trustworthy electors. In that case the new Councils would inspire public confidence, and their decisions would carry with them the approval of those persons in the community whose approval was best worth 1051 having, he thought he could almost appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland as not having quite made up his mind on the subject. There were two proposals in the Bill on the point. One was, that in 1894 the first election was to take place. The Bill contained no provision as to the electorate for the first election, and he therefore presumed that the roll of 1892 was to be used for the purpose, on which no defaulter's name was enrolled. The new-fangled principle proposed by the Government was not to be applied until the second election took place in 1895, and the new electorate would then have the opportunity of upsetting what the old electorate had done. He passed to the question of those who were to be privileged to occupy the position of Parish Councillors. The Parish Councillors were to be chosen from among the parish electors or were to be persons who hadduring the 12 months next preceding the election resided in the parish.What did these last words mean? Did they mean that the persons must have resided in the parish for 12 months continuously, or that they might have resided in the parish for a week only during the 12 months? It would throw great responsibility on someone to decide a point of that kind. It was obvious that, as in the Schedule of the Bill, they were going to repeal the 23rd section of the Poor Law Act of 1845, which declaredthat no person should be entitled to act as an elected member unless he paid assessment to the parish.They were going to allow the Parish Council to be elected partly by individuals who had never paid their rates, though they would have control over the disbursement of the rates collected in the parish, and that the Parish Council might consist partly or wholly of those who had not paid the rates they were called on to administer. As to another point, Section 11 provided that a husband and wife should not both be qualified in regard to the same property. He wished to know if the meaning of that was that where a house belonged to the wife and was occupied by the husband there should not be double qualification. With regard to Section 2 of Clause 14, he should like to know whether it was pro- 1052 posed to throw the expense of the elections in counties on the whole county, while in burghs it was to be charged on the parish funds? He thought the right way would be to provide that where an election for a County Council and a Parish Council took place at the same time one-half the expense should be charged to the county and the other to the parish, or that if the election was only for a Parish Council the whole cost should be charged to the parish. He felt very strongly on the School Board question, and had placed an Instruction on the Paper in regard to it. In many parts of Scotland the parishes were very small. In Roxburghshire, for instance, there were 31 parishes, and only two of them had above 5,000 inhabitants, while 22 had below 1,000 each. It seemed to him ridiculous to have dual Local Authorities in small parishes—one dealing with parish government and the other with education. In regard to the new special rate, he urged that it should not be an addition to the poor rate, but that it should be a separate rate levied half on the owner and half on the occupier, in order that each ratepayer might know clearly what the additional responsibility was in respect to the payment of rates under the Bill. With regard to the rating powers of the new bodies, if must be felt that there ought to be some limit to it. It might be, that it should not be so high as in England, but certainly the amount should not exceed that adopted in the case of England. Reference had been made to the varying amount of rates levied in different parts of Scotland at present. He had been much struck by a Return in which he saw that in the Parish of Bourtie of Aberdeenshire the whole rate levied for parochial purposes was only 1½d. in the £1. At Stair, in Ayrshire, it was 2d. in the £1; in the Cumbraes in Bute it was 2½d., and in one parish in Lanarkshire it was l⅝d. Passing from the low to the high levels, they came to the Parish of Lochs in Ross-shire, where the rate was 3s. 4d., to another where it was 4s., to one in Zetland where it was 5s., and to one bearing the appropriate name of Yell, where it was 3s. 10¾d. In view of their experience in connection with water and drainage district rates in Scotland, he thought that if the amount 1053 spent in one year should, through exceptional occurrence, exceed the limit of the rate, the excess by which it was above the rate should be the first charge on the expenditure of the next year. He would pass over the question of the Standing Joint Committee, merely remarking that what was stated by the hon. Member for North-East Lanark was no doubt perfectly correct as to the difference between the state of the law in counties and burghs. As a matter of fact, in the burghs, however, where the police were entirely managed and controlled by the Burgh Authorities, the police rate was levied one-half on the owners and one-half on the occupiers, and in the counties of Scotland the police rate, unless it exceeded the stereotyped average rate, fell entirely on owners. That constituted a great difference between the case of the police in the burghs and the police in counties, and it would be a hardship if, in the event of a change being made, it was not accompanied by a re-arrangement of the rate in such a way that one-half of it was borne by the occupiers and the other half by the owners. He was afraid he could not compliment the right hon. Gentleman upon the 63rd clause of his Bill, which dealt with the question of medical officers and Sanitary Inspectors. The relation of these officials to the police burghs in a county had always been a difficult question. He believed the provisions of the Bill would make confusion worse confounded. What was wanted was to strengthen and not to weaken the Medical and Sanitary Authorities in their relation to those burghs, and it should be indicated that in respect of the contribution which the burghs made, and which ought to be strictly limited in amount, the police burghs should have a right to the use of these officers for advisory and consultative purposes. There were a great many questions in connection with this measure which would have to be discussed in Committee and, though he did not propose to approach those details, he would like to point out that, while they might be able to amend this Bill in many directions, and make it a more workable measure, it must be regarded as an undesirable one—with all the possible benefits they might derive from it—unless the question of a Stand- 1054 ing Joint Committee was dealt with on a broader basis than that proposed in the Bill, and unless they did away with the provisions by which a large portion of the power of the electorate for establishing the new Parish Councils was conferred upon those who had neglected to discharge their most obvious duties as ratepayers and was confined to those who discharged their local responsibilities by the payment of their rates.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
said, that the Bill was the carrying forward of the scheme of local government which was introduced in 1889 by the late Government. They brought in a Local Government (Scotland) Bill which dealt with the case of counties on the basis of the franchise in burghs. They also announced and brought in, as part of their scheme, a Bill relating to the election of Parochial Boards in Scotland. According to that Bill the Parochial Board was to bo elected one-half by owners and one-half by the occupiers in parishes. It was owing to this exceptional constitution of the Board that the Bill had not been persevered with. The present Government, however, had taken up the matter in a thorough manner by abolishing Parochial Boards and creating Parish Councils to be elected on a franchise similar to that of burghs and counties. The County Council Register, so far as applicable to the parish, was practically to be the Parish Register. No serious objection had been taken on the Opposition side to the constitution of Parish Councils, but some objections were taken to certain matters of detail more proper for Committee than for a Second Reading Debate. It was stated that parishioners might be parish electors who were in arrear with their poor rates. That, however, was not a true description of the Bill. As the Bill stood no one in arrear of poor rate could be on the roll of electors. Whether after the Registration Bill were passed this would be different would depend upon whether and how far the Registration Bill passed into law. The point might come up under the Registration Bill, and it would be for Parliament then to determine the question. Meantime it did not occur under this Bill. He next referred to the qualification of Parish Councillor, which he pointed out 1055 had been taken from the English Act. He preferred the Scotch precedent of the Local Government Act that the Parish Councillor, like the County Councillor, should be an elector. As to the Local Government Board, the question had been raised as to whether it should be representative or be partly a representative Board. He considered that the natural completion of local government in Scotland would be a Local Parliament in Scotland elected by the people and responsible to the people of Scotland, dealing with purely Scotch affairs, Scotch legislation and administration. Meantime, as the Secretary for Scotland was to be responsible to Parliament, he must necessarily have a Board more under his control. Then, again, the Board was to have large central powers of control over the Local Bodies, and was to exercise powers (especially as regards land) which at present were only exercised by Parliament. He did not think in its local administration the Local Government Board would be much different from the Board of Supervision. Most probably the present Chairman of the Board of Supervision would be Vice President, Dr. Littlejohn would be the medical officer, and one of the Sheriffs would be the legal member. He thought the Bill was wrong in holding both the parish and county election on the same day and in the same place, as it would lead to an undue complication and crowding up of matters which ought to be kept distinct. A candidate might be standing both as a County and a Parish Councillor, and the double election would give rise to great confusion. There was something more than mere expense to be looked at in connection with an election. It tended to promote discussion, and to keep up the public interest in public affairs, which was very desirable. If the exercise of the franchise was to be looked at as a drudgery and a task, if they added education to Parish Councils, and had triennial elections for Parliament on the same day and at the same time as the local elections, then undoubtedly an elector might perform his act of citizenship with the minimum of trouble and the maximum of expense on one day only once in every three years. But that was hardly the point from which to view popular elections. He thought the Chair- 1056 man should, like the Provost of a burgh, hold office for three years—the full term—and not have the risk of three competitions for Chairmen in the course of one Parish Council. He thought the head office of the Local Government Board in Scotland should be in Glasgow, as being the more convenient centre. He was in favour of dealing by scheme with bequests at present vested in Parochial Boards left for special purposes, but presently applied in reduction of the rates. He was likewise in favour of the valuation roll being separated according to the different districts created, so as to show the rateable value of each assessable district. He hoped that clauses would be inserted in Committee giving Dean of Guild powers to County, District, and Parish Councils, so as to carry out proper sanitary and other requirements in the erection of dwelling-houses and other buildings. He also spoke in favour of loans by County Councils being accepted under the Trustees (Scotland) Act, and concluded by congratulating the Government on their measure.
§ * CAPTAIN HOPE (Linlithgow)
said, he desired to discuss the Bill from the point of view of one who had considerable experience in carrying out the existing system of local government in Scotland, and also as the representative of a county which contained a good many Local Bodies besides the County Council, if he could have been satisfied that the Bill represented the settled convictions of Her Majesty's Government on local government in Scotland he would have been under the painful necessity of suggesting to the House that the Bill should not be read a second time; but as he believed that on many points the Government must have a more or less open mind, he would only point out some matters in which the Bill was considerably faulty. The objections he entertained with regard to the Bill were not based on any dislike of or objection to the principle of extending and completing the representative system of local government administration in Scotland. On the contrary, one of his objections to the measure was that it was not in any sense a completion of the scheme of local government which was begun in the Act of 1889. But his main objection was founded on the evidence which the Bill itself afforded, 1057 that it had been framed either in entire ignorance of the working of local administration in Scotland, or in contempt of the local feeling in Scotland in such matters, or in a combination of both. He had a serious objection to offer to the composition of the Local Government Board. He was afraid that on this point he would not be altogether in accord with the late Lord Advocate; because, whereas his right hon. Friend viewed the matter rather from the official standpoint, he viewed it from the point of view of those who would be officiated upon by this Board if it were brought into existence. It was no doubt desirable that there should be an efficient and responsible Board, and that it was a good principle that the Board should be brought under more direct Parliamentary responsibility than the existing Board of Supervision; but if those objects were to be attained, the Board proposed in the Bill would require much strengthening and much extension. Indeed, the proposed Board seemed to him to be more purely official than the Board of Supervision. He believed the confidence of the local Administrative Bodies of Scotland in such a Board would be greatly strengthened if it contained elements of representation of those who were in touch with the actual administration of local affairs. He did not, however, look forward to that Board being purely elective, for he thought there should be a critical body in an official position that would support local feeling where necessary, and also where necessary control the actions of Local Bodies when they were running on wrong lines. The Board of Supervision had, in its administration of public health matters, sometimes laid itself open to the feeling that it had interfered in small matters in a way which a purely official and not very responsible Board was sometimes tempted to do, and this interference had caused friction and annoyance. But it seemed to him that this Local Government Board would be open to the worst objections which were taken to the Board of Supervision in this particular respect. It would be a smaller Board, and even more official. The provision that one of the paid members should be a medical practitioner would rather result in making the Board consist chiefly of a politician in the first 1058 place, and a medical man in the second. He did not think he was saying anything uncivil or beyond the mark when he ventured to suggest that a medical practitioner was liable to have views of his own—some people would call them fads—and it came to be a question whether it would not be too entirely a Board that would be liable to ride hobbies in a way which would be rather expensive to the Local Authorities and the ratepayers, besides being an annoyance to many who would have to act under them. It was said that it was intended by the Bill to set up elective bodies in the parishes of Scotland to administer parish affairs. But, as far as he could understand the Bill, it was, owing to the extensive powers over Local Authorities proposed to be vested in the Local Government Board, about the largest scheme of centralisation that he had yet seen proposed in regard to local affairs in Scotland. With regard to the question of locality, it had been suggested by the hon. Member who had just spoken that on the point of population Glasgow should be the headquarters of the new Board. It had been so far taken for granted that Edinburgh would be more likely, as the acknowledged capital of the country; but if there was to be a dispute between the two great cities, it might be necessary and convenient to take a middle course, and choose somewhere else. He would suggest for the consideration of the Secretary for Scotland the town of Linlithgow. They had there an ancient Royal Palace, the place was famed in Scottish history; and it might be well to consider whether the Royal Palace might not be restored and renovated as, perhaps, the official residence of the Secretary for Scotland as President of the Local Government Board of that country. With reference to the part of the Bill dealing with Parish Councils, he would hint to gentlemen anxious for Home Rule for Scotland whether the phrase "Parish Council" had not got a very English sound about it which was foreign to and against the feelings of Scotland? He had often wondered why Scotsmen should be over-ridden by so many English ideas; and it was a point which was brought out in a remarkably strong way by the Bill introduced by a right hon. Gentleman who spoke so 1059 eloquently in favour of Home Rule for Scotland a couple of months ago. Ho thought if a new body of this sort was to be called into existence on the principle of its being a Representative Body, it was right that it should be done with a view to the completion of the machine of local administration, the first parts of which were sot up by the Act of 1889. If it were regarded from that point of view, he ventured to say that the arrangements were not effective in a proper sense. The Parish Councils did not appear to complete the existing system in any way whatever. They were thrown into the arrangements of local administration rather in the way of a fifth wheel to the coach. The Bill destroyed the old Parochial Boards and their system, and set up in their place a complex machine full of difficulties and distinctions, as between landward and burghal parishes, Royal burghs, and police burghs, and Landward Committees. It appeared to him that the police burghs were receiving a very heavy slap in the face. They were to be debarred from a large number of new powers which were to be given to the Landward Committee of the Parish Councils. As he read the Bill, the inhabitants of a police burgh would be shut out from benefit under charities belonging to the parish. But ho fancied that most of the parochial charities were in existence long before the police burghs. The great bulk of opinion, at any rate in the rural districts of Scotland, was in favour of the inclusion of the School Board administration in the administration of the new Parochial Representative Bodies. He believed that in many places the only thing that could make the idea of the new elective body tolerable at all to the people in general would be the idea that they were to be saved from a multiplicity of elections. An hon. Member opposite, as he had understood him, had declared it to be a part of the policy of the Party of which he was an ornament to increase the number of elections rather than diminish them. He had held out a happy prospect of an election every year. Well, he (Mr. Hope) had had some experience of an election of one kind or another occurring in successive years, and he did not wish to have it repeated more often than was necessary. To judge by the genuine outspoken opinion 1060 of the people, nothing could be more unpopular in Scotland than frequently recurring local elections, were they for the schools, the county, the parish, or anything else. It might be said that there would be difficulties in the way of putting school administration into the hands of the new Parish Councils. But, surely, when the Government undertook to make a great change in the administration of local affairs, or, indeed, to make any very great change in the administration of any of the affairs of the country, they must be prepared to face difficulties and to find a way out of them. As to the constitution of these bodies, he ventured to think that it would be found that the public voice of Scotland, when it realised the position that would be taken under this Bill, would make itself heard and possibly make itself felt even by Her Majesty's Government. The abolition of the ratepaying qualification in those who were to spend rates, or in those who were to elect the persons who were to spend rates, would arouse considerable opposition, and hostility would be in creased by the discovery that the election might fall upon outsiders, whether ratepayers in a parish or not. In regard to the local qualification of Parish Councillors the English precedent had been followed; Parish Councillors were to be elected, not only from amongst those who were parish electors, but from amongst those who might have resided within three miles of the parish for a certain length of time. This might fee a very satisfactory provision in regard to small English parishes, but the generality of Scottish parishes would find it a most objectionable idea that the whole of those who were to manage their parochial affairs might in some cases be elected from people outside the parish? who were not even bound to be ratepayers within it. Then, as to new powers, he did not wish to go into the subject at any length, as it had been thoroughly dealt with already; but he did wish to give expression to the strong objection there was to the unlimited rating powers provided in the Bill, and to the compulsory powers in regard to the acquisition of land provided for. The powers of borrowing and of acquiring land ought to be vested, not in the Parish Council alone, but also in the 1061 County Council to the extent of giving the larger body a controlling power. At present, a District Committee neglecting its duty in regard to public health administration might be called to account before the Board of Supervision by the County Council, but the Bill gave a similar power to the Parish Council. The justification for that, he confessed, he was unable to see. The Bill did not take away the power from the County Council, but would give a concurrent power to the Parish Council. Surely the revisionary power should be vested in the upper rather than the nether millstone. As to the multiplicity of elections, the Secretary for Scotland in introducing the Bill claimed that it would not increase the number of local elections. But while there was to be a purely elective Parish Council and a purely elective School Board in the same parish, ho failed to see how it could be asserted that there was not one more election than at present. No doubt there was a provision, although he hardly thought it could have been worked out by one who had had the actual experience of the supervision of such elections, by which the County Council and the Parish (Council elections were to take place on the same day, in the same place, and under the same supervision. That, however, did not relieve a police burgh from an election, as the municipal election would also take place in such burgh, at a different time from the county and parish elections. Those who had experience in the conducting of such elections had assured him that difficulties in the way of carrying on a double or a treble election would not be merely confined to the existence of two sets of voting papers and ballot boxes, but would require a great deal more supervision and work than the authors of the Bill contemplated. But even if it were possible to reduce the number of elections by carrying them on at the same time, the Bill provided that there should be a new Register. There was at present a County Council Register which embraced in the first place the Parliamentary Register, and which, in the second place, put on the roll Peers and women householders. Under the Bill there was to be a new piece of the Register which, apparently, was only to apply to Parochial Councils. Why it 1062 should apply to Parish Councils and not to County Councils, he confessed it passed his wit to understand, but as it stood the Bill would require the officer superintending the double election to deal with two registers as well as two ballot-boxes. He thought that the proposal to hand over the auditing of the Parish Council accounts to the county auditors would lead to considerable expense, and would thus form an additional grievance on the part of the ratepayers against those who had introduced this Bill. The cost of auditing of the county accounts had been doubled and trebled since the change of the arrangements formerly made by the Commissioners of Supply. The Government' might have been content with establishing a Local Government Board or Parish Councils, but they had seen fit to append to these two measures a somewhat lengthy tail dealing with matters more strictly affecting County Councils in Scotland in their administration. One of the most notable points in regard to this part of the Bill was that the Secretary for Scotland, who in December called upon the County Councils of Scotland to furnish him with their views as to the amendments necessary to improve the Local Government Act of 1889, and who subsequently expressed great admiration of the way in which the business was conducted at a Conference of the County Councils of Scotland, showed that admiration, and the great use he had put the proposed amendments of the County Council to, by utterly overruling the greater part of the suggestions made by the Councils and the Conference. The Conference recommended that the Standing Joint Committee should not be interfered with, but the Secretary for Scotland did interfere with it. The Conference recommended that the appeal against the District Committee to the County Council should be dropped, whilst the appeal to the Sheriff should continue, but the Bill proposed to abolish the appeal to the Sheriff. A more mischievous suggestion had not been made. He had himself had experience of appeals against the District Committee, and his experience went to show that where a matter had been properly and carefully thought out by the District Committee it would stand the 1063 test of examination before those most competent to deal with such matters. If it would not stand that test it seemed to him it could not possibly be a satisfactory scheme. On no point had greater unanimity been shown by the County Councils than on the question of rating under the Public Health Act. That was one of the points which had been utterly ignored, and on which those who were interested in County Council administration felt that they had not received fair consideration. Then in regard to the provisions of the Bill in respect of capital expenditure, the County Council would first have to receive from the Finance Committee a recommendation to spend a certain sum on building, then they would have to consider and approve that recommendation, and, finally, they would have to go back to the Finance Committee for leave to undertake the work. Anything more absurd than such a proposal could not be conceived. He would conclude by quoting the opinion of a Radical friend of his with regard to this Bill. His friend, after a fortnight's consideration of the Bill, said that—It was an utterly useless measure thrown at us at a time when nobody wanted it.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Sir G. TREVELYAN,) Glasgow, Bridgeton
With the single exception of the hon. Member and his Radical friend—[An hon. MEMBER: "Name!"]—who can hardly be an old Radical if he does not at least approve of the provisions of the Bill that relate to the reformation of the Parochial Boards, I think the Government have every reason to be pleased with the Debate of this evening. It is quite true that in a Bill of this magnitude it is impossible to please everybody in every case. But it is at least a very great thing not to have displeased any single Member of the House to that extent as to render him an enemy of the Bill. I believe that this result has been effected not by being timid in the lines on which this Bill has been drawn, but because the Bill has been arranged on principles that are on the whole satisfactory to the people of Scotland, and on principles likewise which will enable in Committee hon. Members who take exception to any of its details to amend those details. For that reason there 1064 appears a general consensus of opinion to let the Bill pass its Second Reading as soon as possible, and to send it to that Committee where it will be dealt with in a manner which, no doubt, will render it more acceptable than it is at present. The Debate was begun in a speech of a statesmanlike character by the Member for the Universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh (Sir C. Pearson). I listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but could not gather that he is really an enemy of the proposals relating to the constitution of the new Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman began by speaking with reserve of the Board of Supervision. He said that it was a cheap Board compared with the English and Irish Local Government Boards. I agree that the Board of Supervision is an exceedingly cheap one. I cannot help thinking it is a Government Department that is a little stinted, and the Bill proposes in a very moderate manner to increase the amount of public money which is spent on local government in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members in other parts of the House have expressed the apprehension that the Local Government Board for Scotland will henceforth be too much of a London Board. For that fear I believe there is no foundation whatever. The Board will be situated at Edinburgh, and the only sense in which it will become a London Board will be that the chief of the Board Will have direct responsibility to the House of Commons, which he has not at present, and the Board will be brought into the closest relation to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to give any instance in which the Board of Supervision has been found wanting either in supplying proper information to the Government or in adopting the Government policy, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Lanarkshire stated that, within his official experience, there have been cases in which the policy of the Board has prevailed against the policy of the Government. To give a specific instance would be invidious, but undoubtedly quite recently there has been a case in which the view of the Board was strongly opposed to the view of the Minister who at that time was responsible to Parliament. I 1065 take no exception to the manner in which the members of the Board have carried out their duties under their present constitution, but that constitution is faulty, and I believe it will be amended in the Bill in a way which will enable the work to be much more satisfactorily done. The Government does not want to make the Board more of a Board, but rather a department, and an effective department, and I believe that will be done by the Bill. What we propose is not to establish in Edinburgh a large anomalous body consisting partly of salaried officials, and partly of gentlemen on whom the public have no hold whatever, but a small body of officials who are responsible to the public for every minute of their time and every ounce of their energy, upon whom we can call, just in the same way as the President of the Local Government Board in London can call upon every gentleman connected with that Department. My right hon. Friend said we have just enough lawyers on the Board of Supervision at present. On the whole department of the London Local Board there is only one legal adviser, as against flour on the Scottish Board, and none at all on the Irish Board. I think there is no fear of the Board in Scotland being too much controlled in London as long as the headquarters of the Board are in the capital of Scotland. As long as the work of the Board lies in Scotland, so long it will be a Scottish Board in every particular, with only this difference, that it will be in direct personal relations with the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the composition of the Parish Councils themselves, and took exception to the provision that the members need not be parish electors paying their rates, and that they might be persons resident in the parish or within three miles of the parish, even though they might not be on the parish Register. In this respect we have followed the example of England, and I think very wisely. We have laid down a great principle, and that is that we must choose our electorate very carefully and see that the people who elect the officers and representatives are people who have a real interest in the locality. But when we have done that, we should give the electors the freest choice possible in the selection of their representatives. 1066 We want to enable them to choose, not only the parish electors, but, if they like, the eldest son of the Mayor. The Government likewise wish that they shall be able to elect women to the Parish Councils, and to elect any one from the neighbourhood in whom they have confidence. The Government have given a great deal of consideration to the question of landward parish committees, and the more hon. Members look into our proposals in that direction, the more they will find that the arrangements are practicable and quite defensible. With regard to the question of limit of rating and borrowing, the reasons I have given for imposing no limit are strictly economic reasons. As it is evident that those Scottish Members who are most afraid of extravagance are in favour of a limit of rating, they may be quite certain that the Government will not object to that limit being laid down. As to the limit of borrowing, I hope hon. Members will think twice before they take the English system as compared with that proposed in the Bill. The English proposal is that one-half of the rateable value may be borrowed by the Parish Council. The proposal in this Bill is, that if they borrow more than one-fifth of their rateable value, the Local Government Board should have its say in the matter. In Scotland there are only about 20 parishes, where the amount of the loan exceeds one-tenth of the rateable value, and there are only five parishes where the amount of the loan exceeds one-fifth of the rateable value. I think the proposal of the Bill much better than the English system of allowing borrowing to the extent of one-half of the rateable value. With regard to the Standing Joint Committee, I find myself in rather a difficult predicament. If hon. Members opposite were opposing this Bill on the Second Reading, I should make a long and strong speech in defence of the proposal, but since they do not oppose the Bill on the Second Reading, I am inclined to reserve all my remarks with regard to the Standing Joint Committee for the Committee stage and if necessary Report. I am glad my hon. Friend (Mr. D. Crawford) paid a tribute to the Scottish Office when he said he thought the Bill was well drafted. I could not help thinking that it must be well drafted when it has run the gauntlet of the ex- 1067 tremely hard-headed and out-spoken nation for whose benefit it has been drawn. I believe there will be no difficulty in carrying on the work of the Board of Supervision with the Secretary for Scotland as its head. The hon. Member says there is no special provision giving power to the Secretary for Scotland over the deliberations of the Board. In the case of the Fishery Board there is a provision in the Act which sets up that Board distinctly giving the Secretary for Scotland the power of imposing his will on the Board. I do not believe that any such provision is required in the present Bill, which has been drawn very carefully on the analogy of the English and, still more, of the Irish Local Government Act, and no difficulty has been found in the working of these Acts. The President of the Local Government Board and the Chief Secretary for Ireland are as far as they need be masters in their own households, and my belief is that, in all those relations between the person at the head of a Department and those who act with and under him, there is no need to lay down so very strictly that the head of the Department is to be able to impose his will on others. The relations between the chief and his subordinate happily in this country are reasonable relations which need not be too closely defined, and my belief is that if the Secretary for Scotland is a member of this Board he will have precisely the same influence in it as the Irish Secretary has in the Local Government Board in Ireland. On the other hand, the other members of the Board will have then full influence over him, and the decisions they arrive at will be their common decisions influenced, no doubt, by the opinions of the House and the country as conveyed to them through the Parliamentary chief of the Board. Complaints have been made of omissions from the Bill, the most serious of which is in relation to the abolition of the rating qualification of the elector. With regard to that question, I think it may be kept separate from the present Bill. One of the omissions, in the opinion of my hon. Friend, is that the Government have not endeavoured to amalgamate the Board of Lunacy and the Board of Supervision. I believe we should have been travelling outside the province 1068 of the Bill if we had endeavoured to amalgamate two such important and incongruous bodies. To break up the Lunacy Board with its local branches would only be to spoil it, and put it under a body which could not carry on the work in so satisfactory a manner. With reference to the administration of the Public Health Act by the Board of Supervision, that might be amended in Committee if the Scottish Members so desire, but I think it is a serious matter to interfere with the incidence of rating. The most serious objection is in regard to leaving the question of education out of the Bill. I do not think the public opinion of Scotland or of the House is so far advanced on this question, and although I am disagreeably disappointed in this respect I do not regret the course the Government have taken. My belief is that if we had mixed up education with the Bill, it would never have been sent to a Standing Committee, as it would have brought out much latent opposition. But I heartily agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be a very great economy of time expense, and public energy if in the small and even in the great majority of parishes the Parish Councils had School Board powers. If I had to propose a limit, I should have said 5,000. We should have included 843 out of the 979 School Boards in Scotland; my hon. Friend proposes 7,000, and that would include 50 more, but I do not believe the change can be carried through in this Bill, although this Bill paves the way for such a change. The Bill does away with the difficulty of area, because we set up in every parish a Parish Council, all ready and willing to take over education; in the next place, we set up a landward and burghal committee in all the mixed parishes, so that we should have exactly the same area both for School Board and Parish Council. Wherever there is a quoad sacra parish with a School Board, they might arrange for a separate Parish Council, exactly covering the area of the School Board. If the House of Commons is unanimous on this subject, such a Bill can be passed in a week or 10 days without weighting this Bill with the question of education.
* MR. GRAHAM-MURRAY (Buteshire)
said, that as it was proposed to set up a new body to perform new and important duties in addition to those hitherto performed by the Board of Supervision the necessity would at once suggest itself without any other reason being prayed in aid, for great care to be exercised in considering the constitution of that new Board. The right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged in the most handsome manner that night as on the occasion of the First Reading the excellent service done by the old Board of Supervision. Some hon. Members who had spoken on the other side of the House had said that the Board had been subjected to much criticism in Scotland; but he thought that the course of the Debate had shown conclusively that the old Board only experienced adverse criticism from those who apparently knew very little about it. The House would do well to recollect what the old Board was, and what its duties were in considering the constitution of the new Board. Like his hon. Friend, he also had been a member of that body for a Considerable period in one capacity and another. The hon. Baronet who had spoken had said that the matters which came before the Board of Supervision ware Poor Law and sanitary questions. No doubt during the latter years of the Board's existence sanitary questions had taken up much more time than Poor Law questions. Any one who knew anything of the practical working of the Board knew that in process of time, since 1845, the questions cropping up connected with Poor Law administration had become very much narrowed; but he might fairly challenge criticism of what the Board had done. To say that the Board was incompetent to deal with sanitary questions was to use language of gross exaggeration. It had for many years enjoyed the benefit of the very valuable services of Dr. Littlejohn, whose name commanded universal respect, both in Scotland and in this country, as that of a great sanitary expert. There was another aspect of the duties performed by the Board of Supervision in the past, now of course to fall upon this Local Government Board, which might be usefully regarded in considering how best to get a properly qualified Board for dealing 1070 with the questions that came before it. Those questions divided themselves under three heads. First, questions of routine. There, of course, the permanent officials of the Board would always be looked to as in the past. Secondly, came questions of law; and, thirdly, what might be called briefly questions of common sense. Speaking on behalf of the lawyers, it was certainly no privilege for a lawyer to be a member of the Board of Supervision, for he could say that in the course of a long professional career he had never done so much work for so little remuneration—English lawyers' hair would stand on end at it. Nobody except those who had been on the Board knew how numerous were the legal questions which came before the Board. Very often a sanitary matter raised a legal question. It was not always merely a question of what was to be done in the interests of sanitary science, but how far Local Authorities could be compelled to do certain things under particular Acts. In such cases it was expedient that the Board should know before entering upon litigation that it was right. No better testimony could be given to the soundness of the advice the Board had had in the past, than to say that it had never, he believed, lost a case. Such a success was only rendered possible by its command of the services of gentlemen who were in touch with the practice in the Courts, for it was one thing to know what the law was, but quite another thing to know what the Judges would decide. What the Department required was practical knowledge. He was very glad, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman had seen fit to place the Solicitor General upon the new Board. Another element of strength upon the old Board was the presence of two country gentlemen, Mr. Dundas, of Arniston, and Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, who were conversant with all matters of county administration, and the withdrawal of this most useful element from the Board could not be contemplated without regret. He concurred with those who disapproved of the appointment of a medical expert as a member of the Board. and would give the reason. He objected to the presence of a medical expert on the Board, because he did not think it advisable that in sanitary matters such 1071 an expert should have a vote, and because the new Board would not only have to carry out the duties which had been performed by the Board of Supervision, but would have in many things, apart from sanitary questions, to act almost as a judicial tribunal. For instance, it would have to settle whether landowners were or were not to have their land taken from them for allotment purposes; and a number of judicial questions would come before them which had nothing to do with sanitary matters, and the presence of a medical gentleman without other practical training upon the Board would not add to its usefulness. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would keep those points in view, speaking with no desire to multiply the lawyer element, but simply in favour of the domination of common sense. Leaving the composition of the new body, he would pass to the second portion of the Bill. With regard to the creation of the Parish Councils, dealt with in the second portion of the Bill, he desired first to remark that those Councils were to take up the functions hitherto performed by the Parochial Boards. And here he would repeat in another form what he had said in respect to the Board of Supervision. Practically, no complaint had been made against the old Parochial Boards in so far as the administration of the Poor Law was concerned. Reference had been made to anomalies in the constitution of the Boards, but it had not been shown that those anomalies had affected the actual work of administration. Under the present system safeguards were provided against malversation of funds, in the sense of relief being granted to those who did not require it. But this Bill would effect a great change, and for the first time the administration of relief was to be placed in the hands of persons who would not, to any extent, be spending their own money. There had been bitter experience in Ireland in reference to the improper administration of poor relief, and the point was one which ought not to be disregarded in view of results in the Sister Island. He need not go into old stories on the subject which were familiar to the House, but there had been cases of the kind. It would not do to be entirely optimistic in this matter. There was no possible check against such evils 1072 in the present Bill as it stood, and he would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it was absolutely necessary, in fairness to those who had to pay the money which was expended, that some form of appeal should be inserted in the measure, so that any question in regard to the malversation or improper administration of funds might, if necessary, be raised. In England the Local Government Board had large powers over the Boards of Guardians; questions of this kind could be raised on the auditing of accounts, and appeal be thus obtained in case of complaint to the Local Government Board. Similar protection against possible abuse should be provided in the present Bill. Certainly the powers of the Local Government Board over Guardians appeared not to have been touched by the Parish Councils Act recently passed. This point, however, was altogether apart from the question of the rating qualification. He thought the Secretary for Scotland had rather avoided this question, on the ground, as no doubt was the fact, that the Bill did not actually deal with it. In considering this matter of the electorate, however, it was impossible to keep out of view altogether the fact that the Bill was running in parallel lines with another Bill before the House under which rating qualification was to be abolished. Hon. Members on that side of the House wished to accentuate the view that it would be very fatal to allow the qualification for the Parish Council to be unaccompanied by the duty of paying the rates. The hon. Baronet the Member for the College Division of Glasgow had confused the qualifications of the electorate. If the qualification clause were abolished there would be the greatest difficulty in getting the rates paid. He had no hesitation in saying that that would be the case particularly in the Western Highlands, as any one would know who had to do with the collection of rates there. People desired to get upon the roll of the electorate, and that was in many cases the only reason why they now paid their rates. The hon. Baronet's remedy was to make bankrupts of those who did not pay. Was he going to make bankrupt the 25,000 non-payers of rates in Glasgow? He would remind the hon. Baronet of the old saying:—"It is ill 1073 to get the breeks off a Hielandman." Another point was that these Parish Councils were given in landward districts certain new powers. Of course, it was quite clear that if new bodies set up in England had certain powers given them, as a matter of precedent analogous bodies in Scotland should be given the same powers, but he desired to enter a protest against being required to take everything as gospel that was to be found in an English Act. There were several provisions which had been simply transcribed from the English Act, and which would work conspicuous injustice if allowed to stand as now drafted in the Bill. Some points which had been hotly discussed last autumn would not be matters of crying or burning importance in Scotland. He might instance the case of the village charities as one example. Some portions of the Bill were models of unintelligibility as they now stood, and some of them would work with conspicuous injustice. It was the duty of the House to see that, when individual rights were dealt with, the Bill was put in such la shape as to do justice to the individual, land that it should contain no unjust provisions. He desired to enter his protest against the view so often put forward that a popularly-elected body could do no wrong as regarded individuals. Instances might arise of sharp antagonism, and it was necessary to have an impartial tribunal in order to do justice. A few questions only remained to be dealt with. He was glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman had said with regard to the Standing Committee, that it was a controversial question, and that he would keep an open mind in Committee upon the matter. He would therefore defer what he had to say upon that point, the general lines of opposition as it stood having been laid down by preceding speakers. The next point which the right hon. Gentleman would have to consider was what he would do with combinations, otherwise he would get into inextricable confusion in regard to combination parishes. A new Poor Law administration might be given to the combination area. But he presumed that it was not intended to deprive such areas of their right to separate Parish Councils. That matter appeared to have been overlooked, and would require to be carefully con- 1074 sidered. He entirely concurred with what the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark had said as to the impracticability of having all the elections on the same day. All the opinions he had heard from persons well qualified to judge in Scotland had been entirely in the contrary direction. One word upon another matter. The Bill proposed for the first time to give to County Councils the right and duty of fighting questions of right of way against proprietors. He would have been glad if the right hon. Gentleman had seen his way to introduce some provision for a preliminary inquiry as to the apparent justice of the case before launching the County Council, with the rates behind it, at the head of an unfortunate landowner. The success of this measure would depend very much on the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman himself when it went upstairs. If he chose to make the Bill a mere bid for popularity by ignoring the wishes, and the just wishes, of those who had a stake in the matter, and subjected them to the iron heel of others who were merely elected, then he would introduce thorny topics which might well wreck the Bill. But, on the other hand, if he did real justice in these matters, there would be no great difficulty in passing this measure.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
We have now had a very full and, upon the whole, an amicable discussion on this Bill. There are other stages of the Bill, and some Motions upon it, and I would, therefore, appeal to the House to allow the Bill to go to a Second Reading.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said, he did not want to delay the decision, but there was a point as to which he had a Motion on the Paper. The Bill had not been received with any particular enthusiasm either in this House or elsewhere. It would remove some indefensible anomalies, but it left untouched others of great importance. It left out the question of lunatics in Scotland. In Scotland they had a separate Board for dealing with lunatics. The Lunacy Board, which was apart from the Board of Supervision and the Parochial Boards, in dealing with lunatics had thus to deal with two masters. For general purposes they were under the Board of 1075 Supervision. For this purpose they were under the Lunacy Board. He submitted that in this matter they should be under one Board—the new Local Government Board. The Lunacy Board in Scotland was an irresponsible body, and open to the suspicion arising from irresponsibility, and he thought it would be more important to deal with it in this Bill than with some matters that were dealt with in the measure. As to the rating qualification, it was almost disingenuous of the right hon. Gentleman to pass by that matter so completely. To him this was far the most objectionable matter connected with the whole Bill. If that matter was removed and the present disqualification was to be continued, then he would care comparatively little for any of the other points which had been criticised in the course of the evening. They knew, however, it was the intention of the Government to press forward the Period of Qualification Bill, and therefore they must criticise this Bill as if the non-payment of rates was part of the Bill. According to the statement at Newcastle, it was as if the question was whether people should be disfranchised when their landlord had failed to pay the rates. That might be good enough for Newcastle, but it was hardly good enough for the House of Commons. In the Barony Parish there was over 17 per cent. of defaulters, and the district of Bridgeton, which the Secretary for Scotland represented, had the distinction of having the largest proportion of any. There, 25 per cent. of the electors were disqualified through non-payment of rates. In these parishes it was not a question at all of people being unable to pay rates. The men were those who could pay rates, and would not pay rates. Whatever arguments could be put forward for allowing these men to vote for Parliamentary elections, he did not think there was any one argument that could be put forward for allowing them to vote for the election of bodies whose duty was the dispensing of the rates, except this, that they could not draw a line of distinction between the Parliamentary and municipal elections. He thought that there would be so strong an outcry from all the localities in Scotland on this subject that the Government would find themselves obliged 1076 to reconsider the principle altogether. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had not been present during the evening, and no wonder, on a Scottish Debate; and yet he (Mr. Parker Smith) thought that any one who listened to the Debate would feel that the Members who had spoken were fully conversant with the subjects dealt with by the Bill, and that the Opposition had been extremely generous in not demanding more than one night. He hoped, however, from the tone of the Secretary for Scotland's speech, that they would find him prepared to improve the Bill in Committee.
§ * SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
said, it did not appear to him that the Bill was received with much favour. In the district which he represented they had been getting on very comfortably without this Bill, and what they were more afraid of was an increase of rates. As to the rating qualification, was it to be supposed that the honest working man would be satisfied if paupers were admitted to the Register? He held that the Government were making a great mistake in they prosecuted this part of the Bill. He admitted that the anomalies in the case of the Parochial Boards were great, but the work of the Boards was good, and although the name of the body would be changed, they would no doubt have very much the same men. With regard to the new Local Government Board, it would never do to have that Board sitting in London. He would like to see that Board have some control over the Lunacy Board, provided the two Boards could not be united. He had had a good deal of local experience in the difficulties of having to deal with the Board of Supervision and the Lunacy Board, and if those Boards could be united, instead of continuing to have a separate jurisdiction, he thought it would be for the good of the country generally. Such a proposal would be so injurious to Scottish interests, and so unpopular, that it could not be hoped that it would be carried out. Some further notice should be taken of the position the Solicitor General occupied. Was he to give his time and talents without any further recompense? He ought to be put on a very different footing. In the last few 1077 days the public had had the advantage of seeing the salaries obtained by the other Law Officers of the country, and the public must acknowledge that the Solicitor General was quite underpaid. He should strongly oppose the clause abolishing the Standing Joint Committee.
§ MR. THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)
said, the Bill had been received in Scotland practically with apathy. There had not been the slightest enthusiasm in connection with it, and the general opinion was that if it did not do much good, it would not do much harm. Personally, he was not greatly enamoured with the Bill, because he believed the result of it would almost certainly be to increase the local rates. He did not think the proposed composition of the Board was the most satisfactory that could be conceived. There was too much of the official element in it. The Board of Supervision was a distinctly local Board, and had performed its duties satisfactorily. The Board to be created Wider the Bill would not, he was afraid, be so satisfactory in some respects. He approved of the Secretary for Scotland being a member of the Board, but he thought the composition of the Board otherwise would be better if they were to leave out the Solicitor General for Scotland, the Under Secretary for Scotland, and the medical officer, and substitute for these gentlemen two Sheriffs of experience and two of the most experienced Chairmen of Parochial Boards in Scotland. He thought instead of abolishing the Parochial Boards the Bill should have remodelled them and put them on a more proper basis. In order to prevent anything like fraud or misunderstanding the County Council recommended that every candidate must sign his nomination paper and must not retire without giving notice in writing before the contest commenced. Under the present law a member once nominated for a seat on the County Council could not retire at all, and it was exceedingly desirable that provision should be made to meet the case of a man who wished to retire. A good deal had been said with regard to the fusion of the School 1078 Board and the County Council. He had great sympathy with that proposal, and thought it would be a great advantage to introduce education into the Bill. The powers of Parish Councils on the subject of rating and borrowing should be very carefully looked into. With regard to the compulsory acquisition of land, the Selkirk County Council thought that the principle of the Lands Clauses Act should be applied to the Bill, and that when land was taken compulsorily not more than 10 per cent. should be given for it in addition to the valuation. Railway and other public Companies were excluded from the operation of this part of the Bill, and he thought that land attached to business premises should also be excluded from it. It would be a very hard case if land which a man had acquired for the purpose of adding to his works could be compulsorily taken. The Selkirk County Council thought that the proposal to give compulsory power to lease land in the interests of a few was so unsound in principle that the House ought not to agree to it. They also-contended that the special parish rate should be limited in extent, and they recommended that 6d. in the £1 should be the outside amount that should be borrowed, and that the rate so levied should be levied equally between landlord and tenant. The borrowing powers for special purposes were in their opinion too vaguely expressed in the Bill, and they held that in no case should such powers exceed one-fifth of the parish rental. As to the abolition of the Standing Joint Committee, which the Selkirk County Council wished to see retained, be did not himself look upon it as a very vital question, because its power was only exercised as far as the police were concerned. It was, however, very desirable that the control of the police should be under a stationary body, and be thought that was the main reason why the Standing Joint Committee should not be abolished. He hoped that the various points he had brought forward would be carefully considered when the Bill reached the Grand Committee.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a second time," put accordingly, and agreed to."
§ Bill read a second time.
I now beg to move—That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Scotch Bills.
§ * MR. SPEAKER
That is not a point of Order. As regards the Instructions on the Paper, they are all out of Order. The first, standing in the name of the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Provand), is out of Order because it is unnecessary, and what it proposes to do can be done in Committee without an Instruction. The second, standing in the name of the hon. Member for the Partick Division (Mr. Parker Smith), is, I think, outside the scope of the Bill, and should be made the subject-matter of a separate measure dealing with the powers of the Lunacy Commissioners. The third Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Renshaw), is out of Order for the same reason. It should be the subject-matter of a separate and distinct measure. The fourth, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Perth City (Mr. William Whitelaw), is out of Order, because what it proposes to do can be done in Committee, and no Instruction is therefore needed. The fifth, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Crewe (Mr. Walter M'Laren), with regard to which I had some difficulty, is unnecessary, for its object can be carried out in Committee. In the 11th clause of the Bill an Amendment for this purpose could be legitimately introduced without any Instruction. The sixth, 1080 standing in the name of the hon. Member for North East Lanarkshire (Mr. Donald Crawford), is out of Order for the same reason that I have given in the case of the third. It is outside the proper scope of the Bill. The seventh Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Lanark (Mr. Caldwell), is also unnecessary, for its subject can be dealt with in Committee. That disposes of the whole of the Instructions.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Scotch Bills."—(Sir G.Trevelyan.)
§ SIR H. MAXWELL (Wigton)
said, he did not wish to delay the decision of the House upon the Motion, but he felt it necessary to make a few observations. The Opposition had opposed the appointment of the Committee on principles which were made sufficiently clear at the time. Paragraphs, however, which would perhaps have been unworthy of notice had they not been so widely circulated and read, had gone the round of the newspapers to the effect that the Unionist Party in the House of Commons objected so strongly to the appointment of the Scotch Grand Committee that they had resolved to take no part in its proceedings. It was surely hardly necessary to say that, so very far from that being the case, and so very far from their having any objection to the Scottish Grand Committee as a Scottish Grand Committee, the Unionist Scottish Members looked forward with considerable satisfaction to dealing with their own Bills in concert with Members from their own country. It was to the principle of the appointment of the Grand Committee, and not to the proceedings that were likely to take place under it, that the Government had objected. The Secretary for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) had the other day claimed the honour of being the father of the Scottish Members on the Ministerial side of the House. He (Sir H. Maxwell) believed he divided with the right hon. Gentleman's brother (Mr. J. A. Campbell) the honour of being the father of the Scottish Unionist Members, and he certainly looked forward to making this Bill in the Grand Committee a thoroughly useful measure.
§ MR. J. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
asked when it was intended to 1081 take the Bill in Grand Committee, and expressed a hope that a reasonable time would be allowed for preparing Amendments.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I suppose it will rest with the Chairman of the Committee to call it together, and probably to consult the Committee as to the days of the week on which it. shall sit. I will try to ascertain who the Chairman will be, and will endeavour to persuade him to give plenty of time for the preparation of Amendments. I suppose we may consider that no meeting of the Committee will take place until the middle of next week.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Scotch Bills.—(Sir (G. Trevelyan.)