Question again proposed—
That clause 1, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
disclaimed any intention to continue the discussion at any length upon this clause. There was only one remark he desired to make upon it. The Committee felt that, with regard to the various matters in Schedule 1 of the Bill, the position had been greatly improved, but he trusted there would be another opportunity for discussing that. With regard to the other areas which did not appear in Schedule 1, but which were to be dealt with in Schedule B, there was one question he desired to put. There were very wide powers in the Bill, and the question he desired to put was whether some further opportunity would be given to the Committee to consider what might be done with regard to the areas which might be dealt with under Schedule B. It did not appear whether there would be any opportunity of revising them. It 720 was a point on which he believed great interest was felt out-of-doors as well as in the House, and he thought some assurance should be given, and, if it were, it would greatly facilitate the passing of the clause.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
desired, before the Question was answered, to put it in a more precise form. There was power under the clause to the Queen in Council to fix the boundaries of the new boroughs by Order in Council. He was not satisfied that in clauses 14 and 15 of the Bill there was any machinery for bringing those orders before Parliament. It was a matter of importance, and it was only right that the right honourable Gentleman should provide some machinery for that purpose. The matter would be greatly facilitated, he thought, if some assurance was given with regard to the Orders that they should be laid upon the Table of the House, so that they might be discussed in the same way as was afforded by the Educational Endowment Act. Unless that was done this matter would be taken out of the consideration of the House.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
I am not quite certain that the same Question is the same as the second put by the honourable and learned Gentleman who has just sat down. I understand the honourable Member for Islington desires to know whether there will be an opportunity for discussing this matter after the Commission has been appointed. I answer distinctly in the affirmative.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The honourable Gentleman will have the opportunity he desires on the consideration of clauses 14 and 15. I fail to see the reason for the House 10 discuss the question of boundaries, which it is not able to decide, nor is it the practice of the Privy Council, when settling the boundaries of municipalities under their charter, to bring before the House questions, of boundaries. I do not think that this is the proper time 721 to discuss the questions raised by the honourable Member; the proper place to consider them is at a later stage of the discussion.
§ MR. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said he quite understood that the right honourable Gentleman did not wish to give a hasty reply at the moment upon the question. He desired to make a few observations upon the clause generally. He did not wish to be thought to acquiesce in it in its amended form, though it was no doubt a great improvement upon the clause as originally introduced. He recognised the conciliatory attitude of the right honourable Gentleman in dealing with it, but the clause still contained a blot in the shape of the misleading word "municipality" instead of "district," and it took out of the hands of Parliament any power to interfere with it. It did not give definite instructions either to the Boundary Commissioners. He desired to emphasise what were the alterations in the clause, in order that no misunderstanding might arise hereafter. He understood that the right honourable Gentleman had given a promise that when he came to the schedule he would favourably consider any area which it was proposed to bring into the schedule.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The honourable Gentleman assumes that I have given a pledge. I said I would consider any suggestion brought before me on the schedule that other areas should be added. As the phrase "favourable consideration" is often interpreted in the House, it would pledge me to accept any Amendment which might be submitted, and I could not make any such pledge.
§ MR. BUXTON
said his object in making these observations was that there should be no misunderstanding. He quite understood the right honourable Gentleman's qualification, and withdrew the word "promise." He understood the right honourable Gentleman to say he would not absolutely pledge himself upon the schedule as it stood, and that if any area not included in the schedule was brought forward he would consider arguments with regard to it. No doubt the instructions to the Committee which had been introduced into the clause would be of great value to the Bill, because the Commissioners were not at present left 722 entirely alone, and they were to have regard to the districts themselves, which was a very valuable instruction to them. The further Amendment of the right honourable Gentleman himself, when he altered the words of the clause with relation to the rateable value and population—rateable value except in the case of small boroughs of under 100,000—would now disappear under the alteration, and the Commissioners would see that it was not the intention of the House that there should be large rateable values, and, consequently, they would have a wider discretion in the creation of smaller municipalities. There was a. great improvement in the clause, but it still left much to be desired. The maximum was still put at, 400,000, and is still left megalomaniacal ideas room to expand. He thought the right, honourable Gentleman ought to inform the Committee what were the Government's real intentions with regard to the matter. It was not fair that there should be no information as to what the Government desired in regard to the unscheduled areas. He hoped the Committee would be informed whether it was the desire of the right honourable Gentleman that there should be these great municipalities in the East of London, or whether there should be small municipalities.
§ MR. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, although the clause was one with which he disagreed, it was one to which great attention had been given. He did not rise for the purpose of discussing it, but for the purpose of emphasising the position of the clause when the Bill passed. If the clause passed and the rest of the Bill remained unaltered the House would have no power to superintend or deal with the boundaries of the new areas except when the Commissioners went beyond their instructions under clause B. It would be done by an Order in Council, which was very much the same in character as a Royal Charter in the case of old boroughs. The question of the boundaries was a very important one, and one in which he thought the House had a real interest, and he believed that there would be very little difficulty in arriving at some arrangement by which the question of settling them might be brought, before the House. He desired to be informed as to whether 723 such an arrangement would be come to. There was an alternative method of dealing with the question, which was, that the right honourable Gentleman should make some definite statement as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the size of the new boroughs. If the House had a clearer perception as to what size the boroughs under clause B were to be it would greatly facilitate the discussion. He did not consider his request unreasonable, but he did not press it immediately, but would ask the right honourable Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to give the information in the course of the Debate, He thought that the House was entitled to some official information as to the size of some of the unscheduled areas. Important discussions would arise as to whether a borough ought to be separated from its neighbour, or ought to be joined, and questions would arise as to the amount of rates, and as to the debt (whether represented by assets or not) of these unscheduled areas.
§ The clause, as amended, was added to the Bill.