§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. H. KIMBER (Wandsworth)
said, he had no objection to the alteration proposed in this Bill. It could have been passed two or three years ago but for the action of certain enthusiastic individuals on the County Council, and the work contemplated would have been executed. London required it, and the labour of London might be usefully employed in executing it. But Spring Gardens had intimated that they did not intend to perform their duties in the execution of these great works unless Parliament would delegate to them the powers now reserved to Parliament to exercise—the powers of special taxation. The County Council had tacked to this Bill certain Betterment Clauses. They were of the same vicious character as those of the Bill of last year and Bills of previous Sessions. He need not detail the arbitrary proceedings or the drastic character of the Bill of last year. It was a code of special taxation. People's properties were to be taken from them, prospective improvements were to be valued seven years in advance, and people were to have the capital of their property taxed accordingly. Last year the Bill went to the House of Lords; and the County Council, assisted by the Government, using the forms of the House to prevent any real discussion on the merits of the Clauses, got the Bill passed. The Bill was sent to the House of Lords, 1070 who took the trouble to remove from it some of its injustices, and to make the principle of Betterment applicable in a more reasonable and just way. The House of Lords dealt in precisely the same way with the Manchester Corporation Bill, and the Manchester Corporation loyally accepted the Betterment Clauses as amended by the House of Lords. But the London County Council did not accept the Amendment of the House of Lords, and the consequence was, that this improvement so seriously needed by London was postponed again. They had now re-introduced the Betterment Clauses in precisely the same form as they did last year. He asked the Representatives of the County Council either to agree to an Instruction to the Committee which should deal with the Bill to consider whether or not the Betterment Clauses should be amended in the sense of the Lords' Amendments, or else to consent to the postponement of its further discussion until the same date as had been fixed for the previous Bill?
§ MR. J. STUART
said, the Representatives of the County Council could not undertake to make any such conditions as had been proposed. The Bill passed through the House in the form in which they now brought it forward. It went to the House of Lords, and they very materially altered it in certain places, more particularly in regard to the Compulsory Purchase Clause. They had felt it was not possible to accept that Clause, and, at the time, the Session was too far advanced for any interchange of opinion upon the subject between the two Houses. He wished to remind the House that the Senior Member for Manchester, in accepting the Bill with a similiar Amendment made by the House of Lords, said that he did so with great regret on behalf of his municipality, because the Betterment Clause had been destroyed, but they accepted the Bill because its other portions were so important to them. He sincerely hoped that, before this Bill went into the Committee Stage, some way might be found of avoiding a repetition of the bootless action of last Session, and of securing some Clause which would be acceptable to all parties.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE moved that the Bill be read that day month, 1071 in order that these questions should be thoroughly talked over by the new Council, which would shortly come into power. It was a crying shame that thousands of workpeople in London should be kept waiting for work because of the persistency of the present County Council in trying to insert in their Bills a Betterment Clause.
MR. R. G. WEBSTER
seconded this Motion. He understood that the total sum that would accrue to the County Council was only £5,000 if this Clause were carried, and he ventured to say that an amount not very far from that, sum had already been wasted in the Committee Rooms of the House. How did they know that the present majority of the London County Council would not be changed into a very considerable minority at the next Elections? In the interest of the ratepayers of London, he hoped the Motion would, if necessary, be pressed to a Division.
§ *MR. J. F. MOULTON
said, it was with unmitigated delight that he heard the Motion for Adjournment on the ground that a majority of the Moderate Party might be elected at the County Council Elections in March, and that they would give up Betterment, because the language that was being used on the platform by Moderate Candidates was very different from this, and represented that both Parties were equally eager to relieve the burden of London in this respect. He submitted that there was not the slightest reason for the Adjournment of the Debate. It was degrading to the House to suggest that it was to be a condition for the Bill being allowed to be discussed in the Commons, that they should accept the form which the Lords had approved, and which the Commons had not. It was most important thatthese Bills should be read a second time early in the Session in order that there should be time to discuss this question.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
thought it was much to be regretted that hon. Members should bring forward in that House purely 1072 electioneering matter. They were really discussing a matter of very considerable importance, which might be treated upon its merits. His hon. Friend who moved the adjournment of the Debate expressed what, he believed, was the general desire—that the County Council should get to work upon this matter at the earliest possible moment, in order that employment might be found for those who were so much in want; but then, if that was his object, surely it was hardly logical that he should proceed at once to move the Adjournment of the Debate. He believed that, on the merits of the case, the House was pretty generally agreed that the advantage of the improvement should go to the public and not to private authorities. Surely if the object of both Parties was the same, this was a question for the arranging of a compromise. His suggestion was, that his hon. Friend should withdraw this Amendment and allow the Bill to go before the Committee. The best thing would be to secure a Joint Committee of both Houses, and he thought that at the present stage they might easily come to an agreement. If this were done the result would be that this important improvement might almost immediately be put in hand to the great advantage of the people of London.
§ SIR J. B. MAPLE
said, he had great pleasure in accepting his suggestion. No doubt it would be a great advantage to the working classes.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Bill read 2º.